Discussions

More than a smart TV—a better TV. Learn more about using your Roku TV, locate help resources, and share your experience.
cancel
Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Irony58
Level 9

TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

I've got a TCL Model 55S405, running Roku Software version 10.0.0. I have an audio amplifier plugged into the TV's headphone jack and have problems with loud commercials on the Roku Channel and also Hulu. I wanted to try Volume Leveling to help with that, but I can't set that option. Both Sounds Mode and Volume Mode options are grayed out and set to "Normal".

After much back and forth with Roku Support, I found that if I unplug the headphone, I'm now able to change those audio options. But that's not an acceptable solution. We use the external amplifier to give us better sound than the TV's internal audio and also to drive speakers in other rooms.

Is there another way to use an amplifier and still enable Volume Leveling?

Labels (2)
0 Kudos
11 REPLIES 11\
StreamerUser
Level 20

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in


@Irony58 wrote:

I've got a TCL Model 55S405, running Roku Software version 10.0.0. I have an audio amplifier plugged into the TV's headphone jack and have problems with loud commercials on the Roku Channel and also Hulu. I wanted to try Volume Leveling to help with that, but I can't set that option. Both Sounds Mode and Volume Mode options are grayed out and set to "Normal".

After much back and forth with Roku Support, I found that if I unplug the headphone, I'm now able to change those audio options. But that's not an acceptable solution. We use the external amplifier to give us better sound than the TV's internal audio and also to drive speakers in other rooms.

Is there another way to use an amplifier and still enable Volume Leveling?

 


Plugging an amplifier into a device's HEADPHONES jack to drive external SPEAKERS isnt exactly a good or supported solution (this isn't 1990 or even 2000), especially considering there are digital audio output options (HDMI/ARC, Optical) either of which can be sent to an amplifier/AVR/Soundbar either directly or via a splitter/extractor:

e.g.  https://www.amazon.com/Extractor-Converter-Support-Digital-Coaxial/dp/B0919Y12B3/

There are many similar devices, between $10-20 - find one that meets your needs.

0 Kudos
Irony58
Level 9

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in


@StreamerUser wrote:

Plugging an amplifier into a device's HEADPHONES jack to drive external SPEAKERS isnt exactly a good or supported solution (this isn't 1990 or even 2000), especially considering there are digital audio output options (HDMI/ARC, Optical) either of which can be sent to an amplifier/AVR/Soundbar either directly or via a splitter/extractor:

e.g.  https://www.amazon.com/Extractor-Converter-Support-Digital-Coaxial/dp/B0919Y12B3/

There are many similar devices, between $10-20 - find one that meets your needs.


It's funny that you say "this isn't 1990 or even 2000". The amplifier I'm using is a Realistic SA-150. Realistic is a brand name for electronics produced by the nearly defunct Radio Shack. The Realistic brand was phased out in the mid-1990's, and this particular amplifier was introduced in 1984. There's a fair chance that this little amplifier is older than you Smiley Very Happy. I got it from a second-hand store probably 10 years ago, although I would have been old enough to buy this when it was new (the "58" in my username is a hint at that). So go ahead and "OK Boomer" me all you want. Just stay off my lawn! Smiley Happy

Anyway, I disagree that using the headphone output to drive this amp is a bad idea. Amplifiers, even way back then, commonly accepted headphone outputs as their input. Also, according to the manual for my TV, 

You can connect headphones or an analog sound bar (not provided) to the TV’s
headphone jack.
Tip: Inserting a plug in the headphone jack disables the sound from the TV’s built-in
speakers.
Warning: Loud noise can damage your hearing. When using headphones, use the
lowest volume setting on your headphones that still lets you hear the sound.

And from TCL's blog:

ANALOG AUDIO OUTPUT
All TCL TVs have an ANALOG AUDIO OUTPUT in the form of a 3.5 mm jack. With this, you can send analog audio to headphones, a sound bar, or a home receiver. Note you may need an adapter cable to go from 3.5mm to RCA L/R audio…only a couple of bucks.

So it appears that driving other devices is a supported function. A home receiver isn't any different than a 1980's audio amplifier.

I left in that "Warning" from the manual to highlight why I think this TV's firmware design is defective. Loud sounds can indeed damage hearing, especially when wearing headphones, so why would Roku disable the ability to help prevent such damage by not allowing the Volume Leveling mode? It doesn't make any sense at all. You could be watching a show and then a commercial comes on with that idiotic blast in volume. It might take some legal action to get Roku to make any changes, though. But, hey, I've got tinnitus (the "58" in my username is a hint at why). Maybe I need to go that direction? (Just kidding) Smiley Happy

However, with all that said, it appears to be the way it is. I wasn't aware that those ARC and SPDIF converters are that inexpensive. I wasn't even aware this TV had an ARC port, as I'm using that one for my Chromecast HDMI. I will definitely look into those adapters. Thanks for that info. That second-hand shop is now out of business, so I may have to buy new. Smiley Happy

And just for kicks...

