YouTube TV 5.1 Surround Sound Limited to On-Demand Videos

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YouTube TV recently started rolling out 5.1 Dolby surround sound support to provide subscribers with a richer listening experience and to match the improved visual experience through the addition of 4K support. However, it now looks like the 5.1 surround sound only actually applies to on-demand content and it remains unclear if that will change anytime soon.

YouTube TV has placed a major focus on features over the years, resulting in a service that’s slowly evolved into a rich live TV streaming solution. The most recent example of this was the addition of the 4K Plus tier. Not only does the new tier add support for 4K playback, but it also adds the option to download videos so that they can be watched without an internet connection. Even though they are blocked on other devices while downloaded. Not to mention, 4K Plus also upped the number of devices that can stream at the same time, so long as the additional simultaneous streams are accessed at home.

When announcing the new 4K Plus add-on, YouTube TV also confirmed that 5.1 Dolby audio capabilities were beginning to become available to subscribers. Furthermore, and unlike the separate add-on, the 5.1 surround sound was coming to all members, regardless of whether they pay the extra $20 to upgrade to 4K Plus. However, it is not coming to all content, as 5.1 Dolby surround sound is only available when watching an on-demand video.

When first announcing the 5.1 surround sound rollout, YouTube mentioned movies, but didn’t go into any further details on the exact level of support. Based on this latest update, however, YouTube TV subscribers should only expect to have access to 5.1 surround sound during video on-demand content, something some users on Reddit and elsewhere have already started noticing. Even then, access to surround sound is likely to be further limited based on the device in use. YouTube had previously stated the support would begin by rolling out to “select devices” without detailing which.

Unclear if or when surround sound support will expand

Although it now seems clear that 5.1 surround sound is limited to just on-demand videos, that could change in the future. YouTube TV does not appear to be ruling out the idea of live TV or cloud DVR content becoming watchable with 5.1 surround sound, but it also does not seem to have any clear information on whether the expansion of support is currently in the pipeline.

In the meantime, this may put some subscribers in a slight predicament. For example if they’ve already recorded a show episode, movie or live event, they may be forced into watching the on-demand version instead – if they want to maximize the listening experience as well. The same is true with live TV in general. Although some programs can be watched immediately after going live via on-demand, others can’t, meaning those subscribers would have to wait until the live broadcast ended before they could start watching YouTube TV’s video on-demand version with surround sound.

Source: TeamYouTube (Twitter)

John Finn
John Finn

By John Finn

John Finn is the Founder and Editor of Streaming Better, a platform created in 2019 to help consumers navigate the complicated live TV streaming and subscription service market.

John has been covering technology for various online publications since 2014. After originally covering the wider tech industry as a writer and editor, John now spends his time focusing on the emerging video-streaming market, including live TV streaming, SVOD, AVOD, FAST, and TVOD services.

In a bid to keep up to date on the industry, John actively subscribes to multiple streaming services at the same time. However, John continues to advocate that the best approach for consumers is to rotate between streaming services as needed.

A Psychology graduate from England, who now lives in the US, John previously worked in the aviation industry as an airline reviewer. While reviewing airlines isn't quite the same as reviewing devices and streaming services, John brings the same analytical eye to all of his reviews and industry analysis, along with a special emphasis on what's best for the consumer.

Connect with John
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3 replies on “YouTube TV 5.1 Surround Sound Limited to On-Demand Videos”

I hate cable and satellite tv. YouTube tv I like alot but miss the dvr surround that I used to get with cable. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

YouTube TV informs me that Dolby Digital 5.1 *will* be available on live channels (most, apparently, but not all), but still can’t say *when*. They said it would roll out “in the coming weeks” but that was over a month ago; I think “in the coming *months*” would have been (and is) more accurate.

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