Playbase mimicking surround question

  • 5 June 2017
  • 5 replies

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Hey y'all, I have Playbase and 2 Play1s setup for surround. They do fine with a Dolby 5.1 signal of course (coming out of my Vizio TV). I thought Playbase was supposed to try to "mimic" surround sound do some fake things to push sound to the rear speakers when it got another signal, but so far I've noticed no sound coming from the rear speakers. I first tried it with some TV programs, admittedly stuff like John Oliver or Daily Show that wouldn't have much rear anyways, but then also recently tried it with the original Planet of the Apes on blu-ray, which has a DTS soundtrack so presumably would be fitting to at least mimic the surround even though Playbase can't do DTS. I've tried different types of outputs from my PS4 for the DVD, and it seems the same whether my settings are reading "Stereo" or "Dolby Digital 2.0"

Is it just that it only works on particular encodings/situations, or that it's just VERY subtle to the point where often times you get nothing at all? I would've thought at least some of the soundtrack would be pushed.

Thanks for any advice on any settings I need to adjust, etc.

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5 replies

Generally speaking, there's 2 audio settings you'll need to "fix". First one is on the TV. Make sure it's set to pass through Dolby Digital. Not sure which Vizio you have, but on mine, it's under settings>Audio>Digital Audio Out, which needs to be set to Bitstream, rather than PCM.

Once you've done that, you need to set the source device audio settings. I'd agree with the John Oliver and daily show not making any use whatsoever of the surrounds, but if you're playing a DVD/Bluray, you need to make sure that you've set the audio settings on the Player to only send Dolby Digital signals out, i.e. defeat the DTS setting. Some discs allow you to change that setting on the disc level, but I'd recommend doing it in the audio output settings of the player itself, so you don't have to keep changing it everytime you stick in a new disc.

Then, if you can, run Trueplay on your system, using a iOS device (iPad, or iPhone), which will set up a baseline for you which you can then deviate from.

Finally, you can go in to the Sonos App settings, click on the room (Living Room?) where the system is set up, then click on Advanced Audio, and surround settings, where you can adjust them to your liking.

Hope this helps.
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Hey Airgetlam,

Thanks for your response. I may not have been clear in my initial post, but my question isn't about receiving 5.1 in general. I'm not having issues when I do get a 5.1 signal from Dolby, it's just that I had read that when Sonos Playbase didn't get a surround signal, it would do it's best to make a fake surround mix, essentially.

I've already adjusted the settings you recommend. No issue with Vizio passing the DD 5.1 when it's playing DD 5.1. Otherwise, it'll read as Stereo or DD 2.0, which makes sense when the signal isn't DD 5.1. For instance, even if I select Bitstream (Direct) from PS4 when playing DTS, we know PS4 doesn't convert to DD 5.1, so it outputs as stereo.

Specifically, my question is on if Sonos responds to "create" surround when it's not DD 5.1. Whenever it is that signal passing through, no issue, but the TV doesn't "convert" other sources to DD 5.1 so if it gets something else, it outputs it in stereo since Sonos won't receive DTS, etc.

From your answer, it sounds like if Sonos gets a stereo signal, it can't use the surround speakers with any sort of mimicking or fake surround. I've adjusted the surround speakers, but when my Playbase gets a 2.0 signal it doesn't appear to use them at all, even at max volume.

Or am I missing another setting altogether by chance?

Thanks again.
Ah, indeed, I didn't understand your question. I've seen a Sonos rep before mention that there is indeed some interpolation going on, but that wouldn't be adjustable, so there could be a small amount of stuff coming from the surround speakers. And I'd expect it to be significantly muted when compared to a real 5.1 signal.

The difficulty would lie in the challenge of programmatically figuring out which signal from a stereo signal to send to the surrounds. You wouldn't want any voice, for instance, but it's really hard to separate any particular signal out of a stereo signal to use as surround. Easier on Dolby Pro Logic, as they have some coding there to handle that, but I'd still expect it to not be as strong as a true 5.1 sound.

On the other hand, for music playback, Sonos provide the opportunity to adjust the surround settings, which I've set to "Full", rather than "ambient" so that they act as a stereo pair of speakers, rather than supporting the Playbar with "ambient' sounds.

All of this is adjustable in the Advanced Audio section of the app.
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Certainly, I wondered how they were going to do it, but I had read an original Sonos Playbar post about it from Sonos themselves, so I presumed it was something. I'm inclined to agree with assertion that maybe it's just VERY subtle and doesn't even show up on most things.

On another note, I've actually enjoyed the "ambient" setting on the surrounds for music. Turned up a little louder, that interestingly does a pretty good job of mimicking some surround to me, with specific parts coming out of the speakers on some songs.

Anyways, certainly not a big deal since stereo is stereo, but just wanted to make sure I didn't have anything off settings. Now just hoping King Crimson would release their surround recordings to DD 5.1 😉

Thanks for help!
I'll share your hope for the King Crimson releases 🙂

And you're most welcome.