The Apple TV 4K is amazing.....with one big flaw

Ryand123

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Original poster
Nov 12, 2013
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Audio. I have a Roku Ultra as well and the Roku smokes the ATV in sound. I do have a Yamaha receiver and a pair of Klipsch speakers so any flaws in audio are going to stick out like a sore thumb. Granted, the the ATV audio is exceptionally clear, loud, and bright, but that only reveals flaws in the audio source. Netflix, Hulu, Youtube TV, and to a lesser extent Amazon can sound horribly hissy and sibilant at times. So it's like putting a crystal clear magnifying glass up to Mickey Rourke's face.

The same apps sound much smoother on the Roku. Almost no annoying audio artifacts. Possibly slightly more muted.....but in this case that's a good thing.

I'm not totally sure of the reason but I'm guessing the Roku is using some processing to filter out this stuff. Maybe Apple, in a very Apple like way, figures poor audio is someone else's problem, not theirs? So it's Netflix's job to go to higher bitrate audio, not Apple's job to try to cover up their mess?

Or is DTS the difference? The Roku says it supports Dolby Digital Plus and DTS. The Apple TV only seems to support DD+?

Anyone else notice this? And is there some magical missing setting I'm missing that could improve this? The Apple TV has awesome picture quality.......but oh my ears.
 
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priitv8

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Where do you source your media? Only the streaming services you mention?
If so, then I don't think DTS is relevant at all, as I am not aware of DTS being used in streaming.
IMHO the Apple Music (mastered for iTunes) sounds reasonably good.
On the movie shelf, the DD5.1 sounds the dullest (384kbps bitrate!), the DD+7.1 and Atmos sound also very good.
Not exactly as lossless formats off the disc, but very good indeed.
The improvement over the previous DD5.1 SQ is noticeable.
Really can not comment on your complaint about sibilant sound.
I do not experience this, but it can easily be just because of my different setup/equipment/room.
PS If you are using just a stereo setup (pair of speakers), then aTV will also do its downmix.
I don't know if that can have it's impact.

https://www.justmastering.com/article-masteredforitunes.php
https://developer.dolby.com/blog/dolby-audio-support-on-apple-tv/
 
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waw74

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most streaming is dolby anyway. so DTS is fairly irrelevant for a streaming box.
when streaming from any of the major apps, apple and roku should be the same, since it's just a digital stream that is passing through.

make sure "reduce loud sounds" is off, swipe down when playing somting, there's a setting there.
you could also go into the main settings app, and force dolby, or play around and see if it helps.

if the aTV and roku are on different inputs, it's quite possible they're being treated different by the receiver.
 

BODYBUILDERPAUL

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Coming from a radio, broadcasting and studio background, we were all brought up in a saying 'You can't polish a turd'. Basically, if the audio is poor to start with, the Apple TV will show the flaws. The same for decent HiFi systems - they'll show the flaws. Maybe the Roku masks the hiss etc because it uses far cheaper, non professional components etc.

Also a lot of Hollywood films are pretty crappy on the audio mixing. I've been disappointed with a few that we've watched over Christmas. Being honest as a YouTuber and a travel vlog fan, I find myself more impressed with the bloggers editing and sound production than many of these Hollywood films.
Office Christmas Party sounded rather dull and this evening we've just seen 'Book Club'. 4K Dolby Vision 2018 release. To my ears, the dialogue was very lifeless, dull - these Dolby Digital audio feeds remind me of pre-recorded cassette tapes of the 1980s were Dolby B noise reduction was able to cut the tape hiss but often removed a lot of the clear treble. But then, the music part of the film sounded relatively accurate so me, it looks as though these Hollywood films are mixed for cinema use and just don't work for home use UNLESS it's Dolby Digital's fault and it needs to be a Dolby TrueHD mix. I really don't know. But it's disappointing. But then, some independent films absolutely shine in the audio - Call Me By Your Name, A Bigger Splash, My Art.

Also, WHY are iTunes films so quitet? I need to turn the volume to 80% whereas a YouTube vlog or music video is super loud at 20%

It's my only wish for iTunes in that I'd love them to be the first streaming service that really offers a super clear, beautiful audio experience. Although, as I mentioned, maybe it's Hollywood that's at fault? Or maybe it's me who prefers bang up to date 60 fps digital video with alive sound as opposed to old style grainy 24 fps film. Why should a film look grainy when nothing in real life looks grainy to the human eye???

