Airplay 2: DD 5.1 format supported by Sonos 5.1 system?

Hello everyone,

I would need your help, please! I was wondering if the Dolby Digital 5.1 format is supported by my Sonos Home Theater system. I stream Netflix content from my Apple TV 4th gen, video sent to a video projector via HDMI and send the audio to my Sonos via AirPlay 2.
I have 1 playbase, sub and 2 Sonos 1, grouped all together and the 2 Sonos 1 configured as surround speakers.

I want to be sure that I really cover DD5.1 format and not just stereo, I try to find info about that but no success.

anyone knows if this format is supported? And how to be sure that I send 5.1 to my Sonos speakers? Is it on the Apple TV or Sonos app setup?

thanks in advance for your help and advices!


Best answer by Chris 9 June 2019, 00:07

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It is not - you can't send 5.1 to Sonos via Airplay.
Hi Chris,

ok thanks for your reply, much appreciated!

so via AirPlay I can send stereo only to my Sonos speakers, correct?
Then the only way to send the 5.1 sound to my system is from the Sonos app?

i am confused now, how can I exploit my 5.1 Sonos system via Apple TV?

any advice?

big up if you have a solution:)


The Sonos App is irrelevant here... that is just a Sonos 'remote' controller.

You will likely need an A/V splitter that supports DD5.1 audio (perhaps search Amazon for that) and cable the ATV to that using HDMI.

Send the audio output to the Sonos HT device (Playbar/Beam etc.) using an optical cable ...and the video output to the projector over HDMI.
Hi Ken,

great, super clear! What I miss is the A/V splitter in my workflow.
I am on it and will keep you posted, just need to find good stable spitter, especially for the synchronization audio/video...

thank you so much for the support, Ken, big up!:)

Not sure why you use AirPlay 2 to send the signal to the Sonos. Wouldn't it be easier to get an HDMI switch, and pull the audio out of the HDMI feed before it hits your projector, and use an optical connection from that to your PLAYBASE? That way, you'd get the Dolby Digital signal. I suppose you may have distance issues, but HDMI can run quite a few feet.
Hey Airgetlam,

exactly the same idea than Ken! It makes totally sense now that you guys told me that.
what I do is to select the AirPlay sound output in the Apple TV settings, it made sense to me as the Apple TV manages the synchro between audio and video. But I did not know that the audio output format would be stereo only... it is weird to me that Apple Airplay does not support DD5.1 or they did not make this improvement from AirPlay v1 to v2...

no distance issue as my Aplple TV is super close to my video projector and Playbase.

the cool thing about that is that my sound will be much better, now I can’t wait to try eheh

thanks guys, your are the best!
I suspect that at some point in the future, AirPlay 2 will support Dolby Digital 5.1, but Apple had enough trouble shipping AirPlay 2 without it, it may be a while. And they may be trying to go the extra mile and support Atmos, since the Apple TV 4K does now, which may be more of a delay. Who knows 🙂
True, who knows 🙂 then Sonos will need to support Dolby Atmos, never ending story haha

even if I am French, I do not complain! What we are able to do today is just amazing: from the Apple TV to Netflix to Sonos and perfect syncro audio/video, waouh it is just great and with a super great sound please! And the funny part is that I was in STEREO eheh
Let’s be positive and happy to experience that today, with a cool and supportive international community, lucky us!

I am buying the spitter now because I can’t wait... and keep u posted!

If I remember correctly, pas de quoi (?) L’ecole de garçon, Louvecienne, 1965, 1966 :)

Bonne chance!
Merci, Bruce! Ton français est parfait! Louveciennes in 65/66, waouh! Hope it is a good souvenir for you:)

May I consult you for a last thing please? I bought this HDMI splitter yesterday to try:

But to be transparent, I am afraid that this cheap one will not well manage the syncro between audio and video, I will try and let you know. As you seem to be an expert, any advice on a good quality HDMI audio splitter? Budget is not the main issue as soon as the quality is secured, the problem I faced when I checked the different ones is that there is HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0, ARC, etc. supported, some of them are for 4K and I am not sure they support just 4K format while I need 1080p only, etc. (descriptions are not that precise for almost all of them...) and not being an expert for this type of product, any specific tech specs that are mandatory to secure the syncro or any specific brand that you know is good?