Here's my cute little amp. Notice the dated walnut-grained case? A bit dated, no?Here's my cute little amp. Notice the dated walnut-grained case? A bit dated, no?

StreamerUser
Level 20

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

I actually have some Realistic hardware somewhere around, probably in the "mostly useless might be working old electronics" storage space out in the barn - near the defunct Standard Oil gas pump.

I think there's a stash of buggy whips out there too...

Using the headphones jack for amplified speakers is a Bad Idea (TM) - it auto-senses and adjusts other TV functionality based on it, it has variable (non-fixed) output, it has noisy output, and its analog.

If they really wanted people to connect amplified audio systems via the headphones jack, they should provide a mode setting (Fixed/Variable) for its output, maybe even "Analog/Digital" as well, for those circa late 90s/early 00s digital speaker systems....

TCL may officially support it, but its still a Bad Idea (TM), for all the reasons mentioned.

Of course, you are experiencing all of that first hand, hence why you are here now. Perhaps you found the amplified noise warm and soothing, reminding you of days of electronics glory past with a good old fashioned 60Hz hum and analog hiss...

Regardless, you could/should get one of the extractors/converters and hook it up either to the ARC or Optical port, and move the Chromecast to a non-ARC HDMI port (assuming one is available), for future "expansion" (read:  Atmos AVR/Soundbar upgrade).

Most of the second-hand and smaller Mom & Pop electronics stores/outlets are gone - thankfully garage sales, eBay, and pawn shops exist to mostly fill that niche.

I always liked the real/faux wood-grained electronics casing myself even if it is dated, though you can have it (WARNING:  The following is a UK Commonwealther import word used for purposes of mockery) bespoke made for current equipment by retro-enthusiast appealing entities willing to accept large donations from Boomer Boys...

Let us know how the audio extractor/converter works out, whichever one you decide to get.

0 Kudos
Irony58
Level 9

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

Sorry, not convinced of the Bad Idea (tm) part. If the headphone channel is noisy, then it's out of my family's audible range. But then my mother-in-law is pretty deaf and needs closed captions. And my wife and I are in our 60's, so any noise is either too low for our ears to pick up, or its frequency is up in the teenager range. As for it being analog, well, this boomer lived with an analog world for quite a while, and it served the world pretty well. I didn't pick an analog solution for any reasons other than it not only worked better than the hollow-sounding TV speakers, but has been plenty fine for us all these years. And it was cheap. "Warm" sound isn't an issue. I'm not audiophile enough to hear any difference between analog and digital sound.

Since analog is plenty good enough, going digital will only add a level of complexity, which is another possible point of failure. It now depends on how good the DACs are in those little $15 boxes. Will Volume Leveling actually pass through the ARC or TOSLINK ports? I know that Leveling works to quiet those annoying commercials through the tinny TV speakers. But will it limit the volume through those digital ports? It's going to cost me 15 bucks to find out, I guess.

However, I don't know what you mean by "fixed/variable". The only auto-sensing I can see could be done with the old fashioned mechanical contacts that come with headphone connectors. When you plug the headphones in, contacts break open, and that was used as a dumb way to turn off speakers in those old radios, cassette players, and whatever.

I run the headphone output through a headphone to RCA L/R jack adapter. If I unplug the RCAs, leaving an open adapter plug in the headphone output, I still can't enable Volume Leveling. Same if I plug in actual headphones. And with the headphones I get loud commercials. So if there's any additional sensing, the TV isn't using it.

I still maintain that the headphone output would be a perfectly acceptable solution to drive my amplifier *if* the TV's firmware design let the TV functioned as it should. It *should* let me enable Volume Leveling, but it doesn't.

So, between the Roku Channel's (and Hulu's, too) jerk-brained decision to blast their commercials and Roku's defective TV firmware design, I'm being forced to buy a gadget that may or may not solve the problem. It may or may not add its own problems. Or I could continue hitting the mute button. I've gotten good at muting just the commercials, but I still might want a more automatic solution.

 

StreamerUser
Level 20

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

Its safe to say we all lived (and are still living) in an analog world.  However, analog audio - though it had some significant quality improvements under certain conditions during our lifetime - is clearly inferior to digital audio, both in quality and distribution terms.

Horse and carriage also served (and serves) the world pretty well - its also inferior to the automobile under most conditions.   I have some buggy whips if you're interested....

Auto-sensing (and/or software controlled) jacks are pretty common in the modern CE world, used in all sorts of different ways.

While I agree there are all sorts of issues related to audio and video that we "shouldnt have to deal with", thankfully workarounds/solutions (both hardware and/or software based, depending) do exist and often are relatively inexpensive.

