Question

5.1 signal via TV’s optical output

  • 25 November 2019
  • 4 replies
  • 1114 views

I just spent over $4k on a Sonos Playbar/ Samsung Q80r “5.1” home theatre setup. Everything is unopened as of yet. I am currently performing setup research.

 

I ordered this setup based on separate demos of the Samsung and Playbar. Unfortunately, after researching this site, It seems the Playbar’s lack of an HDMI input is a “serious, near fatal flaw”. 

 

During my product research, the retailer said “the Playbar’s reliance on an optical input is a non issue.” However,  after studying  this site, it seems many TVs brands (e.g., Samsung) do not send a 5.1 signal thru the optical output in instances where the originating input to the TV was delivered via HDMI. Does This means the Sonos Playbar is in some/many/most/all? Instances only capable of producing stereo sound? Is achieving  5.1 is structurally impossible without a work around?

 

I also read Sonos has no official work around?

 

Lastly, I read plugging an HDMI extraction device with an Optical output will provide the Sonos optical input with a 5.1 signal.

 

Is HDMI extraction to optical still the best unofficial non guaranteed workaround?


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4 replies

Userlevel 7

Hi pinn

Every brand and even models within a brand may handle DD.5.1 over optical differently. Bottom-line (with a direct connection...TV to Playbar) unless the manufacturer can provide a definite answer you’ll have to make the connection and see what happens. 

Yes, an HDMI to Optical extractor will work; if the direct connection proves to be inadequate. The connections would be

  1. Source HDMI-Out to Extractor HDMI-In
  2. Extractor HDMI-Out to TV HDMI-In
  3. Extractor Optical-Out to Playbar

Note: If you have multiple sources (Apple TV, 4K Player etc.) you’ll need a HDMI to Optical extractor with multiple HDMI inputs.

There’s is also the option to try the Sonos Beam with HDMI-Arc and Optical connections

Cheers!

During my product research, the retailer said “the Playbar’s reliance on an optical input is a non issue.” However,  after studying  this site, it seems many TVs brands (e.g., Samsung) do not send a 5.1 signal thru the optical output in instances where the originating input to the TV was delivered via HDMI. Does This means the Sonos Playbar is in some/many/most/all? Instances only capable of producing stereo sound? Is achieving  5.1 is structurally impossible without a work around?

 

I don’t have the same model Samsung TV as you, but I definitely get more than stereo from HDMI sources on the playbar.  I  use a cable box and xbox one, and both send dolby digital through optical.  If the sources produced DTS or some other format, than no, those formats would not be passed to the playbar, which the playbar does not play anyway.    If you are using a blue ray player than only sends out DTS, or a stream device that isn’t configuration for dolby digital, then you’ll have problems.  Using an extractor isn’t going to help you much either unless it also coverts the signal/codec to dolby digital.

@pinn - I think your post-purchase, pre-box-opening research has been pretty thorough. TVs that won’t pass DD5.1 out over optical are, I think, much rarer than they were.  Panasonic seem to lag behind, but that’s of no concern to you.  No guarantees of course.

As others have said, an HDMI switch / extractor is a reliable workaround if one is necessary.

The other limitation of the Playbar, which is to some extent related to the optical out, is the limited range of audio formats it can process - basically stereo and DD5.1.  This would worry me if I were purchasing now.  I say this as a big Sonos fan in general, but I would choose a traditional home theater system over a Playbar-based Sonos HT system if I were buying right now for similar budget. Some other users may well disagree with me - it is purely a personal opinion. Of course it depends on how you want to use the system and with which sources.

Based on my further study, as of 11/2019, using the optical output is still the safer play compared to either ARC or EARC. Furthermore, It seems clear in the world of 5.1 sound, Dolby is the VHS, while DTS is the beta. As always, YMMV.

 

I continued my research. Rtings.com has tested 206 TV models for optical output performance. The results were both illuminating and consistent with your comments. Turns out all but three models tested send  Dolby 5.1 down thru the optical. Only the Samsung J4000, Samsung J5000, and LG LH5000 failed to send the Dolby 5.1 signal thru the optical output. Rtings.com tests LGs, Samsungs, Sonys, and Vizios, with a couple of TCLs and Hisense as well. They do not test Panasonic or other brands. If you stay with the above noted brands you can have some confidence the optical signal will be there during installation.

 

The new world belongs streaming video. To support this, I thought either an ARC or EARC installation would be preferable. However, this is still the riskier approach as about 25% of the time the manufacturers do not include any 5.1 signal via ARC let alone optical. EARC is very new and is limited to a few TVs I had already eliminated for price vs performance issues. Furthermore, none of the sound bars under consideration supported EARC.

 

I begin the installation content that I having done my due diligence, yet still worried I have missed something.

 

Having said the above, Life is never perfect, evidently, Google play has problems sending 5.1 via the optical output. I will test for this during installation.

 

Thanks for the input, it was definitely food for thought