Question Panasonic - Passth rough Dolby Digital 5.1 to soundbar?

Discussion in 'Soundbars, Soundplates & Soundbases' started by Hoogie, Jan 10, 2019 at 2:18 PM.

  1. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Hello,

    I was on the verge of placing an order for a Sonos Playbase or Beam when I read that some TV are unable to pass through Dolby Digital from external sources, is this true?

    And is this a common problem with TV and Soundbar setups?

    I have never had a soundbar before so never looked into these things, but in the articles I have found Panasonic do not seem to come out well for pass through support.

    I have a Panasonic TX-40CX680B, so wanted to check if this will correctly output Dolby Digital via HDMI Arc or its optical out?

    In particular, if the source is a Fire TV, or a DVD Player, which are connected to the TV via HDMI, will the TV preserve the Dolby Digital 5.1 and then output it to the Playbase or Beam?

    Thanks
     
  2. Dozman

    Dozman
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    Some tv's may only pass 2 channel back through an ARC HDMI connection. I have this problem.

    If the soundbar has a direct HDMI input to it and a HDMI passthrough, you're better off using that as your bypassing the TV and going straight to the bar. Unfortunately my bar only has one input so I switch between blu ray and firestick (A HDMI switcher would solve this if I wanted to)
     
  3. duffbeerdrinker

    duffbeerdrinker
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    I have the same TV as you. I can confirm that you will only get stereo sound from external sources.
    My solution to this was to use an optical switch - works great with my devices and even converts the HDMI audio from my satellite to an optical output for the Sonos.
     
  4. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Does this only apply when outputting to the soundbar via optical or also to outputting via HDMI ARC?

    I spoke with Panasonic support earlier and they indicated to me that audio output via HDMI ARC would still passthrough the Dolby Digital signal from external sources...

    In my case, my main media source is a Fire TV Stick. This doesn't offer any type of other audio output, it simply plugs directly into the TV's HDMI input. So i this scenario is there no way for the TV to output the Dolby signal to a soundbar?

    And to confirm, is this a normal situation with many TVs? I have only started researching this recently and I am not familiar with the Soundbar / Home Cinema setups, but it seems like a HUGE issue if TVs are not able to output the true sound signals to external speakers.

    Thanks again for any feedback.
     
  5. duffbeerdrinker

    duffbeerdrinker
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    It applies to optical and HDMI - I tried both. I also spoke to Panasonic support at the time (a couple of years ago now) and they told me the same thing. They are correct when they say it will pass Dolby Digital from external sources but it is only 2.0 not 5.1 audio.
    I suggest you do it the same way as I do with an optical switch with HDMI inputs - that way you should get 5.1 from your Fire TV stick.
    Two of my sources only have HDMI output and 1 has optical. It works fine for me and all sources have 5.1 audio.
     
  6. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Thanks again for the reply, I’m just amazed that TVs don’t do this as standard, seems like such a standard requirement to connect the TV to external speakers that support Dolby.

    To confirm, what type of switch are you using? And are they all created equal or is there any particular model recommended?

    I did a quick search and found some that accept multiple HDMI inputs for external sources, connects to TV via HDMI and then provides an Optical out. Which would work for a Playbase.

    But what about a Beam via HDMI? Are there switches that would support Fire TV to TV via HDMI and then audio to Beam via HDMI?
     
  7. duffbeerdrinker

    duffbeerdrinker
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    I totally agree - it pissed me off when I found out that my TV wouldn't pass 5.1 audio.

    I use an Octava switch. It's not the cheapest around but it works well. You would connect the Fire TV to the switch via HDMI and then use the optical output for the Sonos. The Beam has an optical input too so you can connect this in exactly the same way as the Playbase.
     
  8. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Thanks for the input duffbeerdrinker, much appreciated.

    One final question, what method did you use to test if the set would do pass through via the HDMI ARC connection?

    I ask as this is the feedback I had from Panasonic:

    "Panasonic: I can confirm that the ARC socket will output multi-channel sound. However, the specific video will have to have the proper format, in order to be decoded by the TV, so it can transmit it further to the ARC socket and then to the connected audio device.

    Hoogie: Ok, so to confirm if I have a DVD player outputing DD 5.1 which is connected to the TV via HDMI, and then the TV is connected to a soundbar via HDMI ARC, the 5.1 signal from the DVD will be preserved and sent to the playbar?

    Panasonic: Yes, the quality and the multi-channel format will be preserved."
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 9:08 AM
  9. duffbeerdrinker

    duffbeerdrinker
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    To be honest, I can't remember. I have a Playbar so the HDMI audio was not important to me as I could only connect via optical.
    The TV has received some firmware updates over the last couple of years so maybe things have changed. I am 100% sure it did not work for me with the optical connection.
    I think the best thing you can do is try it with HDMI using ARC and if you get problems then at least you know it will work with an HDMI/optical switch.

