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Low Volume Levels on All Outputs - TCL TVs with Roku Interface

Wed Sep 04, 2019 12:40 pm

My problem is a recurring and highly publicized issue with the low volume output from hardware using the Roku TV interface.

I purchased a TCL 55R615 in January of this year and love everything about the TV except the volume level. We regularly watch most apps at 85-100 level volume and have since day one of ownership. I didn't think too much of it because I figured the embedded speakers were quite weak. This was what we considered normal for Netflix, Hulu, and pretty much all other apps and input on the TV.
However, we started watching some new shows, particularly Yellowstone on the Paramount App inside the Roku interface, and the dialogue was so hard to hear we found ourselves constantly rewinding. It ended up being so bad that I decided to buy a sound bar.

So last week I bought a Samsung HW-R550/ZA sound bar specifically based on reviews about volume level and dialogue clarity. I also wanted it for the HDMI-ARC ability so we could continue to use the Roku remote control for audio.

I tested the sound bar with bluetooth from my phone and the sound is so loud at level 50 that you can barely hear yourself speak in the same room. But then I plugged it in to the HDMI-ARC port on the TCL TV and it's actually QUIETER than the regular TV speaker output, even at level 100.

I also tried many of the tricks I have seen people discuss about this problem from all over the internet.

Things I have tried with no change:
Hitting the * on the remote and choosing a different sound format, including Theater mode.
Resetting the TV to factory defaults.
Restarted the TV from the main interface as well as unplugged it from the wall for multiple minutes.
Tried the volume with enabled/disabled TV speakers.
Tried it with CEC turned off and on.
Tried to start the app with the volume at 0 and then let something stream and then raised the volume after a minute or so

I then decided to hook up the sound bar to my Onkyo receiver in my living room as an HDMI output and it will blow you out of the room. Same thing with my old Mitsubishi DLP TV output... the volume of the sound bar is exactly what you would expect.

I didn't know what else to try but I remembered I happen to also own a TCL 55P605 from exactly a year earlier.
I connected the soundbar to that and had exactly the same experience as the other TCL.

Both TCL TVs have the latest Roku firmware of 9.1. Both TVs are excellent in all other respects other than volume. I have been quite pleased with the older one because I just use it for a monitor for my PC... and I use a surround sound system from my PC so the sound was never even an issue there. But regardless, it has exactly the same problem.

So what else is there to try? Nothing I have read online has any affect on my TCL TVs.

For a bit more information, It seems like there is no audio at all from level 0 until around 10... and then it increases reasonably linearly until around 50.... and then from 50-100 it seems to increase maybe another 5%. So basically 100 is only slighter louder overall than 50. This applies to Netflix, Paramount, Hulu, and even inbound connections from other sources.

Even more strange, I have tried to output the sound over Digital Optical and it has the same volume issue. The sound volume level is nearly identical.

So I am open to suggestions before I return this sound bar. Is there going to be a fix for this? This is talked about all over the internet... everywhere from Amazon reviews to Reddit and in here. And yet, there doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement that this is an issue for Roku.

I have called TCL and gone through troubleshooting with them just for the heck of it and we got nowhere after an hour on the phone. But my research shows this is a problem with Hisense, Insignia, TCL, and any other hardware that used Roku for the front end, including the actual Roku sticks themselves.

This affects all sound bars I have tried to connect to these TVs as well... borrowed from friends just for testing. I have no idea how this can be going on without someone acknowledging this as a major bug.

Thanks in advance for any insight or help.

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