Merci d'avance for all your help! Last one, I promise 🙂
Heh. I was 5 and 6 years old, so my French has degraded since then. 🙂 But it is indeed good memories for me, I was fortunate to live in the village (my father was *not* military, just a contractor, so there wasn't on base military housing for us).

Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can give you any particular feedback on that splitter. But as near as I can tell, it should work just fine for a single HDMI input. The fortunate thing in my mind is that they're all relatively inexpensive, so if one doesn't work, it's not that big an investment. The one I've seen linked most often is (i think) this one:

which doesn't appear to be on the site. But as I say, I've no experience with these myself, the Vizio TVs I own work properly when passing through the DD signal.

That being said, I still think that the one you've purchased should work, for one HMDI input to the TV. Might be helpful to others if you were to post if it does, when you get it, just in case there are others from France who might benefit from real world experience.

Again, good luck!
Hey Bruce,

Should be nice memories from this age in such a nice place indeed :)

Thanks for the example and exactly what I had in mind, meaning trying with a cheap one to check if it works before investing in a more expensive one.

Actually I found it in

Funny the difference of price, no? 🙂 70€ = 80 USD while yours is at 40 USD. Probably the french one is made with gold haha

Absolutely, the minimum I can do is to share my feedback once I have a chance to try the one I purchased.

Stay tuned!
Hey Bruce, guys,

Back in the game with my feedback!

So I received the spitter, plugged in and... it works and does the job! Absolutely no sync issue at all! I definitely recommend it, 18 euros, cool! 🙂 let's see on a long run but worth it till now! Go for it, guys!

Then it created a new problem that I finally fixed which was the following: controlling the volume via the Apple TV remote (the Siri one), every time you press the volume button, it displays and control the volume bar on the TV which is super annoying. I searched and fixed the issue, available here, thanks to the community again:

But there is something that it is not clear to me to be sure that I get the right 5.1 sound setting between Apple TV > HDMI splitter > video projector / optical to Sonos Playbase to exploit my Sonos system. It might be a stupid question but why not asking? :)

On the spitter, you can select "pass through" or "5.1 CH" (stereo not relevant here). I assume that watching a Netflix movie which is sent in 5.1, you do not need to force the spitter or the Apple TV to encode in 5.1 Dolby Digital, right? So better to stay in pass through instead of 5.1 on the spitter and the Apple TV?

Or better to select the pass through on the spitter and then chose the setting 5.1 Dolby Digital in the Apple TV settings? Or both??

My assumption is the following: if the content is done in stereo, why forcing the Apple TV or the spitter to encode it in 5.1? Result will not be true 5.1 in any case... seems logical to me but I might totally wrong. And if the content is in 5.1, then I exploit properly my 5.1 Sonos system...

Any idea/feedback? Should I book an audio class to better understand the logic here ? Bruce, you still here? :)

Merci les amis!
Je suis ici,

All 5.1 is not Dolby Digital, there are several other codecs that are also 5.1 encoded, most notably DTS. Sonos can only interpret the Dolby Digital encoding, so it's much better to set that in your Apple TV as the codec being sent.

If the source is in stereo, it will only send stereo, instead, so there's nothing to worry about there.

Essentially, you want the switch to be on pass through, and you force the codec at the source device (the Apple TV in this case).
Merci Bruce, it makes sense! Just tested and it is much much much better!! Ahhh here we are :)

This is success, now I really have the 5.1 AND I do not see any volume control message popping up anymore when I change the volume, which is cool!

This is just because you help me, this a success because of you! This is super cool to take the time and it was worth it, everything clearly improved! No more question but just want to say: "Merci Monsieur" :)

Greetings from France for you, Bruce!

@Ron Miller I'm glad you solved your issue with the help of the community. I hope you don't mind me hijacking your thread, but I'm having an issue with airplay and Sonos and wanted to collect some opinions.

To my understanding Airplay 2 does stream Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. SO for instance if I'm watching a Netflix movie with DD 5.1 audio the Apple TV is able to stream the 5.1 audio via airplay to a compatible device.

So my question is, why isn't Sonos capable of receiving the 5.1 audio?

