Beam setup - confirming 5.1 is being sent and received correctly

  • 11 January 2019
  • 21 replies
  • 1442 views

Badge +3
Hello,

This evening I have unboxed and setup my Beam system. I have done this after reading about issues some TV's have passing through DD 5.1 signals, as a result I wanted to get some feedback and confirm my system is setup correctly and that my TV is correctly sending DD 5.1 to the Beam from other HDMI sources.

My setup is that I used a Fire TV Stick connected to an HDMI port as my primary streaming device and then I have the Beam connected to the TV via an HDMI ARC connection.

Freeview TV
Most shows I viewed displayed in the Sonos app as "Audio In: Stereo" but one show displayed as "Audio in: Dolby Digital 5.1"

Fire TV Stick
With my Fire TV Stick surround sound setting set to "Best Available" the Sonos displayed as receiving "Stereo" on all content from both Amazon Prime and Netflix content.

If I change that setting to "Always Dolby Digital" then content on Netflix and Prime showed as "Dolby Digital 5.1", and a show on the Fire TV IPlayer app displayed as "Dolby Digital 2.0".

I then switched from HDMI to Optical and found that with the "Best Available" setting content continued to play in "Stereo" and with the "Always Dolby Digital" setting no audio was played at all.

Questions
1 - Whenever the Sonos is showing as receiving Dolby 5.1 is it definitely receiving this signal correctly? Or could this be an issue as it was required to set the Fire TV to "Always Dolby Digital"?

2 - Is there a reason why when using the "Best available" only a "Stereo" signal is received? could this indicate a lack of true Dolby support?

3 - Does this confirm that my TV is indeed correctly passing through a 5.1 signal received from the Fire TV stick HDMI through to the HDMI ARC port to the Beam?

4 - Does it confirm that the TV is unable to pass Dolby received from an HDMI input through to the optical output?

5 - If the Beam is receiving a 5.1 signal but no rear speaker are connected is that a problem?

6 - Finally, if I listen to music via the sonos app, if I then try to watch TV again the TV sound does not engage. I have tried pausing/restarting content and altering the volume but the TV sound does not restart. Am I doing something wrong?

Many thanks for any feedback

21 replies

Answering as many of these as I can.

1) The data in the "about my sonos system" is as accurate as it can be. It will tell you what the speaker is receiving. That's all that it can know.

2) Don't know.

3) Same as 1). If the speaker is reporting that it's receiving a 5.1 signal, that's what it is receiving (or being sent, if you prefer).

4) Don't know. Check with the manufacturer of your TV.

5) No, it will handle that in software. There are many people who have Sonos soundbars with no surround speakers attached.

6) Try turning off the TV, then turning it back on. It sounds like the handshake for HDMI-ARC isn't occurring properly. Might be worth a power cycle of the TV, too, and then a retest.
Badge +3
Thanks for the response Airgetlam.

So to confirm, if the Sonos app says it is getting DD 5.1 I can be pretty confident that the signal is definitely being maintained as 5.1 and sent correctly?

I have noticed when watching Netflix or Prine content that everything is displaying as 5.1 isn’t he Sonos app, even if it’s an old film or TV show.

Is that correct? Do these apps send a 5.1 signal for all content? Or does this indicate that the Sonos System believes it is receiving a 5.1 signal even when the content isn’t 5.1?

Apologies for all the questions, very keen to ensure that this setup works 100% correctly, I don’t want to add a sub and rears to the setup if they aren’t going to get the correct signal.

Thanks again.
Yes, if the Sonos app says that the Beam is receiving Dolby Digital 5.1, then that's what it is getting, so it's being sent properly.

Many TV stations/content providers encode a stereo (or other) signal into a 5.1 carrier, so even though you're receiving a 5.1 carrier, it only has 2.0 data within it. Nothing you can do about this, as long as your device is receiving the data, you'll be getting the intended result.
In the app and with the Beam selected press the Browse icon and then select TV to revert back to TV audio via the app.
Badge +3
Yes, if the Sonos app says that the Beam is receiving Dolby Digital 5.1, then that's what it is getting, so it's being sent properly.

