Sonos Playbar sound issue? Dialogues in movies/shows are not easy to understand fully.

  • 25 October 2015
  • 92 replies
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When my wife and I are watching TV, we are noticing that we are having some difficulty fully understanding what the people in the show are saying. It's as if it's not fully clear or as my wife would describe it, it's a volume issue where the dialogue is being overwhelmed by other sounds perhaps.

It's gotten to the point that we need to turn on sub-titles at times. We don't notice this issue with other TV's/watching TV on a computer, so I think this is isolated to the Sonos playbar.

Also, I've noticed when watching movies that the sound fluctuates a lot, in which in an entire movie I have to hold the remote to adjust the sound up and down. It's like the explosion scenes are way too loud but the speaking scenes are not loud enough so we turn it up to try to hear what they are saying and then something loud happens and it's somewhat jarring to us when we are watching the show.

Is this an acoustics issue? Calibration issue?

We have 1 Playbar, 2 Play 1's as surrounds, the Playbar is wall mounted right beneath our Samsung 55" LED Smart TV.

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92 replies

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I have exactly the same problem. Its a disgrace that this once wonderful company has brought out a product like this. Ive been a customer for 9 years. MAybe they no longer care.
We have the same issue with our PlayBar + Sub + 2xPlay:1 setup.
The playbar muffles the dialog.
Turning on speech enhancement / night mode doesn't help.
Turning down the level of the surround speakers HAS helped a little bit, but we still have issues.

Subtitles are the way forward. It's a frustrating problem.
Have exact same problem and have tried the Night Mode, which seems to make little if no difference, and the Voice Mode seems to make it tinny. I constantly have my finger on the volume key to adjust sound up and down. Very disappointed so far. My wife prefers an old Bose 1-2-3 which, despite its age, produces far better sound, good voice clarity, and very even sound without (enhances quiet sounds and cuts loud booming sounds extremely effectively). But I like Sonos and really want it to work! I read an old Sonos Playbar review and the reviewer mentioned having a Sub really helped with this situation. Does having a Sub cause the Playbar to accentuate dialog and reduce the Playbar's base because this is now handled by the Sub? While I would like to try a Sub to solve this issue it would be a very costly experiment. While I don't think the TV is enhancing sound (Samsung and the sound types are disabled when External Speaker is selected) it was last on Standard Mode which one would think just passes sound through. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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I am a loyal sonos user and agree with the frustrating playbar setup. I would not recommend it until Sonos let's you adjust how much voice clarity/volume and night mode volume you want. A software upgrade that lets playbar users adjust the 5.1 effects like you can with a conventional 5.1 system. Then, if we want to raise the center channel up and lower everything else in poorly mixed movies we can!

Sonos, please tell us this is in the works!
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Have you tried turning on Speech Enhancement in the SONOS app (the square speech bubble on the right of the TV now playing screen, TV has to be selected for it to show up)
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I tried the enhancements and the night sound and I did a few things with the surround sound but it's still kind of unclear. Any other solutions?
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I'd like to add my voice to this discussion - my playbar issues are identical to those laid out by cadd, japes, Crossing, jfs, and darrelld. Speak enhancement and night mode make a very slight improvement, but other sounds are far, far louder than dialogue. I have to crank volume to max while watching movies, hold my phone the entire time, ready to quickly drop the volume during action scenes to avoid ticking off the neighbors.

Also, there doesn't appear to be any actual EQ settings accessible within the Sonos app. This statement from Sonos sounds way too Apple-esque for my liking:

"The SONOS players ship with the equalization settings preset to provide the optimal playback experience. If desired, you can change the sound settings (bass, treble, balance, or loudness) to suit your personal preferences."

Well it's not optimal. Currently I have treble maxed, bass almost off (I do have the sub), both speech enhancement and night mode on, and dialogue is barely intelligible with volume at max sitting 8 feet from the playbar.
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I still think Sonos should have a SW update that lets you adjust the center channel volume just like a conventional 5.1 system. Sonos please reply to this. This would make the sound bar so much more adaptable for your users!
Sonos Team,

I am a new customer to Sonos. I love the way the music sounds, but as everyone else on this thread has already said, including my wife who complains to me every night about this issue, the TV/Netflix/Movie dialogue is terrible. This issue needs to be resolved. I am surprised that it's been 5 months since the first post and there still isn't a solution in place?

This particular issue is making one of our favorite past times a pain. One of the main reasons we purchased Sonos was to enhance our movie/TV audio experience, not make it worse. I expected more out of a $700 speaker to say the least.

Regards,
Andrew - TX
Ok, friends, I have an answer!!! I own an RCA 55" Digital Television. I went in to my TV menu and adjusted the sound settings. I turned Surround Sound to OFF. I turned the Equalizer settings to USER. I adjusted EQ Settings so that the lowest bass is lower, midrange higher and high treble slightly lower. (Basically making a sound wave that I like) Then I set the Digital Audio Output to RAW. The result is CRYSTAL CLEAR SOUND in movies and music from my Sonos system. Use this idea and check the settings in everything that feeds the SONOS so that nothing else but the SONOS is processing the audio signal. THAT, my friends will improve your movie watching experience. Happy viewing!
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As for the fluctuating sound, try the night mode which is on the left of the now playing screen.
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I still think Sonos should have a SW update that lets you adjust the center channel volume just like a conventional 5.1 system. Sonos please reply to this. This would make the sound bar so much more adaptable for your users!

