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Apple TV 4 outputs audio and video through its HDMI port. This article covers how to fix distorted audio with Apple TV 4.
Apple TV 4 is the first major overhaul of Apple’s TV platform. Previous versions of Apple TV offered an optical audio output. Connecting audio equipment to the optical audio port fixed most problems with distorted audio. Unfortunately, this can’t be done with Apple TV. HDMI is the only option for connecting Apple TV 4 to audio systems using a cable.
A common Apple TV 4 setup routes audio through a television and into a stereo. In this configuration, Apple TV 4 is connected to a TV using an HDMI cable. A stereo amplifier is connected to the television using an RCA or optical audio cable. This setup provides decent sound for music and movies, but I find that Apple TV sound effects are distorted. Also, games that generate sound using tvOS, such as Nightgate, also sound distorted. It seems that tvOS sound effects are the culprit. Their levels are too high and cause distortion with line-level audio systems.
A few users are reporting that all Apple TV 4 audio sounds distorted. Movies, TV shows and music are all affected by distorted audio. This problem is more severe and harder to solve. We’ll take a look at how to fix this later in the article.
Apple TV 4 Sound Effects Are Distorted
My Apple TV 4 suffers from distorted sound effects only when audio is routed through my stereo. I have a standard setup. My TV is connected to Apple TV 4 with HDMI. The stereo connects to my television with a line level stereo pair RCA connection. This setup works fine with my television, Blu-Ray player and every other device. It worked with my previous Apple TV 2, without any distortion.
When I navigate the Home screen, sound effects are distorted. Sound effects in some video games are also distorted. All other audio sounds fine. The problem isn’t severe, but it is annoying. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect solution to this problem. At best, it can be ameliorated.
It’s important to note that when a stereo is connected to a TV with a line out connection (RCA stereo pair) or optical audio connector, the audio level is fixed. Most TVs can’t adjust this level, by design. Line level is supposed to be fixed, precisely so audio won’t be distorted. The vast majority of TVs are designed like this. This is not a problem with your TV or stereo. It’s a problem with Apple TV 4. Even my Apple TV 2 did not have this problem. It was set up the same way. I simply swapped out the old one with the new one. Try any other HDMI device (Blu-Ray player, DVD player) and you probably won’t hear any distortion. That’s because the problem is with Apple TV 4’s generated sound effects. Even movies and TV shows on Apple TV 4 won’t sound distorted. This problem only affects tvOS sound effects and apps that use sound effects, such as video games.
Your TV speakers probably don’t produce distorted Apple TV sound effects. This is because most TVs have built-in dynamic range processors that prevent loud sounds from distorting. This dynamic range processing is bypassed when audio is transmitted through line out or the optical audio output. That’s why Apple TV sound effects are distorted on a connected stereo, but sound fine on TV speakers.
Turn off Reduce Loud Sounds
Apple TV 4 sound effect distortion can be reduced by turning off Reduce Loud Sounds. This feature compresses the dynamic range, making loud sounds quieter and quiet sounds are louder. It’s very useful for watching movies or TV shows late at night. You can hear the dialog, but loud noises are quieter. Unfortunately, Reduce Loud Sounds has the side effect of boosting tvOS sound effects volume. When you navigate the Home screen, icons on the far left or far right may produce distorted sound, with a “crunching” noise. This is because the sound effects are stereo. Far left and far right icon sound effects are panned hard left and hard right. (continue…)