Can You Get Dolby Atmos Through Optical? (No, here’s why)

No, you can’t get Dolby Atmos over a standard optical cable from a Blu-ray player or receiver. Here’s why:

1). The height requirements for an object-based audio format such as Dolby Atmos are extremely demanding on your system’s processor (CPU). An object-based mix can contain literally HUNDREDS of tracks which will tax any processor if it has to be done in real-time.

2). Your standard Optical cable can only carry a two-channel PCM signal. This means that the object-based audio information that needs to be processed for Atmos has to be converted back into a 5.1 PCM mix which is then sent over optical.

3). Even if your receiver could handle it, it would still have to take a two-channel PCM signal and create a fake center channel for your front speakers which would make Atmos sound less convincing.

Dolby atmos

What about Onkyo?

There have been a few products announced recently by companies claiming to be able to pass a full Atmos through their optical outputs but so far we’ve not actually tested any of them ourselves so we can’t say definitively one way or another if they work as advertised. 

The only company currently offering this function under real-world conditions is Onkyo with their recently released TX-NR636, TX-NR737, and TX-NR838 AVRs as well as some of their DTS:X enabled models.

In order to use the feature, you MUST have a model from one of those three series or older for which you’ll need to upgrade the firmware manually if you’d like Atmos over optical.

What about HDMI inputs on a Blu-ray player?

As mentioned above, it is important that an object-based audio format such as Dolby Atmos be able to pass the full bitstream from your source device directly into your AVR’s main HDMI input without any sort of conversion/mixing/decoding for best results. 

Since HDMI inputs on Blu-ray players are limited to two-channel PCM, you’re not getting the full bitstream in this situation.

What about the RSP-EX875?

The Yamaha receiver mentioned in the article DOES have an issue with Dolby Atmos. It does not pass through the full bitstream via its optical audio output when in Bitstream mode.

So, unfortunately, you will need to switch it back into PCM if your AVR doesn’t support PCM audio over HDMI in order to get the best results.

So in short, NO you can’t use an Optical cable for Atmos/DTS:X but YES there are ways around it that will give you the same experience as far as object-based surround sound is concerned.

And NO, Onkyo’s “Upmixer” does NOT give you any sort of increased functionality for either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.

Can you get Dolby Atmos on your Xbox One?

Short answer: Yes, but only if you have an HDMI cable connected directly to your A/V receiver. This means that you’ll need to make sure any other components (cable boxes, etc.) are connected via optical cables. 

Since the Xbox has no way of passing Atmos over optical, then the only option is getting it through HDMI.

Can you get Dolby Digital Plus with some applications or movies?

No. Today’s movies are almost always mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. The only place you’re likely to experience DD+ is some streaming apps such as Netflix and Vudu, which do support it.

Source

Can you get Dolby Digital with some applications or movies?

Yes, some applications such as Hulu and Youtube will send out 5.1 on older receivers, but most new ones will downmix the DD+ to stereo on their own. 

This means sound coming from those apps will not be surrounded anymore unless you manually go in and change your receiver settings every time you want to watch a movie or something else encoded in DD+.

Also keep in mind that if your AVR doesn’t have an HDMI ARC input, then you won’t be able to use the Atmos feature of these apps because they will only work when plugged into the receiver with HDMI.

My AVR supports “Dolby Digital” but I’m not hearing any surround sound?

First, check to see if you’re coming in on an optical line. If so, then your AVR is just downmixing everything to stereo unless it has Atmos support. Check whether or not your Xbox One runs its audio through HDMI or not (note that this might differ depending on the game). 

If it’s running without HDMI ARC, then you’ll need to switch your AVR’s input over from optical to HDMI in order for DD+ encoded audio to playback with Atmos sound effects and objects panned around you.

If your TV supports HDR-10 but AVR doesn’t, can you still play HDR-10 movies?

No. Your Xbox One will only pass out a signal over HDMI that your AVR will understand. This means the connection between your TV and AVR needs to be one of these options:

  • HDMI 2.0a running HDCP 2.2 or higher
  • Optical audio
  • 5GHz wireless/ethernet link from your Xbox to the receiver/Amp via the Microsoft Wireless Adapter for Audio. 

If you have an older AVR with HDMI 1.4 but do not support HDCP 2.2 + HDR 10, then it’s possible for you to get a software update from your manufacturer in order to support this codec so you too can have HDR.

Note that AVR’s made prior to 2015 may not have this feature, so if you’re in the market for a new receiver then it may be worth looking into one that supports DD+/Atmos with HDMI or HDCP 2.2 + HDR-10 over 4K.

Compared setups:

1) Three In-ceiling speakers with an Atmos-enabled AVR as the only source back to the AVR.  In this case, you must send the Dolby encoded signal from your Blu Ray player through optical to your Atmos AV Receiver which then routes it back via HDMI for decoding and sending out the signals to each speaker. 

2) Two In-ceiling speakers and one Atmos-enabled floor-standing speaker with an Atmos-enabled AVR as the only source back to the AVR. In this case, you must send the Dolby encoded signal from your Blu Ray player through optical to your Atmos AV Receiver which then routes it back via HDMI for decoding and sending out the signals to each speaker as well as routing a separate non-Atmos signal to your floor standing speakers.

3) Two In-ceiling speakers and one In-wall speaker with an Atmos-enabled AVR as the only source back to the AVR.In this case, you must send the Dolby encoded signal from your Blu Ray player through optical to your Atmos AV Receiver which then routes it back via HDMI for decoding and sending out the signals to each speaker as well as routing a separate non-Atmos signal to your floor standing speakers.

Mark found that he could not tell the difference between 1) and 2) which is what I expected since they are both sending the same signals to all speakers.  However, Mark did find that 3) was better than 1)+2).

This surprised me but there might be several reasons for this: The Atmos decoder in the AVR may treat different types of speakers differently. The Atmos decoder in the AVR might not properly decode all of the channels (such as ceiling-mounted speakers or if you mix in wall-mounted front height speakers with ceiling mounted rears since only 4 “possible” overhead channels exist).

There may be a bug in the Atmos decoder that causes a delay/phase shift to the surround speakers Sources other than Blu Ray players may not properly pass through the Dolby encoded signal for one reason or another.

So how do you get Dolby Atmos? You use HDMI. We know it can be pricey but if having an immersive sound field is important to you then it will be worth it. Just remember that for your receiver or pre-pro to accept the native format from a source device, that source needs to have an Atmos decoder built-in.

Summary

If all you have are optical cables between your components, then no Atmos for you… but DD+ will still work at least on apps like Netflix and Vudu.

If your AVR does not support DD+, then using built-in streaming applications isn’t going to work there either (you’ll need an Xbox One S or X and a supported receiver). 

To get around this issue, make sure everything except your TV is plugged into the receiver with HDMI, then use a device like an Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield to process the DD+/Atmos content.

Dolby recommends sending an Atmos encoded bitstream from your Blu-ray player or AVR HDMI output directly to your AVR’s main HDMI input (not the one used for zone 2).

From there, you can pass it through to a second HDMI input on your AVR which is easily switchable from the front panel or even an automated solution such as Control4. 

This way, you’re getting the full bitstream without compromising it in any way and then can process that audio for an object-based experience using Dolby’s own TrueHD lossless codec.