TruePlay tuning a variety of speakers (PlayBar, Arc, Beam) with newer iPhones results in tinny sound


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I wanted to create a separate thread to track this issue. This has been pointed out in a lot of the “Arc sounds tinny” posts: It seems like if you use an iPhone XS, iPhone 11 Pro, or similar modern iPhone, it results in the tuned result being extremely tinny -- very harsh trebles, almost no mids, and but the low bass (like the Sub) is still intact.

 

However, if I TruePlay tune using an iPhone 6/7, or a 2nd gen iPad Pro, I get much more well rounded, rich sound.

 

It seems like TruePlay is interacting badly with the microphones on certain Apple products. Several users here and on Reddit have noted that turning off TruePlay or re-tuning with an older Apple device results in better sound.


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Hi Chillaban, can you do me a favor and send a couple diagnostics for me to send to the team for investigation?

I’d like to get a diagnostic (System > Help > Diagnostic) from the system using a controller after Trueplay Tuning when it sounds tinny, and another diagnostic from there after you’ve tuned with a controller that makes it sound better. Just let me know the confirmation numbers and the more details about the device that performs tuning better or worse would be great.

Also, can you also let us know what version of iOS is running on all of those devices?

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Hi Chillaban, can you do me a favor and send a couple diagnostics for me to send to the team for investigation?

I’d like to get a diagnostic (System > Help > Diagnostic) from the system using a controller after Trueplay Tuning when it sounds tinny, and another diagnostic from there after you’ve tuned with a controller that makes it sound better. Just let me know the confirmation numbers and the more details about the device that performs tuning better or worse would be great.

Also, can you also let us know what version of iOS is running on all of those devices?

Hi @Ryan S  I will submit the diagnostics later today with all the details. I wanted to say that tuning with iPad pro does make the harsh treble go away, but there is some loss of clarity. iPhone XS tuning makes everything too trebly. A solution somewhere in between would be great. Speech coming from the center channel does not sound fuller no matter what device is used for the tuning. Maybe this issue needs separate attention. 

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Hi @Ryan S, here you go!

 

I just re-tuned with my iPhone 11 Pro Max and it sounds all tinny again with TruePlay turned on. The new tuning’s diagnostic number is :: 298471472

 

The previous tuning was done yesterday using a 2nd gen iPad Pro, and its diagnostics number taken 20 minutes ago was: 2003418965 . This TruePlay tuning sounds super rich even on the Arc.

 

The room in question is “Living Room” which has an Arc. I tested by playing music using Spotify on Sonos, but it can be reproduced with a Playbar, a Beam, and using a variety of audio sources.

 

 

Just to mention, I tried to use the exact same TruePlay tuning technique both times. I can confirm that using “affected” iOS devices, waving the phone extremely close to the Arc *does* appear to reduce the tinny audio quality a little bit, but it still is not nearly as good as tuning using an unaffected iOS device.

 

 

So far, for me, 

 

Known good iOS devices:

iPad Pro 2nd gen

iPhone 6

iPhone 7

 

Known bad iOS devices:

iPhone 11

iPhone 11 Pro Max

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Hi @Ryan S 

Here are the diagnostics numbers-

2018 iPhone XS (iOS 13.5.1): 903136026

2017 2nd Gen iPad Pro (iPadOS 13.5.1): 193396790

Music was airplayed from Apple Music to the Arc and 2 ones in “full” surround mode. EQ flat.

Truplaying with iPad Pro definitely takes away the harsh trebles (still need to listen more to determine whether the sound is fuller,) while the iPhone truplay sounds tinny. Measurements were taken in the living room. I also tried keeping the waving motion consistent between iPad pro and iPhone XS, and covered the same spots while truplaying.

Please let me know if you need any more information.

 

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I should mention too that both of my devices were on iOS 13.5.1 too. The problem doesn’t seem related to iOS version as much as the model of the device.

 

I also tried very carefully with the iPhones to not cover the bottom mic or the rear camera mic, just in case the new iPhones are using a different mic than the app thinks. That does not appear to be a factor either.

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Thanks. I’ll get the details over to the team to investigate. They’ve got a lot on their plate right now though.

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Thanks. I’ll get the details over to the team to investigate. They’ve got a lot on their plate right now though.

