One of the most popular questions among people who love to watch movies or TV shows from their home theater system is, “Can I stream surround sound?” With so many streaming services available today, it can be difficult to find out which ones offer this capability. However, there are many benefits of streaming in surround sound, and it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re not currently doing so.
From a powerful, immersive sound experience to a wide variety of programming options, streaming in surround can lead to a better overall home theater experience. In this article, we’ll explore Netflix and four other streaming services to see which of them offer streaming surround sound capability.
Can you stream movies in surround sound?
Surround sound has been a staple of movie theaters for many years, and more recently it has become popular in home theater systems as well. This technology creates a realistic audio experience that can make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action on the screen.
To get surround sound from a streaming app, it must travel through your smart TV or streaming device and then to your sound system.
Streaming Service / App vs. Streaming Device
To clarify, a streaming device is a piece of hardware, like a Roku or Apple TV, that streams content to your television. A streaming service is an app, like Netflix or Hulu, that you can watch on your streaming device.
Popular streaming devices for home theaters include:
- Apple TV
- Amazon Fire TV
Streaming devices differ from a streaming service, like Hulu, in that streaming devices usually offer more channels and options than streaming services.
Streaming services are designed to work specifically with a streaming device.
Decoding and Encoding Surround Sound
However, most streaming devices do not decode surround sound and instead transcode encoded surround sound signals into a format that can be decoded by a TV, soundbar, home theater receiver, or other external audio systems.
Smart TVs with built-in applications can also transmit encoded surround sound signals to an external audio system, and most of them support various surround sound codecs. However, be aware that the manufacturer may at any time upgrade the device’s support for surround sound formats.
To enjoy streaming surround sound from your favorite services, you’ll need a streaming device with audio passthrough. Audio passthrough is the ability of a smart TV or set-top box to pass encoded surround sound signals directly through it and into an external speaker system.
How do I know if my TV has audio passthrough?
If you’re not sure whether your TV has audio passthrough, there are a few ways to find out.
- Check the specifications: This is the easiest way to determine if your TV has audio passthrough. All the latest TVs will include this information in their technical specifications.
- Check the input: Another way to check is by looking at the inputs on your TV. If you see an optical audio port, it’s likely that your TV has audio passthrough.
- Try it out: You can also try streaming a movie or show in surround sound and see if your TV passes the signal through to your external speakers.
If you have a newer TV and it doesn’t pass the signal through, check with your manufacturer to see if there’s an update available.
Netflix + More: Streaming Surround Sound Options
There are many streaming services that offer movies or shows in surround sound. Some of these apps may be built into your smart TV while others require installation on a streaming device.
Netflix is one of the most popular and well-known apps for watching movies or TV shows from your home theater system. This app offers a huge library of on-demand programming, with thousands of titles in surround sound or compatible with devices or smart TVs.
Netflix offers a 2.1 stereo audio setting by default, although if you have a compatible device, it switches to surround sound automatically.
Beginning in 2017, some Netflix films feature a surround sound audio experience thanks to the Dolby Atmos technology integration. This allows people to listen at 5.1, 7.1 or higher-quality audio.
How do I know which titles are available in high-quality audio?
All titles supporting 5.1 surround or Dolby Atmos have high-quality sound. A Dolby Digital Plus icon or a 5.1 symbol will appear next to the description of any title with 5.1 surround sound if it is available. If a title has Dolby Atmos, a Dolby Atmos icon will display next to the description.
What do I need to stream with 5.1 surround sound?
- A 5.1 surround sound-ready audio system
- A Netflix-capable device with 5.1 surround sound support.
- Set your streaming quality to Medium, High, or Auto.
Netflix Help Article: 5.1 Surround Sound on Neflix
Like Netflix, Hulu offers a vast selection of movies and TV shows in surround sound to compatible devices or smart TVs.
Hulu’s streaming library and Live TV programming stream audio in 2.0 stereo quality by default, but certain live content and on-demand titles may be viewed in high definition 5.1 surround sound on select devices. During live play or on the title’s Details page, badges may indicate when 5.1 is accessible.
Keep the following things in mind setting up 5.1 surround sound:
If you want surround sound on compatible devices, you’ll need to select a 5.1-compatible option from the audio output menu.
When using HDMI to output audio, 5.1 PCM or bitstream audio must be enabled.
If your device has optical or coaxial connections for outputting audio, you’ll almost certainly need to enable Dolby Digital Plus or DTS bitstream.
Like Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Prime Video offers a library of movies and TV shows that can stream in surround sound to compatible devices or smart TVs.
Prime Video offers audio in stereo by default, but some titles offer Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby Atmos audio. You can identify Prime Video titles with surround sound by looking for the Dolby Digital Plus (Surround) or Dolby Atmos logo next to the title.
To enjoy Prime Video content in surround sound on a compatible device, you must have a device that supports Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby Atmos.
Additionally, if you’re using an HDMI connection to your TV, make sure “HDMI Audio” is set to “Bitstream.”
If you are not getting surround sound from Prime Video on your device, try the following:
- Check that your device is on the correct input;
- Check that your device is outputting audio in Dolby Digital or DTS format;
- Try a different HDMI cable;
Disney+ subscribers may access a library of movies, TV shows, and other material in 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos.
You may discover which audio codecs are supported by clicking on the title you want to watch and then going to the Details tab.
How do I adjust my audio quality?
When you play a Disney+ video, the app will switch to the highest audio quality your device (including external audio systems or soundbars) can handle.
