Answer truthfully, does SONOS do 5.1?

  • 14 October 2019
  • 18 replies

I am a big movie watcher and I paid good money for my SONOS speakers because I wanted to have wireless 5.1 surround sound, NOT stereo surround sound. Such as if someone is behind you, you will hear footsteps behind you and not all around you, center channel included.


So far I am not hearing that from the SONOS, what’s really fustrating is I have no way to “really” tell. Some speakers come with surround sound programs that allow you to hit a speaker channel in a room setting placement and test where is it coming from so that you can see that it’s working. Since SONOS doesn’t provide their own tests for this I’ve been bootlegging these tests and applying it to the SONOS, so far I’m not hearing the SONOS 5.1, I’m only getting stereo, and SONOS doesn’t have their own tests for this either. When I watching movie, it seriously still sounds like stereo surround sound, 2.1. 


So far I have yet to meet anyone that can prove to me that SONOS is outputting true 5.1 surround sound. I could have spent 1/3 of the price on wired speakers and gotten what I want. Prove me wrong because i’m kind of depressed about this.

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18 replies

You can look in 'About My System' to see if Sonos is playing DD5.1. Unless you think it's lying to you.  Are you playing a Dolby Digital 5.1 source and is your TV outputting DD5.1?

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I’m sure you can download a 5.1 a/v test video if you do a search on the internet. 

Userlevel 7

Hi kljustice


Do you really think we’d not answer truthfully? :smiling_imp:

Judging from your profile you have a Sonos Beam and I’ll assume Play 1’s x 2 as surrounds.  With no mention of a sub then your configuration is DD5.0. Adding a sub would complete the set up and give you DD5.1

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you have the Beam, Play 1’s as surround and the requisite sub to afford DD5.1; but you are not getting/seeing it even after going to “About my system” as suggested by@John B

Assuming all connections are correct that means your TV is not capable of passing DD5.1 over HDMI (which I find very strange) or will not process DD5.1 over it’s optical out...but neverthe less here’s a possible solution.  

From the source (such as a cable box) send the audio via the optical output of the source directly to the Beam using the optical/HDMI adapter. Send the video directly to the TV from the source via HDMI.

If you have to use the setup as I described you need to incorporate a mutli-input HDMI/Optical switch to connect all sources via optical (for audio) with the optical/hdmi convertor going to the Beam. Each source would also connect via HDMI for video in the same manner with a single HDMI cable going to the TV.

That’s a lot of conenctions so I hope it is just that you are missing the sub thus not allowing DD5.1

I hope this helps.


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So, one possibility: my LG TV has two optical choices. One passes DD5.1, one doesn't. If you're not getting 5.1 according to the app, then check your sound settings. 

I’ll answer truthfully.

Yes, it does.

Userlevel 7

I’ll answer truthfully.

Yes, it does.


And we should believe you because…..


I’ve tested it?

Early on, when I still used DVDs, I had a couple of various copies of DVDs with test sequences on them. Being curious, I tested the 5.1 system of Sonos, after it replaced my old Sony A/V receiver system.

I’ve never been a huge fan of believing marketing text. Big fan of doing my own testing :)

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As a big movie watcher, are many of your movies in DTS as opposed to Dolby Digital?

It does do 5.1, but no one on here can deny that it is a limited implementation, that only works if you feed it Dolby Digital 5.1.

Because I was thinking of changing the placement of my Sonos One surrounds, I've been listening to a number of test files that I found here, to see how it would sound. If you pick the files with DD5.1(ac3) soundtracks, you will get surround sound from your Sonos. As discussed above, you might need to jump through some hoops to get it, though.


However, as I've said on this community before, if you are an enthousiast that wants 5 or 7 discrete channels, support for every codec out there, possibility of growing the setup to Atmos, then Sonos is not the Home Theatre for you.

My wife is quite sure that she hears footsteps behind her too… 😁


It’s my understanding that if the content is actually playing in stereo, you’ll hear almost everything from the front speakers with very little coming from the rear channels. If  you’re actually hearing the same audio from the front and back with a TV audio sources, chances are hearing surround sound, but whoever developed the soundtrack actually designed/programmed the rear channels to just repeat the front channels.  I see this quite freqently, particularly with youtube sources.  Just because their is a point in the scene where you might expect to hear specific audio from behind you doesn’t mean that the content creater actually wants to make it sound like it’s specifically coming from behind you...if that makes sense.

