Recently I attempted to upgrade my 2.1 Aego M (discontinued) analog sound system to a 5.1 digital sound system Sonos Beam Gen 2 + Sub + a pair of Era 100s.
It came with a a lot of surprising problems.
This review is still ongoing as of May 2023. As of last update, adding rears fixed the audio issue and I am finally enjoying 5.1 digital audio. Review is being updated
Only the relevant hardware
I was looking for a modular 5.1 setup from my current 2.1.
The Logitech Z906 was a huge contender, however it was released in 2011 and I wanted a more recent one. Plus the cables would be messy.
People were recommending a separate AV receiver and standalone speakers. However, it was too clunky a setup for me.
I finally settled on the Sonos Beam Gen 2 due to these reasons
There's a BIG MAJOR con - the price. It is much much more expensive as compared to the Logitech Z906, about 400% more - that's around $2,100. You have been warned - don't enter the Sonos ecosystem without researching properly.
The best other cheaper alternative is Bose's Smart Soundbar 600 with Surround and either Bass Module 500 or Bass Module 700. As of 30 May, this costs around $1,297.00 with BM500 or $1,597.00 with BM700.
My Sonos configuration consists of
This is my experience of the 3.1 Dolby Atmos experience with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 (connected via eARC => eArc Adapter => nVidia 2080ti HDMI in Windows 10 Desktop PC with Dolby Access Home Theater with Channel Upmixer disabled) + Sub
This is my experience of the 5.1 audio with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 + Sub > (connected via HDMI eARC) > HD Fury 4K Arcana > nVidia 2080ti HDMI
This is my experience of the 2.1 audio with the Sonos Beam Gen 2 (connected via optical/eARC) + Sub
Certain sound effects in multi surround games sound metallic / hollow / muffled when the sound system is set in anything other than Stereo PCM mode
It sounds fine in Stereo PCM 2.0 mode but not in Multichannel PCM / Dolby Atmos / Dolby Digital 5.1 mode. The problem occurs in both Optical and eARC mode.
Guaranteed to happen with certain sound effects in the following games
No support from Sonos due to "Unsupported setup". Sonos support will not provide any assistance on this as the only supported setup is a TV connected to the Beam via HDMI ARC/eARC, with the audio source being from a TV app itself.
This major issue has been fixed by adding rears. I tested with 2x Sonos One SL and 2x ERA 100s. Note that you can't mix different models for surrounds.
Here are the pros and cons
Recommended by Sonos - Source
I have only tried this without a Dolby Digital Live sound card
This is what I am trying now
I went with the OREI box as it was much cheaper than the HD Fury. However, I later found out that it does not support Multi Channel PCM. Hence I am using the HD Fury 4K Arcana now.
Usually I keep the volume at the minimum level.
However after a restart of the eARC adapter or a resume of the "external" monitor, the soundbar volume goes to 20%. This is a minor inconvenience, but it happens.
If you don't play any audio for some time, you may hear silence for a while and then the audio works.
Fortunately, I found a workaround for this - SoundKeeper. It plays a quiet white noise that can be heard if you max out the Beam's volume but it is tolerable.
Note: This is only an issue with OREI eARC Adapter as it only supports 60hz refresh rate when cloned.
You'll need to extend your desktop as the eARC adapter creates a virtual monitor when connected. There's seems to be no way of sending audio without sending a video signal.
You'll also need to extend the eARC adapter desktop by placing it in a corner and hope no windows open there. By placing the second monitor in a corner, your mouse pointer will not move there accidentally to an invisible display.
If you attempt to Clone the display, you cannot use refresh rates higher than 60hz as the OREI product can't support it. UPDATE: With the HDFury Arcana, I was able to get up to 144hz 1080p when cloning the display.
Any screenshots taken with Print Screen key in Extend mode will include the additional monitor display. However, this is one way to confirm whether the secondary display has any rogue windows or pop-ups.
During my experience, I only had the options Stereo and Dolby Atmos to choose from. Dolby Atmos had a major muffle/echo issue in games so I needed PCM.
This issue could not be directly due to my Beam Gen 2 product as this Sonos article on the official site says that the Beam does support Multi Channel PCM over HDMI
Things I have tried to get Multichannel PCM Audio
I will be attempting to return the box.
Now with the HDFury Arcana, I get the following options. However, Quadraphonic does not work.
If you set a screen timeout in your power settings, the eARC adapter will suspend too causing audio to cut off since it is a "monitor".
There is a Reddit hack here I have not tried yet. Simply tape over pin 19 on the HDMI cord coming out of your GPU to the eARC Adapter as that pin is only used for hot plug detections
The 99% best way to get the audio to start working
If audio doesn't come (especially when switching resolutions or sound mode), try playing a video file with Dolby Digital audio. If that works, close the video file and sound should continue working in about 5 seconds.
If it still doesn't come, you'll need to power cycle the eARC adapter box. Simply power off the eARC adapter for least 10 seconds. Rarely I had to power cycle the box up to two times.
Things that don't work
UPDATE: With the HD Fury Arcana, setting the Scaler to 1080p 8b SDR reduces the occurence of this issue.
I was able to test both the HD Fury 4K Arcana and OREI HDA-935. The only difference between the HDA-935 and HDA-931 model is that the 935 allows 3 HDMI inputs, effectively a 3 HDMI switcher built-in.
The Arcana has only one IN and two OUT, one for soundbar, one for TV. In my case, the TV output was unused. The Arcana firmware can be updated and allows a plethora of configuration options, but I did not use any of it. Update: I had to set the Scaler option to allow all devices to power on at the same time. Otherwise I will need to wait till the Beam's LED stops blinking to power on the Arcana as the audio would not work otherwise.
One thing to note is that Multi PCM passthrough is not supported on the OREI products, which is what the Nintendo Switch uses for surround sound.
Support wise, both OREI and HDFury were responsive to my queries.
So my recommendation is to get the OREI product as it is much cheaper UNLESS you are planning to use it with the Switch or a desktop PC directly. But if you can afford it, go for the HDFury Arcana to avoid some of the issues I encountered above.
Last Updated 3 June 2023.
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This document is Copyright(©) 2023 by G.Ganesh.