Bluetooth Soundbar s_gnal dr_ps d_ring s_lent m_ments... Help?
February 29, 2016 4:38 PM   Subscribe

My Bluetooth soundbar (Toshiba if that makes a difference) has a very annoying habit of "blacking out" during silent moments, then re-engaging a few seconds after the sound starts up again. I want to ask if anyone has this problem, and how they resolved it.

This is particularly noticeable while watching "quiet" movies where there are frequent periods of silence. Sometimes I'll miss entire lines of dialogue spoken by the next character who has a line, or catch just the tail end of it.

Has anyone experienced this? Do I have poor Bluetooth signals coming from my Mac Mini? This isn't a problem with a continuous audio stream, like Pandora.

One overwrought workaround I thought of was to continuously stream something else in the background that will provide a signal but would be all but non-discernible to human ears. Anyone know any app/website than can do this?

Obviously the best solution would be to fix this somehow. If anyone has experience with this I'd love to know.
posted by war wrath of wraith to Technology (6 answers total)
Bluetooth is an arcane magic, and I think across a dozen devices (cars, phones, headphones, speakers) I have never seen it work perfectly reliably. Kind of amazing given that it's 10+ 20+ years old.

On the other hand, your problem sounds unique, and I wonder actually if it may be due to problems with a 5.1 (multi-channel) audio mix being sent only to the center speaker at times? Many films put most or all of the dialog in the center front speaker, but some of the dialog also ends up in other speakers (a bit). So one theory would be that your soundbar is playing all channels EXCEPT the center channel, and thus you only hear the dialog when it is LOUD enough to be mixed into the other 4 channels.

To fix: I would try to find a 5.1 test file that isolates each channel, and also play with settings in your Player (a TV? ChromeCast? Apple TV?) to set 5.1 on or off...
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:45 PM on February 29, 2016

It sounds to me like it's automatically turning off the amplifier when it perceives no audio signal, and it's being a little too aggressive about it. I have a set of amplified speakers that do something similar.

In my case the issue is worked around by sending it a Dolby Digital stream instead of a plain old stereo one. I'm not sure if this is plausible using Bluetooth (probably not).

Your overwrought workaround might be the only one possible... maybe just generate some very low-level white noise in Audacity or similar, and play it in a loop.
posted by neckro23 at 5:18 PM on February 29, 2016

Does the sound bar have different audio modes? My sound bar (can't remember what brand) has a "3D sound" mode which gave me various problems when I tried it, including dropping audio. Turning off that mode and just using a standard setting fixed it for me.
posted by valleys at 5:26 PM on February 29, 2016

Response by poster: Come to think of it, there is a subwoofer which is also connected via Bluetooth, and there are 3 different modes (TruBass, TruSurround and Stereo). I will play around with this, and also the white noise in the background option.

I don't think it's the 5.1 as I don't watch movies in that mode, but I think this is similar to the SRS modes, so thanks for the tips everyone.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 5:53 PM on February 29, 2016

If the behavior that neckro23 described is indeed causing the problem, it may be from some sort of power-saving mode that you can disable.
posted by Hatashran at 5:54 PM on February 29, 2016

My bt speaker does that when it's in headset mode; it's editing silences as if it were a phone call. If I put the computer's BT audio into HQ mode, it sounds pretty good.
posted by scruss at 6:21 PM on February 29, 2016

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