How can I make my surround system work on my Xbox 360?
January 12, 2009 3:17 PM   Subscribe

How do I make my surround sound work with my Xbox 360? I have a Panasonic stereo system, model number SC-AK600, which has 5 speakers. When I play CDs through it, all speakers work fine. I also have it hooked up to a DVD player through a coaxial cable, and again it works fine with all speakers.

But when I use it through the Xbox 360, it fails to work properly. I have it hooked up with an optical cable to the little outlet on the AV component cable. Then, when I'm playing a game it will work fine for a few minutes with all speakers. But then, it simply cuts out and only the center speaker emits audio from the Xbox.

I've tried changing the settings in the Xbox system settings between digital speakers and digital 5.1 speakers, and the problem still persists under both.

How can I make it so the Xbox can be played with surround sound? As I said, it's not that it doesn't work at all - it works fine for a few minutes, and when it stops working the center speaker still works.
posted by Beep to Technology (9 answers total)
If it works intermittently I'm going to say the most likely suspect is a bad cable. Swap the cable out and see if that fixes it.
posted by COD at 4:30 PM on January 12, 2009

It may not be the optical cable, but possibly the Component cable, since that's what sends the signal to the optical cable. It sounds like signal is passing through the optical cable, it is just somehow screwy. Are there any indications that its in Dolby Digital mode on your receiver? If so, see if it still thinks it is in Dolby when it goes pear-shaped (only putting out thru center).

If you have a friend with either an optical cable or a 360 component cable, give them a test. I know that the little flap over the optical port on my 360 component cable broke off, so its really hard to make sure the Optical cable stays put. It may be possible that the connection is really loose and when the 360 starts spinning all its fans it maybe vibrates the cable out a bit, causing drop-outs.
posted by ijoyner at 4:37 PM on January 12, 2009

Response by poster: EDIT: I forgot to mention, it's a new optical cable. Also new Xbox 360.
posted by Beep at 5:01 PM on January 12, 2009

When it's just the center channel speaker, does it also play the right- and left-channel sounds?

If you haven't done so already, it might be worthwhile to experiment with the receiver settings as well.
posted by box at 5:54 PM on January 12, 2009

Best answer: The fact that it works completely fine for a while is really intriguing. Does it always cut out after the same period of time? Does it just stop silently, or are there any pops or crackles?

I'm no sound system expert, but just rattling off a few thoughts:
Is it possible the 360, the stereo, or some other component is overheating?
Maybe the stereo has some kind of volume cut out to protect the speakers, which is triggered by an explosion or other noise from the game.
Does the stereo know what type of input it is taking automatically? Maybe something is making it suddenly think it's no longer receiving a surround sound signal.

(Apologies to you and any experts if these are patently stupid ideas.)
posted by lucidium at 6:29 PM on January 12, 2009

It's either the receiver or something going wrong with the XBox. The XBox is sending a Dolby Digital signal, which simply won't work at all if it isn't coming through properly. The fact that it partially works means either:

- your receiver is cutting out every channel except center, for whatever reason (probably more likely)
- your XBox is screwing up and putting all the sound in the same channel (seems unlikely to me)

If you have something else that gives digital (preferably Dolby Digital) output through optical, like a DVD player, try that and see if the same thing happens.
posted by neckro23 at 7:20 PM on January 12, 2009

Sounds to me like something is kicking it out of surround sound mode and sending it back to stereo. Often, a receiver receiving plain stereo signal will revert to "Dolby Pro Logic" mode when it isn't sure what else to do. Pro Logic tends to be very center heavy. Put your ear up to those other speakers when it supposedly cuts out. Can you hear them at all? Even a little bit? This will tell you if the receiver is receiving the input as center only, or as a stereo setup with center-heavy processing.

If this is the case, check the game itself and see if there are additional sound modes that need to be set. Also, play with the audio modes on your receiver to make sure it is processing the input the way you want it to.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:55 PM on January 12, 2009

I feel your pain. About three weeks ago my receiver started completely ignoring the optical input from my DVD player, reverting to 2-channel stereo for every disk I tried to play. You're looking at several hours of cable-swapping and device-specific troubleshooting. Cycle through all of the audio options in every component that is part of the chain. Bitstream, PCM, cutoff range for audio frequencies, 2 channel, 5.1, DTS, any option you have to change you will need to test. Replace any cables with an alternate one. Try standard audio out instead of optical (I'm assuming the Xbox actually has some audio out option besides optical.) If your receiver has multiple optical inputs, try different ones. If you can bypass the receiver completely, do that (eg, by sending audio directly to the TV and using the TV audio outputs to send to speakers, etc.)

If you have a friend with another Xbox you can use, try it. You might be dealing with a flaky connection in yours. New usually means it works, but not always.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:23 AM on January 13, 2009

Response by poster: It seems the speakers were cutting out because of the volume. This also happened with my DVD player when it's configured to play 5.1 surround. I guess I should just keep the volume lower then.
posted by Beep at 3:56 PM on January 13, 2009

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