Question about Playbar and Optical with Television

  • 8 August 2017
  • 4 replies

I used to have this $250 Sony 5.1 surround system with my livingroom television. It didn’t sound bad and did the job, and the rear speakers were even wirelessly connected to the unit so I didn’t have a wire running across my livingroom floor to the back which was nice. But I have gotten older and years back I was ready for an upgrade and had seen Sonos, so I grabbed a Sonos Playbar and 2 Play 1 rears. (Yes, I hear the sub is a must but have not gotten that yet) I like the wireless because I move a lot and its easy to setup in a new place and with music, the system in a smallish livingroom sounds fantastic. But unfortunately I have always had problems with the television, it never sounds quite right and I always struggle with the voices being difficult to hear or the rear speakers hardly sounding like they are working. The Sony setup just did a much much better job at home theater which is disappointing when comparing $1,000 to $250.

Just to review my setup... rear speakers are at the back set as surrounds, they have been turned all the way up in the television settings of the Sonos app and I have toggled the voice feature and night mode on and off to try different things. The Playbar is connected via optical wire to a Panasonic TC-50PS14 television from 2009. When I go into the Sonos “About” and check connection, my Apple TV or Xbox One both show “Dolby Digital 5.1” however my Fire TV Stick shows “Stereo”. The Fire Stick sounds noticeably worse which makes sense given stereo, but even the other two don’t sound great. Although the Xbox One and Apple TV show as Dolby Digital 5.1 could the audio coming form the television optical out be 2 channel still? I have read the manual and read around online and I don’t think I quite get how to tell what the optimal setup was.

I was considering a J-Tech Digital ULTRA HD 4K HDMI to HDMI + Audio (SPDIF + RCA Stereo) Audio Extractor Converter from to help me try and solve this problem. I don’t have 4K now but could upgrade at some point. I thought perhaps using my HDMI switch to feed in all the devices, and then splitting the optical out straight to the Sonos Playbar, might help me achieve better sound. But given the setup above I described I was not sure if this would help or not because it does sound like for at least 2 of my devises it is outputting Dolby Digital 5.1 just fine? Does anyone read this and have any thoughts about quality and if I went with an Audio Extrator if you think I could achieve better sound?

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4 replies

Have a similar issue with a new Sony 4K tv. I replaced a 7 year old Sharp TV where sound with SONOS was perfect. Now all I get is stereo. Support from SONOS suggested the hdmi optical convertor which I will look in to. Kind of frustrating that SONOS appears to have issues with surround sound on new tvs. When I check settings I get stereo and not 5.1. Too much invested with SONOS at this point but now regretting the decision to buy SONOS.
The thing was, even when in the Sonos app it would say I was getting Dolby sound it just did not sound right at all. I don’t have the sub, but I have the sound bar and the rear speakers. I also use the Boost to manage the Sonos network. It just sounded terrible on television and it was always difficult to hear voices the right way no matter how much you messed with the Sonos app settings. I also have a wife who has no patience for technology, she understandably wants to be able to just turn stuff on and have it work regardless of what I have rigged up. Just not what I wanted for the money... and now that everyone is hopping into the streaming game with things like Apple AirPlay 2 I have debated dumping the system....

BUT, I did just buy the J-Tech Digital ULTRA HD 4K HDMI + Audio (SPDIF + RCA Stereo) the other week off of amazon for $35 and it made a significant improvement. From the Fire Stick, to Apple TV, to Xbox One, it sounds so much better. You will want to get a 4k HDMI splitter as well. So you will go television into the Audio Splitter HDMI out port. You will go Audio Splitter HDMI in port to the HDMI Switch out port. You will plug your sonos optical into the Audio Splitter optical out port. You will then plug all of your devices into the HDMI splitter. I did this exact setup and it sounds like I would expect it to, to be honest. My wife even thanked me for fixing it, which means she thinks it sounds good. So all in all, I know its a pain but I recommend you have the Audio Splitter in your setup.

Also I will add one more thing that has nothing to do with Sonos. Having a TV, two splitters, and 3+ HDMI devices running through your system, I recommend a smart remote like logitech. The cheapest one from Logitech works fine. I press 1 button and my Apple TV and television switch on, and the HDMI box switches to the right input, and the sonos is on and you can control volume for your sonos. I press another button and Apple TV is off, Fire Stick is on, and the HDMI switches, and you can still control volume. It’s just so nice to have 1 simple remote. Your smart TV may come with a really cool remote that does all of this, I have an 8 year old Panasonic Plasma that didn’t.

Hope this helps.
Userlevel 1
Unfortunately the J-Tech device isn't available in the UK! Very disappointing sound through a Samsung UE46D7000 TV with Playbar, two Play 1's and a sub. Music sounds great - TV poor. Annoying.
Userlevel 6
Badge +13
I've used a "kwmobile EDID feeder" with my Samsung LED TV and it works perfectly with 5.1 over TOSlink. What happens is when you plug a HDMI device into your TV, they handshake and the TV says it's a Stereo device (via EDID), so the device will not feed a 5.1 signal to it.