How to Play Roku Through Surround Sound

You may have heard some bad things about Roku players, streaming sticks, or the platform itself, regarding the lack of surround sound. While some of those rumors may be true, in this article you’ll get all the information you need to understand why this matter is being seriously blown out of proportion.

Roku Surround Sound Support

What you need to understand first is that most Roku streaming players can’t decode high-end surround sound formats, the likes of DTS, for example. Some movies or TV shows that you can watch on the Roku platform may also not be available in surround sound, but only in stereo.

With that in mind, not all hope is lost. If you use a sound bar or AVR, your Roku streaming stick is capable of passing that signal onto the sound bar, AVR, or your TV (if it can handle decoding high-definition audio formats).

The device will then handle all the decoding and you’ll be able to hear the highest clarity audio the device can project. But, in order to ensure quality, you should first make sure that you have everything you need to make a strong and compatible connection between all your devices.

Roku with HDMI Direct to TV Setup

This setup is obviously intended for those without a Roku smart TV. If you own one of the later generations of Roku streaming sticks, there are two ways to connect your stick to your TV and enjoy maximum sound clarity.

  1. Plug your Roku stick directly into a free HDMI input on the TV.
  2. Use a HDMI cable to connect your Roku stick to the TV.
    play roku

Roku with Sound Bar or AVR Setup for ARC-Enabled Systems

This is the situation most inexperienced users seem to have trouble with – how to connect your Roku device to your TV and sound system. But it’s a lot easier than you think.

  1. Start by connecting your Roku device to your TV.
  2. Plug it into an open HDMI slot.
  3. Connect your TV to your sound bar or AVR through a high-speed HDMI cable.
  4. ARC port on your TV if it has one available.

In this case it’s important that both the TV and AVR are ARC-enabled. ARC stands for audio return channel. If one of your devices doesn’t have this function then you’ll face incompatibility issues or inconsistent audio quality.

Roku with Sound Bar or AVR Setup for Non-ARC TV’s

If you have an old TV you may have to switch up the order of the devices. In this case, the TV will be the last in the daisy chain.

  1. Connect your Roku stick to the AVR or sound bar into an open HDMI port.
  2. Use a high-speed HDMI cable to connect your audio system to your TV.
    play roku through surround sound

Although this is a common setup, it can also be somewhat hard at times to configure, since some AVR units are complex. The various settings you’ll have to go through will depend on the manufacturer and the device’s model.

Roku with Sound Bar or AVR Setup with Standard Optical Connections

Say you’re using some older equipment that doesn’t have HDMI ports. Even if that’s the case, there should still be optical or S/PDIF outputs available on the audio receiver.

  1. Connect your Roku through an HDMI cable or directly into your TV’s HDMI port.
  2. Use an optical cable to connect your TV to your AVR or sound bar.
  3. Look for the S/PDIF tag next to input.

Alternative for Low-End Gear

What if you have a sound bar or AVR that has nothing but an optical connector and no HDMI support? There is a workaround for this too, but only if you have a Roku streaming stick with an optical connector. If you do, then the order in which your devices will be connected will differ.

  1. Connect your Roku stick to your TV via the HDMI cable.
  2. Use an optical cable to connect the Roku stick directly to the sound bar or AVR.
  3. Plug the cable into the S/PDIF input on your audio receiver.

Quick Troubleshooting for Common Audio Issues

Let’s say that you did everything right, that all your equipment is compatible, and that your AVR or sound bar is capable of decoding high-definition audio formats. It’s still not uncommon to experience missing audio, laggy audio, or low quality audio. If this happens, here’s what you should do:

  1. Bring up your Roku home screen.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Select the Audio settings.
  4. Change the audio mode to fit the connection you’re configuration is running on – HDMI, S/PDIF, etc.

By default, your Roku should be set to the Auto Detect option. In some cases, this can cause an auto detection loop or even cause the player to force an unsupported format onto a certain platform.

One instance where this happens is when watching Neflix on Roku. The Netflix platform is notoriously known to favor the 5.1 configuration. If your audio system isn’t 5.1 then Netflix may not always recognize your settings and play videos muted.

You’ll have to manually switch the audio settings on the Netflix platform to fix this. Simply start a video on Netflix, go to Audio and Subtitles, and select the English (5.1) option. Note that this should be a one-time deal and not something you’ll have to repeat for each episode or after each login. Furthermore, this won’t mess with your TV’s audio settings or your Roku player’s settings previously mentioned.

Roku Is Getting Better and Better

Although some people still like to point out all the flaws in the Roku OS or the limited capabilities of Roku players when compared to other streaming sticks, there really isn’t that much left that a Roku player can’t handle, including high-definition surround sound.

Do you need a dedicated surround sound system or a highly capable smart TV to make it work? Sure. But how many of you don’t have that already? The real question is, how often does the surround sound fail due to equipment incompatibility? Do you think that Roku is stable enough already or does it need extra work? Let us know in the comments section below.

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