Is it just possible that the studios will give Apple Dolby TrueHD audio? We have 4K Dolby Vision, now Atmos. Or will we have to wait for the death of the 4K BluRay before we see this?
My experience this Christmas has left me a little disappointed with these Hollywood films from iTunes in the audio department. It's a shame as everything else was truly perfect.
 
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MagnusVonMagnum

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Jun 18, 2007
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Is the audio is dull, I'd check your speakers before blaming your problems on Apple. I have 11.1.6 here with all PSB speakers (save the subwoofer) and about 1000 movies (most on BD) and DD+ versus TrueHD is NOT AN ISSUE here AT ALL. Compression artifacts do not create 'dull'; they create things like swirlies in the highs when the rate is too low. I've heard no such things with DD+/Atmos here. DD is a lower rate, but not quite "swirly" low, IMO. Dolby's compression is quite good compared to DTS with the same number of channels (i.e. 640kbps is about the same as 1.5Mbps DTS). 384 is becoming somewhat marginal, but not unlistenable.

You want a good player? I just got a Zidoo X9S (I think the X10S is actually out now as well) and it can play 3D MVC with TrueHD/Atmos and MasterHD/X (and Auro3D as well) passthrough just fine with an optional KODI-based interface you can download (ZDMC) from the Google Play store. I've also got an NVidia Shield and an AppleTV 4K. They all have their uses. I don't need to play a thing off a disc anymore (they sit on the shelf as I've dumped everything to multiple hard drives that can play/serve all the players around the house).
 
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Michelasso

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Feb 20, 2012
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Anyone else notice this? And is there some magical missing setting I'm missing that could improve this? The Apple TV has awesome picture quality.......but oh my ears.
I have a Yamaha AVR myself (RX-v483), I may not consider myself an audiophile, but I am quite sure I would recognise some "hissings". I play Netflix, Prime Video, music via "Computer" app and videos with HiRes audio (or less) with Infuse Pro. The audio always sounds clear to me. Well, apart from YouTube, but we all know how bad that usually is. Also I don't really notice much difference the rare times I play Netflix on my smart TV (mostly for testing). Unless I am deaf, but usually I am very sensitive to high frequencies.
 

Zigman

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Dec 9, 2012
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I noticed the same thing today. I was playing a few song using AirPlay directly to my Marantz pre/pro and sounded great. Played the same songs directly on the AppleTV and they sounded average at best. At first thought it was the Marantz, but everything else plays great.

Netflix same thing - sounds a lot worse on the AppleTV than watching Netflix on my Oppo 103 or Sony 4K tv (sound going to the Marantz via HDMI).

Recently upgraded my entire audio equipment (high end Marantz and high end amp) and using Belkin HDMI 2.1 cables for the TV and Apple TV so it’s definitely the AppleTV. Beginning to think AppleTV must process the sound and effects it negatively.
 

TheMacApple

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Aug 20, 2015
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I noticed the same thing today. I was playing a few song using AirPlay directly to my Marantz pre/pro and sounded great. Played the same songs directly on the AppleTV and they sounded average at best. At first thought it was the Marantz, but everything else plays great.

Netflix same thing - sounds a lot worse on the AppleTV than watching Netflix on my Oppo 103 or Sony 4K tv (sound going to the Marantz via HDMI).

Recently upgraded my entire audio equipment (high end Marantz and high end amp) and using Belkin HDMI 2.1 cables for the TV and Apple TV so it’s definitely the AppleTV. Beginning to think AppleTV must process the sound and effects it negatively.
^this, noticeable difference routing thru Apple TV.. need to crank the volume about 30% more to simply get to the same sound level on Netflix and showtime that I'm aware of
 

Zigman

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Dec 9, 2012
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^this, noticeable difference routing thru Apple TV.. need to crank the volume about 30% more to simply get to the same sound level on Netflix and showtime that I'm aware of
Yeah it’s pretty disappointing. Was just trying Netflix on my Sony TV and the AppleTV and the TV had clearly audio, particularly with voice.
 

