4K ATV: Great picture, poor sound.

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Macalicious2011, Oct 26, 2017.

  1. Macalicious2011 macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I have now owned a 4K Apple TV for 6 hours and would like to share my impressions. During the past few years my movie watching has exclusively been Blu-ray movies through LoveFilm so moving to streaming is a big change for me.

    -Picture quality
    The image quality is brilliant and doesn’t look “compressed” like a torrented movie at 1.3GB. There is definition and artefacts are difficult to spot. However the image quality is also content dependant. A Netflix documentary shoot natively in 4K can look clearer, more detailed and beautiful then a 4K movie rented on iTunes.

    Worth noting is that the image processing of the ATV adds smoothness which reduces the film grain typical of movies in cinema or on a Blu-ray movie. I don’t mind it and in fact like it but be aware if you like a “pure” experience. I have watched a full 4K movie via an Ethernet connection and experienced no issues what so ever.

    -Sound quality
    If you have a premium or high end sound system be aware that 4K Apple TV is a through downgrade in sound from Blu-ray. This Doesn’t off course matter if you listen through built in TV speakers or similar grade sound system.

    I was expecting sound quality to be inferior to Blu-rays but didn’t expect such a big loss in fidelity. My sound comes from a Yamaha YSP2500 which is a 7.1 sound projector comprising of 16 drivers and a free standing subwoofer. Whether I do DTS-HD pass through or not on the PS3, the sound gives every object in a movie immense presence. Blu-ray movies sounds so incredible on it to the extent that I don’t bother going to cinema.

    When watching a 4K movie on Apple TV the sound is good isn’t gripping. Dialogues aren’t as strongly projected, the bass isn’t as gripping and there is reduced sense of realism. Foot steps, shutting of doors and falling bullet cases no longer sound like they are happening in the room.

    It’s a bit disappointing as I will likely have to buy a UHD player for a full cinematic experience. Comedy and drama movies will be fine to stream but I will likely watch some actions movies using discs.

    I watched Fury in 4K on the ATV and the improvement image quality wasn’t worth the loss in sound quality compared with the Blu-ray copy. I will keep my 4K Apple TV but still use my Blu-ray player as I can buy movies from eBay for less then the price of a rental on iTunes. However I will likely pick up a UHD player in 12-18 months as they come down in price.

    TLDR:

    4K ATV produce brilliant picture quality but doesn’t produce cinematic sound. If you use built in TV speakers or inexpesenive speakers it won’t matter but if you have a high-end system the sound is a thorough downgrade from Blu-ray Discs. Regardless, the 4K ATV has lots of great things going for it and I recommend getting on.
     
  2. archer75 macrumors 68020

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    #2
    Well DTS-HD is lossless audio which the ATV can't do so you're going to lose that. However it does do DD+ 5.1 and 7.1 and sounds good for what it is. When I want the good audio from my rips I use my nvidia shield as it supports all the audio formats.
    Make sure the ATV audio setting is set to auto or best available. On your receiver you should see multi channel audio.
     
  3. BODYBUILDERPAUL macrumors 65816

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    #3
    Brilliant review. Will it help when Apple adds Dolby Atmos to it? FINALLY, Apple do seem interested in the ATV 4K so maybe in time we'll see uncompressed sound but Apple being Apple are purely interested in sales, sales, sales not few who want uncompressed.
    I'm about the buy a 4K UHD BluRay player just for the occasional DVD / BluRay that I have and I'm going for the Panasonic 400 at £229. I'm a HUGE FAN of Panasonic (their products last 10+ years for me) and all reviews of this model have been superb. I'm very happy to be going for that and the Apple TV 4K. I think they compliment each other well!
     
  4. priitv8 macrumors 68040

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    #4
    What good does the missing audio support do to the sales? Of the aTV box, i mean.
    One shall not forget the main mission of any apple TV - for Apple, they are a window into the iTunes Store, not the ultimate home entertainment device. Even if Tim Cook may say so in a keynote (he hasn't, has he?).
    What that means - it will only become lossless audio support as soon as iTunes media can be streamed with it. The gradual expansion of aTV features has so far been in exact sync with upgrades in store offerings. Addition of 4K was no exception.
     