Many TV stations/content providers encode a stereo (or other) signal into a 5.1 carrier, so even though you're receiving a 5.1 carrier, it only has 2.0 data within it. Nothing you can do about this, as long as your device is receiving the data, you'll be getting the intended result.


In the app and with the Beam selected press the Browse icon and then select TV to revert back to TV audio via the app.

Thanks for both the responses.

I added my Play:1 speakers as a rear surrounds yesterday and watched some content to test it out. Oddly in some content such as Star Wars, the rears mainly seemed to play music with only limited sound effects coming from them.

Then I watched an episode of the Grand Tour and that definitely seemed to have different sounds and effects coming from the left and right rears, when a car passed left to right on screen the sound seemed to mimic that.

So it does indeed seem that the TV is preserving and passing through the 5.1 audio channel via HDMI.

I may try and find a test app/video on mac tonight that I can play through the system to test the various speakers/channels and confirm they are all separated.
I added my Play:1 speakers as a rear surrounds yesterday and watched some content to test it out. Oddly in some content such as Star Wars, the rears mainly seemed to play music with only limited sound effects coming from them.This is not unusual. The music is to provide atmosphere, and to have it coming from the front could detract from sound effects and especially the dialogue.

One of the classic tests of surround used to be the lobby scene shootout in The Matrix.

I may try and find a test app/video on mac tonight that I can play through the system to test the various speakers/channels and confirm they are all separated.Make sure you're actually getting 5.1 from the Mac. I've used a couple of test DVDs in the past.
Note that Sonos doesn't "control" what comes out of the surround speakers. That's decided by the sound producer on whatever show you happen to be watching. In some cases, it's really great, like the scene that ratty is talking about, or the beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan, in other cases, there's just not much there other than music. It all depends on the source, and not Sonos.
Badge
Answering as many of these as I can.

1) The data in the "about my sonos system" is as accurate as it can be. It will tell you what the speaker is receiving. That's all that it can know.

2) Don't know.

3) Same as 1). If the speaker is reporting that it's receiving a 5.1 signal, that's what it is receiving (or being sent, if you prefer).

4) Don't know. Check with the manufacturer of your TV.

5) No, it will handle that in software. There are many people who have Sonos soundbars with no surround speakers attached.

6) Try turning off the TV, then turning it back on. It sounds like the handshake for HDMI-ARC isn't occurring properly. Might be worth a power cycle of the TV, too, and then a retest.


Could you kindly tell me where in the Sonos app can you see that the Beam is playing Digital 5.1? Thank you.
Could you kindly tell me where in the Sonos app can you see that the Beam is playing Digital 5.1? Thank you.

Settings/About My Sonos System. The current audio format will be displayed alongside Audio In:
Badge
Thanks so much; that's only on the MAC controller and not the phone correct?
No you can also get that information using the phone app.
Badge
No you can also get that information using the phone app.
Could you please tell me where in the phone app? I can't seem to find it. Thanks you.
On the iOS app it can be found here:

More - Settings - About My Sonos System
Badge
Perfect; found it. Once again, sincerest thanks.
Hi, new to Sonos but just set up a Beam connected to a new LG 4K TV via the HDMI ARC.
The App, About My Sonos System, never moves from Audio In : Stereo.
Have a Sony Blu-ray player also attached to the TV via HDMI.
Have been though all the set ups on the TV and BluRay to make sure DD 5.1 should get to the Beam.
I thought it was, running a 5 CH channel test file, it seemed to differentiate L,C,R, (even RR & RL coming out of R and L respectively). But still the App says Stereo.

I see feedback saying the App is giving accurate status info.
So, is there something going on with the ARC handshake ?
I am not sure if it’s a flag not being set, or has the LG TV really dumbed down the 5.1 to Stereo ?
I have tried all the LG output options from Auto to DD to a few others.
TV screen says it’s getting 5.1 from the Blu-ray etc.
Same when using Netflix TV App with surround material.
It could potentially be the handshake didn't "take", although I'd give that a low level of probability. You can force it to re-do the handshake by unplugging the TV for a minute from the wall, and then plug it back in.

I'm willing to bet that your Blu-ray player is sending a DTS signal to the TV set, which then is being modified to stereo. Might be worth double checking the audio output settings on that device...and make sure that when you start playback of a blu-ray, you be sure to select the Dolby Digital soundtrack, which most often needs to be done on the disc level, rather than in the software/audio settings on the player itself.

