Xbox spokeman Larry “MajorNelon” Hyrb tweeted that audio pass-through support is coming to an Xbox Insider Program preview build, a testing ground for new software features before their full release.
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Pass-through can offload audio processing duties from the games console to a connected speaker or AV receiver, so if you own one of the best soundbars, this update would help an Xbox Series X make much better use of it.
Although both the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S support advanced sound formats like Dolby Atmos, dedicated speakers usually have better audio processing capabilities than consoles. So adding audio pass-through could tangibly improve sound quality, especially for movies and music playback.
Calling audio aficionados. Rolling out to Preview this week: Try Passthrough for higher fidelity audio with your favorite media apps pic.twitter.com/4fx58AM4s9April 19, 2021
It’s also an arguably overdue change: the last-gen Xbox One has supported audio pass-through since 2017, so it’s unclear why the Xbox Series X generation didn’t simply launch with it. The Series X and Series S also opted not to include an optical connection, which made it trickier to interface with lower-end soundbars that don't have an HDMI port to use instead.
Still, progress is progress, and hopefully pass-through appears in a regular Xbox software update very soon. It won’t affect players who only have their Xbox sound coming out of their TV’s integrated speakers. And for media that doesn’t support special audio formats it might not make a huge difference. But the feature will be worth using if you have the hardware to use with it.
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James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.