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Xbox Series X games could soon get an overdue audio upgrade — here’s how

Xbox Series X audio pass-through
(Image credit: Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are set for an upgrade that could help games, music and movies sound better on external audio hardware.

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.

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.

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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.

James Archer

As Audio Editor, James covers headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. His favorite musical genre is rock, despite once claiming the guitar is “too complicated” for humans to play. He plays bass instead.