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Windows Media Center + Netflix with Surround Sound

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I've been trying to find a way to play 5.1 surround sound through my HTPC for over a year now, and I think maybe its possible now through WMC's Netflix plug-in.

I had been talking to a couple people who told me they were sure that they could hear surround sound from Netflix HD films and shows, but on my setup (Nvidia GTX 460 with HDMI audio/video out to an Onkyo receiver) I wasn't able to get 5.1 at all from the rear speakers nor was my receiver lighting up, all I could ever get was stereo. For awhile I thought maybe they had their systems set up incorrectly... like maybe they were pushing audio fill to all speakers, or maybe they were just hearing things or something. I called Netflix' technical support who were pretty much clueless, but assured me that because of Silverlight the ability to output to surround sound was available (which I sort of already knew). I scoured the internet looking for any clue anywhere about how to get 5.1 on Netflix on my HTPC, and eventually gave up, and got a Roku 2 XS.

Recently another person told me that they were certain they were hearing surround sound from the Netflix plug-in for WMC. After a bit of back and forth and confusion on my part it seems like maybe they're right. I had to do something really weird to get it to work for me though. I had to set my Nvidia play-back device in Windows 7 from 5.1 to Stereo. Then in WMC, I had to go to General, and then to WMC Setup and change my audio there to 5.1. Now on content that I know has 5.1 audio I'm finally hearing surround sound.

Here are my issues. Even though my surround sound speakers are active, my receiver isn't lighting up. By lighting up I mean that usually when I play surround audio I get like the Dolby Digital symbol popping up, or I get TrueHD popping up... that sort of thing. Not getting anything at all isn't too unusual, I have a few mkv files that are in surround sound that don't make my receiver light up, but with the Roku I almost always get some sort of DD symbol or something showing up. When I play stereo programming in Netflix, I only hear stereo from my speakers, so I'm fairly confident that I'm not experiencing any sort of speaker fill or anything, and surround sound only seems to pick up surround sound stuff like music, squealing tires, general sound F/X, that sort of stuff. I guess what I'm wondering is, does this seem normal, and is anyone else experiencing the same?

The other issue is that it really sucks to have to set my Windows system to stereo in order to hear surround sound in WMC. I use my htpc for a number of things including gaming, and having to toggle stereo and 5.1 is a pain in the butt.

So the Too Long, Didn't Read point of this post is that, Netflix in WMC appears to support 5.1, but its seems sort of janky, and I'm looking to share notes with others.
post #2 of 7
theres no 5.1 audio on any netflix movies for the pc. ive read the studios dont want it and ive read silverlight cant do it.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33 View Post

theres no 5.1 audio on any netflix movies for the pc. ive read the studios dont want it and ive read silverlight cant do it.

Fair enough. So what am I experiencing with the Netflix plugin in WMC then? I'm clearly hearing audio from the rear surround sound speakers. I tested with a few different movies and shows. Captain America, which I know is 5.1 in Roku starts off with a lot of wind blowing around, and you can hear the wind whipping around in the rear speakers, while main dialogue is happening up front. I next tried the Twilight Zone tv series, and heard nothing from the rear speakers, but I thought maybe that was a bad test because its probably in mono. I then tried Transformers: Dark of the Moon (which I hate, but I digress). This is a film that is ONLY in stereo on Roku, but I'm clearly hearing sound in the surrounds, in fact, the film even starts with the Paramount logo throwing stars towards the camera that then recede, and as it does so the sound transitions from the rear speakers to the front speakers.

I'm probably off base here, but I'm guessing a few things are possible. 1.) Microsoft snuck in surround sound in their WMC Netflix plug-in that isn't currently available in browsers yet. 2.) There's some sort of behind the scenes algorithm that's simulating surround sound from stereo from in-film queues. 3.) Setting up 5.1 in WMC takes Netflix stereo and simply fills the rear channels with the front's stereo (I'm pretty sure that's not what I'm hearing though). 4.) I'm losing my mind.
Edited by adrift - 10/11/12 at 5:38pm
post #4 of 7
Any receivers worth a $1 has the Dolby Pro Logic processing that can process from lesser channel audios to multi-channel audios, especially when those audio are already down-mixed from 5.1 audio.

And you don't have to have Dolby Digital or TrueHD lights lit up to get surround sound. PCs can send multi-channel PCM audio to receivers and they are not Dobly Digital, nor TrueHD or DTS. Whether or not WMC NF plugin supports 5.1 audio is another story. I never use PC to watch Netflix so I don't know. My BD players and Xbox plays Netflix 5.1 audio just fine.

It takes a lot of configuration to make a PC output bitstreamed audio consistentally.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxbat121 View Post

Any receivers worth a $1 has the Dolby Pro Logic processing that can process from lesser channel audios to multi-channel audios, especially when those audio are already down-mixed from 5.1 audio.

Yeah, ok, I was just thinking about that. I'm still very green when it comes to audio tech if you couldn't tell smile.gif. How does this work exactly, and how does it compare to playing something encoded in 5.1?
post #6 of 7
I have a cheap Sony receiver that can accept two channel PCM, 5.1 channel Dolby Digital, 5.1 channel DTS.

The receiver has a number of proprietary sound processing modes, but by and large I leave it on the setting titled AFD Auto. For Sony that turns off all their processing.

Netflix, mp3 audio, and Windows system sounds will cause the receiver to light up PCM. Digital cable will cause it to light up saying either Dolby Digital 2/0 or Dolby Digital 3/2.1 (designating either 5 or 2 channel sound). A movie with DTS sound will cause it to light up DTS 3/2.1

There are a few different sound modes on my receiver that I can use for two channel audio. The best is probably Dolby Prologic II. It uses the width of the sound track to add sound to the rear speakers. It will use a combination of delay, reverb, etc to add sound behind you. Sometimes it works better than others. Audio tracks can be encoded in a way that 5 channels are compressed down into two and spaced so that when Prologic II is applied, it better approximates what sounds should go where.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33 View Post

I have a cheap Sony receiver that can accept two channel PCM, 5.1 channel Dolby Digital, 5.1 channel DTS.
The receiver has a number of proprietary sound processing modes, but by and large I leave it on the setting titled AFD Auto. For Sony that turns off all their processing.
Netflix, mp3 audio, and Windows system sounds will cause the receiver to light up PCM. Digital cable will cause it to light up saying either Dolby Digital 2/0 or Dolby Digital 3/2.1 (designating either 5 or 2 channel sound). A movie with DTS sound will cause it to light up DTS 3/2.1
There are a few different sound modes on my receiver that I can use for two channel audio. The best is probably Dolby Prologic II. It uses the width of the sound track to add sound to the rear speakers. It will use a combination of delay, reverb, etc to add sound behind you. Sometimes it works better than others. Audio tracks can be encoded in a way that 5 channels are compressed down into two and spaced so that when Prologic II is applied, it better approximates what sounds should go where.

Ok, that makes sense, and sounds like it concurs with what Foxbat is saying for the most part. Pretty cool stuff. So I take it that the quality of surround sound in this scenario wouldn't really compare to actually hearing the same movie if it wasn't down-mixed at all, correct?
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