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Best sound from Beam Gen1

  • 29 November 2022
  • 4 replies
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  • Contributor I
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I have a Sonos Beam Gen1 currently connected to an older Rocketfish RF-G1185 outputting to an even older (2004?) 1080i Panasonic plasma TV (TH-50PX50U - that still works great) that only has one HDMI input and zero HDMI output.  I have the Beam connected to the Panasonic via it’s optical TOSLINK to HDMI cable. Problem is all audio is coming into Beam always shows Stereo PCM. First question: Is there any benefit to trying to feed Dolby 5.1 (or Dolby Digital) without surrounds or a sub? If not, I'll stop my quest right here. If not...

My primary device is an Xfinity X1 DVR and when I set it to Dolby 5.1 output using its optical out and connect directly to Beam the Beam shows Dolby 5.1 format in. However, the audio out of Beam does not sound any better, in fact it is much softer and quieter.

I also have an older generation (2 or 3?) Apple TV and Xbox connected to the Rocketfish via HDMI and when using those devices Beam still shows Stereo PCM and never Dolby 5.1. When I set the Xfinity X1 HDMI audio to Auto, the Beam always shows Stereo PCM. My thoughts are either the Rocketfish is not accepting or passing Dolby 5.1 from any device to the TV or the TV is not able to pass Dolby 5.1 out of it’s optical port.

I am debating on buying either an HDMI-to-optical extractor to go between the Rocketfish output and TV and send extractor's optical to Beam or just buy a new switch that supports ARC and connect that way and see if that makes difference. If I'm wasting my time trying to get "5.1" out of the beam please let me know.

Thanks for listening

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Best answer by Corry P 30 November 2022, 11:04

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Hi @mbco 

Welcome to the Sonos Community!

Without Surrounds or a Sub, the only noticeable difference you’ll hear between Dolby Digital and PCM is the likely change in volume due to DD having a larger dynamic range (more steps between quiet and loud) - just as you heard when connecting the Beam to your DVR. So no, there’s no real benefit at present - not until you get surrounds. 

Although I can’t comment on your particular TV, it’s unfortunately not uncommon for some TVs to not passthrough multichannel sound from an external source - though they will do so with tuned-into TV or TV apps. So yes, it’s possible that the TV just won’t do it.

I confess I do not understand why/how you have your Beam connected to both the HDMI switch and the TV - unless you’ve been switching between the two connections to test?

A HDMI Audio Extractor would work in theory - though we can’t support such use cases as we simply don’t know. There are many out there on the market. But, as mentioned, you’d gain little from it at present.

I hope this helps.

Thanks for the reply.  Was just trying to get all I could out of my current setup to see how long I could put off upgrading the TV and deciding if adding a Sonos sub and surrounds would help or is a waste of money if my source devices can't properly feed the Beam.

The beam is not connected to the switch but fed by the optical output of the TV.  The switch is not ARC/eARC and only used as a HDMI switch for the 3 inputs - DVR, Apple TV and Xbox. its only output is sent to the TVs only HDMI in port.

I'm not sure the Xfinity X1 DVR, my primary source, or older Apple TV or Xbox can even provide higher audio format content and don't wont to drop money on an optical or ARC/eARC device (and sub & surrounds) if it wont make difference. I would like to verify if feeding the Beam via optical out of HDMI Audio Extractor or a smarter HDMI switch with ARC/eARC can provide the Beam what it needs to take advantage of sub and surrounds prior to purchase. How can I be sure of that?

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Badge +18

Hi @mbco 

The beam is not connected to the switch but fed by the optical output of the TV.  The switch is not ARC/eARC and only used as a HDMI switch for the 3 inputs - DVR, Apple TV and Xbox. its only output is sent to the TVs only HDMI in port.

Ah - ok. That makes sense. Thanks.

I'm not sure the Xfinity X1 DVR, my primary source, or older Apple TV or Xbox can even provide higher audio format content and don't wont to drop money on an optical or ARC/eARC device (and sub & surrounds) if it wont make difference. I would like to verify if feeding the Beam via optical out of HDMI Audio Extractor or a smarter HDMI switch with ARC/eARC can provide the Beam what it needs to take advantage of sub and surrounds prior to purchase. How can I be sure of that?

So the Beam (gen1) can play 3 audio formats - stereo PCM, Dolby Digital (2.0 or 5.1) and DTS (2.0 or 5.1). You will only notice a marked difference between 2.0 and 5.1 if you have surrounds. All 3 of these formats are now considered standard/de facto and I would be very surprised if your Apple TV and DVR could not play Dolby Digital, at the very least. Technically, I don’t think devices can earn the High Definition badge if they don’t support Dolby Digital, at the very least.

The X-Box may be a different matter. As it produces “live” sound, it may not output audio in a compressed format, so you may be restricted to stereo audio on this device - this may vary across difference XBox versions, so I can’t give you a definitive answer. What most users seem to do is to use uncompressed, Multichannel LPCM which can be passed over eARC to either an Arc or a Beam (Gen 2).

I had a quick look at your TV’s manual, and it looks like it will output DD 5.1 via optical, but it doesn’t expressly say it will do so for external sources - only for ATSC as opposed to NTSC.

My personal recommendation would be to buy a HDMI Audio Extractor switch and connect the Beam to it’s optical output. If you don’t see Dolby Digital 5.1 in the Sonos app when playing something that is definitely in Dolby Digital, you can always return the switch for a refund (presumably, depending on where you buy it). If you do see DD 5.1, you’ll then know that you can take advantage of a set of surround speakers. If you get no audio at all, you may have to swap the switch for another make and model to get results - this is why we don’t support these devices. Please make sure of the source device’s audio output settings first, however!

You can always take advantage of a Sub - it will handle bass regardless of the input format.

The alternative would be to buy something like a Arcana HDFury - this emulates a TV and provides HDMI-ARC (or eARC) for an audio device connecting via HDMI rather than optical. It can also convert audio formats on-the-fly, but costs about 10x what the HDMI switch would cost. You could buy a 4K TV for marginally more. Please do not take this as a profession or personal recommendation - I only know that they exist, and that we have customers who use them with success.

I hope this helps, and I wish you luck!

Corry,

Thank you so much for the detailed reply and suggestions. Excellent level of pre-purchase technical support that I wish every company would provide. I think I will attempt the HDMI Audio Extractor switch connected to the Beam via optical and report back my results and hope this thread will help others in a similar situation. 

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