WARNING: Beam does not support Dolby Digital Plus, That is a BIG deal

  • 9 November 2018
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81 replies

Userlevel 7
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@Moki The Sonos beam not handling DD+ is only a problem with connected third party players i.e. Chromecast for example. Most if not all TV apps wil revert to DD when a Beam is connected. I do not think there are any differences between S1 and S2 regarding this. I’m not sure you had the problem described in this thread as I not see you mention a connected player. Can you clarify this?

... Nearly every surround sound amplifier has had it built in for the last five years.  It’s now the nearest thing to a universal surround format which is why the omission of it from the latest Sonos bar is so puzzling and frustrating.

more then 100% agree !!!

I am looking to buy a sonos beam because of so many good reviews, but will wait (or change brand) until DD+ and eARC will be available.

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I just got a new LG TV and tried to play a movie that is in Dolby Atmos on my AppleTV 4K with a Beam attached to my TV.  I’m aware that the Beam doesn’t support Atmos but NO SOUND came out.  I thought it would at least downgrade the sound to something compatible.  Seems wonky at best.

Userlevel 7
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Since the Beam never does any conversion, are you saying your new TV is wonky?

Userlevel 4
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I just got a new LG TV and tried to play a movie that is in Dolby Atmos on my AppleTV 4K with a Beam attached to my TV.  I’m aware that the Beam doesn’t support Atmos but NO SOUND came out.  I thought it would at least downgrade the sound to something compatible.  Seems wonky at best.

You need to set your Apple TV 4k to output Dolby Digital 5.1. In this case, I think the culprit may the TV. 

Update : I was  not able hear surround  sound when I tested my Sonos products (Play 1 & Beam) with Hulu, Showtime, or HBO.  However, my surround sound only works with Netflix. 
 

This is a huge disappointment and would like Sonos to apply a patch to fix this problem. 
 

 

Userlevel 4
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Update : I was  not able hear surround  sound when I tested my Sonos products (Play 1 & Beam) with Hulu, Showtime, or HBO.  However, my surround sound only works with Netflix. 
 

This is a huge disappointment and would like Sonos to apply a patch to fix this problem. 
 

 

You may be blaming the wrong party. Sometimes, the problem is with the TV not passing through sound in the correct format to Beam. You must ensure that the TV passes Dolby Digital and not LPCM. 

Userlevel 2
Badge +7

Word of warning for anyone looking at the Beam to start a 5.1 surround sound system, it will NOT work ideally for any streaming box except the Apple TV. I would suggest really doing your research and/or staying away from the Beam if you want a home theater solution.

The Beam does not support Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) and only supports PCM (poor quality) or Dolby Digital. Why does that matter? DD+ is the current standard. Dolby (the only thing Sonos support) sounds good but is hardly used anymore by anything halfway modern. PCM is the audio equivilent to standard definition TV.

DD+ is the de facto standard for streaming boxes and services. Hulu, Netflix, HBO and I want to say Plex support this standard and only this standard. Those services do not use Dolby Digital. To get Dolby Digital, that means the stream must be downconverted (transcoded) on the fly by either your streaming device or your TV before reaching the Beam. If you do not convert, you are forced to use the poor quality PCM.

Now here's the rub. Few TVs downconvert. If you have one that does? Great! You should have few problems. Thing is though today, few streaming boxes do as well. In fact, the only one that does that I can tell is the Apple TV 4K. The nVidia Shield does not, nor does any modern Roku device. The 2016 Ruku Ultra does, but the 2017 and 2018 models do NOT. Looking at Roku forums, a software update from Roku may have removed that option thus meaning no Roku converts DD+ to D.

I can not believe Sonos is selling a device, geared for home theater, that does not support what is a very common standard. Every single streaming device support DD+ along with all the major players including Netflix and Hulu. It is THE standard, yet Sonos does not support it.

Keep this in mind as you're researching. I find it very disappointing, and will be returning my Sonos products.

sonos of other decodings not affected !!  customers don't care, they only have an interest in selling products .... problems don't care .... they don't even read about forun

 

Update : I was  not able hear surround  sound when I tested my Sonos products (Play 1 & Beam) with Hulu, Showtime, or HBO.  However, my surround sound only works with Netflix. 
 

This is a huge disappointment and would like Sonos to apply a patch to fix this problem. 
 