It seems to me tht the fundamental question is what the Sonos app says it is receiving, because I think that can be believed. 

If Sonos confirms it is only getting stereo when the OP thinks it is stereo, then the problem lies further upstream and the Playbar is innocent 

But if Sonos says it is DD5.1 and the OP isn't convinced then we have a different problem to resolve.

I don't think we know what issue we are tackling until the OP tells us what Sonos says it is playing. 

Thanks guys for the tips. I appreciate all the comments.


TLDR; I have checked to see if it says 5.1, it does but still no dice. Yes I think it’s lying. Anybody have a test where sound is distributing the 5 distinct channels? If so, which vid tester are you using? Please share. 


AJTrek has my eco system right, It’s 5.0 (the woofer costs a grip). Still the channels should output where they’re supposed to be coming from. I have a beam and 2 Play 1’s. 

I’m running my movies from my PC and it says 5.1 Dolby Digital, this by itself was a project that took me months to figure out. I bought a SB card (Sound Blaster x-fi 5.1 Pro). This turns any PC/notebook into a 5.1 entertainment system, this line is then fed into the Beam. I usually watch DolbyDigital movies. If it’s PCI then I’m able to convert that to DD, but I only use DD movies to do my testing in this case. 

Dolby Digital movies. Youtube tests and many others are a fail for me. Yes the SONOS sound great, I even hear the ambience in the rear speakers sometimes. But seriously, give me a go-to way that I can test and hear my distinct 5.1 (5.0) channels without activating the others, I need this closure. 

Moving forward, I have invested in a new TV, it has HMDI ARC and all the whistles. I’ll run my line into the TV instead of the PC and retest. FYI, not making it readily accessible to PC is just plain dumb but that’s another story. I don’t expect it to support every codec out there, we know SONOS isn’t good for that.


After all my research, I think SONOS was made for listening to music and not really for watching movies. Anyway I will the TV port instead on my PC card, I’ll also try to download an official AV 5.1 tester.  Keep yall posted on my new tests.

In the many other threads similar to this one, the culprit has always been the PC not sending an appropriate signal out to the Sonos device, but as I recall, those have been on optical outputs, not HDMI-ARC.

YouTube, to my knowlege only does stereo, probably due to bandwidth considerations. The video that I found for testing mentioned this repeatedly in the comments, but suggested that if you downloaded the file, and used another player, like VLC, it would work.

I’ll be interested in your test from a TV, I think you'll be pleased, assuming the source you use is not your PC. 

One further thing to note, the Sonos report indicates the carrier, and not the content. It is easy to encode a stereo only signal on a Dolby Digital carrier. As evidenced by the Cowboys pregames I watched. Sonos reported a Dolby Digital carrier, but the data encoded was only the front channels. Tested that in about 10 seconds by changing the channel to a movie channel, then back. So, while the About My System is useful in most cases, it's not the end all of data points. 

In the many other threads similar to this one, the culprit has always been the PC not sending an appropriate signal out to the Sonos device, but as I recall, those have been on optical outputs, not HDMI-ARC.



Thanks Airgetlam. Once again I do enjoy my Beam, however in general it’s very upsetting that it is not made for PC as many folks use their PCs as their main Home ET System.

This guy has given me hope about the 5.1 test - 

...but if you and the other commenters are right then I would hope and pray that SONOS does something about the PC configuration compatibility. Again I’ll keep everyone posted on the tests. 


Sonos can only play a signal that it receives, there isn't much they can do about the ability for PCs that have difficulty sending Dolby Digital signals. It's up to the audio card in the PC to send an appropriate signal, and the software reading the file appropriately. Neither of those thing can be touched by Sonos. 

When you test with your new TV, make sure you're feeding it something other than you PC, such as a stand alone DVD player, even if you have to borrow one for a day or two. If you use your PC, it will be sending the exact same signal to the TV which will pass it to the Sonos.

Have a look at this (especially the second post by RandomPerson)

It fixed all my DD5.1/PC/Sonos Beam problems.