Thank you Ryan. Since apart from the obvious bass clipping, one of the other pieces of user feedback was regarding the Arc sounding thin/tinny/bright, I think this issue might be a factor in those reports.

 

If I may suggest, the quickest way to test whether or not your device is affected is to tune with TruePlay. Then, play some music, and toggle TruePlay On and Off.

 

In my rooms with an unsuccessful TruePlay tuning, turning TruePlay OFF sounds a bit muddy without vocal clarity and with perhaps excessive mids, but then turning on TruePlay results in extremely clear vocals but excessive treble and almost a total loss of mids -- basically like if you turned on Night Mode + Speech Enhancement on the music.

 

When TruePlay is tuned successfully, I find OFF vs ON results in subtle improvements to clarity without losing a bunch of mids/bass…

 

In other words, if your first impression of the difference between TruePlay ON vs OFF is that OFF has a bit too much bass but ON sounds like bad laptop speakers, your tuning device is probably affected by this issue.

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Will retune again with my iPhone 11Pro Max (iOS 13.6 beta), iPad Pro 1 9.7 (iPad 13.6 beta)

 

will post diagnostics 
 

Also have access to Wife’s iPhone 11 and Daughter’s iPhone XR, running latest iOS releases (not beta)…. if that would help too?

 

But will have to be tomorrow as it’s 11:30pm, too late to be blasting out TruePlay test tones 🙉

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I’d like to add, @anujgoel83 mentioned in another thread a technique I confirmed to help alleviate this.

 

If you have an affected iPhone, spending about 5 seconds of TruePlay time gently waving the phone immediately above the Arc, or to the sides of the Arc or Playbar, appears to result in a TruePlay tuning that’s less tinny. This is kind of a workaround though -- it still doesn’t sound as good as a TruePlay tuning on a unaffected iPhone/iPad. However, if you don’t have an old iPad lying around, this seems to be a decent stop-gap.

 

The drawback is I’ve found this technique to be very variable and unscientific -- sometimes it results in a TruePlay tuning that sounds better, other times it sounds worse or too bass heavy. And it totally goes against the TruePlay instructions to wave the microphone around your listening area and general room surroundings, not directly above your sound bar!

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Glad I saw this posted. I ran Trueplay with an iPhone 11 Pro initially and thought the sound was too harsh. Retuned with an iPhone 6 and the sound is significantly better. Much fuller, warmer, room filling sound.

 

It’s been a weird week trying to get the Arc to sound decent. Between adding a sub and retuning with an old iPhone it’s finally in a decent spot. 

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Was having the same issues, I mean genuinely the Arc was sounding painful for me. The highs were unbearably harsh after Trueplaying with my iPhone 11 Pro Max. And it was hard to even admit that to myself considering the money I spent and my loyalty to the Sonos brand and its products.

 

Borrowed a co-worker’s old iPhone 6, performed Trueplay, and the difference is night and day. This issue is 100% real. Any non-audiophile would be able to recognize the stark difference in sound profile. Although, I still think there’s a stark lack of mids, it definitely sounds better.

 

Really hope the team looks into this.

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Was having the same issues, I mean genuinely the Arc was sounding painful for me. The highs were unbearably harsh after Trueplaying with my iPhone 11 Pro Max. And it was hard to even admit that to myself considering the money I spent and my loyalty to the Sonos brand and its products.

 

Borrowed a co-worker’s old iPhone 6, performed Trueplay, and the difference is night and day. This issue is 100% real. Any non-audiophile would be able to recognize the stark difference in sound profile. Although, I still think there’s a stark lack of mids, it definitely sounds better.

 

Really hope the team looks into this.

Agreed. Using older devices for truplay is definitely improving the sound. But the mid-range still needs to shine. Glad Sonos is onto it.  

I think Sonos should consider offering a standard mic as ARC is way more complex vs a pair of play 5 with so with so many speakers bouncing sound everywhere with various timing and phasing.  On top of that add another layer with mic response variance between iPhone to iPhone  

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I think Sonos should consider offering a standard mic as ARC is way more complex vs a pair of play 5 with so with so many speakers bouncing sound everywhere with various timing and phasing.  On top of that add another layer with mic response variance between iPhone to iPhone  

I agree. The current Trueplay method is too random. Even iPhone microphones of same models will have various amounts of pocket fluff/dust in them, which I assume will affect frequency response.