  5. Macalicious2011 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    I have set it to best audio available and I do both hear and see multi channel audio on the sound bar. The sound simply doesn’t deliver the clarity, detail and punch I am used to. I wasn’t expecting it to match lossless but hoped it to be better than what I have heard so far.

    Everything else about it though is fantastic. Non 4K content from BBC iPlayer look lovely. A little bit better sound would make it perfect.

    I look forward to Apple adding Atmos support and movie studios offering it as a format on movies. However my soundbar doesn’t not decode Atmos. Will I benefit in anyway?

    I did consider the Nvidia Shield but my girlfriend is a huge Apple fan so I went for the ATV. Next year I might pick up an Xbox One X once they have dropped in price or are available used on eBay.
     
  6. BODYBUILDERPAUL macrumors 65816

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    #6

    I totally agree. Last night we rented a film from 2007 - Le Divorce. We love anything set in France :) And the sound from the film was so incredibly lifeless. We had to have the TV volume set to 85%. Often though, most newer film sounds good! I guess that it would be nice if it had a wow factor though!
    --- Post Merged, Oct 27, 2017 ---
    So why is this? I've loved my Apple TV for 7 years now but why don't any files iTunes/Vimeo/Amazon/Google/ etc carry say Dolby HD / DTS HD? There must be a reason. Is it any more work for files straight from the distributors on Pro Res 422 to carry this extra audio? There must be a reason? Even if a lot of viewers aren't bothered or even know about it, would it be nice to include it?
    Maybe Apple and the others aren't interested? Maybe iTunes films and ATV doesn't make enough money for them. We never saw the iTunes store for music move from 256AAC did we - it could even have gone to 320AAC (which is what I rip in).
    I guess though, if iTunes Films are long term designed to replace BlueRay/4K BlueRay, then they'll need to have all of the luxuries of that format. We are needly there with love iTunes Extras, great picture quality AND NO copyright notices, instant start - no 30 second disc loading etc :)
     
  7. JeffPerrin macrumors 6502

    JeffPerrin

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    #7
    I've noticed a bug in the latest version of tvOS where the audio levels are excessively reduced and/or compressed. So sound quality should (hopefully) be restored/improved in future updates to the OS.

    //
     
  8. priitv8 macrumors 68040

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    #8
    You will hear the base Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 layer. Doubt very much TrueHD base layer will be used for streaming.
    Licensing costs could have impact, but I have no idea what the T&C are on the various formats.
    Main factor is bitrate. Bitrate. Bitrate.
    Why did Dolby even devise 2 variants for Atmos delivery? DD+ for streaming services and TrueHD for BD delivery?? Why do the streamers prefer lower bitrate? Do you see anyone offering lossless audio on any of the satellite channels? Bitrate means cost.
     
  9. BODYBUILDERPAUL macrumors 65816

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    #9
    After reading AVS, I think the reasons for compressed sound for streaming are simple at present:
    "Uncompressed audio sucks up a lot of bandwidth..."

    "I can't imagine any company in this business risking interrupted playback just to stuff an uncompressed multi-channel audio into the stream. Even on a "big rig" the compressed Atmos that streams with Vudu UHD sounds great, hard to imagine any typical consumer ever having an issue with it." (Source: AVS Forum MH http://www.avsforum.com/forum/39-ne...5-supports-4k-uhd-hdr-many-movies-itunes.html)

    Fair play, I can't stand even one buffering pause on a film - it ruins the experience completely for me.
     
  10. Macalicious2011 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10


    My biggest issue with with the bass. I can feel and hear low frequencies but the bass isn't as thundering and punchy as I am used to it being. Cranking up the bass or the overall volume just makes the soundtrack louder but doesn't "improve the sound".

