YouTube TV is finally catching up to the pack when it comes to sound quality. After over a year of waiting — the company first announced this capability back in June 2021 — two more families of the best streaming devices will be able to use Dolby 5.1 surround sound with YouTube TV.
The folks at YouTube TV broke the news on its official Twitter (opens in new tab), stating "We now support 5.1 audio on Apple TV & Fire TV devices for compatible YouTube TV content (live, DVR, & video on-demand)." This comes right before the start of the NFL season, a perfectly good time to declare your live TV service is getting better.
On June 7, YouTube TV announced (opens in new tab) its first 5.1 Audio devices would be Roku devices, and those running Google TV or Android TV. This is all long after its original announcement, made back on June 28, 2021 (opens in new tab). Going off the approved devices list (opens in new tab), only traditional Chromecasts — as well as Samsung, LG and Vizio smart TVs — had access to this feature before.
That support likely came on August 28, when a tweet from the YouTube TV Twitter account stated (opens in new tab) "We previously announced that 5.1 audio was rolling out gradually. It took us a few weeks longer than expected, but we're happy to share that 5.1 audio will be enabled for all members on compatible devices and content (including live and video-on-demand) starting today."
How to see if programming supports YouTube TV's 5.1 audio
Of course, there's more potential complexity here. Even if you own one of the best Roku devices, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max or the latest Apple TV 4K, not all shows, movies and live events will offer 5.1 surround sound audio on YouTube TV. Instead, you have to check to see if specific programming supports the feature.
To do so, select the three dots (More) button in your YouTube TV app. Then, select the bug icon. Then, under Codecs, look for "AC-3/EAC-3." If that's there, your program will support 5.1 surround sound on YouTube TV, according to its own FAQ page (opens in new tab).
How YouTube TV stacks up against competitors
How does it stack up against the other best cable TV alternatives? Well, Hulu with Live TV was ahead of the pack, gaining Dolby Digital 5.1 support (for select live content and on-demand titles) back in 2021 (opens in new tab).
To that end, YouTube TV's announcement of 5.1 Audio support for Apple and Amazon devices included the note "If you’re a game console user, we’re working on getting this available to you as soon as possible, and will share live updates here."
Sling TV (which we consider one of the best streaming services for its customization options) doesn't advertise 5.1 Audio as far as we at Tom's Guide can tell, but users have reported (opens in new tab) finding it.