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

  • 9 November 2018
  • 81 replies
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Userlevel 3
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.

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81 replies

Userlevel 7
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I’m not sure if the TV needs to do a “DD+ to DD conversion” or of it just needs to ask the player in question to deliver DD.

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.  

Userlevel 7
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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)??

My 2016 Sony will not pass any DD+ from devices plugged into hdmi ports on TV.  The TV will only output 2 ch.

My 2019 Sony does, but on only 3 of 5 ports.

I think the OP’s issue is the TV.  We are asking it to be a receiver (or preamp) of sorts to handle all formats. 

I think most TV manufacturers believed a sound bar or receiver would be where you connect everything and only video goes to the TV.  If you plugged in something like a Roku to an hdmi port on the TV instead of a receiver, the TV didn’t need to pass anything because there are only 2 channel speakers on the TV itself.

I personally would have liked the Sonos to be the hub and not the TV, but I can see why they did this.

I also know to get wireless to work with uncompressed would be a huge issue due to the amount of data needing to go over wifi to different components at the same time.

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)??

Your mistake is conflating DD+ for Atmos.  DD+ is a method for containing a number of surround formats starting from “standard” 5.1 and going up from there.  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.

For another data point, I’m experiencing a problem where the surround sound works only partially.

I have the beam and two play ones as my surrounds on my 2019 TCL ROKU 6 Series (plugged in thru the ARC). Using the built in apps on my TV, the surround works on Disney+, Amazon Prime, and the Dolby Channel, as well as my local antenna. However, audio from Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, ESPN, YouTube, Showtime, and more seem to be stuck in stereo and will ONLY play on the beam itself. Is this caused by the lack of support for DD+ and is there a way around this?

Userlevel 7
Badge +22

 Is this caused by the lack of support for DD+ and is there a way around this?

This is a very common problem indeed, the forum is full of such reports. You shouldn’t really have hijacked this thread for it, but here we are.

Some TVs do not pass-thru DD 5.1 from external HDMI sources, but do for internal sources ie the built-in apps. You need to use an EDID emulator on each external input, to force the (dumb) TV to accept DD 5.1. Surprising that any 2019 model TV still has this problem, as the misunderstanding that the HDCP spec caused should be well in the past now.

... 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.

... 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.

Ah the Beam Gen 2 perhaps??? ...(maybe one day..!!) ..but I would also want it to include ‘Atmos’ capability too for use with the current streaming services, like Netflix, alongside at least the DD+ compressed format… but that would then still not take care of Apple TV, which is supporting Dolby MAT (TrueHD uncompressed on/by the AV Receiver). 

Question is whether Sonos will want to upgrade the Beam Codecs as it stands at the moment and possibly damage some PlayBar sales by adding such additional codecs to the Beam? ...I personally can’t see that happening and think we’ll have to wait a while. Time will tell though, I guess.

Userlevel 1
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

 

Userlevel 5
Badge +7

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. 

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 5
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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 7
Badge +22

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. 

That can only happen with the complete retirement of the S/PDIF optical transport, which is a ways off. DD 5.1 remains the universal surround standard, despite what Sony seem to think. (Which is ironic as the S in S/PDIF is of course Sony).

DD 5.1 is also the ATSC standard multi-channel format in the US, Mexico, Canada, and other countries.  Any station broadcast in HD with multi-channel audio is required to use it.  As such, It ain't going nowhere.

Userlevel 5
Badge +7

DD 5.1 is also the ATSC standard multi-channel format in the US, Mexico, Canada, and other countries.  Any station broadcast in HD with multi-channel audio is required to use it.  As such, It ain't going nowhere.


I am sure things vary from country to country, but flow tv seems to be a dying breed. 
 

In any event, those requirements, I assume, don’t apply to streaming and thus does not apply to any streaming boxes etc. 

 

So you could say that Sonos will continue to be able to play surround from flow tv in those regions, but streaming services are rapidly abandoning DD 5.1 and so are the streaming boxes.
 

With most manufacturers embracing more modern standards, the incentive for Apple TV’s and the like to continue supporting conversion to DD 5.1 is steadily decreasing. 

 

But all is well. If one is fine with watching non-HD DVDs and prefer flow tv rather than the crazy haze of streaming, Sonos will be the perfect partner - just as in the good old days

 

 

But all is well. If one is fine with watching non-HD DVDs and prefer flow tv rather than the crazy haze of streaming, Sonos will be the perfect partner - just as in the good old days

 

90% of my watching is streaming, and I’ve not found a single streaming service that does not offer DD 5.1.  I’m also someone who won’t buy a soundbar for my main system, and thus I have a modern wired surround setup with capability for all current formats.  Just so happens my room is such that anything more than 5.1 would be overkill.  In short, I’m not worried about DD 5.1 leaving any content I view and that has nothing to do with defending Sonos’ soundbars (which I have criticized from the start).

Userlevel 5
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But all is well. If one is fine with watching non-HD DVDs and prefer flow tv rather than the crazy haze of streaming, Sonos will be the perfect partner - just as in the good old days

 

90% of my watching is streaming, and I’ve not found a single streaming service that does not offer DD 5.1.  I’m also someone who won’t buy a soundbar for my main system, and thus I have a modern wired surround setup with capability for all current formats.  Just so happens my room is such that anything more than 5.1 would be overkill.  In short, I’m not worried about DD 5.1 leaving any content I view and that has nothing to do with defending Sonos’ soundbars (which I have criticized from the start).


It all depends on the combination of streaming service and streaming device. For instance, Chromecast + Netflix only serves up DD+ and PCM. No DD 5.1. 
 

In terms of what is needed, I fully agree that DD 5.1 is perfectly fine for your average living room which is where Sonos has its intended user base. Personally, I am fully satisfied with my combo of an Apple TV and Sonos which always gives me DD 5.1. But would prefer Sonos opened up to some of the newer formats before this becomes a real issue.

 

The new players with HDMI should be capable enough. 


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 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 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.

I spent two hours researching Sonos and the internet for a solution to this problem. At last, I was able to solve my issue by doing the following:

  1. Upgraded my Sonos OS to  SONOS 2 ( S2 v12.0.2) from  App Store( Apple, Google Play, etc.).
  2. Ran a test in Netflix and was able to hear audio in my Play 1’s and Beam.  
  3. Resolved
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?

Badge +1

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.