    Edit - I think my tests with HDMI ARC were done with my previous Yamaha soundbar.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 10:13 AM
  10. Clem_Dye

    Clem_Dye
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    IME Sony TVs definitely pass DD5.1 audio via HDMI to ARC. LG does, on some kit, I believe, same for Samsung, but very hit and miss for Panasonic and Hisense. In-built apps. seem to be an issue too on Panasonic kit. Check the Amazon website and it seems that on Panasonic smart TVs, the FTV app will only pass stereo audio via ARC.

    In 2019, there should be a common agreed standard for HDMI audio handling on TVs. How on earth can you use them as the centre for your connected devices if they can’t handle something this simple? After all, tuner(s) aside, all they are, in part, are glorified HDMI switches.

    Clem
     
  11. Dozman

    Dozman
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    I believe it's very hit and miss for Samsung too. Mine certainly only passes 2 channel back which is infuriating. It is a few years old though so I would expect modern tv's to have sorted this out but you never know. I will certainly do my due diligence in this area when I next purchase a tv
     
  12. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    There is no one 'standard' which covers how TV's handle multi-channel audio (you can have varying support even within a model range) - some TV's will support 5.1 when using the TV's onboard Tuner and Streaming Apps but only support 2.0 PCM from Sources connected to the TV via its HDMI Inputs whilst others will pass 5.1 via the HDMI Inputs.

    The reason for lack of 5.1 is all down to cost - Dolby and DTS charge a lot of money to license their Tech so if you can shave a few $$$ off of the price of a TV you will do.

    The recent move to eARC (still very much in its infancy) will ensure TV's do support the full range of audio formats (inc. the uncompressed HD variants) on HDMI Inputs as the TV is becoming the Hub of the system rather than the AVR.

    Usually the Optical and ARC Out on a TV offer the same range of audio formats - so if one is limited to 2.0 PCM from external Sources so will the other.

    Of course the next question is 'does it make a difference'!

    Joe
     
  13. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Hi Clem,

    To confirm what page are you referring to that references FTV app support to pass 5.1?

    Thanks
     
  14. Clem_Dye

    Clem_Dye
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  15. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Right, so I have a bit of an update and some additional questions as a result.

    I have this evening unboxed my Beam system and set it up, connecting it to my TV using the HDMI ARC port. I have then used the Sonos app to check the signal it is receiving.

    Freeview TV
    Most channels showed in the Sonos app as "Audio In: Stereo" but one show displayed as "Audio in: Dolby Digital 5.1"

    Fire TV Stick
    With my Fire TV Stick surround sound setting set to "Best Available" the Sonos displayed as receiving Stereo on both Amazon Prime and Netflix content.

    If I changed that setting to "Always Dolby Digital" then content on Netflix and Prime showed as "Dolby Digital 5.1", and a show on the Fire TV IPlayer app displayed as "Dolby Digital 2.0".

    I then switched from HDMI to Optical and found that with the 'Best Available' setting content continued to play in 'Stereo' and with the "Always Dolby Digital" setting no audio was played at all.

    So based on this I have some questions:
    1. Whenever the Sonos is showing as receiving Dolby 5.1 is it definitely receiving this signal correctly? Or could this be an issue as it was required to set the Fire TV to "Always Dolby Digital"?
    2. Is there a reason why when using the "Best available" only a "Stereo" signal is received? could this indicate a lack of Dolby support?
    3. Does this confirm that the TV is indeed correctly passing through a 5.1 signal received from the Fire TV stick HDMI through to the HDMI ARC port to the Beam?
    4. Does it confirm that the TV is unable to pass Dolby from an HDMI input through to the optical output?
    5. If the Beam is receiving a 5.1 signal but no rear speaker are connected is that a problem?
    Thanks again
     
  16. Clem_Dye

    Clem_Dye
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    Netflix is your friend here for testing. If you look at a film/series it will be tagged with the audio available. IME a 5.1 tag delivers just that via my FTV box connected to my Sony TV through the ARC port; iPlayer will only ever be in stereo until such time as the BBC can be bothered to do something about the lousy picture and audio quality.

    I think that you have to accept that when it comes to getting 5.1 audio from a Panasonic TV, you may get it from FreeviewHD/FreesatHD material, but that’s probably it. A decent HDMI switch is something to consider, bypassing the TV altogether.

    I can’t comment on the Sonos kit, as I’m not familiar with it.

    Clem
     
  17. duffbeerdrinker

    duffbeerdrinker
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    If the Sonos app shows that the Beam is receiving a 5.1 signal then you're good to go. From my experience, it's pretty accurate in what it displays.
    I can't comment on any specific features such as "best audio" on your Fire stick as I don't own any streaming devices.
    I think it's safe to say that if the Beam is receiving 5.1 but you have no rear speakers then the Sonos software should compensate and play all audio through the soundbar.
    I assume you are going to add the rear speakers otherwise it seems a little pointless to try and ensure you can pass through a 5.1 soundtrack.
     
  18. Rodders53

    Rodders53
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    My Panny GT60 will deliver 5.1 from its tuners (Freeview and freesat) over ARC/spdif identically.
    It doesn't pass it over other hdmi inputs (too old a TV).

