Setting Up the Apple TV 4K for Lossless Music and Dolby Atmos with the Sonos Arc Surround Sound System: The Hardware


This is the first of four posts in a series. For information about what the other posts cover, jump to section 9: Other Posts in this Series in the Table of Contents above.

For years now our TV setup was been nothing fancy and, frankly, has been a wee bit less than adequate for our TV-watching needs. While not its best, the 4K TV image was okay, but the audio was not so great.1 For over a year now, addressing the picture and sound issues was “on my list.” But goodness, so many settings hidden in every corner of the earth! And what do they actually mean?

Fairly recently, Music began streaming Lossless and Spacial Audio (Dolby Atmos) formats with no additional charge! Cool! I was curious2 … But this still didn’t prompt me to update our TV audio system and figure out the best audio settings for everything. 

But then… I discovered (and posted about) the fantastic Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall app. The app offered a high quality audio stream: Hi-Res Lossless3, but the sound was muddy and compressed on our system until I listened through my wireless earbuds where the sound clarity was dramatically improved. Really?! My sound bar settings had to be a train wreck!

This app discovery was the impetus I needed to decide now was the time to upgrade our TV’s sound capability and dig into the maze of audio and video settings on both the TV and the television itself to get the most out of our listening and viewing experience.

I’m not really an audiophile, but as a classically trained musician, I have a pretty good ear. I’m no tech guru, though I fancy myself a bit of a homegrown geek. Call me stupid, but all of these technical specs4 , audio and video codecs, hardware options and limitations combined with all of the brand-specific marketing hyperbabble make my head hurt. It’s confusing, probably by design. I had to come up to speed with the terminology, the acronyms, and sort this out.

The Goal

The objective is simple: get superb audio (clean, clear, and spacious – audio that allows us to hear subtle musical nuances that are well voiced across instrumental registers as well as responsive, tight, full-bodied bass). We want the audio to be as close as possible to sitting in the concert hall in really good seats. And, why not get the best, most accurate video clarity and color reproduction the TV can produce.  Sony TVs are typically really good at producing detailed images with high dynamic range, clarity and superb color reproduction. Yes: that!

Learning about All of This

So now I’ve read numerous articles and watched quite a few videos in my efforts to sort out the best moderately priced solutions that are relatively easily installed and are available right now. I then had to figure out the numerous settings for our main television setup. So this series of four posts is a compilation of what I think I have learned about this tangled and seemingly incomprehensible mass of complexity.

As with everything, there is a great deal of inaccurate, incomplete, or vague information online. I tried to stick to reliable sources of information. And, for ease of reading, I’ve tried to restrict most of the sources and more detailed technical information to the footnotes. And because URLs frequently die and go to URL heaven, I frequently quote significant amounts from those URLs. So, if you want to get into the weeds a bit, read the footnotes.

Our Existing Hardware


Our primary viewing is done via an TV 4K (purchased in 2017) connected to a Sony XBR-65X900C TV (purchased in 2016). The sound bar we have been using is a Naim MuSo (purchased maybe around 2012). This equipment is all in the den, which is about 32’ x 36’ in size and has 10’ ceilings with some exposed wood beams. The floor has wall to wall carpet; so, with the furniture and the bookcases, the acoustic temperament of the room is rather dampened.

The Naim MuSo

This stereo sound bar sounded really muddy in this room. I later learned this was in large measure because of my old HDMI cables and the sound output settings on the Sony TV and the TV. Once I corrected those, after better understanding where they were, what they were, and what they meant, the sound greatly improved5

But, for our Digital Concert Hall performances, we want a concert hall listening experience without emptying our savings accounts and filling the room with a dozen audiophile speakers that cost $7,500+ each. While I was able to greatly improve the clarity of the audio, this sound bar is always only going to reproduce basic, two dimensional, stereo sound.

The Sony XBR-65X900C TV

The 4K Sony TV has an HDMI ARC6 input, not the better HDMI eARC7 . I learned that the HDMI ARC (or lack of an HDMI eARC TV input) on the Sony XBR-65X900C is important because we want to be certain we get Dolby Atmos sound. However, the TV’s ability to at least pass Dolby Atmos through this ARC input is not mentioned in the customer reference guide. In fact, Dolby Atmos (More on Dolby Atmos later – a lot more) is not mentioned at all – not a good sign. 

I would like to avoid purchasing a new TV if possible as this one produces a great picture and is only 5 years old. And while I suppose that’s considered old by today’s tech standards, we expect more from this investment.

