okay after some more testing here is what happened. The horrifying series of pops and static mentioned earlier occurred on la vie en rose (import). Later I turned everything on and played scenes of king kong without issue, then Sweeney Todd without issue, then I put in la vie en rose again and I heard static but to a much smaller degree. I am so confused. could this be an issue with the HDMI cable? I think I'll go buy one tomorrow, try it, and if it fixes things that's great, and of not I'll just return it and go back to sulking lol :P.