 

You may be blaming the wrong party. Sometimes, the problem is with the TV not passing through sound in the correct format to Beam. You must ensure that the TV passes Dolby Digital and not LPCM. 

I have TCL TV that supports Dolby Digital and  Dolby Digital Plus. I tested the beam using both TV configurations but no luck. The surround sound worked only when I watched Netflix. 
 

Do you have any recommendations on how to fix this problem? 

Userlevel 7
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DD+ can’t be transported over optical. You are forcing your TV to transcode DD+ to DD.

I too have had problems with my Sonos Beam and surround. No idea if this was related to DD+ or not, but I had to solve it in different ways for my PS4 an my Mede8er.

I wrote about it here: https://en.community.sonos.com/home-theater-228993/solving-lack-of-dd-support-in-soundbar-6820758?postid=16313027
Userlevel 4
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I think it’s the latter. I don’t think TVs do any transcoding at all, but pass the “request” received by HDMI-CEC from the Beam back to the source device, and it is up to the source to send the appropriate signal, even if it doesn't show up as a normal audio option in that device’s settings.

However, this is speculation on my part. There’s an internal logic that appeals to me, but I haven’t researched it. One of these days, I’ll look up the HDMI-CEC spec and see what it says about passing that data request back to a source. Or, if there’s a video engineer willing to confirm or debunk my theory, it would be nice to have an authoritative source.  

I think this is true. A TV will only pass signals through between devices. So if the source only carries DD+ and PCM you will likely never get anything above PCM from the Beam. 
 

Why modern TVs with all their smartness can’t mimic the conversion capabilities of an Apple TV is however at but puzzling. 

Userlevel 7
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It seems though that the Hulu Showtime and HBO apps on your TV not give you DD (DD+ will not work with the Beam). Are there any settings within the apps you can change?

I just want to add I never ever expected my Sonos Beam to support any form of Dolby Atmos, when I purchased it 18 months, or so, ago, whether that be the DD+ (lossy) version of Atmos, or the TrueHD (lossless) version.

In a similar/identical way, I never expected the Beam to support other codecs either, like DTS, for example. It was certainly never in the spec. nor was it in the Beam's literature.

So I’m struggling to understand what this thread is really all about?

The majority of TV's with DD+ support, also support DD 5.1 and the majority of Netflix/Amazon/Apple streaming Movie Apps available around the time of the Beams launch date were DD 5.1. In fact a majority of the movies on those platforms are still DD 5.1, albeit the Atmos (DD+) titles are now beginning to creep more and more onto those platforms, at an additional cost.

Assuming the HDMI-ARC port on the Beam is 2.0 (I don’t know if it is) then there’s certainly a chance of a software/firmware upgrade which, one day, might allow the Beam to support Atmos DD+, but there’s no way it can ever support Atmos TrueHD, unless the HDMI Port is version 2.1 eARC capable.

At this moment in time though, I’m happy with the fact thd Beam supports DD 5.1, as that is the reason I purchased it. It is doing what it was designed to do.

Note also, that aswell as upgrading to the “Netflix (more expensive) UltraHD” service to get access to DD+ movies, the Netflix App that plays them too has to support DD+ and some TV's, like LG, (just as an example), prior to 2017 may support the DD+ codec, but their actual built-in Netflix and Amazon Apps don’t .. so in some cases users 'may' wish to upgrade their TV’s too, particularly if the hardware ports will not pass-thru the DD+ audio format.

At the moment Atmos DD+ is only just coming into play with the streaming Movie services and so I don’t see the point in criticising an 18 month old Sonos Beam for not supporting it, particularly as it was never ever part of its original specification.

Not so puzzling to me. Simple cost. Why add $10 of electronics that 99% of users won’t ever use? Better to meet a price point to sell the TV.

Userlevel 7
Badge +23

I don’t think CEC has anything to do with this, i think it is EDID that is used for the audio codec negotiation over HDMI. But I could be wrong.

I don’t fully understand why anyone needs the Beam to play a DD+ (Atmos compressed) audio source, as I believe that codec is for a minimum of a 5.1.2 speaker setup, where the .2 is for downward firing speakers (or can be upward firing to reflect down from a ceiling).

The Beam and surrounds do not support that type of setup in terms of their hardware (no upward/downward firing speakers)??


