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 3
Hi Ryan,

I appreciate your replies. My experience with what should be though is a bit different.

For the record I am using HDMI-ARC from my TV to the Beam. The TV is a Samsung KU6300F. Perhaps the limitation exists with Samsung or something, I don't know?

I tested on the 2018 Roku Ultra as well as an nVidia Shield TV. If the source is DD+, such as the Netflix app, for some reason my TV converts that to PCM so that is all the Beam gets. My TV does support DD+, though it is an option that is always greyed out when using the Beam. On my TV under the advanced options, when the source is 5.1 that option is lit up, and when the source is PCM only or DD+ only the PCM option is available.

I confirmed this to be the case in the Sonos app, when Audio In was "stereo". The Roku Ultra nor the nVidia Shield TV was able to send anything except PCM for Netflix and Amazon. I am not sure if any apps use 5.1, I did not test out that.

The Apple TV 4K does the downconversion from DD+ to 5.1 for me, so when I use a DD+ app such as Netflix my TV sees it as 5.1 thus the Sonos does as well. As far as I know, Apple TV is the only device capable of doing this. This is a bit disappointing because IMO I think the Apple 4K device is one of the worst between Shield, Roku and Apple.

My theory? The TV asks what the Beam supports (PCM, 5.1) then sees the output from the device. If it's 5.1, then it'll output 5.1 to the Beam however if it's DD+ or PCM then it outputs PCM to the Beam.

Now onto my issue, I guess. We're relying on TVs and/or streaming boxes to downconvert. Fact of the matter is DD+ is the standard in streaming. Sonos IMO should support that standard that way in case for some reason a user such as myself is stuck with a TV that does not properly downconvert I still have a positive experience with Sonos. While I appreciate Sonos simulating 5.1 with a PCM signal, in my experience 5.1 is by far the superior experience which is what we want.
Userlevel 3
My TV supports all types (DD+, Dolby 5.1, PCM), but my TV doesn't downconvert DD+ to just Dolby 5.1. I think it sees the Beam supports Dolby 5.1 and PCM, so it tells the source to pass through Dolby 5.1 or PCM. When the source can only do DD+ or PCM, such as Netflix, the TV says that since the Beam doesn't support DD+ then it should do PCM.

I get that perhaps TVs should downconvert DD+ to Dolby 5.1, but obviously some don't. I don't know if it's all Samsungs, or just the ones from late 2016 when I got mine. I did ensure my Samsung was on the latest firmware. Samsungs are a very popular TV brand.

That being said I think the Sonos should support DD+. It's obviously the most popular format simply by virtue of that being the format Netflix decided to go with. Instead of relying on a TV to transcode DD+ to 5.1, of which many seem to not do, why not just support what is the most popular format? I could understand if my Beam was a few years old but it's not.
Sexyflanders,

If you read this link to a Dolby publication, it briefly explains the difference between Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus:

https://www.dolby.com/us/en/technologies/dolby-digital-plus-data-sheet.pdf

DD+ is not really going to make that much of a difference in a 5.1 surround sound setup, which is being used by the Beam and like I mentioned earlier I think it’s more the failing of the Samsung TV (or the HDMI Cable), as much as anything else here as most TV's will decode a DD+ signal to Dolby Digital over HDMI standard 1.3... it will down convert to PCM stereo over HDMI 1.1, 1.2.

I can see why the Sonos developers/engineers chose to go with Dolby 5.1, as that format is 'best suited' for the product. If the Beam had been part of a 7.1 surround system, then I’m sure Sonos would have chosen to go with DD+, or better still, Dolby Atmos.

Anyone could argue about other codecs like DTS or Atmos, but Sonos have really chosen the one that’s very popular and most appropriate for their 5.1 configuration.

My LG TV (as stated) does appear to convert/transcode my DD+ Signals to DD and according to Ryan’s post above, so do the majority of other TV's... “just about all the TV's that I’ve seen will automatically convert Dolby Digital Plus into DD5.1”.