MagnusVonMagnum

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Jeebus...it's just a LEVEL (volume) difference. It has NO effect on sound quality except your perception (quieter always sounds "worse"). Turn the volume up about 5-6dB when using Apple. Problem solved.
 

jtara

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Mar 23, 2009
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Jeebus...it's just a LEVEL (volume) difference. It has NO effect on sound quality except your perception (quieter always sounds "worse"). Turn the volume up about 5-6dB when using Apple. Problem solved.
And any decent AV receiver will allow you to set levels for each source.

That will help if it is the Apple TV in general. Not so helpful if it's only one ATV "internal source", e.g. Netflix vs Hulu vs iTunes. "Would be nice" if Apple would implement a feature allowing you to set a relative level for each app. Though I haven't noticed any disparity in levels between different ATV apps. Just that (as others observed) the ATV plays at a lower level that my other inputs.

So, I on my (now vintage, I guess) Denon AVR-3311, I just boost the level on the ATV input.
 

GrumpyCoder

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Nov 15, 2016
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In addition to what's been said above, make sure you feed exactly the same audio to your processor. No dynamic compression, different format, decoding to PCM vs bitstream, etc. Use exactly the same. And do yourself a favour and calibrate each of your sources to the input on the processor and make a preset for reference or preferred levels.
While there are differences in source, I wouldn't say the AppleTV is bad in any way (with Meridian Audio DSP speakers and Trinnov Altitude 32 / Meridian 861v8, fully digital chain into the speakers).
 

Zigman

macrumors member
Dec 9, 2012
53
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At times it’s more than volume (for music). It may just be synergy with audio components as well. I am running Marantz pre/pro to McIntosh amp to Martin Logan electrostats. The panels tend to be very transparent and revealing. People may not notice it with more forgiving designed speakers.

I have a feeling if the AppleTV would do direct PCM for music and bitstream for movies/tv without internal processing things would sound better. Serious bummer we can’t let the processor decode the audio track. The Netflix app on the TV sends DD+ to the processor.

Also from my experience it’s app dependent on the AppleTV. I watched Black Panther through both the Movies app and Vudu app using AirPods only, the Vudu version had a bit better (clearer) audio.

As mentioned prior, having multiple streaming devices and methods to stream is probably the way to go if you are picky.
 

Ralfi

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Good to know I’m not the only one - Streamed my first movie to a 5.1 setup on the Apple TV 4K the other night (Dunkirk), & I found I needed to set my Yamaha AVR to -5db (could’ve still gone higher, but I’ve set -5 as my max volume to protect the speakers), whereas when watching Blu-Rays, -8db to -10db is where I normally set the volume.

Tried both unchanged audio (with & without Atmos - I don’t have an Atmos setup) & changed audio (DD 5.1). All were low in volume.
 

solarmon

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Mar 12, 2015
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Jeebus...it's just a LEVEL (volume) difference. It has NO effect on sound quality except your perception (quieter always sounds "worse"). Turn the volume up about 5-6dB when using Apple. Problem solved.
I do not detect the problem described either. ATV is 2-3 years old. Same with Samsung TV, into which all sources are routed before the TV via digital optical audio cord connects to a Sonos system. Admittedly, this is by far the most expensive sound system I’ve ever owned, but the sound quality is also the best I’ve ever had.

As mentioned, perhaps volume level is the only problem, but other possibilities might include type of cables used, how many “handshakes” occur between your sources and your speakers, and maybe electro-magnetic interference between devices, including phones or other wireless signal generators, or poorly insulated connectors and cables.

There are many potential variables possible.
 

GrumpyCoder

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Nov 15, 2016
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I have a feeling if the AppleTV would do direct PCM for music and bitstream for movies/tv without internal processing things would sound better. Serious bummer we can’t let the processor decode the audio track.
Not sure what you're saying, I'm not using an AppleTV for music but why would you not send PCM 2 channel for music? Also why are you not decoding in the processor, decoding to multi-channel PCM works for legacy audio formats only, so in case of Atmos, there's no other choice than decode in the processor.
 

priitv8

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...so in case of Atmos, there's no other choice than decode in the processor.
I also thought like this a while ago.
But apparently there is - appleTV does indeed decode DD+ stream internally into PCM multichannel and sends Atmos metadata over in something called Dolby MAT 2.0
By and large, I have hard time believing that the decoding process can be hugely different in aTV or the sound processor. I'd even imagine the algorithm or code library could be provided by Dolby Labs. But I am by no means expert in this matter.
 

