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Level 9

No More Surround Sound Support over Optical?

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To those who output sound from their ROKU over optical, the quick version of my question:

Is your surround sound setup still working since the last ROKU update?

Back Story:

In December one of my two 2019 ROKU Stick+, which is connected to a two-year-old Sony 4K TV with optical output to a Klipsch soundbar, began dropping audio after startup (a complete loss — not even the clicking sound of moving through the Home screen). None of the settings or cabling had changed yet here I am more than a month later and still no resolution for audio loss.

I found two workarounds: The first was to toggle the power on the TV (not ideal as this could damage the TV) after which ROKU will come back up with audio. The second workaround involves going to an analog input on the TV (i.e off air TV channels) and then after waiting a couple seconds, move it back to my ROKU (ARC/3 input), after which the sound kicks in.

In another room I have my main Sony 4K TV, also two years old, connected to the same model ROKU Stick+ — but in this case to an older Harman/Kardon AVR that does not have HDMI (optical typically delivers Dolby Digital surround sound). As a troubleshooting step, I took the ROKU Stick+ where I first experienced the audio loss issue and put it on my main TV. At that point, both Sony TVs/ROKU Sticks began to exhibit audio loss on startup!*

My only clue to what might be causing the problem is the following: Sometimes I will get a couple of seconds of sound on the home menu — just enough to see the AVR connected to my main TV report that Dolby Digital has been "unlocked" — before it drops back to a non-encoded surround setting, at which point audio drops. All of this began without making changes to my setup, which was formerly working without a hitch!

No matter what Audio setting I use in the ROKU audio menu, it's the same problem, so my initial impression was that my ROKU Stick+s went bad, so I went out and bought a ROKU Ultra LT and a ROKU Ultra 2020 model. But after purchasing almost $170 worth of new ROKUs — back to Square One! Smiley Mad

Recently, I stumbled across a 2013 blog post in which the author maintained that audio loss with ROKU is related to the HDMI technology (glitches). His suggestion was to select an analog input as a sort of "HDMI reset". Sure enough, when I move to the off-air input for TV channels, pause for a few seconds and go back to the ROKU (ARC) input, suddenly I have audio. (Beats turning the TVs on/off multiple times, which last week very nearly killed my main TV!) The only problem with this "HDMI reset" workaround is that I must do this input switching every time I want to use ROKU after any length of time the TV has been powered off. Smiley Sad

Things I have tried so far: Unplugging the TVs. Unplugging the ROKUs. Replacing the optical cable to the first TV where the problem occurred. (Managed to crack the corner of the internal glass one of my TV screens trying to remove the existing optical cable off the back of my TV!) No dice. Swapping out HDMI cables on my main TV, which is now connected to the ROKU Ultra LT. No joy. Factory-reseting the ROKU Ultra LT. No change. A data reset on my main TV as suggested by a SONY support forum moderator. Still no change. Putting the ROKU on a different HDMI input. (Still audio loss at startup on both TVs — yet other HDMI-connected devices on those same inputs have no issues!) Lastly, a system restart of the ROKUs doesn't hep either.

I am left to conclude that ROKU put through an update sometime late last year that has screwed up the ability to properly "auto detect" supported sound formats (presumably, manually switching to a supported sound format in the ROKU audio menu should work but it's as if the menu selection doesn't really correspond with what ROKU will execute). Meanwhile, I am coming down to the wire on the extended 2-year warranty on my Sony TVs. I don't want technicians in my house during the pandemic if, in fact, the issue lies not with my TVs but a buggy ROKU update.

Questions

1) Does anybody else have the same audio-loss issue when connected to a soundbar or AVR via optical?

2) *Could a ROKU Stick+ gone bad somehow have transferred this audio loss problem to another TV?

3) Does Firestick or Apple TV offer DD over optical? (For example, do any ROKU competitors have the ability to downgrade DD+ and similar to formats that optical supports?)

4) Is there a place on this website to submit this as a bug report?

