MP4's & Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound


Standard Member
Good morning folks,

I hope you can help me with my query - I’ve been doing quite a lot of work researching and testing, but I’ve reached a point where I can’t quite work out what I’m missing, or need to do (or maybe I can but I am hoping there’s a different answer!). It’s a little long, so please bear with me…get yourself a cup of tea and settle in! :eek:) If there is somewhere this is already addressed then please point me at it - I’ve not been able to find it thus far but if it already exists fantastic!

I’m in the process of packing out my NAS with all things media. Music is fine, ripping to ALAC to ensure lossless encodes. I’ll figure out moving my iTunes library onto the NAS so I don’t rely on the iMac being on 24/7 down the line, I’ve seen a few guides on this and am fairly comfortable. Photos same again, central repository for the billions of photos we take and never look at!

Where I’m trying to get to the best place is around film/TV show media.

I’ve recently purchased MacX DVD which looked to be the best bet from what I read online, and my previous experience using a 2 step system with AN Other DVD Ripper and Handbrake. I don’t dislike Handbrake, but it is S………L………………O…….W! However I might go back to it…more on this later! But the intention was to hit a one stop shop where I can rip and then encode DVDs as I want them.

I toyed with keeping a .ISO backup of every disc and then encoding to a suitable file format for viewing on a variety of devices, those being TV’s (Samsung Smart TV’s currently hooked up to an ATV2 and 3 one of which has a full Sonos 5.1 Surround Sound setup with Playbar, Sub & 2 * Play 1’s), iPhones & iPads.

However I don’t think keeping a .ISO of every DVD gives me a whole lot, apart from a bunch of 5-7GB files that will probably never get used again. I am looking at creating the highest quality file as I can and storage space isn’t a concern with my 16TB NAS setup, but just don’t think keeping a .ISO buys me anything. So I think ripping and encoding to a suitable end file format is probably the way forward so long as it is sufficiently high quality. That’s where the main thrust of my query begins.

I have looked at the various containers and these days I think it’s a straight choice between MKV and MP4. I think the former provides more flexibility, but the latter is probably more widely ‘accepted’ by devices and better suits my needs. From a quality perspective I don’t think there is any significant difference, as I will be looking to encode video to the h.264 codec so MP4 will be the container of choice. With h.264 I think I achieve the highest quality video stream for both DVD and Bluray that sufficiently future proofs my digital store.

The audio codec is where I am coming most unstuck. The options that seem to be available / prevalent are AAC and A3C.

Last night I took a new DVD of mine - Drive for what it is worth - and ripped it through MacX DVD. I then converted it to .mp4 with both MacX DVD and Handbrake. The former took perhaps 45 minutes to complete, the latter several hours (I let is run overnight so don’t know exactly how long it took, but it was about 10% complete when the MacX DVD encode had completed).

The MacX DVD .mp4 file, encoded with ‘Use High Quality Engine' selected and h.264 video codec bit rates of 2500k, frame rate/resolution & aspect ration ‘keep origin’ and audio codec arc, sample rate 44100, bit rate 320 Kbps, channel 6 (not sure if this is 6 channels or channel number 6, whatever that means!) created a file of 1.96GB. However when I loaded this into iTunes and played it through my ATV2 in the lounge with the Sonos Surround Sound, it only came out in Stereo (checked through the Sonos App which tells you the Audio In feed to the PlayBar).

The Handbrake .mp4 file, used the High Profile basis but amended a few settings. It was encoded with h.264 video codec, video quality was Constant Quality RF 19. Audio had Track 0 English (AC3) (2.0 ch) as AAC, Stereo Mixdown at 320 bitrate and Track 1 English (AC3) (5.1 ch) AC3 Passthrough 448 bitrate and created a file of 1.12GB. I loaded this into iTunes and played it as above through the ATV2 & Sonos and it fed the system 5.1 Surround Sound.

So I know that the Samsung TV, ATV & Sonos environment CAN play .mp4 files but encoded through MacX DVD (which would be the preference for speed and the fact it is a one stop shop) I haven’t managed to get this working yet.

It may be that MacX DVD cannot do what I need, but everything I read about it beforehand indicated that it could. I have written direct to the MacX DVD support folks too with this query too. But if it can’t, aside from being annoyed I’ve just spent £30 on something that doesn’t do what I need, at least I’d know what I need to do around (1) ripping and (2) encoding to .mp4 with Handbrake. If that is the case, are there any other setting / parameter improvements I should be looking at? Or if there is an alternative to MacX DVD that DOES do what I need then I would be happy to look at that too.

Similarly the easiest mechanism may well be to run native Synology DS Video on the TV’s and on the iOS devices (there is a Samung TV app and iOS apps) because then I’m not tied to .mp4’s and can use .mkv’s which appear on the face of it to have better or at least easier to encode A3C / Surround Sound audio capabilities. The Synology DS415play NAS I have also does transcoding on the fly, but I’d rather have my files encoded right from the outset than rely on CPU intensive transcoding to get the output I am looking for.

But I wanted to get everything working through the ATV’s at this gives me other benefits, is cleaner for me, and, well I am just bought into / tied to the Apple ecosystem (which I appreciate isn’t perfect, but it is what it is!).

I’m not sure if I’ve even asked a direct question there (!), but I’d welcome any thoughts & comments about how I can try and achieve what I’d like to, especially around getting 5.1 sound cut into my .mp4’s for playback (ideally using MacX DVD).



Distinguished Member
Try this...

Stream an encoded 5.1 movie from your iMac to your ATV.

This is what I do from my Mac Mini Server to my ATV. I consistently get 5.1 Dolby Digital output to my AV receiver.

You may find that you NAS/ATV combo will not facilitate 5.1 playback.


Active Member
AppleTV will default to DD 5.1 if it exists... your file naming seems strange...

i recall DD5.1 encoded videos will not have the .mp4 extension but use .m4v and this usually helps devices to know how to handle files...

and yes, the 6 means 6 channels of audio as in DD5.1 having 6 channels...

also the higher the number is the higher the quality of the audio, so 320 is lower quality than 448

i've quit including the 2channel Prologic audio as even my old iPad mini down mixes DD5.1 to stereo... this saves a bit of space and on some systems of NAS and PS3 etc makes it easier to always play the DD5.1 audio...

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