Cinema Codecs & 5.1: Where Are You Sonos?!


Userlevel 3
Let me first say, I love Sonos as a product. They look stylish, are extremely simple to set up and operate -- and are reliable.

That said, I can't help but find myself frustrated at the Sonos Playbar and Playbase. The features these components are lacking are just baffling to me. I could understand when Sonos refused to support "high resolution" audio for music. The argument was a cost benefit one - and I could see where Sonos felt that the customer demand did not equal the costs of support.

But, when it came to home theater - things change. You cannot assume that home theaters are equivalent to music - especially to people willing to invest more than a thousand dollars on theater gear. People experience cinema differently than music. The argument that held water for audio was weak when it came to home theater.

The argument for audio was "the majority of music listeners are moving to online sources and we support these more lossy options" and CD quality. But, when it comes to cinema - the majority of people have physical copies and the streaming services are offering better quality downloads - DD+ at a minimum, but also Dolby Atmos, DTS and others.

Even more to the point - the simplicity of usage changed. With the music sources - it was plug and go. But with media -
and only a single optical cable and multiple sources - I am not assured to get Dolby Digital pass through. I have to buy the right TV, have all the right settings and then the right sources. It's not simple or efficient.

Then I look at competition. Denon Heos is a great example. 5.1, TrueHD, DTSHD, DD+ - all wirelessly streamed .... yes, it isn't cheap ... but it does everything. They also packed it with power so they can upgrade through firmware updates.

Sonos needs to up their game or get left in the dust.

I do not regret investing in Sonos, but I regret not having them think forward and leave us with an ecosystem that is being beaten by other vendors.

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20 replies

You argue well and may be correct. But I suspect that 99.9% of Sonos' target market would not know a codec if it sat up and bit them. That is not a criticism. Sonos has never been the place for a home cinema enthusiast and never will be. So much as i would like to see enhancements, i don't expect them and understand why.
Userlevel 7
Badge +17
In a way, home theatre could be coming back to sonos with the latest 4K tvs.
1) My 2016 4K LG OLED has 4 HMDI connectors, so I have connected everything to the tv. I no longer need an AVR with lots of HDMI inputs.
2)The tv passes everything through to optical, which goes to my AVR.
I could make the mrs happy and get rid of the mess of cables behind my old non 4K AVR, tidy things up a lot, buy a sonos 5.1, but.........no support for better codecs.
Sonos needs to get on board quickly, people want simple, reliable one brand intergrated solutions for home sound in every room.
2)The tv passes everything through to optical, which goes to my AVR.
DD and DTS maybe. Not 'everything'. The S/PDIF optical bandwidth is insufficient.
Userlevel 7
Badge +17
Well yes you are correct. I have read there is research into getting higher codecs through S/PDIF, to keep it alive.
Although the tv has so far passed "everything" my PS4 has sent the AVR via Blu-ray, so far, even DTS:X has appeared on the display for first time ever. 🆒
Previously, with my PS3 direct to the AVR, I got pcm most of the time 😠
Userlevel 4
Badge +1
A very frustrating aspect of this is, that Sonos can remedy this easily by adding a HDMI port so customers can take advantage of ARC. This is a simple feature that every other soundbar manufacturer has done.
But, apparently they have a low regard for the intelligence of their customers, as they continue to state the need to keep the installation "simple" with only one input.
Reminds me of Apple with their "form over function" attitude (but I digress).
Userlevel 4
I had a room to upgrade, and it needed an AVR. I would have bought a Sonos HDMI AVR, if they had one. I held out for over a year, because it seemed to me a product refresh was long overdue. Imagine my disappointment that it was the darn playbase, which to me is just a playbar in an uglier box.

So instead I have a Denon AVR. And I will be adding Denon wireless rears and subwoofer. For sonos music input I've plugged an old ZP90 into it.

The Playbar remains a stylish piece of hardware, but the product feature set is obsolete.
Badge
I had a room to upgrade, and it needed an AVR. I would have bought a Sonos HDMI AVR, if they had one. I held out for over a year, because it seemed to me a product refresh was long overdue. Imagine my disappointment that it was the darn playbase, which to me is just a playbar in an uglier box.

So instead I have a Denon AVR. And I will be adding Denon wireless rears and subwoofer. For sonos music input I've plugged an old ZP90 into it.

The Playbar remains a stylish piece of hardware, but the product feature set is obsolete.


what denon setup do you have? I'm currently considering returning all my sonos home theater kit (still within the 100 days) and replacing it with denon
Userlevel 3
Badge +5
I couldn't agree more. I am currently looking for and greatly anticipating what to purchase and UPGRADE from Sonos with only Dolby Digital 5.1 for all 600+ of my Blu-Ray discs. When watching a film it is not just he visual, it is the enveloping enhancement of total sound immersion. Dolby Atmos and more are what is coming. I remember when 5.1 first came out and so many perl said "no way", "not worth it". My how they had been wrong. Sonos wants into $2,000 for a simple 5,1 surround system and I say no way, too much for too little. I have a complete 5.1 Sonos system now and I am getting ready to move and I WILL be upgrading. I would love to stick with Sonos if they make any attempts to catch up with the others, but so far, I see nothing.:(
Userlevel 2
Let me first say, I love Sonos as a product. They look stylish, are extremely simple to set up and operate -- and are reliable.

