Bug Report: TERRIBLE behavior when multispeaker is activated

I went to aTV Control Panel and switched on the feature where I send audio to BOTH my TV and my HomePod. Of course this first encounter was pretty disastrous with echo effect, so I went through the rigamarole of calibration (for both 60Hz and 24Hz) and now the audio part is very sweet! I get a whole room full of audio, synced together and with the TV. All is good, and all works well with Apple's TV.app playing various content.

BUT not so good with Channels DVR, playing content recorded and stored on my mac mini. That's always worked fine, and basic playback continues to work fine, everything as expected. But anything that involves random access is something of a disaster. Backward or forward jumping (30s fwd, 7s bwd) are VERY slow, while commercial skip is basically broken: the video seems to jump over the content to the next segment (good) and then just stop (not so good!) It's unclear what has happened. Has playback paused? Is Channels.app very confused? After every commercial skip, I get this, which looks like a hang, and playback won't resume till I hit the play pause button a few times and kinda "wake up" Channels.app.

This is all very sad, ruining the magic that I felt when I got the whole room filled with balanced audio rather than flat audio concentrated where the TV is :frowning:

I haven't seen anyone complain about this so perhaps this is such a specialized situation that no-one has put together this set of features yet? If others want to try there are a bunch of non-obvious things I had to do to get the audio working properly, and that might be why no-one has hit this before.

So: I have a 3rd gen (non-4K) aTV. Running tvOS 13.3.1
I have a HomePod running whatever the latest HomePod OS is (I updated when iOS 13.3.1 came out).
aTV and macMini are connected by ethernet. I don't see any reason why network issues (wired or wireless) or network delay and (mac mini SSD disk delay) are relevant to the problem.

Step a - go to Control Panel in tvOS (LONG press of the home button on the aTV remote). Move down to the AirPlay button and you should see your HomePod as an option with a o round thing next to it, while your TV is ticked. The o round thing is AirPlay UI design language for "this speaker can play SIMULTANEOUSLY with other speakers", so select the HomePod, move the selection up so that you can be sure BOTH your TV and HomePod are selected, then go to the home page and start playing some TV!

The first thing you will now notice is that the HomePod and TV audio are out of sync. You need to fix that!
Go to the Settings App, find Audio and Video, go right to the bottom, and select Audio Calibration and do what it says. Basically you will put your phone mic close to the TV, the aTV will make various crazy sounds, your phone will hear them, and the system of phone+aTV will measure the delay it took for your TV to generate them. Once this is done the TV will say Audio Calibrated and (in principle) everything is good. BUT BUT BUT ...
Apple UI let the team down at that point, right after some clever engineer got all this technology working because there is a huge problem here that is not obvious.

Do you play ALL your content at a forced TV frequency (of probably 60Hz)? Or do you have your aTV set to "Match Content" which means the TV is told to toggle between 60Hz and 24Hz depending on the src content frame-rate. (And perhaps, though I've never seen this case, also to toggle screen resolution?)
IF you have Match Content on, all you have done so far is to calibrate audio for the default settings of your TV (probably 60Hz 1080p). You now need to go to the aTV video settings, choose every other different resolution that you use (I chose 1080p 24Hz, which is buried deep in an "Other video resolutions" menu), make that the default aTV resolution, and go through audio calibration again!

Once you have done this for every Content Setting of interest (for me this was 1080p 60Hz for TV, and 1080p 24Hz for movies) NOW you have magical simultaneous audio from multiple speakers.

And it is at THIS point that you discover that Channels.app falls apart when doing random access, especially skipping over ads.

I hope I have given enough detailed steps here that other people (especially the Channels DVR testers) can reproduce the issue. If necessary I can try to film the delays with my iPhone so you can see just how bad/unusable it is.

Can you try going to the app settings tab and change Audio Driver to Experimental

Definitely an improvement. But still basically lousy. Jumping fwd seems to be OK (after some very brief tests), jumping backward does the same behavior as before, basically freezing after a jump backwards.

thanks for the report. Hopefully, for anyone else thinking about it, this makes it evident that homepod is not a good solution for an Apple TV speaker, especially if you are also trying to use your built-in TV speakers.

@Maynard_Handley, the homepod might be a workable temporary solution for watching TV (if all the resolution configurations are done) if you turn off the option to play multi-speaker.

That's not a great answer. HomePod works fine in the config I describe for every app except Channels. This includes not just Apple's TV app but some well-written 3rd party apps like Infuse, and some not-so-well written apps like Hoopla or Kanopy.

This appears to be something weird about how Channels chooses to handle sound rather than letting the system handle it automatically.

A video of the issue would be helpful. You can email it to [email protected]

Good old Heisenbug strikes! As I was trying to set things up for the filming I had to force-quite Channels the restart, and now we're basically OK!
Which sucks for your attempts to reproduce, but means I have an apparently working system, which is nice :slight_smile:
Thanks for the offer. I'll let you know (and try to film it) if I catch backsliding over the next week or two.

Oops, spoke too soon!
What I am seeing now is that a few seconds after I started playback audio disappeared completely. Random access (jump back seven seconds) restored audio -- but with video playing back very jerkily and with AV sync lost (audio seems maybe 2 sec off from video).
I can try to capture a movie but it's not subtle, it's just as I described :frowning:

You can also click Submit Diagnostics in the app (bottom of Settings tab) after experiencing issues and we'll see if anything obvious shows up in the player logs.

Ahh. Good to know!
OK, I'll switch HomePod back on and then submit a diagnostics when the next bad thing happens

I just submitted a log.
As soon as I switched HomePod on Channels started playing jerky video and very out of sync audio. I switched to Infuse, which behaved correctly, everything as expected. Switched back to Channels and got a few seconds of audio then silences.

Hopefully something useful related to all that was captured in the logs.