The TV

Our Apple TV 4K  is Apple’s 1st generation 4K device introduced in 2017, model number: A1842.8 It used the hideous gen one remote that I routinely cursed9 until we purchased the gen two remote in 2021. Our current TV has HDMI 2.0a (2160p, Dolby Vision, and HDR10) and not HDMI 2.110 . Apparently HDMI 2.1 is the magic standard required for full Lossless (called Hi-Res Lossless) audio formats. Even the HDMI cables have to be HDMI 2.1.

This Apple TV has gigabit ethernet, 802.11ac simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wi‑Fi with MIMO, bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology, and an IR receiver. It has generally worked very well for us until we moved to an area that only has DSL internet access. 

But these questions still remain in my mind: will this TV produce full Dolby Atmos sound (spacial audio as Apple seems to call it, DTS X as Sony seems to call it), and both lossless audio formats (Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless, the later being truly lossless with zero compression, which requires massive bandwidth).

Combined Befuddlement

So I had questions about the the Sony television’s ability to produce or pass through an eARC signal to provide the needed bandwidth for Dolby Atmos. I also had questions about the Gen 1, 4K TV’s ability to support Dolby Atmos because it only has HDMI 2.0a and not the HDMI 2.1 standard Dolby Atmos appears to require. And then all of our HDMI cables’ HDMI ratings are unknown to me. And the Naim MuSo will never be able to produce Dolby Atmos, which didn’t even exist when it was built. We have four weak links in this system. Well, five if you count my general ignorance about all of this.

So, What Is Dolby Atmos?

I’ve already mentioned Dolby Atmos numerous times. What exactly is it? Dolby Atmos is the latest surround sound technology that seems to have been widely adopted. It goes beyond right and left sound sources. It goes beyond front and back sound sources.

In broad strokes, the Dolby Atmos technology allows music and sound engineers to assign (encode) sounds to and move sounds around specific locations in three dimensional space. When played back on a Dolby Atmos system that can decode that encoded recording, the soundscape you hear seems to be all around you in 360º space. “Sound objects” can move in very realistic, natural ways.11

Here is an interesting video tour of a sound engineering group’s Atmos encoding/mixing studio. The video does a good job of explaining Dolby Atmos and showing it in 3D space.

Dolby Atmos Studio Tour

Putting Together a New System

Choosing a Dolby Atmos Sound System

Sonos Surround Immersive Set

We chose to purchase the Sonos Surround Immersive Set (the Sonos Arc, the Sub woofer [Gen 3], and two Sonos Ones pictured left) as our Dolby Atmos sound system with a new Gen 2 (2021) TV 4K using our existing 4K Sony XBR-65X900C television.  Unlike the Dolby Atmos sound studio shown above, the Sonos system does not cost anything like the  $120,563 sound system in the above video! 

As of this writing it retails for just over $2,000. Aside from any mounting hardware you may want (for example: if you want to mount the Arc to the wall under the television or place the Sonos Ones on stands behind the listener or mount them to the wall) this includes everything you will need.

Why Sonos

Sonos Arc Exploded View 1

The Sonos Arc, as they call it, produces Dolby Atmos sound which provides that immersive 3D sound experience.12

The Sonos Immersive Set is wireless13 . The Arc is a 45” long sound bar that contains 11 drivers (8 woofers, and 3 tweeters) facing in a variety of directions to bounce the sound up and out, to the sides, and forward to create the Dolby Atmos immersive soundscape.

Sonos Arc Exploded View 2

The graphic below sort of illustrates how a Dolby Atmos sound bar typically fills a room with sound. The Sonos Arc also fires sound immediately left and right from the speakers labeled 1 and 11 in the above exploded view. Additionally, in the Sonos Surround Immersive set we ordered, you have two rear speakers behind the listener adding even more depth to the sound field.

How an Atmos Sound Bar Typically Fills a Room

For those who want to dive deeper into this group of products, I encourage you to watch the videos below. They were produced by Smart Home Sounds Ltd. in the UK. Each video is incredibly informative while also being very assessable. [Their website link and their YouTube Channel]

Overview for the Sonos Arc Surround Sound System
Sonos Arc (Hands On) Review & Test: Is it the Soundbar for you?
Sonos Sub Gen 3 Review – Should you spend £699???
Sonos One (Gen 2) Lowdown: All you need to know in under 5 minutes

We have been adding wireless Sonos speakers to our home for over 7 years now and love them. In fact, to date we have 20 Sonos speakers, 2 Sonos Ports, 1 Sonos Amp, and 1 Sonos Boost. 