That said, I can't help but find myself frustrated at the Sonos Playbar and Playbase. The features these components are lacking are just baffling to me. I could understand when Sonos refused to support "high resolution" audio for music. The argument was a cost benefit one - and I could see where Sonos felt that the customer demand did not equal the costs of support.

But, when it came to home theater - things change. You cannot assume that home theaters are equivalent to music - especially to people willing to invest more than a thousand dollars on theater gear. People experience cinema differently than music. The argument that held water for audio was weak when it came to home theater.

The argument for audio was "the majority of music listeners are moving to online sources and we support these more lossy options" and CD quality. But, when it comes to cinema - the majority of people have physical copies and the streaming services are offering better quality downloads - DD+ at a minimum, but also Dolby Atmos, DTS and others.

Even more to the point - the simplicity of usage changed. With the music sources - it was plug and go. But with media -
and only a single optical cable and multiple sources - I am not assured to get Dolby Digital pass through. I have to buy the right TV, have all the right settings and then the right sources. It's not simple or efficient.

Then I look at competition. Denon Heos is a great example. 5.1, TrueHD, DTSHD, DD+ - all wirelessly streamed .... yes, it isn't cheap ... but it does everything. They also packed it with power so they can upgrade through firmware updates.

Sonos needs to up their game or get left in the dust.

I do not regret investing in Sonos, but I regret not having them think forward and leave us with an ecosystem that is being beaten by other vendors.


I totally agree. SONOS needs to move forward.
Userlevel 3
Badge +5
Very well put and to the point. I am in the process of getting ready to move and then upgrade to a least a true 7.1 system. I am assuming pretty much wired to speakers but I will do my own research on the Denon Heos items too. I have been very pleased with my Sonos so far, but I need to tell the truth. I pretty much got all of mine through airline points, and a guy that sold them owed me money so they cost me nothing. I can tell you for sure that if I was required to pay over $2000 for the 5.1 Sonos system I have set up now, I would not have done it.

Very of of what you said is true,Sonos is getting left in the dust by all the new soundbars the decode DTS, Atmos and more. I just hope I can still get a few buch when I sell all my stuff.
Userlevel 3
Badge +5
A very frustrating aspect of this is, that Sonos can remedy this easily by adding a HDMI port so customers can take advantage of ARC. This is a simple feature that every other soundbar manufacturer has done.
But, apparently they have a low regard for the intelligence of their customers, as they continue to state the need to keep the installation "simple" with only one input.
Reminds me of Apple with their "form over function" attitude (but I digress).


This is an interesting idea. So theoretically, the HDMI input with ARC would serve the audio to the Sonos when using the other inputs on the TV, but wouldn't this waste the video part of that ARC input? I would love to see this and it would save me from using my HDMI switch with ARC but would it but unintuitive for most users to connect the Sonos via HDMI but never use that input for video?
Userlevel 7
Badge +17
New UHD players have 2 HDMI outputs, one for tv carrying 4K video, 2nd output for sound to Av amps or soundbars.
You argue well and may be correct. But I suspect that 99.9% of Sonos' target market would not know a codec if it sat up and bit them. That is not a criticism. Sonos has never been the place for a home cinema enthusiast and never will be. So much as i would like to see enhancements, i don't expect them and understand why.
John B, it's not just home cinema these days. My sat provider Sky Q is now broadcasting with Dolby Atmos so it's my TV viewing that is missing out. In the U.K. that is some 14 million subscribers.
John B, it's not just home cinema these days. My sat provider Sky Q is now broadcasting with Dolby Atmos so it's my TV viewing that is missing out. In the U.K. that is some 14 million subscribers. I’ve got SKY Q and I’m disappointed that I can’t watch the premier league with Dolby Atoms. With 4K it would be awesome!!
Userlevel 2
Many platforms are now streaming Atmos directly through the tv itself (see LG OLED’s) or various other devices. Access to this lossless audio is no longer limited to hardcore movie watching with UHD blue ray players and 3 different handshakes to get it to the Playbars of the world.

Other Playbar manufacturers know this and are in the mix in being able to handle these audio tracks directly from the tv (Netflix) or external device.

But Sonos is taking an approach which defies comprehension and will soon see it lose market share, which will happen Blackberry fast. This is because:

1. The company refuses to direct its R&D at clear trends emerging in the industry (easily available codecs)

2. It ignores its customers who have been calling for this for years.

3. It has lost its market advantage in the easy use space, almost everyone has caught up.

4. It has fundamentally misunderstood, in my view, where the innovation needs to be (hint: it ain’t voice control over better sound for home theatre watching.