Regardless, you can always suggest the feature/fix ("Apply Volume/Sound modes to analog outputs too if they exist") to Roku:    https://community.roku.com/t5/Suggest-a-Feature/bd-p/Wishlist

 

0 Kudos
Irony58
Level 9

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

Well... There still isn't unanimous consensus that digital is clearly superior to analog, at least in the audio spectrum. Many audiophiles today still insist that analog is better. They use vague qualities such as "warm" and "airy". And if you only consider the playback itself, and not the media (for now), the best argument you'll find from the digital proponents is that digital is "Just As Good"(tm) as analog, at least to human ears. But, technically, digital can't be anything more than a close approximation of the analog signal.

You probably already know this, but for those tuning in who don't - The output from a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) consists of a bunch of "steps" that come close to the smooth curves of the analog source. There are plenty of good drawings of this online, here's one:

The closer you place those steps together, both horizontally (that's the sampling rate) and vertically (that's the bit depth), the better your digital output will come to the actual analog input. It can never equal the analog source, but to my unrefined ears, I hear no difference between the old-fashioned CDs and the older-fashioned vinyl records. So I agree with the digital folks that digital is "Just As Good"(tm) as analog.

Where digital really shines is in the media. First off, records and magnetic tape media (reel-to-reel for the snooty audiophiles and cassette for the unwashed masses) degrade over time and usage. No matter how low mass your stylus is, it's still dragging over a softer vinyl track, so you lose response that way. And if you don't play that record in a vacuum, it'll get dirty and you'll hear those "warm" pops and skips. Magnetic tape drags over the player's pickup and can wear out, and also pick up dirt.

Digital hard media (CDs and DVDs), however, can tolerate nasty stuff like dust and fingerprints because the digital bits themselves have a much higher signal to noise ratio, since they only need to be a '1' or a '0', not some tiny analog variation. And solid state memory based devices (USB sticks, computer memory, ...) are just bits stored somewhere, with no real physical properties. Which brings me to the best point - reproduction.

You can make copies of copies of copies of digital media and it will exactly duplicate the original. Not so with analog. Even vinyl record masters wear out eventually.

So why am I stating what most people already know? It's because my little solution to driving speakers from my TV is still mostly digital. Here are a couple "block diagrams" of two solutions. They're color coded - Black is the cable company or streaming service (Roku, Hulu, Netflix, ... infinity). Blue is the TV hardware. Red is my home hardware. And green is that little ARC/SPDIF converter box hardware.

| Digital source |--->| DAC |--->| Headphone amp |===>| Amplifier |===>| Speakers |

| Digital source |--->| HDMI/ARC/TOSLink drivers |--->| DAC |--->| Low-level output amp |===>| Amplifier |===>| Speakers |

All the benefits of digital are right there at the cable company or streaming service.  Eventually the audio needs to go analog to get to my ears, so adding that Amazon box is just moving similar hardware from inside the TV to outside. That's actually extra complexity, more connectors, more drivers/receivers, ... more places for things to fail.

One argument not made in digital's favor is that the transmission media is better digitally. That's because it isn't. At audio frequencies and even the somewhat low amplitudes of headphone output, the signal to noise ratio is plenty high enough to allow the signal to allow noise-free listening. Digital transmission is a vast improvement in the RF world, where the S/N is way down in the weeds.

So the only reason at all to go digital is to work around Roku's functionality deficiencies. I did Post on the Wishlist board about this, and also made the same suggestions, and reasoning, on my Support ticket, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I just hope that the gadget converter I get performs as well as my headphone cable and that Roku process their Volume Leveling to the digital outputs. I'll probably go with SPDIF, as I've only got one spare HDMI port and may need that for my grandson's X-Box.

StreamerUser
Level 20

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

I agree that there probably wont be any Roku response to the feedback/sugggestion, but at least its out there for others to see.

Its not the only reason to go digital, though from your perspective/usage scenario it may seem so.

You probably mean Optical - HDMI/ARC uses SPDIF (its SPDIF w/CEC) to carry audio as well (Coaxial too for that matter, though this unit lacks it).

(As an aside reference to my earlier post, the 3.5mm port (or other port/interface) could be software controlled as analog/digital, or with analog options (fixed/variable/Line-level) or even surround (Dolby - Lt/Rt, etc) similar to other CE devices (PC Sound cards, BR/DVD players, Cable/Sat boxes/etc) but it seems these user-level control options have been left out in most TVs..)

Let us know how the HDMI audio extractor/converter works out.

0 Kudos
Irony58
Level 9

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

Yeah, I did mean Optical. Don't know why SPDIF was stuck in my head. I came across that term when looking up what ARC was and it stuck just like the theme song for The Andy Griffith Show sticks.

pooandpee69
Level 7

Re: TCL Roku TV can't enable Volume Leveling with headphone plugged in

>However, analog audio - though it had some significant quality improvements under certain conditions during our lifetime - is clearly inferior to digital audio, both in quality and distribution terms.

Imagine unironically believing that digital information doesn't have to be converted into an analog signal in order for humans to hear it. What a pathetic attempt at sounding informed.

0 Kudos