In closing, I would appreciate hearing from anybody here who makes use of Dolby Digital/DTS over optical to learn if I am experiencing an isolated situation vs. a ROKU bug. I would also appreciate if a forum moderator acknowledges my post — because this is my second time in a month trying to post to the community forums and so far it's been crickets.

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Level 9

Re: No More Surround Sound Support over Optical?

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After nearly pulling out my hair for ~7 weeks dealing with audio loss (muting) every time I fired up my TV/ROKU, I may now be able to mark this "solved". If this post update helps anyone here resolve similar headaches, please consider a Kudo. 

Troubleshooting began with two Roku Streaming Stick+ (3810R, where the problem originally arose), but ultimately also included a new Roku Ultra LT (4662RW) and a newly purchased Roku Ultra (4800R), all of which were running the latest software. Nothing I did on the ROKU side fixed the loss of surround output from my TVs over optical to an AVR in one room and soundbar in another.

I reached out to my TV manufacturer, SONY, and was eventually assigned a case number. The other day, a support rep attempted to remote-access one of the two impacted TVs to help. However, after realizing that changing my TV settings wasn't working — and that both Sony TVs were running the same software/build — he indicated that there had been other customer reports of this issue (however, my report of audio loss was the first for the X900F or X800E series).

At the suggestion of another agent, spouse and I performed a hard reset (not to be confused with a power reset and a factory data reset, which I had already tried). That's when it got weird: We only got to one of the TVs because it was late. Knock on wood, as of today, the TV we factory reset was working normally (Dolby Digital output via optical from the TV while attached to a ROKU Ultra LT). We assumed it would be necessary to perform the same hard reset on the second TV, but oddly Dolby Digital audio output is working today on that TV, too — despite the fact that the second TV (with the 4800R) wasn't subjected to a hard reset. (As a reply mentions the Ultra 2020 supports Dolby Digital decoding, but in this case my TVs had offered native support of DD/DTS via optical out.)

While I can't say for certain why any of this occurred, I can say what the solution is not: Similar topics here tend to chalk up audio loss problems when optical is in use to streaming providers that no longer support older surround formats such as Dolby Digital/DTS. In my experience, however, inability to make use of Dolby Digital from the likes of Amazon or Netflix isn't the culprit for those of us who have had those surround formats working in the recent past.

To troubleshoot an issue of this type, first try a system reboot of the ROKU. If that fails, try a soft reset (unplug your ROKU, and if necessary also your TV, for about five minutes). If that fails, try changing HDMI ports. If that fails, replace/swap cables (an optical or HDMI cable may have gone bad). If those efforts fail, perform a factory reset (ROKU, TV or both). If you are still experiencing problems, contact ROKU and/or your TV manufacturer — even if the products are no longer under warranty — to file a report. It may very well be a bug imposed by a faulty update, in which case the only way it will be fixed is if consumers take the time to report these malfunctions to the manufacturers.

On a final note: For those of you doing a first-time setup of a ROKU with surround sound output to a non-HDMI equipped AVR or soundbar — only to find that there is no audio output or that output is limited to PCM/stereo — check with your TV manufacturer to verify what the optical port supports. Not all optical implementations are equal. Some TVs are capable of down-converting (transcoding) from a newer surround sound format to an older one, such as Dolby Digital or DTS. Other TVs, however, do not have the ability to pass 5.1 sound over optical regardless of format (even if a streaming service offers it, you may not get it over an optical connection). If making use of optical is necessary in your setup, make certain you buy a TV/ROKU that supports the desired form of surround sound decoding and, ideally, that the TV/ROKU has the ability to transcode (down-convert) Dolby Digital Plus/Atmos and similar.

I hope this follow-up post helps somebody out!

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StreamerUser
Level 15

Re: No More Surround Sound Support over Optical?