5. Itn A now way too expensive relative to the market competition which can do way more and perform the same.

I’ve been a Sonos guy for years. I was recently going to add some play 1’s as rears in my main setup (Playbar + Sub) as I moved and sold my dedicated 9.2 run through denim amp ( had to:(

But now I am going to see the Playbar and sub and put that money toward a high end sound bar based wireless set w/ sub that can take advantage of the awesome codecs my tv can produce through Netflix, and what I assume will only become more ubiquitous moving forward.

The fact that sono’s latest offering did not take any steps in this regard tells me the company is out of touch. The fact that their brand new speaker (Playbase) still relies on an optical output makes me laugh. In a sad way.

I’m done. This company is Blackberry 2.0.
Userlevel 5
Badge +12
Someone on this Forum had the idea of an adaptor that would take a HDMI ARC input and serve it to the Playbar through it's LAN port. This along with DTS support would be a massive step forward for Sonos BUT they've stated time and time again they have no interest in supporting DTS..
Userlevel 5
Badge +11
In a way, home theatre could be coming back to sonos with the latest 4K tvs.
1) My 2016 4K LG OLED has 4 HMDI connectors, so I have connected everything to the tv. I no longer need an AVR with lots of HDMI inputs.
2)The tv passes everything through to optical, which goes to my AVR.
I could make the mrs happy and get rid of the mess of cables behind my old non 4K AVR, tidy things up a lot, buy a sonos 5.1, but.........no support for better codecs.
Sonos needs to get on board quickly, people want simple, reliable one brand intergrated solutions for home sound in every room.


Same ideas here...
I do know how much the playbar is future proof...
Hey all. After perusing the multitude of posts regarding DTS/Atmos support I reached out to the big guns for support... check out https://www.reddit.com/r/LinusTechTips/comments/7hkr0g/sonos_wireless_hifi_speaker_system_part_1_and/ for a Reddit request/post to linus tech tips and please respond in that forum/upvote so we can finally get some traction on this issue. On the verge of selling my playbar myself... Thanks!
Sonos seems to be moving to more ‘democratic’ collaborations - I read the news about an Alexa version which made me read the privacy statement very carefully. I have no desire to be audio/video monitored by faceless corporates in my own home. Although obviously millions of people don’t care, or watch South Park 🙂 (Latest Series Ep 1 - White People Renovating Houses)

I bought a Playbase (white) because I live in apartments, move quite frequently and my LG 5 in 1 which worked really well for more than 12 years finally stopped working. I wanted something which didn’t require wires, special winding cores and little speakers everywhere (read trip hazard, dust collectors) to get a decent sound from the TV, including digital TV music channels, jazz and classical.

I also wanted to keep my 2010 Sanyo tv because it is in great working order (only 1080P) and has lots of I/O for the BluRay, PVR, Apple TV, WiiFitness etc.
Including an S/PDIF out.

https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/sonos-and-ikea-collaboration-news/ - another collaboration which makes great sense.
What I did want and hoped that Sonos would provide, was the audio and acoustic smarts in software in a simple footprint suitable for rich listening at low volumes. I hate wearing headphones.

I purchased an S/PDIF to Toslink converter unit and all is working very well so far. Because the playbase doesn’t have a remote I set up the TV remote via the app - turned the volume down on the TV and up on the base station. Tuned the Playbase using the app (very Harry Potter) Mute works fine on both.

Fantastic being able to listen to music/radio through the same speakers (via iPhone) and watch TV - like years ago rather than an ugly ‘Audio’ splash moving around the screen. And I can pass the TV remote to a guest without handing over my iPhone.

Obviously if I had the space and the funds I would invest in Piega (or similar) and the kit to run them:
http://www.duratone.com.au/index.php/piega/357-piega-premium-50-2
there is still a place for the big screen and the big screen audio experience in all of our lives; trying to reproduce that in a standard home and certainly a standard apartment is unlikely to succeed acoustically without upsetting the neighbours. Also a bit hard to sit on the Piegas :)

It is really important that audio and video standards continue to improve of course but often I/O standards and codecs are implemented to benefit manufacturers not consumers. There are imperceptible differences particularly in acoustically ‘difficult’ spaces at low volumes once the baseline is met.

So Just to be clear - I do not want/need audio control over things at home - I don’t watch TV in the car, I understand that for some people voice control at home is a life changing benefit so it is great that cohort is supported.

I don’t want spyware in the home, Audio or video. The next monitor purchase may be problematic. I will be happy to pay more for a No-spyware version.

Your mileage may of course vary - and you may have huge spaces and deep pockets - there are some wonderful systems out there for you which do not require a wireless connection and registration to set up. My main concern about purchasing Sonos kit.

I am hoping that software based acoustic shaping with the convenience of existing iOS gadgets and personal selection of online services will improve the listening experience and enjoyment of many people at a reasonable cost.