Hi Jfs,

Thanks for the suggestion of adding a center channel volume control to the PLAYBAR setup. We'll submit a feature request for you.
Userlevel 7
Hi just wanted to get back on that boost setting. I already have that setting but didn't realize that it is called that. Actually that playbar is directly connected via ethernet so not via wifi. Please as said help me resolve this as currently I am lost and frustrated. It's just not working for me as a TV speaker when watching movies. Thanks.

Hi Asaweli

First, I'm not employed by Sonos. I'm just a user of the Sonos product just as you. As you have most likely surmised from my signature tag I own several pieces of Sonos equipment. I have no problem with audio on either of my Playbars one of which is in a HT setup with sub and surrounds.

Reference a reply from Sonos….It’s not uncommon that you may have to call Sonos and provide the reference number you posted. The reference number tells the Sonos engineers where to look for the information specific to your system in order to facilitate trouble shooting and advice.

As a suggestion…before you call verify that on your LG the Simplink is set to ON and Digital Out is set to Auto. You can also check the audio settings for your Roku by following the instructions in the link below:

https://support.roku.com/article/208755518-what-to-do-if-you-do-not-hear-the-audio-from-your-roku-streaming-player

Having said the above is not to say that your Playbar isn’t defective. However, it would be unusual that both would behave in the same manner. Not impossible…just unusual.

Full disclosure….I work in the IT industry. It’s been my experience that when dealing with networking issues the root cause of the problem(s) can typically be traced back to a configuration error. That’s not to say that the hardware isn’t faulty on occasion. Therefore, as a user/participant in this forum my advice is always going to start with trouble shooting the network setup (i.e. configuration) and other user oriented settings. As I’m not a Sonos representative/engineer I don’t have the benefit of viewing a diagnostic to determine if the issue is actually hardware related as opposed to being network and/or product configuration caused.

Also, on issues such as the one you and others have been experiencing…the end-user (i.e. the person having the issue) doesn’t always post back to say that a particular suggestion resolved the issue. Therefore, the thread remains open.

One last piece of advice…make sure that the firmware on all devices related to your issue is up-to-date. The same applies to any Apps that may be involved.

I truly, hope you can resolve your issues and not be forced to return your Sonos.

Cheers!
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Have exact same problem and have tried the Night Mode, which seems to make little if no difference, and the Voice Mode seems to make it tinny. I constantly have my finger on the volume key to adjust sound up and down. Very disappointed so far. My wife prefers an old Bose 1-2-3 which, despite its age, produces far better sound, good voice clarity, and very even sound without (enhances quiet sounds and cuts loud booming sounds extremely effectively). But I like Sonos and really want it to work! I read an old Sonos Playbar review and the reviewer mentioned having a Sub really helped with this situation. Does having a Sub cause the Playbar to accentuate dialog and reduce the Playbar's base because this is now handled by the Sub? While I would like to try a Sub to solve this issue it would be a very costly experiment. While I don't think the TV is enhancing sound (Samsung and the sound types are disabled when External Speaker is selected) it was last on Standard Mode which one would think just passes sound through. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

I have a sub with a pair of Play3 speakers, and I get the same problem where I can hardly hear what people are saying sometimes. I also find that during some ads, the surrounds sometime become overwhelming, but if I change them to the ambient setting, I can barely hear them.
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Also, should it help, my Playbar/Sub are connected to an LG 55LM7600. All movies and TV are streamed via a Plex/Chromecast 2 setup. Issue occurs with TV and movies, seems to be independent of file format, size/quality, etc. I've just submitted this issue to support along with a diagnostic.
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Hi Seanfoy,

I struck out with Sonos support. I directed them to this thread, they shot me a number of questions that were already answered in this thread, I directed them back to this thread, then dead air. I got the feeling they were running through a script or canned support process.

I've been working to troubleshoot this myself. While I still think Sonos should offer more granular audio adjustments (an advanced mode or similar) to EQ settings, and while I do believe those adjustments could fix our issues, I no longer think my root cause is Sonos-related. I run Plex on a PC in another room, and I connect into that wirelessly via Chromecast. When I access movies via Plex in that way, dialogue is always drowned out. When I access/play those same movies wirelessly via my TV’s built in network file browser (using my Playbar/Sub for audio), the dialogue is clear. Plus my TV’s video player has more helpful/granular audio settings than Sonos (how?!), so I can fine tune it if I’d like.