Sonos is only capable of playing stereo via Airplay 2. To play in 5.1, you would need an Apple TV physically connected to a Playbar/Playbase/Beam/Amp.
@jgatie Got it. So it's a Sonos limitation, not Airplay's.
I've contacted Sonos support and it is an Airplay limitation. They pointed me out to this help article from the apple website:

They write on the footnotes:

"Audio that you stream from Apple TV with AirPlay doesn't support Dolby Atmos or surround sound."

So Airplay 2 doesn't stream surround sound after all, only stereo audio.
Interesting, and thanks for doing that research, and posting it here.

Hello there :-)


So just to be clear after reading some posts. If you have Apple TV and Sonos set up for 5.1 (Beam/Playbar, 2x Plays 1 and Sub) you have to connect directly the Apple TV through optical cable to the Sonos directly or through an A/V Receptor? Why would you need the receptor(splitter) if you can connect the Apple TV directly to the Sonos with the optical?


Right now, I had the Apple TV through AirPlay 2 and Sonos receives the signal as if it was stereo music. I can’t use the features for better dialogues or reduce high noises because Sonos understands that the audio coming from Apple TV is music instead of TV.  This sucks, cause what is the point of all the WiFi advantages if you need to connect the Apple TV trough optical cable.


So my question is, Can you have 5.1 and all the best cinema sound settings in Sonos by connecting the Apple TV straight to the Sonos system through optical cable? Then, if you play music, will be in regular stereo and Sonos automatically recognizes it?



thanks a lot guys  

If you have an Apple TV, you should connect it to your TV with an HDMI cable. You would then connect your Sonos soundbar to your TV with the necessary connector, be it HDMI-ARC or optical.

The third gen Apple TV has an optical out (I think it was third gen) but the current gen does not, only an HDMI connection.

My understanding of AirPlay 2 signals is that they’re 5.1 when possible between Apple devices, but when sent to other devices, such as Sonos speakers, the AirPlay 2 signal is stereo only. So you could send a 5.1 signal to your Apple TV, which would send it to your TV, which would then send the 5.1 signal to your Sonos system. However, if you stream your AirPlay 2 signal straight to the Sonos system, you’d get only stereo.

So, the only way to answer your question is to ask what your source is.

If it’s the Apple TV itself, then there’s no need whatsoever for AirPlay 2, the audio signal is carried by HDMI to your TV, which would then send it to your Sonos. Or, if you have an older Apple TV with an optical output, you could connect that directly to your Sonos and get a 5.1 signal from the Apple TV. But then anything else you connect to your TV, like game consoles, DVD players, cable boxes won’t send any sound to the Sonos. That’s really why Sonos designed their system for the TV set to be the switch box. Any sounds that go in to the TV, assuming they’re the right codec (Dolby Digital or Stereo) will be sent out to the Sonos via the digital connection.

If that’s not clear, feel free to ask more questions.  I have the feeling I’m not really understanding what you’re trying to do.

Hi Bruce, thanks for your reply. I’m going to try to explain it well :-)

I have a video projector (Optoma HD27e) so I think I can’t use it as a switch box.

So this is my set up:

For music: I use Spotify from any device (Iphone, iPad, etc..) to my Sonos 5.1 system using Airplay 2. It sounds Stereo and great.

For watching films: Apple TV to Optoma Projector through HDMI. Apple TV to Sonos via AirPlay 2. It sounds bad. (Just Stereo, hard to understand dialogues, high noises when music and FX, etc… ) After reading this post I understand why.


Solution I’m looking for:

Be able to have best film sounds when playing movies (Using 5.1 channels) and the Sonos features to have clear dialogues and low noise at night when having Music or FX.

Be able to have best Stereo sound when playing music through AirPlay 2.


I don’t know if I could just put sound from the projector to the Sonos system with optical cable form the projector or I need an actual A/V receptor splitter in between the Apple TV and the Projector so I can distribute sound to Sonos and image to the projector.. In that case, which device would I need to buy?


Thanks a lot!

Unfortunately, while I’m aware that these kind of devices will work, I don’t use one myself, so I’m unable to recommend any particular device. There are many threads in this very area of the forum from people who do own them, however. 

Ok, I’ll search around here. But do you think that if I connect the Apple TV to the projector with HDMI and the projector straight to the Sonos Playbar using optical Cable the 5.1 would work? (Without any other device)