  • They’re all around the house and out in the shop. 
  • They produce great sound. 
  • They are frequently updated via WiFi. 
  • We haven’t had a single failure. (Even after going through two cross-country moves, including being subjected to the worst moving crew in the history of humankind!)
  • Each wireless speaker only requires electricity.
  • Each room can be easily “tuned” to match the exact acoustic properties of that space to provide the best sound possible in that room.
  • While you can find less expensive speakers, you can certainly find vastly more expensive ones! I think these find the sweet spot between sound quality, durability, product lifespan support, and cost. 
  • I love the fact that the phone, tablet and desktop Sonos apps can send audio from virtually any source (basically in the whole world) to any speaker or combination of speakers around the house.14 

So adding the Sonos Arc Surround System immersive set to the house system was an easy decision but one that required looking carefully at compatibility with our existing hardware (TV Gen 1 and the Sony XBR-65X900C television), their settings, and our internet speed15.

Updating the TV

Our current Gen 1 TV does not output HDMI 2.1, which is the standard for Dolby Atmos. Maybe HDMI 2.0a would work? I can’t find a definitive answer to this question. So we decided to hedge the future a bit and purchased a gen 2 (2021) TV to make certain the device is Dolby Atmos compliant16

Updating the HDMI Cables

Also, as part of our Apple TV update, we updated our HDMI cables to HDMI 2.1. The cables below feel well made, have a good solid connector/connection, and at the time of this writing are basically $7 on Amazon. The cables have already arrived, and this upgrade actually made a really significant difference to the performance of our existing equipment17 – hence, a really big photo!18

Inexpensive Yet Solid QGeeM HDMI 2.1 8K Cables with Lifetime Warranty

Addressing Our Sony TV Dolby Atmos Compatibility Issue

In all likelihood, based on the information I’ve been able to gather19 , our existing Sony XBR-65X900C TV will probably not be Dolby Atmos compliant because it does not have an eARC input, and the television’s documentation makes no mention of Dolby Atmos compatibility. Therefore, I decided to purchase the 4K Arcana 18GBPS HDMI splitter.

Arcana 4K

The 4K Arcana takes the HDMI eARC signal out of the TV 4K Gen 2 on one end of the Arcana and separates that signal into two HDMI signals on the other end: the 4K HDMI video signal (which is sent to the Sony TV HDMI ARC input) and the lossless Dolby Atmos HDMI eARC signal (which is sent directly to the Sonos Arc’s HDMI eARC input).

The 4K Arcana is supposed to guarantee full Dolby Atmos signal compliance. We will see. This solution is certainly less expensive than purchasing a new TV.

Here is a video from Peter Pee’s YouTube channel explaining the Arcana HDFury: Full Lossless Dolby Atmos on your Sonos Arc without eARC!

Full Lossless Dolby Atmos on your Sonos Arc without eARC!

In a June, 2020, video (shown below) Peter makes the case that the TV’s tvOS is the reason an TV will not play Dolby Atmos on an old TV with only an HDMI ARC port.  He states that the television with an ARC input plugged into the Sonos Arc’s eARC input can in fact stream Dolby Atmos to the Sonos Arc without the use of the TV20

He says that the tvOS on the TV queries the TV to see if it has an eARC port. If it reports that it does not, the TV then shuts off the Dolby Atmos sound stream and downsamples the audio output to a 5.1 surround signal. Very interesting, if true.

Atmos Test with Surround and Sub!

Who knows. But if this is the case, then the 4K Arcana is required in our use case scenario.

Peter also has this video, How to get Apple Music Dolby Atmos Soundtracks on your Sonos Arc. 

How to get Apple Music Dolby Atmos Soundtracks on your Sonos Arc

Summary of our Proposed Solution

So we have ordered the Sonos Arc, Sonos Sub, and two Sonos Ones as our Dolby Atmos surround speaker system. We ordered the gen 2 (2021) 4K TV to guarantee an eARC output. And we ordered the Arcana 4K to bypass any television input issues with getting the high bandwidth eARC signal to the Sonos Arc. Finally, we updated all of our HDMI cables to HDMI 2.121 .

As soon as all of this arrives, I’ll try different setups to see if this all plays well together. However, the HDMI 2.1 cables have already arrived, and I plugged them in to our current setup, and oh my! The settings offered in the Audio and Video settings of the Gen 1 4K TV changed! It was time to start playing with settings, and what a difference that made! Without even adjusting any settings, the picture quality as well as the audio quality vastly improved!

I then set about tweaking all of the settings in every possible app and operating system (OS) that would have any impact on the picture and audio quality.