    It will also do 5.1 DD or DTS over hdmi from its built-in media server (a P. call the media player) and USB-connected drives with files it's happy about playing. I only use iPlayer on it and that is stereo only (BBC limitation) and the pictures look quite good to my eyes for streamed H.265 material.

    Few TV programmes (and only HD ones) will carry 5.1 sound. None on ITV HD so far. Sports, Films and some TV series on BBC & C4 are the likely candidates.
     
  19. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    Thanks for the responses.

    So to confirm, does Netflix and Prime send a DD 5.1 signs for all content, or should it send a different signal for different content?

    In my testing the Sonos app is showing DD 5.1 for everything from these apps, including older films and TV shows, which I had suspected may only be stereo.

    The fact it shows DD 2.0 when playing iPlayer and DD 5.1 for Netflix makes me think that it is correctly passing through the various signals, but I had expected it to be content specific so I am a little unsure.

    Thanks
     
  20. Clem_Dye

    Clem_Dye
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    Netflix and iPlayer results sound promising. Amazon doesn’t flag audio on its programme/film descriptions, but most of its output seems to be in DD5.1 nowadays. If the results from Netflix tally with your findings, then Amazon is probably correct too. The only way to be sure is to list some of the stuff you’ve been watching to see if others here get the same results.

    Netflix does have a mix of stereo and 5.1 material — poke around and you’ll find stuff to test with.

    Clem
     
  21. Clem_Dye

    Clem_Dye
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    Here’s a quick Netflix test for you. The Australian TV series Rake is stereo; the last series of Suits is in 5.1. If you get the same results then you can at least have confidence that Netflix is all good.

    Clem
     
  22. Hoogie

    Hoogie
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    I will try this tonight as a test.

    However, I got a response eon the Sonos community that indicated that Netflix send a 5.1 carrier signal regardless of what the content is, so if you watch a stereo show on Netflix it will encode the stereo content into 5.1 and send it as a 5.1 signal.

    If that is indeed the case then the Sonos app will still show as receiving a 5.1 signal even if the Netflix content is 5.1.

    I watched an episode of the Grand Tour yesterday to test out the surrounds and there definitely seemed to be different sounds coming from the left and right rear speakers, so I suspect it is indeed working correctly.

    I might try and see if there is some sort of 5.1 test video/app for Mac that I can use that would make the different speakers play sounds as a way to test it.
     
  23. Clem_Dye

    Clem_Dye
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    That carrier signal thing is, I think, total codswallop! I get no such issues when I watch Netflix content via my setup — stereo is stereo, mono is mono, 5.1 is 5.1. To be 100% sure, get something like a Roku stick or Amazon FTV and connect it directly to the Sonos bar and see what happens. With ARC working, your TV should show the picture, but audio will come from the attached device. Of course, the Sonos would need both HDMI in and out ports for that to work. Not sure if that’s the case.

    Clem
     
  24. TonkaToys

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    @Hoogie

    I too have just got a Sonos Beam, so it will be interesting to compare notes.

    Set-up as follows:
    • I have added two Play:1's as rear speakers.
    • I'm running it through an older Samsung TV that has 1 x ARC and 2 x non-ARC HDMI (let's call these A and B).
    • The Sonos is connected to the ARC (as per instructions).
    • I have Sky HD on A.
    • I have a PS3 and a FreeView DVR that I connect as needed to B, now that the ARC is not available. I did have these on separate HDMI cables that I plugged in, but have now put them on an HDMI switch.
    • The TV runs Amazon and Netflix via built-in Samsung Apps.
    • The PS3 also has Amazon and Netflix via built-in PS3 Apps.

    I found that I could get 5.1 output (ie: rear speakers) from the TV's Amazon and Netflix.

    But I couldn't get 5.1 through the PS3, which tends to be used only for BluRays / DVDs. This was the case even when using Netflix through the PS3.
    Nor could I get 5.1 through Sky.

    I tried an optical output from the TV to the Sonos, with the same results.

    5.1 worked when I connected an optical output from the PS3 to the Sonos, but that didn't help the other audio sources.


    Now I did read somewhere (here or at the Sonos forums) that an EDID might help because it would fool the TV or the Sonos (I forget which) into thinking the signal is 5.1.
    I haven't tried that yet (SWMBO is already tutting at me for the expense).

    Edit: I think it was @Joe Fernand that mentioned EDID
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019 at 12:40 PM
  25. Rodders53

    Rodders53
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    Issue you have is lack of pass-through of the digital audio signals in the TV's hdmi switching.

    Either a proper AVR with hdmi inputs is required; or a hdmi switch with an optical audio extractor for all three external sources.

    $ky will do 5.1 on some programmes on some HD channels then, as well which it can't currently! Will be a trifle messy with switching sources to get 5.1 on everything perhaps (using arc/optical as needed on the Sonos).

    EDID could fool a source that it should send 5.1 but the TV may or may not pass that to ARC and TV would be unlikely to decode the 5.1 audio on that input for speakers.... That would be irritation at best?
     

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