Sorry for the length of this post, but we had a really frustrating home theater experience the other night… Maybe this post will help some people who are trying to decide between an AV receiver and a Sonos Amp or sound bar.
A few months ago, I read this article about the problems of trying to live with current home theater gear (too many remotes, too much complication, unexpected strange behavior, etc.) The article resonated with me because I’ve never been able to achieve a true one remote setup (even using a product like a Harmony remote) in our gameroom with a Dolby ATMOS 5.1.4 setup. It works about 90% of the time (other than the 0% we’ve experienced lately), but the other 10% means I need to dig around for the TV remote or the receiver remote or the Apple TV remote… We do have two TVs with a pair of bookshelf speakers driven by Sonos Amps and these are true one remote setups since we only have a single source on each TV (Roku devices). With the Amps we never have to change an input which makes things idiot-proof. The Amps are great at simplifying a home theater setup. The other night I was reminded about how nice the functionality of the Sonos Amp is.
My wife was trying to watch Netflix on our gameroom system with the ATMOS receiver. Normally, pressing the Apple TV remote buttons causes the Apple TV to wake up which turns on the TV and receiver. Also, the TV and receiver inputs normally change to the correct ones. We have a Harmony remote, but it hasn’t been working lately (this happens sometimes for us) and I haven’t gotten around to debugging it, so we just use the ATV remote. She called me upstairs because the Apple TV interface wasn’t showing on the TV. I went up and found that the TV input was set improperly, so after pressing a couple buttons on the ATV remote with no success, I pulled out the TV remote and changed it to the proper input. I went downstairs, but in a couple minutes she called for me again. The audio was coming through the external speaker system like it should, but was also playing through the TV speakers, which should be silent. It was especially problematic because they were slightly out of sync with each other which caused an intolerable echo effect. Using the TV remote, I went to the TV sound settings and told it to use the external audio system instead of the TV speakers, but a message kept popping up that said the external system was not available. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening (maybe the HDMI cable suddenly has a problem?) so eventually I just left it and turned the TV volume to 0.
Then everything was fine for awhile. She watched her program and afterwards we decided to watch Ted Lasso in the Apple TV+ app. When we started the app, however, music played — music that no one in the house would ever listen to. This had never happened before and I have no idea how that particular music was chosen to play or where it was coming from. The Apple Music app appeared to not be responsible for it. When we started Ted Lasso or any other program in the ATV+ app, we could hear the program audio, but the music was also playing right over the top of it! I restarted the receiver, the TV and the Apple TV, but the same thing continued. I briefly considered watching the show using just the TV speakers, but I really didn’t want to resort to that, because it seems ridiculous to be literally surrounded by speakers, yet rely on the crummy TV speakers. In desperation, I grabbed my 13 year old Sonos ZP-120, set it up quickly, wiring the left and right front speakers and the sub to it, and running a cable from the TV headphone jack to the analog input on the CA. When I was done we were finally able to watch our program without the annoying music.
Now I’m wondering if the Atmos system is worth the trouble anymore. I’ve already ordered another Sonos Amp and while I wait for it to arrive I’ll see how it goes with the more complicated system. I disconnected the ZP-120 and hooked the speakers back to the AVR and everything is now fine(!), for some reason.