    Totally. I'm optimistic that we'll see bug fixes or improvements to sound. There's so much money in content distribution that Apple will have big incentives to perfect the ATV for all types of customers.

    That's a good explanation. Uncompressed audio would require alot more bandwidth. Hopefully it will be offered in the future to those with high-band width or devices that can cache 5-10GB and reduce the risk of buffering.
     
  11. BODYBUILDERPAUL macrumors 65816

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    #11
    --- Post Merged, Oct 27, 2017 ---
    I hope so. I know it's early days for the ATV 4K but it's unusual for Apple to not get everything right before they launch a model PLUS they've been making ATV streamer only boxes for 7 years now since the ATV2.
    Would LOVE to see auto detection for 24p films![/QUOTE]
     
  12. archer75 macrumors 68020

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    #12
    Lossless audio doesn't take a lot of bitrate. It's around 3mbps. Not much. The spec for DD+ allows it to go to 6.4mbps. Though typically what they actually stream is much lower than that.
     
  13. BODYBUILDERPAUL macrumors 65816

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    #13
    Oh wow that's nothing Archer. Oh well, no excuse really! Apple have put a lot of work into ATV 4K with frame rate menus etc etc, it would be incredible then if they went the whole distance and incorporated this. It's clear that they want it to be the best streaming box out there, let's hope things like this get implemented!
     
  14. Macalicious2011 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    Great. There's hope but I won't count on a big bump in bitrate as Apple does what Apple regardless of how much people rant on forums or in the press.
     
  15. archer75 macrumors 68020

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    #15
    I very much doubt we'll ever see streaming services go to lossless though. While the spec for DD+ can go quite high I don't think apple is using above 640kbps. Maybe not even 320kbps. Netflix's DD+ streams are 192kbps.
    Though I don't see why they couldn't scale audio like they do video based upon your bandwidth.
     
  16. Rigby, Oct 27, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017

    Rigby macrumors 601

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    #16
    The main reason is that the bitrate is comparatively high, particularly for HD files. A lossless movie audio track uses several Mbit/s on average, which is obviously a big deal if your overall bitrate budget is just around 5 Mbit/s. The bitrate produced by lossless codecs is also less predictable, since it varies based on the content (e.g. explosions are notoriously difficult to compress since they are basically noise with a very high entropy). This means the bitrate can vary drastically between almost zero and the full uncompressed PCM bitrate, which makes it difficult to keep a stream within its bandwidth budget. Lossy codecs, on the other hand, are typically used in CBR (constant bitrate) or constrained VBR (i.e. bitrate is variable but only within limits) configurations.

    As far as the ATV is concerned, a certain lack of "punch" has been a long-running problem. It's not entirely clear what's causing this. There may be something wrong with Apples internal mixer. If you use an app that can bitstream the original DD stream from a file (e.g. Infuse) you may notice better sound. So the problems that the OP observed are not necessarily related to the use of lossy codecs. A good 640kbps DD track can sound excellent to my ears.
     
  17. BODYBUILDERPAUL macrumors 65816

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    #17
    Hi Rigby! Thank you for that explanation. I learnt a lot from it! Looks like BluRay is the format for audio if it's super important to you. Mind you, here in the UK iTunes has two older films Boomerang 1992 and Le Divorce 2003 in HD that are not available on BluRay (only DVD on Amazon) so iTunes is winning on content for me :)

    Worrying about the ATV and lack of punch. So will ATV have Dolby Atmos when iTunes store features films in Dolby Atmos? just like the 4k stance?
     
  18. Rigby macrumors 601

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    #18
    Only Apple knows. But note that Atmos per se does nothing to create more "punch". It's basically just a more advanced way to position audio in the listening room.
     