GrumpyCoder

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Nov 15, 2016
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But apparently there is - appleTV does indeed decode DD+ stream internally into PCM multichannel and sends Atmos metadata over in something called Dolby MAT 2.0
That's really just used for sound bar application, which isn't proper Atmos in the first place. None of the sound bar stuff or placing speakers anywhere firing upwards is. In any case, you still have to apply further processing in whatever you're connecting the source to, most likely a sound bar. Here's a paper from Dolby on it: https://www.dolby.com/uploadedFiles...er/dolby-atmos-for-sound-bar-applications.pdf

By and large, I have hard time believing that the decoding process can be hugely different in aTV or the sound processor. I'd even imagine the algorithm or code library could be provided by Dolby Labs. But I am by no means expert in this matter.
If done properly, there's no difference. But again, this is usually for 7.1 channels. I'm not aware of any consumer device source that allows to decode to multichannel PCM and outputs more than 8 channels, leave alone digital outputs. For Atmos that means bitstream output and decoding/processing has to be done somewhere else. For legacy audio formats like dts-hd, etc. decoding works fine in the device.
 

priitv8

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That's really just used for sound bar application, which isn't proper Atmos in the first place. None of the sound bar stuff or placing speakers anywhere firing upwards is. In any case, you still have to apply further processing in whatever you're connecting the source to, most likely a sound bar.
True, object recreation and rendering needs still be done in the dolby atmos processor. But it does not need to be intact DD+ or TrueHD bitstream to achieve that. As is the case with tvOS 12. It decodes compressed dolby audio and injects the objects back into the PCM signal.
If done properly, there's no difference. But again, this is usually for 7.1 channels. I'm not aware of any consumer device source that allows to decode to multichannel PCM and outputs more than 8 channels, leave alone digital outputs. For Atmos that means bitstream output and decoding/processing has to be done somewhere else. For legacy audio formats like dts-hd, etc. decoding works fine in the device.
aTV can send PCM 7.1. It also does it when decoding DD+ 7.1 signal.
In case of Atmos, things get more interesting. For one, I seem to see only atmos encodings where LFE is also encoded as bed object. That means .1 channel is not needed for it's original purpose. I might be also mistaken here, as for backward compatibility the .1 LFE needs to be decodable also by legacy DD+ decoder. Hard to say, why is it always also included as a 1-element static bed object.
Secondly, Atmos can also be finely sent in just 5.1 channel layout.
Screenshot 2019-01-15 at 21.32.32.png
As far as I can understand, the objects are actually encoded into the main channels and seem not to be audible when decoded by legacy DD+ decoder. Metadata about objects are carried in EMDF extension of E-AC3 frame, so also ignored by legacy decoders.
If you are interested in the details, ETSI TS 103 420 V1.2.1 (2018-10) is the document to read.
 
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Zigman

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Dec 9, 2012
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Not sure what you're saying, I'm not using an AppleTV for music but why would you not send PCM 2 channel for music? Also why are you not decoding in the processor, decoding to multi-channel PCM works for legacy audio formats only, so in case of Atmos, there's no other choice than decode in the processor.
What I meant is the AppleTV has to decode and/or process the audio before sending it out. There is no pure digital passthrough of source PCM/bitstream audio. The end result is always PCM audio out of the AppleTV.

So if you spend a bunch of money on a high end receiver/processor, you don't get to use the internal processing. From my experience, if you let the receiver/processor decode then it works out better (more cohesive, etc.). Curious to find out how much of a difference it really makes. Hard to do a proper A/B test though.
 

priitv8

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Curious to find out how much of a difference it really makes. Hard to do a proper A/B test though.
Best you could do is to take a MP4 file with DD+Atmos sound track and play it back via aTV and bitstreaming player (I use my bluray, but as I understand many android based sticks do that as well).
 
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