Updated: Dec 10, 2021
I’d like to offer some advice to those who may be unsure of what surround settings to put in place during the final stages of setting up and AV Receiver or Audio Processor. I’ve seen many installations over the years where it’s quite clear that the client has enjoyed some years of ‘a sound’ coming out of all of their speakers, but it wasn’t necessarily a Dolby or DTS signal!
The set-up stage I’m referring to comes after you’ve chosen to run any auto-EQ feature like ARC, Audyssey or Dirac Live. What’s crucial next is to take the time to go through each source, changing its audio output setting to Bitstream from PCM. Many sources, even high-end ones come out of the box ready to connect to a stereo TV rather than an AVR. Bitstream will carry the Dolby or DTS codec info which the AVR will decode and know exactly what sound to send to which speaker.
On a Sky or Apple TV box, go hunting for surround sound content and then don’t give up until you see ‘Dolby 5.1 or Dolby ATMOS’ show up on the AVR display! Not Dolby Surround or Dolby Pro-Logic; they’re pseudo-surround modes, we’ll come to them later.
On a Games Console, a movie server or a Blu-ray player, again switch to Bitstream audio out, plus you’ll have to disable Secondary Audio too to get to the goodies! Try ATMOS and DTS:X encoded discs and look out for exactly those names dominating the display on the AVR or AVP when the movie content starts.
Now, the last big favour you can do for your client is to set a pseudo surround mode, this will engage automatically when they watch content that comes through in stereo only. This can be many channels and programmes on Sky and anything on YouTube. Grab the remote and choose Dolby Surround or DTS Neural X, they will up-mix stereo content to all speakers but also place the dialogue in just the centre speaker and use the surround speakers as and when the clever algorithm chooses to. I wouldn’t recommend All Channel Stereo or Party Mode as this just dumbly puts the same thing in all speakers with barely any immersive movement around the listener. Save those ones for parties.