How Do I Connect My Apple TV 4K for Surround Sound?

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Q I just bought an Apple TV 4K streaming box and was wondering if I can use it with my surround sound system. If so, how do I connect it? —Mario Caballero

A Yes, you can get surround sound from your Apple TV 4K, which supports Dolby’s AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1) and E-AC-3 (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1) audio formats. Since you already own a surround sound system, it would be crazy if you didn’t use the Apple TV for that purpose!

The lone output provided on the Apple TV 4K is HDMI, and there are two ways to make that hookup to your audio system. The first would be to use an HDMI cable to connect the Apple TV to an input on your AV receiver, and then run a second cable from the receiver’s HDMI output to an HDMI input on your TV. Depending on the capabilities of your receiver, this connection scenario could impose limitations on video performance, however, specifically when it comes to the reproduction of high dynamic range formats. That subject was discussed in detail in a previous Ask S&V post .

A second hookup option if your TV has an HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) port would be to link the Apple TV directly to the TV and use the HDMI ARC connection to route audio back to your receiver. While this is a good bet to get the best video performance from your system, it could result in audio performance being limited to basic Dolby Digital 5.1, or possibly even stereo-only output, depending on your TV’s capabilities.

One audio benefit you won’t be getting with your new Apple TV 4K is Dolby Atmos. Apple strangely released its new streaming box without Atmos support —something found on other streamers, including several Roku models — though Atmos pass-through will reportedly be added in a future firmware update. As you’d expect, the Apple TV 4K does have Apple Music integration (with Siri voice control), which is another good reason to connect it to your audio system.

marathonman's picture

Hi. Related to something you mentioned in your answer. Are there Siri repeaters for situations where the AppleTV is not within "hearing distance" (such as in an equipment closet)? If not, I guess the only solution would be to connect the AppleTV directly to the TV and hope the ARC works? Thank you.

marathonman's picture

Or Siri mirroring? Maybe you can link your AppleTV to your phone and speak into your phone?