Post One: Setting Up the Apple TV 4K for Lossless Music and Dolby Atmos with the Sonos Arc Surround Sound System: The Hardware

This post

Post Two: Setting Up the Apple TV 4K for Lossless Music and Dolby Atmos with the Sonos Arc Surround Sound System: The Settings

This post covers every single setting, and there are many, many settings! The table of contents is below. Each link will take you to that section in part two of this series.

Post Three: Setting Up the Apple TV 4K for Lossless Music and Dolby Atmos with the Sonos Arc Surround Sound System: Installing the New Hardware

Post Four: Setting Up the Apple TV 4K for Lossless Music and Dolby Atmos with the Sonos Arc Surround Sound System: Settings After the New Installation

A reminder: I never have nor ever will accept any requests or payments of any kind for my endorsements or negative comments. I buy the products I write about just like everyone else, and I report my own personal experiences with them. All opinions are my own. Your opinions and experiences may vary.


  1. We had to always have subtitles on to understand all of the spoken dialogue. 

  2. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, as in: would I really hear a difference, but the press releases made it sound like a really good thing. 

  3. Here is an article about their audio format as of June 2021: The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall goes hi-res (kinda)

  4. Even the HDMI cables have technical specifications? Deliver me!! 

  5. I will provide an entire section on all of the device settings at THIS LINK: COMING SOON. 

  6. Audio Return Channel 

  7. Enhanced Audio Return Channel, which I learned has higher bandwidth (18Gbps vs 48Gbps). Can the HDMI ARC input be used fairly successfully right now for Dolby Atmos audio? This link is a helpful resource from Sony explaining the difference between ARD and eARC. It includes a video as well. 

  8. For detailed information about all of the TV models Apple has released, check out this link at Apple

  9. literally, and almost every time I picked it up! I hated that POS! 

  10. HDMI 2.1 provides full bandwidth support for Lossless Audio formats including Dolby Atmos. 

  11. This is the link to Dolby’s official website on Dolby Atmos. It gives a more detailed and comprehensive audio visual explanation of their technology with music and video examples. This link is Sony’s explanation of audio formats and the difference between HDMI and optical connections, It includes print information and videos. 

  12. Specifically, the Dolby Atmos Audio Format is capable of reproducing ten bed channels and 128 objects through up to 64 individual speakers in order to pan sound around and through a room to create a 360º soundscape.  Source: Sony: What is DTS X or Dolby Atmos Format

  13. Except the Arc itself needs to be plugged in to an HDMI audio source via HDMI ARC or HDMI eARC as well as being plugged into electricity. The other Sonos speakers connect wirelessly and only need electricity. 

  14. You can send different sound sources to different locations around the house at the same time. Their product line is widely acclaimed as the best wireless solution on the market today. And the Sonos Arc has been very well received since its latest iteration which supports Dolby Atmos. If you’re unfamiliar with Sonos, they deserve a look/listen! 

  15. We greatly suffer here with DSL until fiber arrives. 4k video requires a minimum download speed of 15Mbps internet speed. We barely can cough up 16Mbps on a good day! 

  16. I found this resource helpful when comparing our 2017 Apple TV with the newest 2021 Apple TV:

    Gen 1 (2017)Gen 2 (2021)
    MSRP$179 for 32GB$179 for 32GB
    HDR 10YesYes
    Dolby VisionYesYes
    Dolby AtmosYes [Really? HDMI 2.0a]Yes [HDMI 2.1]
    WiFi NetworkingWiFi 5WiFi 6
    60fps high framerate videoNoYes
    HDMI standard2.0a2.1
    Thread supportNoYes
    Siri RemoteGen 1Gen 2

    And this link at Apple’s online support (already mentioned) gives more detailed specs for all of their Apple TV products individually. Unfortunately they don’t provide side by side comparisons. 

  17. I mention this in more detail in the second post in this series that focuses on settings. Replacing the HDMI cables caused the settings offered by the Apple TV to change. 

  18. I know some people have really strong opinions about cabling: only solid gold, maybe even diamond-studded – whatever. My opinion, for what it’s worth: the HDMI standard will change before these lifetime guaranteed cables wear out. And I have only seen massive improvement in my existing hardware performance. I really doubt I would see or hear a difference if I spent a bajillion dollars on cables. Maybe some people do. It’s personal preference. 

  19. and not gather 

  20. Of course, we need to use the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall app on our TV. So, if this is accurate, it still does not solve our problem. 

  21. We ordered the 8K, 6FT, QGeeM, 48Gbps, Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 cables, which only cost $6.99 each. I’m pleased with how solid they feel and how snug their connection feels. I recommend these inexpensive cables. They have a lifetime guarantee, but I suspect the HDMI standard will change before they ever wear out.