So I still think that your 'beef' should perhaps be aimed towards your particular model of Samsung TV here, rather than the Beam, as it appears that device is not doing what the majority of other TV's will do when it comes to transcoding DD+. It’s actually quite odd, because the link to the Dolby Document above in this post suggests such transcoding to DD5.1 is built into almost every product.

If it transpires it’s not your TV, then I would perhaps check that your HDMI Cables support the HDMI 1.3 standard.


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. 

 

This is not true for all HDMI-ARC TVs. It certainly isn’t true for mine. The TV cannot convert Dolby Digital Plus to Dolby Digital if the source is HDMI. It only does it for native apps.

Was hoping to add the beam to existing play:1 stereo pair to get good surround sound, but now it’s heading back to the store.

 

 

Userlevel 1
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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.
Userlevel 5
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It is horrifying to keep reading posts from users with this issue and then watch users like Ryan arrogantly stating that most TV's will automatically downmix Dolby Digital Plus to Dolby Digital. 
 

I have not seen a single TV that will do that - in any price range - when the TV receives a signal from HDMI and passes it on to the Playbar, Playbase or Beam via optical or HDMI. I even put up a threat to see if anyone has ever seen such a TV but came up short. 
 

What many TVs will do is allow you to choose Dolby Digital for the TVs build-in apps. 
 

If you get your stream from Chromecast or similar - you are out of luck. Only workaround is using an Apple TV, PS4 or similar that will do the conversion for you - Sonos will definitely not.

Sonos is sticking with the one single audio format for surround that was already aging when the Playbar was introduced in 2012(!!). 

And handshake is not a magical timemachine that sends any modern audioformat back in time to the mid-2000, when non-HD DVDs and Dolby Digital 5.1 was in fashion.
 

Handshake is nothing more than a requestfeature: the Beam will request Dolby Digital 5.1 and receive if it is available. If it is not, e.g. because you are watching Netflix from Chromecast, the Beam will get PCM (stereo). 

 

Hi, 

I am new to the forum,  with the following gear:

Samsung ue43nu7400 + NIVIDIA Shield TV + roku streming stick+  I get the below results when DD+ or DD are available at the source.

When connected through HDMI-ARC all built in apps play in DD 5.1 even if originally in DD+;

When connected through HDMI-ARC all streaming apps on shield play in DD 5.1 even if originally in DD+;

When connected through HDMI-ARC all streaming channels on roku play in DD 5.1 even if originally in DD+;

 

Please note that my tv is set to have all sources in as bitstream (passthrough). Basically, it talks to the devices and tells them “let me have the audio streams as they are for the format that I support, (DD and DD+ in my case + some older dolby formats) otherwise decode them and send them in PCM stereo”. 

The tv then gives me choices for the digital output audio format if the stream is in DD+, and these are:

PCM (it will send standard stereo to beam);

Dolby Digital (it will send dolby digital 5.1 to beam); 

Dolby Digital+ (the tv gives me a warning saying that it works just with devices that support it), when selecting this option the beam goes silent, a notification on the sonos app informs me that the beam does not support DD+. This option is greyed out if connected the beam is using the optical>HDMI adapter. Toslink and DD+ are not a thing.

 

My tv always selects Dolby Digital because CEC informs it that DD is all that the beam is capable of. 

 

 

On the shield TV Kodi media center requires extra settings (sorry I can’t help with plex, I never liked the server side of things with it). 

In kodi settings>audio change audio configuration in optimized; enable audio passthrough for Dolby Digital (AC3) capable receiver; and also enable Dolby Digital Transcoding (this will strip DD+ of the + and send the dd to the android audio driver in the shield, then DD is sent to the tv and from the tv to the beam). In this case on you tv digital output selection the DD+ option will be greyed out, no matter if connected or not with HDMI-ARC or optical, because the tv receives a DD signal only.

