Sky sound is flat, compressed, not dynamic, poor

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
We watched Man of Steel via On Demand last week, and The Lone Ranger last night.
In both, the sound was poor. It was definitely surround sound, but it sounded compressed. Quieter than it should be, and loud elements, like gun shots, were flat and dull.
Even my 12 year old son asked if the sound was right.
Now our home cinema is top notch and Blu-rays sound fine. Our Sky box, a DRX895, is connected via the optical cable to a Datasat RS20i and our viewing of Man of Steel was the first instance where we noticed this issue. We tend not to watch movies via Sky in the home cinema very often, so this issue might have been around for a while.

I have searched through the forum and found some threads expressing the same issue:
Sky 5.1 sound tracks | AVForums
Poor sound on many channels | AVForums
Terrible sound on Sky Store movies | AVForums

The last one specifically mentions Man of Steel. If, as I suspect, this issue is down to Sky pre-processing the sound, I will be cancelling the Sky Movie package as this spoils the experience.
 
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kevkbuk

Distinguished Member
I will be cancelling the Sky Movie package as this spoils the experience.

Surely you'd do better to run a story on the front page of this site you've founded and have some sort of dialogue with Sky? Whilst you're at it raise the video compression issues too... :D
 

Nobbler

Distinguished Member
It's not just on the movie channels - Sky Atlantic is poor sometimes as well. Fleming was a disaster...GOT is not the best either.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
Surely you'd do better to run a story on the front page of this site you've founded and have some sort of dialogue with Sky? Whilst you're at it raise the video compression issues too... :D
Have emailed the editorial team. They will make of it what they will.
 

PA77ULY

Banned
I have to say, I've been noticing this too recently with Sky and I'm suddenly having to crank the volume up and nothing worth noting has changed in my AV setup for a good couple of years.

I don't find me having to crank up the volume when using other devices like my BD player or games console so it definitely leads to it being a Sky issue.
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
We watch several series like Game of Thrones, Person of Interest, Blacklist, The Following, Walking Dead. Not noticed any problems with these, though their soundtracks may not be quite as bombastic as those of big budget movies. Will have a closer listen from now on to determine whether it's just movies.
 

MAX1210

Well-known Member
You haven't got any type of Dynamic Range Compression turned on by accident on your sound system have you?
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
You haven't got any type of Dynamic Range Compression turned on by accident on your sound system have you?
No, that doesn't happen with the Datasat.
 

Nobbler

Distinguished Member
I have no doubt that Sky's excuse will be along the lines of "thats what we get from the distributors..."
I did find that MOS sounded ok at reference level on my Onkyo 5010 but the next door neighbour didn't agree...
 

Stuart Wright

AVForums Founder
Staff member
It's not so much that the soundtrack is significantly quieter in my opinion, it's that there is less dynamic range. Normally the snap of a gunshot or explosion is mixed louder than other sounds. They are not louder on the two movies we have seen. If I had either on Blu-ray I would video a comparison. I'm sure even if recorded through a consumer video camera, the differences in the soundtracks would be obvious.
 

pwilson5

Active Member
I agree with you Stuart, it's definitely the dynamic range which is being compressed, probably to stop people who just use TV speakers from getting distortion. I complained to Sky but they had no explanation although they did refund Man of Steel for me but I don't think I'll be renting any action movies from them any time soon!!!
 

Nobbler

Distinguished Member
Just a thought - how are people connected here? I'm guessing HDMI direct to AVR? The post above May touch on something you know and they might compress the audio via HDMI to stop the TV distortion...wonder if it's different via optical or coaxial out...? I will find out tomorrow.
 

pwilson5

Active Member
I'm using coax
 

Ged

Active Member
I notice these issues which led me to this post; pleased (so to speak) it's not just me. Using an Onkyo 515, I notice with my settings it seems okay, if slightly light on bass for the 5.1 footy but watching BBC wildlife programme before in 2.0 and the bass was far too much.. The narrator voice was resonating and couldn't tone it down; decided not to mess too much as I suspect I need to find a half way house but not sure how.
 