The Beam does not support Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) and only supports PCM (poor quality) .

 


ARC and Optical cannot physically support DD+ and can only support 2 channels of PCM. As an ARC and Optical only product, it's not even an option for them to support it.

Also,another tip. PCM is uncompressed audio. It is the farthest you can get from poor quality. . It is 1,411 Kbps PER CHANNEL at CD quality, which is lower than Disc based LPCM streams. Dolby Digital is compressed and lossy at 640 Kbps FOR ALL 6 CHANNELS COMBINED. Just a tiny difference...lol

5.1 channels of uncompressed audio would be 8.466 Kpbs aka 8.5 Mbps. More channels, do the math. Thus the advent of Tru-HD and DTS Master Audio...aka Lossless codecs. The quality of uncompressed audio without the huge bitrates.

The issue is that ARC and Optical do not have the capability to handle the large bitrates. The bandwidth limitations of ARC and optical allow for only 2 channels of PCM and the DDP, Dolby True HD, DTS-MA data rates also exceeds the bandwidth limitations as well. ARC and Optical output is the exact same digital stream (SPDIF) simply going out whichever of the two outputs you tell it to.

The fact is here, 99% of Sonos customers could not tell the difference between Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus. Especially through a Beam alone. The drivers are too small and the electronics too low end to make it possible. You'd need to be at a significantly higher price tag and quality level of hardware before it would be tangible to the average Sonos consumer.

Matter of fact, you can go full 5.1 Sonos and still it would go unnoticed. An simple enthusiast would notice DTS vs Dolby Digital LONG before they would notice DDP vs DD. DTS is a significantly better performing decoder than Dolby, and has been for many years. However, Dolby has done a fantastic job of marketing the brand, especially Atmos. With Blu ray's going the way of the cassette (you see Samsung announced they are no longer making Bluray players..at all anymore.), and DTS being the dominant player in that space...they have reason for concern looking forward.

Nonetheless That's a big part of the reason why you don't have DDP. You wont hear it. The other part of that is that in order to offer DDP, they would have to pay a higher royalty to Dolby per unit sold.

If you wont hear it, why the hell would they pay it? It's giving away money and they are a public company now.

It's just business folks.

 

I have tested encoding my blurays with both AC3 and E-AC3 (DD+) audio tracks and notice a big difference when playing through my LG Oled to Beam even though the DD+ track is obviously being down-mixed. Do you know how/why this is possible? 
Also, how does AAC 5.1 come into the mix? Compared to the DD5.1 sound, I find that AAC5.1 is much more immersive but gives a slightly muffled sound (less clarity). I’m just trying to work out what is the best format to encode my blurays for a 5.1 sonos system. Any help greatly appreciated

Userlevel 4
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Not so puzzling to me. Simple cost. Why add $10 of electronics that 99% of users won’t ever use? Better to meet a price point to sell the TV.

Smart TV’s are swamped with useless features. Just seems odd that Samsung and Sony are fine with implementing this on their Blu-ray players and gaming consoles but leave them out on their TVs which they try to (at least Samsung) brand as smart hubs for the home. 
 

But my general expectation/concern is that this feature will soon disappear from Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, Apple TV’s etc. because it is mainly serving to support an ancient file format that almost all manufactures of amps and soundbars have abandoned years ago.
 

Once that happens and every streaming service and Blu-ray will have moved on from DD 5.1 to DD+, DTS, Atmos or what else is coming, Sonos will be nothing but stereo. 

Userlevel 3
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Sorry if I’m necroing this thread a bit but I thought it was important to leave this here in case anyone else is finding this thread.

PCM is not the audio equivalent of standard definition. All audio, in master form, is PCM and high-end audio converters create PCM for recording and editing suites.

PCM is the highest quality audio you can receive and all Dolby Standards relevant to this discussion are simply an attempt to reduce file sizes. Even Dolby TrueHD is simply lossless compression applied to PCM audio.

When your devices decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, or Dolby TrueHD streams they decode them into PCM for playback.

Userlevel 7
Badge +26
I may be mis-reading what you're asking. That TV looks to fully support Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Digital 5.1, and as you said, if you start with Dolby Digital, that's an option to go to the Beam.