 

APPART FROM KODI EVERYTHING SHOULD WORK WITHOUT CONFIGURATIONS. 

CEC is normally enabled on all tv (so no configuration there)

CEC is enabled by default on Shield (no configuration plus it handshakes with the tv to let passthrough what it can)

Beam has a almost frustrating dominance on the tv through the CEC protocol (unless you disconnect it from you tv it won’t let you ever select your tv internal speakers or any wifi speaker has physical audio output because it will force the tv back to ARC in 2 to 3 seconds, this should also ask for dd when available, therefore changing  your tv setting when connected), no way for your tv to forget what is best for the beam. 

 

This is  just my experience if you have problems tray to see how to apply the above setting on your tv even if it’s of a different make. Ask for help to the community explaining what, when and how.

 

OF COURSE, I WOULD LIKE SONOS TO INCLUDE DD+ AND MORE, even when the device is not really suited for it, just because it will ease compatibility.

DD+, atmos and DTS X, are important when you spend thousands on high fidelity speakers and AV receivers/amplifiers. In lame terms good gasoline is still good gasoline (DD), but very good gasoline (DD+/atmos) can really be appreciated just on very expensive cars (not Sonos). 

Userlevel 3
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.


Well, it does seem as if DD+ is the new standard, so I find it silly we have to jump through hoops to get Dolby to work on what is very modern Sonos equipment.

That being said, my TV is a Samsung KU6300F. Any idea on how to get it to downconvert instead of just pass through PCM? If the source (such as OTA) is Dolby it passes through fine and sounds great. If the source is not Dolby though my only option on the TV is PCM, and Dolby is greyed out.
Userlevel 2
Can confirm I’m having same issues with a Samsung tv and using either a fire stick or newest roku ultra. Very annoying that I can’t get actual surround sound (not Sonos simulating surround from stereo input) for any streaming services bc they are all in DD+ ; this is something that lots of commodity sound bars support so it cant be that hard. The answer of “get a new tv that is capable of passing DD signal even if input is DD+” isn’t acceptable. Assume more ppl aren’t complaining bc they’ve never even heard of DD or DD+; they are just ignorantly listening to stereo sound.

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.

I have a Samsung tv ...... go to ..... SETTINGS ....... SOUND ....... EXPERT SETTINGS ......... DIGITAL OUTPUT AUDIO FORMAT .......... It’s defaulted from the factory as PCM ......... Change that to DOLBY DIGITAL

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.

Yes , I was disappointed with this fact as well ☹️. I bought 100€ Audio extractor to connect Chromecast Ultra. And I’m getting only stereo with Beam connected by optical SPDIF.
I have tried 5.1 edid than Netflix doesn’t offer any titles with more than two channels audio to cast.
When switched to 7.1 edid I was able to select audio with more than two channels on Netflix, but Sonos application gives messages that Beam doesn’t support DD+.
I don’t have ARC on my TV that is why I bought this extractor for audio.

Now I’m stuck wit this useless setup.
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
Netflix offers pretty much everything in DD 5.1. If you aren't getting it then you need to fix your source device, or reconfigure it. I use a TiVo BOLT, an Apple TV and an Xbox, all connected via HDMI to my Samsung TV. From my TV I run optical to my Playbar. I have two TV setups like this (the other is an LG TV and a TiVo mini, setup is the same).

I used to have to use an EDID faker on my older Samsung TV, and I had to mess with the service menus on the LG to get them to emit DD 5.1 over optical. In neither case was the problem anything to do with Sonos, it was getting the TVs to behave.

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.

Userlevel 7
Badge +26
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.
I have an LG TV and it has its own built in Netflix and Prime Apps and I have both Amazon Fire TV and a Roku Stick plugged into its HDMI ports.

