I’ll preface this with the last time I felt like I was knowledgeable about anything TV and audio was 2004 when I got my big honkin’ 110 pound Panasonic flat screen TV and a JVC TH-C6 DBS surround sound setup.  I’d been using PlayOn to play my movies and an Xbox One and everything worked great.

Then I got the new TV, a TCL 55UP120, and the amazing picture was combined with a slap in the face trying to get the audio working properly. I’m going to mention here that I’m pretty sure the problems I encountered were mostly operator error and written here for your benefit in case it happens to you.

I got the thing set up, plugged in the SPDIF from the TV to my surround sound, and listened as nothing but simple stereo came out. OK, that was a letdown. XBOX One and all the apps on the smart TV were also in simple stereo.

Plugged the optical cable into the XBOX One, worked fine. Scratches head. Realized that the TV’s “auto” was not auto detecting the audio system. Set it to Dolby DTS, DBS+, bam – OTA TV now works. But the XBOX and streaming are still in simple stereo.

I started watching a new series on Amazon and realized that it had no sound. I had to go back and switch things back to stereo as opposed to what I had it at. Switch it back to get it working on the satellite dish, rinse, repeat.

These problems, combined with a badly translated response from TCL’s support, had me pretty depressed about the possibility of the TV simply not being able to handle what I considered a fairly simple audio task (seriously, they’ve had over 10 years to perfect it).

Mucking around with the settings some more in the audio section I selected what I then considered to be the wrong setting and played with it some. Sure enough the TV series I was watching on Amazon (and one on Netflix,) suddenly started working with my 5.1 setup. The XBOX and my Playon still were at stereo.

I decided to try Plex since the TV had an app and the Directstream that Plex can do sounded like a dream to my ancient computer’s underpowered processors. Suddenly I had significantly better video (as the TV was decoding it rather than the computer transcoding it,) but still was in stereo as opposed to surround. Sad trombone.

I went into the XBOX and checked the settings again. I’d been getting an error every time I tried to change the audio from simple stereo to anything else. Suddenly I was able to choose bitstream over HDMI. Rrrr? Sure enough it worked. At least I could play my videos through the XBOX now, which was OK but my couple of 4K movies were not going to be terribly impressive (I’m not even sure the One can decode UHD Blu Ray).

Sidenote: I have in the high twos 4K movies with 5.1+ sound. High twos. Try not the be jealous.

Plex however remained steadfastly stereo. Once again Paul had a sad as watching a perfect picture but muffled sound was not what I’d wanted. I’d also not wanted to have to actually walk either of my two 4K Blu Rays from shelf to the XBOX where it wouldn’t play them in 4K.

It was then I discovered that the Plex Media server on my computer by default was squishing the audio. A few changed to that and voila, suddenly Plex was broadcasting in 5.1.

The issues were in order: Auto detect doesn’t auto detect my old system, I didn’t have the + Dolby system just the -, Plex media server had to be configured slightly differently.

I think I left out that at one point I discovered I’d encoded the audio incorrectly on one of the movies.

So yeah, that happened.