With the vast array of TV’s, Receivers, Blu-Ray Players, Game Consoles and Soundbars, a popular method of organizing your electronics is to connect everything directly to your TV via HDMI, then have a single audio connection from your TV to your Soundbar, Home Theatre system, etc. Essentially you are using your TV as a switcher, and while this can simplify your connections, there may be a downside you don’t even know is happening. You may not be experiencing true surround sound even if your soundbar, or home theatre system supports it.
The reason for this is that while many TVs will accept a Dolby 5.1 channel encoded as an input, it will not pass through 5.1 channel audio, as they downmix the audio to a 2 channel stereo track for output.
What TV’s Are Affected?
Luckily, this issue has largely been solved. If your TV is from 2020 or newer, from reputable brands such as Samsung, Sony, or LG, than you can be sure that surround sound is flowing through your audio connections. If your TV is older or you are still having problems, there are a few things you can try.
1. Double Check Your TV’s Audio Settings
You have probably already done this, but it never hurts to double check. Many TV’s have a separate audio output setting where you can choose whether you want it to compile the audio in PCM (Stereo), or a variety of Surround Sound presets. With any luck, you can simply select a surround sound option that works for you and have your audio hardware recognize the codec.
2. Connect Your Devices Directly To The Audio Player
If you didn’t find any help in your audio settings, the next step is to bypass your TV entirely for audio. Connect your game console, Blu-Ray player, or other devices directly to your sound source. This works well with home theatre receiver based setups, as they will have multiple HDMI input options. One thing to watch out for is whether each HDMI input is 4K (or now 8K) compatible. Some receivers may only have 2/4 HDMI inputs being 4K/8K compatible. Also be sure to check that your receiver can process and pass through 4K video to the TV, or you may be in the uncomfortable situation of choosing whether to have either surround sound or 4K video. In this case, upgrading to a fully 4K compatible receiver may be the option.
This solution may not work if you are using a soundbar, however, as most soundbars only have a single (often non-HDMI) input. If you need multiple HDMI devices to eventually pass into a single audio channel, an HDMI switcher may be the answer for you. An HDMI switcher will let you plug multiple sources into a box, which then can pass a single HDMI video to your TV, and a single (surround sound) audio channel (via HDMI or Digital Optical) to your soundbar. This may add a bit of clutter to your setup, but can be easily hidden with a good TV stand.
3. What If My Streaming Sources Are On My Smart TV?
It’s hard to bypass the TV if your signal originates on the TV! While most newer TV’s have solved the audio passthrough problem, if you have an early generation Smart TV, or a TV from a lesser known brand, you may have issues trying to stream Netflix with surround sound. Unfortunately, if this is the case your options are limited. The least expensive option will be to purchase an external streaming box, such as an Apple TV or android media box. In the case of the Apple TV (Now available in 4K!), you will be able to connect this directly to your receiver (or soundbar if it accepts HDMI) and then pass the video through to your TV. The other more expensive option, of course, is to simply upgrade your TV. If you currently have an older 1080P Smart TV, it may be time to consider upgrading to an Ultra HD 4K Smart(er) TV. Just be sure to consider all your audio ins and outs to make sure you don’t have any further surround sound problems.
I hope this has helped you with fix your TV surround sound pass-through issue. If you have found other ways to fix this problem, let everyone know in the comments below!