Just as an example, my 'Fire TV' Settings are set to Dolby Digital Plus (Automatic) and yet it still plays all audio sources to the Beam in DD5.1, where relevant, including the Amazon Prime and Netflix Apps available on the fire stick. So I’m wondering if the issue here is a limitation of the Samsung TV passing the necessary and relevant audio to the Beam, or if the Samsung TV itself is choosing to fallback to the PCM audio.

There are still a few TV's that do not pass the necessary surround audio from its HDMI connected devices to either the HDMI-ARC or optical ports as described here in this link...

https://www.rtings.com/tv/tests/inputs/5-1-surround-audio-passthrough

Some TVs can only pass 5.1 through, over a certain connection (either digital optical or HDMI ARC), and some can only pass through certain signal types (DTS or Dolby Digital), so it pays to make sure that the TV supports both the connection and signal type that you wish to use.

Anyhow my Beam is working absolutely fine for surround sound with my LG TV over HDMI-ARC.
Userlevel 2
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The Apple TV 4K does the downconversion from DD+ to 5.1 for me, so when I use a DD+ app such as Netflix my TV sees it as 5.1 thus the Sonos does as well. As far as I know, Apple TV is the only device capable of doing this. This is a bit disappointing because IMO I think the Apple 4K device is one of the worst between Shield, Roku and Apple.


I'ts obviously subjective just curious why you feel the Apple 4K device is the worst? I've had all 3 and found the roku to be the worst by a longshot and the Shield was ok got the ATV 4K and havent looked back by far the best streaming device ive owned
I'm using a Nvidia Shield connected to my Samsung MU6120 via HDMI. My Beam is connected to the TV using the optical connection because my PS4 Pro does not play nice with other devices connected to the HDMI-ARC connection.

When watching Netflix or Prime Video from my Shield I've always got a DD signal passing through to my Beam from my TV. My TV allows for me to select and send either PCM, DD or DTS Neo 2:5 when connected to my Beam. DTS and DD+ are the only options I cannot select.
Userlevel 7
Badge +17

This week I replaced my older Samsung 2011 UE46D8000 with a 2019 QE65Q90. To my surprise my new TV has no trouble at all putting DD through to the Beam from my PS4. With my old TV I had to use a Lindy embedder/extractor to get surround on my Beam and One’s. As the new TV has Airplay  2 I have not bothered with connecting my Chromecast, so I can’t help anyone there.

The choices Sonos has made (no DTS, no DD+, only one HDMI connection) has made it very dependent on the way TV-makers choose to work with the different surround sound formats. I would rather have seen it otherwise - though my experience seems to show that modern TV’s are probably better, at least on the DD+ front.

 

 

 

2496wireless,

For multi-channel audio to work well using the Dolby Atmos or DTS-X codecs, it looks like we’re all going to need new TV's with HDMI eARC, that’s from reading your post above and also looking at this brief comparison chart...

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.


I don't know if you ever got your problem fixed but I had a 2017 Samsung TV which did not communicate well with my Xfinity box. It would only pass the stereo signal back to my Playbar (Playbar is optical only so HDMI not involved here). But both TV and cable box were supposed to be Dolby 5.1 compatible. What I ended up having to do was to buy a EDID emulator and then finally the TV and cable box would communicate properly. The emulator I bought was this one:

https://amzn.to/2tP4NtH

Maybe this will help someone else be able to use Dolby 5.1 at least.
Userlevel 7
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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).

 

 

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).

I’d be happy with just DD5.1, I’m only getting PCM and you can easily hear the difference in my Beam with two Sonos Ones (sucks/hollow) vs my Yamaha YSP 2200 (full and crisp)

i have a PS4 and FiOs One box connected to my LG65ef9500 and my ARC out to the Beam w/ with the Play Ones connected for surround. The STB and PS4 both output as PCM but the native Netflix on the LG tv are the only things outputting are DD5.1.

what’s wrong? Is the LG tv not able to pass through the DD5.1 from my STB and PS4 but still output properly from its native Netflix app? Makes no sense.