If you’ve got a Sonos soundbar, such as the Sonos Beam or Sonos Arc, then you may have run into one of the biggest limitations: no support for DTS sound. Sonos has said that with a focus on streaming, it’s decided to focus its efforts on Dolby sound formats, with the Arc supporting Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Digital.
For the most part, it’s a strategy that works until you try and play a Blu-ray that only has a DTS soundtrack, in which case you’ll probably find that you don’t get any sound. So, what can you do about it? The answer really depends on the type of kit that you have. Here, we’ll explain the different options.
Set your Blu-ray player to transcode to Dolby Digital
If you’ve got an Xbox One X or Xbox One S, then there’s an option in the Display & sound settings to change the digital audio output bitstream format to Dolby Digital or Dolby Atmos. When you select either of these options, the Xbox will re-encode DTS sound as Dolby Digital and pass it through your TV to the Sonos soundbar. Note that only the Sonos Arc supports Dolby Atmos, so Beam owners will need to select Dolby Digital.
The only other way around the issue is if you have a Blu-ray player or Ultra HD Blu-ray player that supports similar options. That sounds good in theory, but the bad news is that, to the best of our knowledge, only Samsung and Oppo players have the option to re-encode DTS to Dolby. Sadly, both companies have pulled out of the player market, so unless you’ve got one already, you’ll find it hard to buy one.
If you’re lucky enough to have a Samsung player, you can change the output to re-encode to Dolby Digital, which will get you 5.1 surround sound.
Use PCM audio
If you don’t have any of the options above, then you’ll be forced to use PCM audio instead. With this audio format, your player decodes the soundtrack and sends it as uncompressed audio. Depending on the player you have, you will either have the option to change the audio output to PCM for all sound formats or specifically for DTS only. Our test Panasonic Ultra HD Blu-ray player, for example, lets you change the sound output for DTS audio to PCM, leaving Dolby Digital as Bitstream.
Bitstream is the best option where possible, as this is the compressed version of the audio, which can carry additional metadata required for Dolby Atmos to work.
PCM sounds like a good workaround but it has some limitations. Currently, Sonos soundbars only support stereo PCM as an input, even if your player can output multichannel PCM. Sonos has said that it plans to upgrade the Sonos Arc to support multi-channel PCM, but due to bandwidth limitations, it will only be able to do this when using an eARC connection. If you’ve got a TV with ARC, then you’ll be limited to using stereo sound, although our guide on how to use the Sonos Arc with HDMI ARC explains how a new device may fix this.
In the meantime, if you watch content with a DTS soundtrack, then you’re limited to stereo sound only, which won’t be as clear or as detailed as the full surround-sound track.
How to check what audio you are getting
The problem with changing audio settings is that you can end up disabling higher-quality sound formats. Fortunately, Sonos gives you some ways to check. First, if you are playing Dolby Atmos content, the Sonos app will show you that the Sonos Arc is receiving this sound format.
For other formats, you need to go to Settings > About my System. Here, Sonos will tell you the format that your soundbar is receiving and how many channels of sound it’s getting. If you see that you’re only getting stereo sound and should be getting 5.1 or more Dolby Digital, then you need to check your player settings and make sure that the sound format output is set to Bitstream.
Unfortunately, the lack of DTS support means that you may end up having to change sound output settings when you use discs with DTS audio.