Also, been reading up here:

https://vespermems.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Vesper-Microphone-Arrays-whitepaper-1.pdf

See page 4.

Mesh protection can be made more effective by increasing the mesh density. However, this has the unwanted effect of reducing a microphone’s sensitivity and decreasing its signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). A water-resistant mesh will degrade SNR by up to 6dB even before it gets clogged with particles. This compromise between protection and performance is a fundamental flaw of mesh protection.

 

Maybe the newer iPhone microphones that have better water protection, have a different frequency response than the older iPhones or iPads?

As I said here:

https://en.community.sonos.com/home-theater-228993/optimum-trueplay-6842990

I think the current Trueplay method provides inconsistent results. A standard external microphone is required for consistent results for home theatre setup.

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Retuned

 

iPhone 11 Pro Max - Diagnostic 793929211

iPad Pro 9.7 - Diagnostic 1991065664

 

Can retune with other iPhones 11, Xr 6s if required.

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Retuned

 

iPhone 11 Pro Max - Diagnostic 793929211

iPad Pro 9.7 - Diagnostic 1991065664

 

Can retune with other iPhones 11, Xr 6s if required.

Hey @BMF Comments on the sound improvements after retuning with the iPad Pro?

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@arpatil1 seems a little better, not night and day though.

 

My test playlist was more balanced, still think it is EQ’d for TV more than music.

 

IF this was a design decision, then I would think it would be good to be able to have different EQ settings for music and TV, same as you can for surround settings 

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@arpatil1 seems a little better, not night and day though.

 

My test playlist was more balanced, still think it is EQ’d for TV more than music.

 

IF this was a design decision, then I would think it would be good to be able to have different EQ settings for music and TV, same as you can for surround settings 

Yep. I still think they need to make Arc much better sounding even before the truplay is applied. Tuning with iPad pro takes away the bright signature (harshness goes away), but then the system struggles with clarity. There should be a middle ground.

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@BMF Not sure if this is relevant, regarding the iPhone 11 Pro Max microphone:

https://www.dxomark.com/apple-iphone-11-pro-max-audio-review/

With a sub-score of 66, the 11 Pro Max was only mid-pack in our tests for Artifacts during recording. The score was pulled down by very noticeable temporal artifacts when recording loud and/or sharp sounds. For example, when a recording was started at high volume and then the volume was reduced, it also took the 11 Pro Max as long as ten seconds to adjust from its initial reduced volume levels to a more normal volume reproduction setting.

There was also distortion in the bass tones when recording a concert. 

 

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@craigski interesting find

Absolutely can reproduce this. Just did this and watched John Wick blu ray w/ truehd atmos. It was a night and day difference going from a trueplau using iPhone 11 Pro vs an older iPad. W/ iPad it was deep and rich. 

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I had a similar issue with my PlayBar (+sub+2 SL1s).  I re-tuned once S2 came out and I now have an iPhone XS-max.  My wife was complaining for several days about the dialog being “somehow not right”.  Music also seemed bright.  I re did TruePlay with my old gen 1 iPad Pro and it sounds great again.

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I see that a new 12.0.1 update to the S2 iOS app is available. May want to try retuning with the updated app? (I have not done so yet… was hoping to see some comment from the Sonos team first, on whether that is expected to help)

Like others on the thread, I have noticed a significant difference in Trueplay sound on my new Arc when tuning with my iPhone XS vs my wife’s iPhone 11. When tuned with the iPhone XS, it sounds like the midrange is totally absent, and the treble/presence is harsh and extremely exaggerated -- cymbals sound almost like static, “s” sounds cut through everything else, etc. It also sounded like the “center channel” was missing… the sound seemed too directional out of the hard left and hard right, rather than uniformly filling the room. When tuned with the iPhone 11, it sounds significantly improved… still not as good as the Beam… the midrange is still off, and it sounds like the “center channel” is still missing, but the trashiness of the treble is much improved.

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Has anyone tried an iPhone with an external microphone attached?  I wonder if this would work or if the different (better) frequency response would mess up the TruePlay algorithm...

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I asked similar:

https://en.community.sonos.com/home-theater-228993/optimum-trueplay-6842990

I suspect in current form would mess up the Trueplay, as it would have a different frequency response to a smart phone microphone that is covered with pocket dust & fluff. 

 

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