Why am I getting low-quality audio?
If you’re getting low-quality sound, here are some troubleshooting steps to help solve the problem:
- Check the title to see if it supports the audio format you need.
- Confirm that your audio system supports Dolby Digital Plus (for 5.1 surround sound) and/or Atmos.
- All components should support high-bandwidth digital content, such as HDMI connections.
As with the other streaming services, HBO Max offers a library of movies and TV shows that stream in surround sound to compatible devices or smart TVs.
HBO Max offers audio in Dolby Atmos as well as stereo by default on all devices.
The app defaults to the best audio format for your device and will automatically switch between Atmos and stereo soundtracks depending on what is available.
Streaming Surround Sound Advice
In recent years, streaming and surround sound technologies have come a long way, and most devices now support surround sound formats.
Streaming Surround Sound Tips
By following the tips below, you can ensure that you’re getting the best possible surround sound experience from your streaming services.
Adjust Your Room Acoustics
One way to improve the surround sound experience is by optimizing your room acoustics.
Some things you can do to improve the audio quality in your home theater space include:
- Placing furniture and rugs to help control sound reflections;
- Adding acoustic panels or bass traps to absorb excess sound energy;
- Closing doors and windows to reduce noise from outside;
- Make sure your surround sound system is properly calibrated;
If you have the time and resources, these are all great ways to improve your surround sound experience.
Keep Seating Away from the Walls
Another way to optimize your surround sound experience is by keeping the seating away from walls.
This will help to create a more spacious and immersive surround sound environment.
Use an HDMI Cable for Best Results
When connecting your devices, it’s best to use an HDMI cable for the highest-quality audio signal.
HDMI cables can carry both video and audio signals, so using one will ensure that you’re getting the best possible sound quality.
Check Your Cables and Connections
If you’re not getting surround sound from your streaming service, the first thing to check is your cables and connections.
Make sure all your devices are properly connected and that the cables are in good condition.
Enable Audio Enhancements on Your Device
Another way to improve the surround sound experience is by enabling audio enhancements on your device.
Most devices offer a variety of audio enhancements that can be turned on or off.
Some common audio enhancements include:
- bass enhancement;
- treble enhancement;
- dialog clarity;
By turning on these enhancements, you can often improve the surround sound experience.
Check Your Device’s Audio Output Format
If you’re not getting surround sound from your streaming service, your device may not be outputting audio in the correct format.
To check, go to your device’s settings and look for an option called “audio.” This menu will list all the different audio formats that your device can output. If surround sound is not one of them, you may need to change the audio settings.
Toe-in Your Speakers
If you’re using surround sound speakers for streaming, try toe-in to get the best possible surround experience.
This involves pointing the speakers towards your listening position and angling them inwards slightly so that all the audio comes from directly in front of you.
By doing this, you can maximize the surround effect and improve the overall quality of the sound.
Change Your Subwoofer Placement
If you’re not getting the desired surround sound effect from your subwoofer, try moving it to a different location.
Subwoofers are best placed in the corner of the room, but they can also be placed near walls or in other positions that produce the best results for your specific setup.
Place Center Audio Channel Speaker Above or Beneath Your TV
The center audio channel speaker is responsible for delivering the majority of the dialog in surround sound systems, so it’s important to place it correctly. The more ear-level it is, the better.
Ideally, the center channel should be placed above or below your TV, depending on which position produces the best results for you.
Boost Center Channel Audio in Your Settings
If the dialog is difficult to hear over the other audio channels, you can boost the center channel audio in your settings.
This will make the center channel louder than the surround and surround back channels, making it easier to understand what’s being said.
Use a Soundbar for an Easy Solution
If you’re not interested in calibrating your surround sound system or making any changes to your current setup, you can always use a soundbar.
Soundbars are designed to provide surround sound without the need for additional speakers or calibration.
They come in a variety of different sizes and specifications, so there’s sure to be one that fits your needs.
The Bottom Line
Different streaming solutions compress their audio and video feeds in different ways. The quality that is “streamed” is far lower than what the director intended for it to be seen and heard. Thus, listening to any streaming service through you TV speakers is a poor choice. Surround sound gets you closer to the goal of what the director wanted you to hear.
In fact, Kaleiescape is a streaming software we provide that allows you to download the file directly from the production company (similar to a theater file). This is the ultimate way to watch your favorite movies.
Experiment with some of these tips and see which ones work best for you. You can create the perfect surround sound environment for your home theater with a little experimentation.
Surround Sound Streaming FAQs
Q: Why isn’t my surround sound working?
A: There are several things you can check to see why your surround sound is not working. Make sure all your devices are properly connected, that the cables are in good condition and that audio enhancements are turned on.
Q: How do I enable audio enhancements on my device?
A: This varies from device to device, but most audio enhancements can be turned on or off in the device’s settings.
Q: What audio formats does my device support?
A: This can be found in your device’s settings under the “audio” menu. If surround sound is not one of the supported formats, you may need to change the settings.
Q: What other streaming apps have surround sound capabilities?
A: Surround sound streaming capabilities include, but are not limited to:
- Apple TV
- Youtube TV
Are you in Utah and want to stream videos and movies in surround sound for your home theater?
Do you need a home theater upgrade to enjoy your favorites in surround sound? AIS can help with surround sound and home theater installation. You’ll be able to enjoy your favorite shows and movies like never before! Contact us today to learn more.
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