V F

Active Member
Makes me wonder for the coming years with the push for 4k… Is this the same pattern they did with standard definition? Keep butchering it to a slow decline?
 

grahamlthompson

In memoriam
I agree with you Stuart, it's definitely the dynamic range which is being compressed, probably to stop people who just use TV speakers from getting distortion. I complained to Sky but they had no explanation although they did refund Man of Steel for me but I don't think I'll be renting any action movies from them any time soon!!!

There is only one 5.1 soundtrack. The volume level and dynamic range is contained within the ac3 encoding. If it's sounds like Sky users describe , it must be encoded in the original broadcast. I do not have Sky so cannot comment further.

At a guess Sky are reducing the dynamic range to avoid complaints from those with crap sound systems to avoid complaints from anyone using a half decent sound system.

I don't think this is confined to Sky, any of the so called 5.1 transmissions sources lacks the dynamic range that even a DVD is capable of.

Basically on any broadcast source it sounds like what you get when selecting night mode on a full range DVD/Blu-ray source. Basically a dumbing down (much like the video).
It's a major problem with any broadcaster who fails to recognise the major contribution that great audio adds to the overall experience. A soft picture you may not notice if you are involved in the action, if the sound is muffled or anyway lacks clarity, is instantly noticeable.
 
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V F

Active Member
At a guess Sky are reducing the dynamic range to avoid complaints from those with crap sound systems to avoid complaints from anyone using a half decent sound system.

Most wont even have sound systems surely? The botched up TV speakers on most low end sets…
 

grahamlthompson

In memoriam
Most wont even have sound systems surely? The botched up TV speakers on most low end sets…

There are no LCD slim TV's high end or not that have anything that you could describe as reasonable sound.

It is very simple for the TV/ setop box simply to reduce the audio compression that the TV can cope with, there is no reason that the broadcast transmission should be so crippled at source. .
 

V F

Active Member
Whats the likely reason? I can't see Sky giving any reasons why and surely they aren't doing it for the sheer sake of it? I could understand if it was for the Sky Store but people complain how bad the picture and sound is for those.

Even The Dark Knight Rises on 304 right now is so shockingly blurry and flat it looks worse than standard definition. Besides, the way it's going, at what point does this compression stop? As I remember once years ago recording anything HD would take up 7 - 12% for a few hours. Now it's mostly 2 - 4%.

Sometimes with most movies I'm beginning to feel like my eyes are needing tested then I pop in a Blu-Ray sitting 7 - 9ft away and any doubt is cleared. Plus how twinkly, clear and deep the sound is. Like a peace of mind thing but Sky HD is feeling like an accelerated decline recently.

Even Film 4 HD puts most Sky HD Movie channels to shame. Mostly.
 

Weetabix

Active Member
Hi Stuart,

You are completely correct, I've even started my own thread in the sky forums too:

Dolby Digital 5.1 - Compressed??? - Sky Community

We need to make more of this, it's a complete misrepresentation of the Dolby brand, Dolby Digital has always stood for great sound.

The sky HD boxes carry the Dolby Digital logos on the front, but with the way the audio is going, it sounds appalling.

Watching the opening scene from The Dark Knight Rises, the dialogue was recessed, with no dynamics at all. Films are now uneventful, there's no drama and excitement.

We need to shout this from the rooftops! Sort yourselves out SKY!

Perhaps a Facebook page is in order, to get ourselves heard? "Believe in better.......Sound"
 
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Nobbler

Distinguished Member
Just watching MOS now...terrible! I joined the debate on the Sky forum as well but they don't seem interested...
 

grahamlthompson

In memoriam
The key factors in ac3 audio quality are bitrate and sample rate. The highest quality you get on a DVD is 48kHz sampling at 448kbps. Sky will be using less than this to either squash more channels into the same bandwidth or give more priority to video quality over the audio.

I can't do anything with Sky 5.1 but may be able to look at what Channel 4 HD use for 5.1 audio.
 

L3g3nd

Active Member
I sent in a complaint to Sky, here is there wonderfully helpful decision from technical help, they advised me to go into sound settings go to digitalaudio output hdmi and switch from dolby digital to normal.Wow do you believe these people after advising of poor compressed sound , there advice is to switch off the only reson with an av system you would have there film service, sums up there lack of care to the people they sell too.
 

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