The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X might delivery better graphics and faster load times, but did you ever stop to think about how your next-gen gaming experience sounds? Both consoles support 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound from speakers or sound bars, as well as virtual surround sound through headphones. And turning these features on—if you have the right setup at home—is a snap.
Getting surround sound working on the Xbox Series X
- From your Xbox’s home screen, go to Settings > General > Volume & Audio Output.
- Go to “Speaker Audio” for speaker or soundbars, or select “Headset audio” if you’re using headphones or a gaming headset.
- For speaker audio: select “5.1 or 7.1 uncompressed” if your Xbox is plugged directly into your speakers’ A/V receiver or soundbar. (If your Xbox is plugged directly into your TV, which then passes the audio through to your receiver or soundbar, you might need to use DTS Digital Surround or Dolby Digital via the “Bitstream Out” option instead.)
- For Headset audio: Select “Windows Sonic for Headphones.”
- For using Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone:X: Select the audio option, then download the Dolby Atmos app from the Microsoft store and follow the in-app setup instructions. Note: Dolby Atmos is free for speaker or soundbar setups, but requires a $15 licensing fee for use with headphones. Similarly, using DTS Headphone:X comes with a $20 fee.
- Optional: set your preferred streaming bitrate for Blu-ray movies in Settings > Devices & Connections > Blu-ray. The default option will work just fine for any setup, while picking one of the “uncompressed” options boosts quality but requires much higher bandwidth.
Once those steps are complete, supported games, apps, and movies on your Xbox Series X should make use of your fancy surround sound setup—or your new virtual environment.
Enable surround sound on the PlayStation 5
Speakers or sound bars
- Press the “PlayStation” button on your controller.
- Go to Settings > Sound > Audio Output > HDMI Device Type
- Set the device to “AV Amplifier” (don’t select “Sound Bar,” even if you’re using a 5.1 or 7.1-enabled soundbar).
- Scroll down and select the number of speakers you have.
- Select “Adjust Speaker Positions” and customize the layout to match the speaker locations in your room.
- Lastly, set the Audio Format (Priority) option that matches your setup. Choose “Linear PCM” if you’re using HDMI to connect your PS5 directly to your receiver or soundbar. If you’ve plugged your PS5 directly into your TV, which is then passing the signal through to your receiver or soundbar, you might need to use “Dolby” or “DTS.”
Some headsets have builtin surround sound capabilities, but Sony’s 3D audio on PS5 can create convincing surround sound staging on any pair of headphones plugged into your controller’s 3.5mm jack or connected to your PS5 via USB or Bluetooth (Sony says it plans to bring 3D audio to TV speakers in a future update).
- Plug your headphones into the controller or connect to PS5 with Bluetooth (this won’t work if your headphones are connected to your TV or an external audio device).
- Press the PlayStation button to open the menu.
- Go to Settings > Sound > Audio Output.
- Turn on “Enable 3D Audio.”
- Select “Adjust 3D Audio Profile” then and follow the prompts to fine-tune the 3D Audio performance for your headphones.
Turn on Blu-ray disc surround sound
If you’re watching a Blu-ray movie on your PS5 but aren’t enjoying proper 5.1 or 7.1 playback, try adjusting your Blu-ray audio format settings. (Note: the PS5 currently does not support Dolby Atmos, but Blu-rays that use Dolby Atmos can still output to your 5.1 or 7.1 setup using these steps).
- While watching a movie, press the “Options” button on your controller.
- Select the three-dot menu icon in the pop-up window.
- Go to Settings > Audio Format.
- Set the format to “Bitstream.”
- Close the options menu, and your media should now play properly.