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A few things to try/consider:

1) Verify that volume modes have not been enabled on both:  during playback of any stream, press the Options (*) on your remote, verify that "Volume mode"=off

2) What does Settings/Audio/HDMI=Auto detect show as being detected? What does Settings/Audio/Audio mode=?

3) Are both SS+ behaving the exact same way on both TVs/setups?

4) Move from the Roku's away from the ARC port.  In fact, try and leave the ARC port empty, at least for troubleshooting, then turn everything off (as in, completely off now power/unplugged) for a few minutes, then turn the soundbar AVR on (wait a minute), then turn the TV on (wait a minute), then turn the Rokus on.

5) Its a pain, but doable:  have you considered taking your two SS+ sticks (they are pretty mobile after all) to a relative or friends house, and tested them with their TVs?  Or even another non-Sony TV in your house...

6) firmware updates:  You never mentioned what firmware versions your Rokus are/were on, or what your TV models are, whether they updated their firmware, etc , and it matters:  firmware updates routinely fix/break things.

7) You mentioned your second soundbar wasnt HDMI capable, but you never mentioned whether the first was.  If it is, why are you not using the HDMI, either to plug the Rokus into (inputs), or in the case of HDMI/ARC support, for connection to the TV for output instead of optical?

You should be using HDMI/ARC instead of optical if your soundbar/AVR both support it (ARC has more/better audio codec/format support than optical).

Questions answered:

1) "When connected to a soundbar or AVR via optical" - but that isnt what you described - you described connecting via HDMI to your TV, and using the TV's optical out to a soundbar/AVR (older Roku models, such as the 4640, have optical outputs that this would apply to).  Herein lies the devil in the details. 

What you meant to ask is "Does anyone else have audio loss when connecting to/through the TV's HDMI to the TV's optical?" - and the answer is yes, many many people have reported audio loss/failure in this scenario over the years - mostly because their TV's either don't support routing the HDMI audio to optical, or because they don't support transcoding DD+ from HDMI to DD for optical output.

In fact, I have an older LG TV/home theater setup in another room in the house for which this applies:  the LG TV, though it has DD+ transcoding to DD for internal apps to Optical/ARC, does not support DD+ transcoding from HDMI sources to ARC/Optical.  If I connect a SS+ (2017 or 2019) to the TV's HDMI ports, it results in only 2.0 or "no audio" (if I try to force DD+ manually).  Any device with a Dolby decoder works fine connected to the HDMI since they transcode the DD+ to DD for output (like the 4800 or a FS4K, which is what I have connected to it, etc).

Regardless, from the entirely of your description, it sounds like a nuance configuration (E-EDID handshake/detection) issue between the Roku's and the TVs.

You don't seem to have tracked firmware updates for the Rokus or for the TVs, either/both of which may have occurred causing the issue.

2) No. Most likely the reason the other SS+ exhibited the same behavior is that in the process of shifting/unplugging/etc sticks, all the restarting/re-powering put them both on the same firmware/build..

3) Again, that isnt the question you want to ask - you want to ask "Do any Roku models or competitors' devices support Dolby decoding?" (that's what allows transcoding/converting the DD+ to DD for output, this negating the need for the TV to do the transcoding in your scenarios). 

Remember, most streaming services are using DD+ now, so you need something to transcode/convert the DD+ to DD (either the streaming device or the TV) if you want to ultimately output it via the TV's optical port.

The answer is yes - for Rokus, the 4800 (Ultra 2020) and 4640 (Ultra 2016) support Dolby decoding.  The 4640 even has an optical output.  FireTV products (aside from the Lite) also all support Dolby decoding, the TS4K claims it (its not currently working), the Nvidia Shield has it (working  properly), etc.  The key thing is to make sure the device supports Dolby decoding (without it, its passthrough only, so the TV/connected device would have to do the Decoding/transcoding).