I haven’t yet determined why PC>Plex>ChromeCast>TV>Sonos sounds like crap and PC>TV>Sonos sounds great. I think it’s unlikely to be ChromeCast, so I’m chasing after a Plex-related solution. Given the large number of Plex/Sonos users out there, perhaps someone else will chime in with an idea.
Plenty of folks are reporting the same problem with voices being unclear. For Sonos to respond with saying there is no reported issue is a little derogatory to the people reporting these issues. Dialog/Voice Enhancements work a little bit to improve the situation, but this setting makes the voices sound thin and artificial, unworthy of a $700 playbar in combination with a $700 sub and $400 worth of Play 1 speakers as surrounds. For the $1800 people spend, adding a simple software setting to raise the volume of the speaker dedicated voices, shouldn't be too much to ask,

I was also unpleasantly surprised that when I hooked up the optical audio from the TV to the playbar, and then the Xbox One to the HDMI input on the TV, this didn't work and after some Googling found that my Sharp Aquos TV is not supported by Sonos. As a workaround, I plugged in the optical audio from the Xbox and changed the Xbox sound output setting to bitstream.

Perhaps this is a reason why the voices are unclear and the volume during 5.1 surround movies seems to get louder, softer, then to muffled...?
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Glad I found this thread. I thought I bought a POS sound bar. Sonos, you MUST put the instructions in the setup to turn off surround sound on the TV. Now my sound bar sounds awesome. I've had it for about 3-4 months and had to turn on close caption to watch movies, sports, pretty much everything. Now speech is crystal clear.
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Be a good time to become acquainted with your TV full manual and the settings menus.
I'll answer. Basically yes. Or at least within 10 or 15 minutes of the problem. There's only so much data that can be included in the diagnostic, I think that 15 minutes of data is included. He'd be looking through that file to see what information the PLAYBAR is receiving (or not), or if there's a error code popping up from somewhere else. But if it's not while the PLAYBAR is in use, then there won't be any data from the PLAYBAR for him to look at 🙂
You're most welcome. My guess is that Keith's already working on some other issue, and rather than have you wait, since I knew the answer....:)
Thanks, AdrianSyd. When it comes to lag, the thing to focus on is signal processing and signal flow. Let's first gather some details on where the signal is "coming from". Are you watching a Blu-Ray Movie or is this normal TV audio?

If the signal is coming from a cable box (or any external source, for that matter) to the TV, the TV has to read/process the signal and then send that audio to the PLAYBAR for playback. This is usually where the "lag" or "delay" is introduced. We have to wait for the signal to be relayed through the TV to the PLAYBAR pushing the audio signal milliseconds from the video signal being displayed on your TV. This can be tested by plugging the PLAYBAR directly into the cable box. This puts the PLAYBAR as "close" to the source of the signal as possible and may fix the lag. Additionally, there may be some settings on the TV that can be changed to address this, however, I haven't seen too many TV's that can delay video to match the audio output.
Userlevel 7
Hi just wanted to get back on that boost setting. I already have that setting but didn't realize that it is called that. Actually that playbar is directly connected via ethernet so not via wifi. Please as said help me resolve this as currently I am lost and frustrated. It's just not working for me as a TV speaker when watching movies. Thanks.

Hi Asaweli

First, I'm not employed by Sonos. I'm just a user of the Sonos product just as you. As you have most likely surmised from my signature tag I own several pieces of Sonos equipment. I have no problem with audio on either of my Playbars one of which is in a HT setup with sub and surrounds.

Reference a reply from Sonos….It’s not uncommon that you may have to call Sonos and provide the reference number you posted. The reference number tells the Sonos engineers where to look for the information specific to your system in order to facilitate trouble shooting and advice.


Cheers!


thanks for your reply and I stand corrected.. thought you worked for sonos. in both cases thank you for your patience and detailed replies.

I did look at some of your tips and although the optical output was set as auto the simplink function is off on my lg so turned that on. Not sure if that would help though.. not sure what the effect would be but will report back.

Als have been playing around more with night mode on an off to see whether that helps .. it did not in the past but willing to try again.

Agree with you that most people don't report back. I will break that trend once this is resolved :-)

Not sure what you mean though with reference a reply from sonos. And that I need to mention the reference number .. How do I get them to get in touch with me then? It seems I need to call them?


Call 1-800-680-2345 and provide the reference ID you posted. Note: supported will not be avalable on 4/18/18 due to maintenance. Good luck!

Cheers!
Userlevel 7
Hi Asaweli

As a suggestion due to the fact that this thread is two + years old (84 replies and 18,633 views) and the last response prior to your original post was a month prior to that you may want to consider starting your own thread. In that manner it will be under your name and move to the front as a new question. I'd also re-submitt the diagnostic and post the updated Reference ID. I'm just saying...:8

Cheers!
Completely understand.

Open up the app, and use the "rooms" menu at the bottom of the app, and select the room that your PLAYBAR is in. If you end up still on the white screen, click on the carat (^) on the left side of the black bar, just above the words My Sonos.

At this point, you should be on the black screen which shows a stylized TV in the center, and a bunch of buttons below. The button on the left, which looks like a moon, is the night more button. The button on the right is the voice boost mode. Both of these buttons can be toggled on or off while the TV is playing. When "On", the majority of the button is white, with black icons, when "Off", it is the opposite. I tend to run with speech enhancement on, and night mode off, but it's entirely a personal decision, there's no right or wrong way,. Do what works for you.

Hope that helps.