But you're correct that the information in "about my Sonos system" is telling you what the Beam is receiving, so looking upstream, at the TV's settings, and anything that's connected to the TV is probably best.

But, on the offhand chance you think there may be an issue with the Beam, I would recommend that you submit a system diagnostic within 10 minutes of experiencing this issue, and either post the number here, or contact Sonos Support to discuss it. I prefer to suggest the phone folks, they have more tools available, but are only available Monday through Friday during business hours. Both the Twitter and Facebook support folks are available 24/7.

There may be information included in the diagnostic that will help Sonos pinpoint the issue and help you find a solution.
Thank you for prompt reply. Even tried the optical output with the Sonos adapter, still no DD.
So, went round the LG WebOS menu again and found it. There was another level down in the HDMI ARC menu. Not obvious unless you click again on the HDMI ARC setting. Digital Sound Out needed to be set to Auto. This in addition to the first setting the Digital Sound Output which was already set to DD, or Auto. Makes a hell of a difference to the sound output ! Thanks again.
Ps to above. Slight downside to selecting HDMI ARC to auto rather than PCM stereo, when a disc or file is playing with, say DTS HD, or any higher res audio, no sound comes out of the Sonos, as it seems neither Blu-ray player or TV can down scale High Res audio to DD. So you have to go back and manually select the PCM Stereo option. Shame really, as the res goes up, you have to go back down to PCM stereo to hear anything. Seems often once High Res audio is added to the media, DD is dropped, or maybe only used for second or subsequent audio languages. An inconvenience not a shop stopper given the overall audio quality for the price.
Correct.

There's a thread in this area of the forum about the few Blu-ray devices that do have the ability to switch from a DTS codec to Dolby Digital, and I think the most popular one is going out of production (Samsung, or LG, I don't remember, I tend to stream all my movies these days). I'm not familiar with any TV sets that will do any of that translation for you.

On the rare (it's been years!) occasion that I pull out a local blu-ray, I'm careful to look at the audio menu on the disc itself, and choose the Dolby Digital soundtrack.

I hate competing technologies. Used to work for Sony, who had Betamax, DAT, mini-discs, etc, most of which they wouldn't license for others to use. While I understand the intention from a corporate standpoint, it just doesn't work from a consumer standpoint. And with Sonos, they're currently failry tightly tied to what codecs can be sent through an optical connection. Which probably is making users who have Beams unhappy, and many of the rest of us antsy for a new PLAYBAR with the newer tech. But then you have to wonder if it makes sense for them to install just HDMI-ARC in the newer update, or go with e-ARC. Difficult decisions, based on market penetration and cost of components versus what they think they could sell the new device at.

Yay, technology! 🙂
Thanks again. Now I see all the threads about this ! My little Sony Blu-ray player will convert standard DTS to DD but not DTS HD, etc. So it is what it is now. I did look at similar priced sound bars from Sony c/w their ability to take in an Atmos signal and use their vertical sound engine on their 2.1 design, and Yamaha with their use of DTS virtual X, again on 2.1 units. I concluded the Sonos sounds much better, even with its basic DD input limitation, and that it was best to leave the Atmos simulation alone, for now. However, it would be nice if it could in the future at least take in DTS HD etc and convert it to DD for internal use. It seems folks are going to great troubles to try and overcome this limitation. Not sure if it can be done with a SW update or if the HW is too limited. Maybe another external inline HDMI Dongle if needed. Just something to enable Sonos to move with the times. Personally I can live without the smart voice assistants, although I see everyone is jumping into these these days. I am sure many folk just want the best sound experience for their money. (I do have a full 7.1.4 Atmos main system and do really appreciate Atmos when done properly, but for a small second room system the Beam is quite an addictive little unit, it just needs the extra input compatibility).
My assumption is currently there are two issues. One would be the processor on the Sonos not being fast enough to deal with the need for processing a DTS stream. It was, after all, spec'd out many, many years ago, long before DTS became mainstream. The second issue is that right now, they only have an optical input on the PLAYBAR and PLAYBASE, which DTS and Atmos appear not to be sent across. We'll have to see if Sonos makes a change in future hardware.

Reply