When it comes to the Xbox Series X, everybody is talking about the graphics, teraflops, and ray tracing. Microsoft has been at the forefront of the graphics arms race since it decided to get into the console business all the way back in December 2013 with the original Xbox. This time, Microsoft’s new Xbox has a killer feature that has nothing to do with graphics.
Microsoft Xbox Series X / S has a custom sound chip, developed exclusively for Microsoft.
This new chip will allow for 3D sound. It will support ‘Windows Sonic’, ‘DTS Headphone:X’ and ‘Dolby Atmos’, the only console on the market that can boost this feature.
So I found myself asking, will my current sound system work with the Xbox Series X or should I upgrade?
Will my sound system work with the Xbox Series X and S? If your current setup just uses an HDMI cable plugged into your television/sound system then you will be good to go. You just need to change your HDMI cable to use the new HDMI 2.1 cable that came with your Xbox. The Xbox Series X no longer has an optical port, so you may have to retool your set up.
Unfortunately, most gamers have never experienced surround sound, never mind 3D sound. It is common for over half of the population to just use the speakers that come attached to their television.
I have recently found myself trying to understand audio terms and what they mean for my gaming experience. Terms like Dolby Atmos and eARC. I mean, I upgraded my revelation to 4k just for this new generation and I was thinking it is about time I do the same with my sound system.
Read on to find out, what to do if you use an optical cable that the Xbox Series X no longer supports. Find out how to make the most of the custom sound chip in the Xbox Series X. Do you need Dolby Atmos and what is ‘eARC’ anyway and why should you care.
How does the Xbox Series X work with my sound set up?
According to statista.com, only 41% of people in North America had any type of home theater system in 2016. How many of them that are set up correctly is anybody’s guess. I have been around friend houses where speakers aren’t plugged in correctly or the speakers are all just bunched up underneath the tv: An audio apocalypse if I’ve ever heard one!
Sound is a critical component in gaming but it is hard to sell in a quick commercial. We are at the point where the return on graphics is starting to diminish. Both Microsoft and Sony are investing in using more of our senses in this generation. We have five main senses and it’s about time we put some of them to work. It seems the Xbox series X is focusing quite heavily on the ears.
Think about how crucial sound is to most game genres.
Imagine locating your victim by the crunch of soles on fresh snow as you stalk your target over a tundra in a stealth game. Or being able to pinpoint a perfect headshot just by sound alone. This is what this generation is going to bring to our already bountifully filled gaming table.
For you to get this type of experience you need to make sure you set up your sound system correctly and use compatible hardware.
As long as the optical cable isn’t your sole method of hooking up your sound system to your console you should be fine.
Xbox Series X doesn’t have an optical port
The Xbox Series X does not have an optical (SPDIF) audio out port. This was a cost-saving measure. With Xbox’s, Phil Spencer telling IGN:
“So if you look at a part on a console that’s maybe one, or two dollars, … you take two bucks over 100 million [consoles] now you’re $200 million over the life of the program.”
Microsoft collects data on how all their consoles are used. Microsoft knows exactly how many people have their sound set to output through the optical port. So it seems that number is quite low.
So you can’t just plug an optical cable from the Xbox straight into your sound system. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use one…
Most modern TVs have an optical out port. So just pop around the back and have a quick check. If the answer is yes, just connect your Xbox Series X to your television with HDMI 2.1 cable that came in the box. Then connect your optical cable from your TV to your sound system. Then head over to your TV’s sound settings to make sure you are outputting sound to the optical out port. If you’re not sure how to do this, consult your TV’s manual.
Also, there’s more information on how to get to the Xbox Series S’s sound setting at the bottom of the article.
I have looked into HDMI splitters but could not find one that supports HDMI 2.1. So be careful if you are searching for one. If it doesn’t support HDMI 2.1 then you are going to lose some of the great features like Amos support.
What is the big fuss about the Xbox Series X supporting Dolby Atmos?
Microsoft has teamed up with Dolby to give you the great sound of ‘Dolby Atmos’ right in your living room. The Xbox Series X|S both give you full support. If you have experienced Dolby Atmos then you can skip this selection because you know that it is a game-changer. The visual equivalent is like going 480p to 4K, you can not only hear more sounds you can even locate them in 3D space.
Microsoft and game developers have been making a fuss about gamers experiencing Dolby Atmos. But why?
Hearing clear audio detail you never picked up on before adds realism and precision into your games, movies, and TV shows by making sound flow all around you, even overhead, behind, and underneath you!
Dolby Atmos has even been added recently to Cyberpunk 2077. Imagine immersing yourself in a Night City with three-dimensional audio that brings pinpoint precision so it feels like the city is enveloping you in its cyberpunk grime. Unless you are using Dolby Atmos in some games you are not getting the full experience.
Do Any Games Support It?
Dolby Atmos is not just a ‘codec’ or a new compression algorithm for sound. It is not something that can be just added at the last minute. Games have to be designed and produced to support them. It is a conscious decision by developers, not just an afterthought.
Many of the biggest games are using 3D sound, it is quickly becoming a standard feature in most game engines. Below is the latest list of games to support Dolby Atmos, as well as movies and TV.
Almost every one of Microsoft’s first-party lineup will use Dolby Amos.
• Cyberpunk 2077 • Call of Duty: Warzone • Ori and the Will of the Wisps • Gears 5 • Borderlands 3 • Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 • Resident Evil 2 • Metro Exodus • Forza Horizon 4 •
MOVIES AND TV
• Netflix • Disney+ • Microsoft Movies & TV • Amazon Prime Video • iQiyi • VUDU • Maxdome
If you need help customizing your settings, there is the Dolby Access app on the Series X which allows you to personalize your audio with custom profiles, as well as giving you access to game trailers and other content to experience this incredible technology.
