What is the best way to get 2 channel audio for movie watching on headphones?

[edit] changing the direction of this question based on understanding what I’m looking for more clearly.

I’m trying to find the best way to play 2 channel audio from my home theater through my headphones.

My first thought was to find a simple box that takes an HDMI input, decodes the surround sound audio, downmixes correctly to 2 channel audio, and outputs to either optical or coax. And also outputs the corresponding video over HDMI (preferably in sync with the audio :upside_down_face:). Not just an HDMI audio extractor, but correctly downmixes the surround sound audio to 2 channel audio.

Any thoughts or recommendations?

I found this one: JTECH-H2DM

It looks good, but it’s not for sale anywhere.

Monoprice Blackbird 4K HDMI Audio Extractor, 18Gbps, HDCP 2.2 - Monoprice.com maybe

From what I can tell this is just an extractor, not a decoder.

that thing looks pretty much the same and says it does it so now i’m lost

different variant from the same company that you mentioned in your original post and it does simultaneous sound output both surround and downmixed 2 channel at the same time

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Yes, I’ve looked at this one and I’ll probably try it. But it’s not clear that it will output 2ch stereo on the optical. It seems to always qualify the downmixed stereo as being RCA analog. But it could be on the optical too…

The one I noted explicitly outputs 2ch stereo on the optical and coax outputs.

i was trying to figure this out a little while ago and i decided to wait until theres hdmi 2.1 compatible ones for cheap for my tv and then try to fix the headache. they’re all so unspecific and i cant believe china hasn’t pumped something like this out already.

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I changed the title of this thread to go more towards my real question:

What is the best way to get 2 channel audio (for headphone listening) from a home theater system (where the source content is typically surround sound of some sort)? I enjoy watching movies with headphones, and I want to be sure I’m getting the best version of the movie audio that I can.

The vast majority of my movies are steamed through a Roku Ultra. My current playback chain is to set the audio output in the Roku to “stereo”, output audio from the TV via HDMI ARC, use an HDMI extractor to convert the HDMI audio to optical, then connect to either a DAC or Bluetooth transmitter.

In this case, is the Roku down mixing the 5.1 surround to 2.0 stereo? Or is the Roku requesting a stereo audio stream from the source provider (such as Netflix or Disney+)?

Would I be better off with a dedicated device for local downmix to 2.0 from 5.1?

What I have now sounds good to me, but I feel like it’s not the best way to do it.

The Roku is probably doing both. It really depends if the source you are streaming from has multiple audio tracks or not. Also it used to be you had to specifically tell the Netflix app to use an alternate track to get it to not default to 5.1, but honestly I haven’t used any streaming devices since I switched to mini PCs running Linux so I could have better control and quality that I just couldn’t get out of dedicated streaming devices. Disney… no clue, never touched it.

Also if it sounds good to you, then there is no reason to change.

agreed, but it still bothers me that it’s not as good as it could be…

So the current setup is?

  • Roku Ultra → (audio) Optical → DAC OR BT → Headphones.
  • Roku Ultra → (image) HDMI → TV

I dont get why the HDMI Extractor is mentioned since the Roku Ultra seems to have a Optical output. Kinda seems pointless in my mind if this is case.
I would remove the HDMI extractor and just use Roku Ultras Optical output.
Since audio is digital from Roku to DAC.

After that. The “best” and rest come then… the endless pit of Dac’s and amps… but let’s not go there.

No, the Roku doesn’t have an optical output.

A picture is worth a thousand words, this is my current signal chain:

The Roku is outputting stereo audio over HDMI. I’m not sure if it is downmixing 5.1 from the source or if it is requesting a 2.0 audio stream.

Would it be better to force the Roku (or whatever source) to output 5.1, use an external processor for downmixing to 2.0, and output that 2.0 stereo signal over SPDIF. Something like this:

Ah, ok.
I searched Roku Ultra since i did not know what it was and this was the first image.
Naturally assuming they would have Optical.

Older model maybe?

your surround sound receiver doesnt have a channel setting? or a headphone jack? or both?


That’s at the heart of my question. My surround sound receiver doesn’t have a SPDIF digital output, only input. So I can’t use it to output a 2ch downmix of the 5.1 source. So I’m relying on the Roku to send out 2ch audio over HDMI and converting that to SPDIF.

Is the Roku a reliable source for downmixed 2ch audio? Or am I better off getting another av receiver (or other similar decoder box) to decode and down mix the 5.1 surround?

i dont think you will notice much of a difference with the roku involved. it will downmix as good as anything else in the price range.

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