Question Smart TV and 7.1 Surround. Can’t eat my cake and have it too

Nov 1, 2022
A long post, but a saga for a new TV buyer used to full 7.1 surround sound.

After many years, I finally took the plunge and replaced my plasma Pioneer 65” (dumb) TV and its accompanying Marantz receiver with a “smart” LG OLED 77” C2 and an Onkyo TX-NR696 receiver. I was looking forward to enjoying the brilliant picture with the improved 7.1 surround sound.

After days of back and forth with LG and on chat forums, I am disheartened by the inability to enjoy both the built-in LG tvOS and its channels and services (Alexa) and my external peripherals (4k Apple TV, Cable, and anything else plugged into the 7 HDMI ports on the Onkyo) out of my 7.1 surround sound system.

The setup is right: High-Capacity HDMI; SIMPLINK is turned on; HDMI CEC is ON. The cable goes from HDMI 1 to the main HDMI ARC port on the receiver. 4K Apple TV is plugged into one of the receiver inputs. TV audio output is set to external speakers.

With this config, I get beautiful full 7.1 surround sound with choices of Dolby Atmos and DTS HD Master Audio, etc.

What I don’t get is any audio from the LG when set to tvOS. I can manually switch to internal speakers, (a multiple-click experience), and listen to sound out of the comparatively tinny speakers on the set. Not exactly a fast thing to do if you just want to ask Alexa a question.

LG’s answer? Scrap the HDMI ARC and use an optical cable. The sacrifice? No 7.1 surround sound. In short, compromise and be satisfied with 5.1. Or add a soundbar. Even worse compromise.

(Before someone suggests plugging the HDMI cable into the HDMI ARC on the TV to the sound system, that will give full output from the TV, but will not recognize any peripherals. Another “fix”: forget your peripherals and just use internal Apple TV… but give up on Paramount, NBC, AMC+, SyFy, FoxNow, Peacock, ESPN+ and any other that “have not yet released a native application that will work on our Smart TV” according to LG.)

Fortunately, the only thing on the LG tvOS that’s worth anything was Alexa. I have other sources that satisfy the smart home need. But what irks me is why would TV manufacturers not design a sound config output to be fully compatible with the best 7.1 surround system?

So, I have a smart TV whose costs were likely elevated by all its “built-in” capabilities that’s now just as dumb as my 2006 Pioneer. I had thought of returning the LG and trying to find an OLED 77” or greater monitor only, but no such beast seems to exist.

Maybe there’s a real smartie out there that knows a workaround. I’m all ears.
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