Does my sound system support Dolby Atmos?
Let’s make no mistake Dolby Atmos sound systems are expensive!
Part of the reason for the cost of Dolby Atmos is because they contain their own computers to handle the extra processing power that 3D sound requires.
How can I improve the sound quality on my Xbox Series X|S?
So you might not be ready to splash out for Dolby Atmos. But that doesn’t mean your sound options are limited. The Xbox Series X supports a wide variety of audio devices.
Different sound setups can be used for different types of experiences.
Can I get 3D sound with my Headphones?
Even if you don’t have a good sound system you can still experience game-changing 3D sound by just using a pair of headphones.
All headphones will support, Windows Sonic, DTS Headphone:X, and Dolby Amos*. You just need to go into the setting to choose your preference.
*Dolby Atmos will require you to see an official Dobly Amos Supported product or purchase a license from the Microsoft store.
To Access the settings press the Xbox button on your controller. This will open up the guide. Navigate through the following path:
Profile & System > Setting > General> Volume & audio output.
When you get to the ‘Volume & audio output’ menu, under ‘Headset audio’ select the type of audio you want for your headphones from the drop-down menu.
Because if you don’t change the setting it will use ‘Stereo uncompressed’ as the default setting.
If you don’t have Dolby Atmos certified headphones, you will need to buy a license from the Microsoft store. The Licence will work on your Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC.
And remember you can only get 3D sound from content that has been designed for it. Look out for the Windows Sonic, DTS Headphone:X, and Dolby Atmos logos.
Using headphones is the easiest way to experience 3D sound. It can transform single player games into a rich soundscape. It could be the difference between life and death in a multiplayer game. Giving you the edge by allowing you to hear your enemies offscreen with deadly accuracy.
Just plug your headset in with its audio jack or USB connection straight into your controller. Or if you are using the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Premium you can connect wirelessly for 20 hours. Turtle Beach headphones are fan favorites and are among a select few headphones that are marketed to work with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
To be honest any headset that was an excellent choice for the Xbox One will still be your best bet until more headsets are released to take advantage of the Xbox Series X.
Take a listen to get a taste of 3D sound, put on a pair of headphones and let the sounds immerse you into a new space.
What is eARC then?
As great as ‘Audio Return Channel’ (ARC) is, many TVs don’t do a great job passing through audio signals that haven’t been compressed, making the audio sound less clear and crisp.
So instead of using Dolby TrueHD for a full audio experience, your TV will instead use Dolby Digital Plus to squish the sound down. Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos use too much bandwidth.
With eARC, the original, full crisp audio signal can be sent via the HDMI cable, producing the very best sound with no compromises for your games.
The “e” in eARC stands for “enhanced” Audio Return Channel and is a new standard feature of HDMI 2.1.
This new feature requires eARC support from your TV and sound system. Older HDMI versions do not support eARC, only basic ARC. Microsoft has already made the Xbox Series X compatible so no need to worry there.
You will need an HDMI cable with support for Ethernet, like the newer ultra high-speed HDMI cables, which do include Ethernet support. Thankfully Microsoft includes this HDMI 2.1 cable in the box with your Series X!
Make sure that you plug the cable into the HDMI port that says eARC on it and you are good to go.
If you’re just plugging your Xbox into your TV, you won’t need to change any audio settings, because both sound and video go to your TV over the same HDMI cable.
Make sure your Xbox is using the right sound settings. There no point in investing in a great sound system if you are not using it.
However, if you have a soundbar, you may want to change your audio settings.
To adjust your settings
- Press the Xbox button on your controller to open the guide.
- Select Profile & system > Settings > General > Volume & audio output.
Under Speaker audio, you can adjust the following settings:
HDMI audio – Unless your HDMI cable is plugged into a soundbar that can process 5.1 or 7.1, keep this set to Stereo.
Optical audio – If you don’t have an optical (S/PDIF) cable plugged into an audio receiver, don’t worry about this setting.
Note, Optical audio out is not supported by Xbox Series X consoles. So connect your Series X to your TV using the HDMI cable, and then connect your TV to your stereo receiver or soundbar using the TV’s optical (S/PDIF) out port.
Once you’ve set HDMI audio or Optical audio to bitstream out, you can select one of the formats. Any of the formats labeled “HDMI only” will turn off optical audio.
Changing your Xbox Series One over to the new Xbox Series X, should be a simple process.
There is no optical out port on the Xbox Series X or S, you should be able to still use the sound system but you will just have to change around some of the wires.
If your TV has an optical out port you can just plug the HDMI 2.1 cable straight into your TV and connect your sound system to your TV with an optical cable.
If you are a headphone user make sure you change the setting to get the best sound. You will need to buy a Dolby Amos Licence to experience Amos sound on your Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PC.
Where can I buy a Dolby Atmos Licence for my Xbox Series X? You can buy a Dolby Amos Licence at the Microsoft store. The license will work on both Xbox Series X|S and Windows 10 PCs.
Does the Xbox Series X support the Kinect? No, the Kinect port has been removed from the both the Xbox Series X and the S model.
Does The Xbox Series X support Turtle Beach wireless headphones? Yes, when the Xbox was released it has some issues with Connectivity. Which have since been fixed with an update to the Xbox Series X|S operating system.