TUTORIAL: Basic concepts and configuration for multichannel audio on Windows and Android

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On the Windows and Android platforms every day more multimedia solutions are requested and therefore more compatibility with audio formats in all their qualities. Today we are going to review all the concepts of multichannel audio and how to configure our system to solve the problems that exist with the proprietary DTS and DD formats.

BASIC CONCEPTS AND REQUIREMENTS

Can I play DTS or DD multichannel sound?

The Android TV-Boxes and mini PCs with Windows may not bring the hardware or licenses necessary to decode or play the most widespread multi-channel audio formats such as DTS or DD, the result is that we will not have audio signal when playing these formats, there are several solutions depending on our audio equipment

If we do not have AV receiver

We must consult the section System configuration of this guide, there is a software solution to listen to DTS and DD in stereo, otherwise we will only have silence.

If we have AV receiver

To listen to the DTS or DD formats in multi channel we will need an AV receiver or a audio decode system like sound bar o smart TV, that supports these information stream to be able to decode them, this concept receives the technical term of Audio Passthrough. In this case the signal will be passed without decompressing directly to the AV equipment and this will be responsible for decoding it to reproduce it in our multi-channel speaker systems. If we do not have an AV receiver, we can only reproduce these signals in stereo.

AUDIO FORMATS

These are the audio formats with which we will normally find ourselves within the most used files today to view multimedia contents.

PCM

  • Uncompressed audio format.
  • We usually find it in LPCM 2.0 stereo format.
  • It is the format that will detect our AV receiver when perform a downsample from DTS and DD
  • In high quality audio is the format for the most demanding users with very good sound equipment.
  • Pulse code modulation (PCM or PCM) is a modulation procedure used to transform an analog signal into a sequence of bits (digital signal)

DTS, DTS-HD MA, DTS-HD HR, Dolby True HD, and DTS: X

Digital sound coding system usually with higher sound quality than Dolby Digital (AC-3) since it compresses less and has less loss of quality.
Problematic format on Android for DTS rights inc. , see below, decoder section.

Dolby Digital, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos

Dolby Digital is the commercial name for a series of audio compression technologies developed by Dolby Laboratories.
AC-3, is the most common version that contains up to a total of 6 sound channels, with 5 channels of full bandwidth.
There are no rights problems in the basic format.

Core

When our device can not decode the aforementioned HD or MA formats, the system does a downsample to the core of the DD and DTS formats, we will have 5.1 multichannel sound but not all the qualities of the original MA or HD format.

AUDIO OUTPUTS PORTS

We have several connection options between our TV-Box or mini PC and the audio equipment or loudspeaker systems, we need to have the correct cables to make the connection with respect to the signal quality that we want to achieve.

  • NOTE: If we do not have an AV receiver or a hardware decoder for DD or DTS audio formats, we will only have silence, see configuration section of this guide to solve it using stereo conversion software.

HDMI

  • It is the most common connection today for video + audio to our TV.
  • Since version 1.1 the multi-channel and DTS output formats are supported, in HD quality from 1.3.
  • Can support 7.1 audio multichannel using Audio Passthrough, requires AV receiver or hardware decoder.

SPDIF

  • It is a hardware protocol for audio output by optical fiber in digital form.
  • Normally a TOSLINK cable will be used to connect our AV receiver, subwoofer or soundbar.
  • Can support only 5.1 audio multichannel using Audio Passthrough, requires AV receiver or hardware decoder.

Audio jack or RCA connector

  • Only supports stereo sound

ANDROID CONFIGURATION

Once we have clear the main concepts of what types of formats exist, what forms of decoding we have available and what outputs we can use next, we explain how to adjust our system to get the most out of it.

Android with AV receiver

To have multichannel audio it is mandatory that our firmware has specific system settings for Audio Pasthrough. We usually find them in Settings> Sound to select the SDPIF or HDMI output. If they do not exist, it is not possible to make the necessary configuration, we require other firmware with those available settings.

KODI Passthrough

In KODI we have to activate the Passthrough output in the Settings> System> Sound in Expert Mode as seen in the following image.

MX Player Passthrough

To have multichannel sound in the MX player you have to activate the HW mode (hardware) in the playback menu, it is an icon that is located on the top right. In SW mode (software) we will only have audio in stereo or silence if we do not have the codecs.

Android without AV receiver

The DD and DTS formats need to be scaled down (downsample) to a 2-channel system in order to bring the sound to a device without DTS or AC3 support (basic TV). With which you need permission to do so.
The companies do not give the permission to the non licensed Media Players by default and for that reason we do not have sound in files that use this type of codecs.

KODI downsample

We can use KODI which software decodes this type of audio channels without configuring anything.

MX Player downsample

  • In “XDA” the ffmpeg codecs have been recompiled to support this function and be able to use them in MX Player.
  • NOTE: If we update this app we also need to update the codec.

To have MX Player configured with multichannel sound we must follow the following steps:

  1. Download and install MX Player from Google Play
  2. From Android we navigate HERE
    – For ARM processors we downloaded the ARM v7 codecs with Neon
    – For Intel processors we download the x86 codecs
    – If we have doubts, download the AIO version that takes them all
  3. Run MX Player
  4. It will automatically detect the codec, accept
  5. Restart the MX Player

WINDOWS CONFIGURATION

Normally in Windows if we do not have an AV receiver the mediaplayer software can do downmix to stereo by default, we will see how to configure the system to have multichannel sound by Passthough with our AV receiver.

KODI Passthrough

In KODI we have to activate the Passthrough output in the Settings> System> Sound in Expert Mode as seen in the following image.

MPC-HC Passthrough

  1. Download and install MPC-HC in the version that best fits with our Windows 32 or 64bit
  2. Download and install the latest LAV filters (Binaries installer)
  3. Execute MPC-HC, within the program we will  View > Options
  4. Go to Internal filters and deactivate the codecs for AC-3 and DTS
  5. Go to the External Filters > Add filter> Lav Audio decoder
  6. Double click on the LAV audio decoder filter and mark all the options that our AV receiver supports to decode.
  7. Accept and restart the program.

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