If your Beam is connected over HDMI-ARC, the TV will automatically send Dolby Digital 5.1 to the Beam for any source that starts off with a Dolby Digital Plus or 5.1 signal. If the source starts at PCM, the TV isn't going to be able to change that audio signal into a Dolby Digital signal, because there are only 2 channels of audio to begin with. Even if the Beam is sent Stereo PCM, we do up-mix the sound ourselves, playing a simulated surround sound so your surrounds won't remain silent, even if it's just getting the stereo signal.
Userlevel 4
Badge +3

Sorry if I’m necroing this thread a bit but I thought it was important to leave this here in case anyone else is finding this thread.

PCM is not the audio equivalent of standard definition. All audio, in master form, is PCM and high-end audio converters create PCM for recording and editing suites.

PCM is the highest quality audio you can receive and all Dolby Standards relevant to this discussion are simply an attempt to reduce file sizes. Even Dolby TrueHD is simply lossless compression applied to PCM audio.

When your devices decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, or Dolby TrueHD streams they decode them into PCM for playback.

Might be imporant to add that bog standard hdmi Arc equipped Sonos Beam cannot carry multichannel uncompressed PCM over hdmi. Stereo only. Hdmi eArc enabled Sonos Arc theoretically can carry it - if your TV supports eArc.

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we do up-mix the sound ourselves, playing a simulated surround sound so your surrounds won't remain silent, even if it's just getting the stereo signal.

How can I get that? I've tried and tried with my Beam and 2 Play:1's and the surrounds go silent on 2.0 streams.... 😞
Word of warning for anyone looking at the Beam to start a 5.1 surround sound system, it will NOT work ideally for any streaming box except the Apple TV. I would suggest really doing your research and/or staying away from the Beam if you want a home theater solution.

The Beam does not support Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) and only supports PCM (poor quality) or Dolby Digital. Why does that matter? DD+ is the current standard. Dolby (the only thing Sonos support) sounds good but is hardly used anymore by anything halfway modern. PCM is the audio equivilent to standard definition TV.

DD+ is the de facto standard for streaming boxes and services. Hulu, Netflix, HBO and I want to say Plex support this standard and only this standard. Those services do not use Dolby Digital. To get Dolby Digital, that means the stream must be downconverted (transcoded) on the fly by either your streaming device or your TV before reaching the Beam. If you do not convert, you are forced to use the poor quality PCM.

Now here's the rub. Few TVs downconvert. If you have one that does? Great! You should have few problems. Thing is though today, few streaming boxes do as well. In fact, the only one that does that I can tell is the Apple TV 4K. The nVidia Shield does not, nor does any modern Roku device. The 2016 Ruku Ultra does, but the 2017 and 2018 models do NOT. Looking at Roku forums, a software update from Roku may have removed that option thus meaning no Roku converts DD+ to D.

I can not believe Sonos is selling a device, geared for home theater, that does not support what is a very common standard. Every single streaming device support DD+ along with all the major players including Netflix and Hulu. It is THE standard, yet Sonos does not support it.

Keep this in mind as you're researching. I find it very disappointing, and will be returning my Sonos products.


Hi I have an ATV 4k, can you explain the required configuration?

If apple TV downgrade to DD send this to TV trough HDMI, TV has only DD+ or DTS output, no pass through, what beam it will receive trough ARC HDMI, DD+ or PCM?
Hope I was clear, not good with audio standards, just very disappointed when I have unboxed everything and I so now 5.1 surround 😞
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Hi sexyflanders, thanks for sharing.

I wanted to clarify that Dolby Digital Plus is fully compatible with Dolby Digital 5.1 per Dolby specifications/requirements. The Beam will also tell whatever device it's connected with via HDMI-ARC that it wants a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio signal, and just about all of the TVs that I've seen will automatically convert Dolby Digital Plus into DD5.1 following that handshake. You should be good to send any Dolby Digital Plus to your TV and it'll send DD5.1 to your Beam over HDMI-ARC.


What about Netflix, Amazon Video and other streaming services that check the capability before sending the audio signal and do not propose the 5.1 sound profil and only stereo ?
The function that Ryan S is talking about is part of the HDMI-CEC connection, and only available on the Beam when connected with the HDMI-ARC connection, as he states. Since it's part of the HDMI connection, any source that is connected with an HDMI-CEC connection will get the automatic switch to Dolby Digital. But that's only if the device sending the signal is HDMI-CEC compliant.