In fact, I highly recommend having a multi-platform streaming strategy (at least 3 different platforms, at least one of which is Android/AndroidTV based if you need to sideload apps) due to issues relating to app carriage/compatibility/functionality, bad firmware/app updates, hardware functionality differences, privacy/security, personalization, etc.  You can get other 4K/HDR-capable streaming devices for $30-50

4) Yes:  Chat or email - https://support.roku.com/contactus/contact-options  (choose setup/ultra/other/need more help?)

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Level 9

Re: No More Surround Sound Support over Optical?

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Thanks for the reply. I have been at this for six weeks so please accept my apologies for all the typing to cover the troubleshooting ground I've covered, including the audio leveling menu, power/data resets, cabling swaps and even ROKU upgrades. As you correctly point out, it's the TV carrying optical to the soundbar in one room and an AVR in another room. (Followed the ROKU support document with no change.)

My audio is delivered over optical from the TVs because my sound devices require optical connections. That includes a Klipsch sound bar that is less than three years old (doesn't have HDMI) and, on my main TV, an older 5.1 Harman/Kardon AVR (doesn't have HDMI ports, DD+/Atmos). Yes, I know I can upgrade sound equipment but thus far I have been content with Dolby Digital — which I can continue to stream from Netflix, Amazon, AT&T TV, etc. (Perhaps there is more content in DD+ but I haven't faced problems using Dolby Digital until recently.) Testing the ROKU Stick+ at a relative's house during the pandemic isn't in the cards, either.

Back when this sound loss issue started in early December, I took the "bad" Stick+ that first exhibited the problem and put it on my main TV where an identical 2019 ROKU Stick+ was working correctly. Afterward, both TVs/ROKU Stick+ began to exhibit the audio loss problem. As a result, I was put off testing the ROKU Stick+ on still more TVs because of the impression that swapping out locations transferred the problem. (Likely this was a fluke but others have had similar impressions. A former Oracle engineer reported a similar "coincidence" on the old ROKU forums way back in 2013!)

Nothing in my TV/ROKU setup had at that point changed — by me, in any case — but since posting this topic, I did take a closer look at the TV Settings menu and came to appreciate that the latest Android OS update resulted in quite a bit of menu alterations with quite a few new configuration options. For Audio Output, most notably, the TV default is now Dolby Digital Plus.

Interestingly, when I reached out to SONY for support, Sony did not tip me off to this — instead advising me to power reset the TVs. Only after reading a much older thread here on the ROKU forums did it occur to me that my output must be Dolby Digital Plus — and sure enough DD+ had appeared in my TV menus and was enabled. As a result, I followed the second portion of the support document on the SONY website for Dolby Digital — thinking it would be a quick fix. But when I came back later to power the TVs back on, the Audio had again dropped.

Upon checking the TV Audio output setting, I find that it repeatedly reverts to Dolby Digital Plus — which, as the support doc describes, mutes the audio output. Toggling the inputs or doing a power on/off cycle is a temporary workaround that allows the sound output to kick in — but obviously I'd like a permanent fix.

Earlier today, I passed a report to Sony providing the software version/kernel/build info for the TVs. At this point, my 2019 Stick+ are no longer in the mix — because part of my troubleshooting several weeks back involved replacing them — so at this point I'm referring to a 4662RW - ROKU Ultra LT running 9.4.0 build 4200-46 and an 4800X - Roku Ultra (2020) running Software 9.41 build 4222-C2 (with both TVs running the same V. 9 Kernel 4.9.128 Android OS). 

I previously indicated that Audio leveling is off. Also verified that my ROKU Audio settings are Dolby Digital (have also tried Auto Detect and Pass-Through and the 4800X set to Dolby Digital). For the ROKU Stick+ and LT models, I tried toggling between Auto Detect and Dolby Digital/DTS for the HDMI preference, with no change.

There is only one thing left that I can circle back to — which was attempted several weeks back but before I realized the TV had begun defaulting to DD+ for the Audio output: That would be to move the ROKUs to another port, off the ARC as you suggest. (Previous troubleshooting also consisted of making sure the ARC port was correctly interacting with other HDMI devices — which it was. I did not consider that the TV may have taken a dislike to any ROKU attached to the ARC/HDMI 3 port!) I'll have to do the port swap and get back to you on the results — but supposing on HDMI 2 the Audio output begins to "remember" to output in Dolby Digital, the question becomes why? For example, would that suggest that both of my TVs need to be serviced under extended warranty?)