  19. Tec972, Oct 27, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017

    Tec972 macrumors regular

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    #19
    I'm wondering if this is something with tvOS 11.0. I watched the movie Drive a few nights ago and I thought there was something actually wrong as I had to crank my receiver to -19dB which is very loud on my system just to hear the dialog. (I usually watch BD movies between -38dB to -35. If I crank it up much past that my family usually complains it's too loud.

    Granted, I was watching on my last gen ATV4, not my ATV4K, as my 4k tv is in the bedroom and I only have my 1080p plasma in the living room which I have much pain over replacing.

    Music levels were fine as I was listening earlier on the same device. I did a levels sound check on each channel and it was fine. It seemed to be in watching iTunes movies. I watched another movie last night and rebooted the device, we watched Stretch and it wasn't as bad but still not great. I think I had the receiver at -30dB
     
  20. JeffPerrin macrumors 6502

    JeffPerrin

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    #20
    Same here (as reported above). A reboot helps for a little bit, but then the audio level/compression(?) problem returns before too long...
     
  21. Colonel Badger macrumors 6502

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    #21
    All good points Rigby. There was certainly a problem early on with ATV4. I spent a couple months back and forwards with a senior exec at Apple and their QA trying to help them get the "dynamics" better, comparing it to bitstream feeds from Infuse as well as DVD's and blu-ray's. In the end they said they'd found the issue and if memory serves, that "fix" appeared in iOS 10 last year. I certainly noticed a marked difference in dynamics (explosions etc.) when that version came out and had been pretty happy with my ATV since then. However it does seem like at least the "volume" for ATV with iOS 11 has been impacted. I do appear to be running my receiver higher for most content including iTunes and Netflix. However to my ears the dynamics haven't changed much. It certainly hasn't gone back to the problem pre-iOS 10.

    Correction; I went back and looked. It was 10.1 that improved the Dynamics. See this thread.

    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/poor-dynamic-range-even-with-full-enabled.1951471/
     
  22. JeffPerrin macrumors 6502

    JeffPerrin

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    #22
  23. Colonel Badger macrumors 6502

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    #23
    I never owned a 3rd gen so couldn’t compare. Although a number of people on that old thread did. I personally found the dynamics close to DVD after the issue was fixed in 10.1.
     
  24. surfer369 macrumors member

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    #24
    since everyone here is talking about sound, I will ask my question here instead of creating a new thread.
    I have a atmos soundbar, and when ATV4k does support it would like to use it, but I am unsure of my setup and hopefully someone can help.

    I currently have my ATV4k hdmi >soundbar hdmi in> soundbar hdmi out>tv arc

    This is fine when I play anything from the ATV 4k, but when I want to watch tv, there is no sound, I have to connect my tv through the optical cable to the soundbar.

    Is this the only way to do it? Am I doing something wrong in this setup?
     
  25. Macalicious2011 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Last night I rented Hidden Figures in 4k on iTunes and today I received it in bluray from LOVEFiLM-By-Post. After doing a comparison there is now turning back. From now on I only want to watch 4K movies.

    In 1080p only objects in the foreground are in focus but in 4K a lot more of the frame is in focus and detailed. When there's a scene with lots of people in one room, your eyes are encouraged to pan around and take in all the faces and details. Furthermore colours are brighter and more alive and most importantly the picture looks very polished and grain-free.

    As I mentioned in my first post, there are no artefacts in darker scenes and it's difficult to fault the image and imagine how much more UHD discs can improve on 4K streaming on Apple TV.

    Comparing the sound, my previous comments still stand. Apple TV sounds good but punch, clarity and expansive sound stage is missing. When watching dramas or comedies it won't matter, but when watching action movies with world-class soundtracks like Oblivion or Tron, immersion and theatre will be noticeably reduced.


    However I love everything else about the Apple TV and have now unplugged the Chromecast and moved it to the playroom. Youtube and iPlayer is amazing on the Apple TV as it caches the content before you press play. This makes videos play instantly without any loading. Worth mentioning is that I have 54Mbit fibre to home and have an ethernet cable running from the ATV to the AV1300 TPLink power line adapter.
     

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