Sonos Beam File Formats

  • 12 September 2018
  • 4 replies

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I m thinking of buying a Beam, I have a hard drive connected to my tv with films on it, using just the Tv it plays them all no problem. I had a old Denon sound base which played them all, but it recently packed in. Tried a Q. Acoustics M2 soundbase, it won’t play the sound on AVI format files, plus it was a bit to boomy for me. I connected it to tv with hdmi arc and also tried tosh digital in case that was an issue, I’ve been told its the soundbase that can’t decode certain file types. I have listened to a beam, thought it was ok, but can’t find out if I would have same problem with this, can’t find a file format list at all,salesman couldn’t help at all. So all I need to know is will it play sound on films from my tv/ hard drive, the films are in MKV, MP4 and AVI format. If so I’ll buy one,

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I’m no expert in this area, but this is what I have discovered from a few online searches...

MKV Container
MKV is a rapidly growing format that was designed to be future-proof. The container itself supports almost any audio or video format which makes it adaptable, efficient, and highly regarded as one of the best – if not the best – ways to store audio and video files. In addition, it even supports multiple audio, video and subtitle files even if they are encoded in different formats. Due to the options the container offers, as well as its handling of error recovery (which allows you to play back corrupted files), it has quickly become one of the best containers currently available.

MP4 Container
MP4 is the recommended format for uploading video to the web, and services such as Vimeo and YouTube have it listed as their preferred format. The MP4 container utilizes MPEG-4 encoding, or H.264, as well as AAC or AC3 for audio. It’s widely supported on most consumer devices, and the most common container used for online video. You really can’t go wrong with MP4.

AVI Container
AVI is a popular container file format used for watching standard definition video on the PC and is the container used by DivX video versions 3 through 6. AVI files can hold different types of video and audio streams inside, and with the help of DivX®️ video compression technology, they can display incredible video quality while maintaining a small file size. .divx files are also based on the AVI container, but can contain additional features like XSUB subtitles and chapters. Both AVI and DIVX videos will play on all DivX Certified devices—from tablets to TVs.

The bottom line is, a container is a (mostly) useless bit of information when referring to video and audio. Telling someone to send you an MP4 file doesn’t give away any useful bits of information without understanding how the video and audio itself were encoded.

So to properly answer your question here, you need to first establish the actual audio formats that are held within your movie containers.

Here are the usual audio formats supported by Sonos ... but I would concentrate perhaps moreso on MP3 and AAC (Please see 'PCM Audio' below).

Supported Audio Formats

Note the Beam uses Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM stereo ... here is what I found about PCM Audio...

Pulse Code Modulation audio is a digital recording of analog audio used in a range of technologies from telephones to Blu-ray discs. PCM works by taking analog signal amplitude samples at regular intervals several thousand times per second. Recording software initially uses the PCM format before converting audio into another format like MP3 or AAC. Additionally, compressed audio files like MP3s are decompressed back into PCM when being played back on speakers.

So my guess is if your audio in your video container is encoded in either MP3 or AAC format, then you should be fine.... but also note if your files are not encoded in that format there are plenty of software 'video/audio converters' on the internet that can change and re-encode the audio and the movie container format etc. for you.
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Thank you so much for explaining it in detail, it makes me a bit more confident on possibly buying the Beam now. I have looked a bit more into the menus on the TV, all I did was set it to speakers off, but in another section I have seen something calle SPIDF,definetly mentionsa PCM setting and another I can’t remember at the moment. I have also tried a video/ audio converter “ Handbrake” which is easy to use, not the fastest but I would only convert a few music concerts we watch quite often. Just got to get my head round Alexa, I absolutely detest it, so does my other half. I know there is a switch to turn the mike off, just wished it could be completely disabled. We have grandchildren who love this stuff, and would soon turn it on and drive us nuts. Afraid at our age sitting there shouting commands to a box is not done. Lol.
Yes, I'm a grandparent too, so I definitely understand those issues.

if you do decide to purchase the Beam and ever decide to change your mind and leave Alexa switched on, then here is a very useful link that provides many of the voice commands to maybe remember and use with your new speaker.

It's actually quite good when you persevere and get used to Alexa. My wife Jane and I have gone onto install voice-controlled lights and some smart-plugs too.

We love the Beam and have since added two Play:1's to ours to get the 5.0 surround sound effects in our dining room. It's great for things like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix etc.

Here is that useful support link...

Controlling your Sonos with Amazon Alexa

Hope that helps.
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Have ordered one, should be with us tomorrow. Somehow I cant see us using the Alexa stuff, all we want is a good sound from it and ease of installation and user controls, although if we really like it I may sort out a NAS for my PC, and buy a pair of Play ( without Alexa) speakers as I have loads of music on my computer, and it would be nice to listen to it, we would put the speakers in a different room, which would be nice for us. I do understand you could put the Play speakers with the Beam to create a surround sound type system, but we will be ok with just the sound bar. Thanks for all the help and advice