At this point, I am leaning toward the conclusion that SONY released an OS update to the TVs that is buggy. If that's the case, a patch will be required to allow my TVs to retain "Dolby Digital" as the preferred Audio out preference.

 

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Level 9

Re: No More Surround Sound Support over Optical?

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After nearly pulling out my hair for ~7 weeks dealing with audio loss (muting) every time I fired up my TV/ROKU, I may now be able to mark this "solved". If this post update helps anyone here resolve similar headaches, please consider a Kudo. 

Troubleshooting began with two Roku Streaming Stick+ (3810R, where the problem originally arose), but ultimately also included a new Roku Ultra LT (4662RW) and a newly purchased Roku Ultra (4800R), all of which were running the latest software. Nothing I did on the ROKU side fixed the loss of surround output from my TVs over optical to an AVR in one room and soundbar in another.

I reached out to my TV manufacturer, SONY, and was eventually assigned a case number. The other day, a support rep attempted to remote-access one of the two impacted TVs to help. However, after realizing that changing my TV settings wasn't working — and that both Sony TVs were running the same software/build — he indicated that there had been other customer reports of this issue (however, my report of audio loss was the first for the X900F or X800E series).

At the suggestion of another agent, spouse and I performed a hard reset (not to be confused with a power reset and a factory data reset, which I had already tried). That's when it got weird: We only got to one of the TVs because it was late. Knock on wood, as of today, the TV we factory reset was working normally (Dolby Digital output via optical from the TV while attached to a ROKU Ultra LT). We assumed it would be necessary to perform the same hard reset on the second TV, but oddly Dolby Digital audio output is working today on that TV, too — despite the fact that the second TV (with the 4800R) wasn't subjected to a hard reset. (As a reply mentions the Ultra 2020 supports Dolby Digital decoding, but in this case my TVs had offered native support of DD/DTS via optical out.)

While I can't say for certain why any of this occurred, I can say what the solution is not: Similar topics here tend to chalk up audio loss problems when optical is in use to streaming providers that no longer support older surround formats such as Dolby Digital/DTS. In my experience, however, inability to make use of Dolby Digital from the likes of Amazon or Netflix isn't the culprit for those of us who have had those surround formats working in the recent past.

To troubleshoot an issue of this type, first try a system reboot of the ROKU. If that fails, try a soft reset (unplug your ROKU, and if necessary also your TV, for about five minutes). If that fails, try changing HDMI ports. If that fails, replace/swap cables (an optical or HDMI cable may have gone bad). If those efforts fail, perform a factory reset (ROKU, TV or both). If you are still experiencing problems, contact ROKU and/or your TV manufacturer — even if the products are no longer under warranty — to file a report. It may very well be a bug imposed by a faulty update, in which case the only way it will be fixed is if consumers take the time to report these malfunctions to the manufacturers.

On a final note: For those of you doing a first-time setup of a ROKU with surround sound output to a non-HDMI equipped AVR or soundbar — only to find that there is no audio output or that output is limited to PCM/stereo — check with your TV manufacturer to verify what the optical port supports. Not all optical implementations are equal. Some TVs are capable of down-converting (transcoding) from a newer surround sound format to an older one, such as Dolby Digital or DTS. Other TVs, however, do not have the ability to pass 5.1 sound over optical regardless of format (even if a streaming service offers it, you may not get it over an optical connection). If making use of optical is necessary in your setup, make certain you buy a TV/ROKU that supports the desired form of surround sound decoding and, ideally, that the TV/ROKU has the ability to transcode (down-convert) Dolby Digital Plus/Atmos and similar.

I hope this follow-up post helps somebody out!

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