Roku could get a major YouTube TV update before Google's own streamers

YouTube on a TV
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Roku streaming sticks will soon receive a substantial update, with 5.1 surround sound coming to the YouTube TV app. This means users watching YouTube TV on a Roku device will be able to enjoy immersive audio on videos that support surround sound, as long as they have a compatible speaker setup.

YouTube TV announced via its official Twitter account that 5.1 immersive audio is currently in the testing phase for Roku streaming sticks, as well as for Google TV and Android TV devices. No firm release date was given, but YouTube TV said those platforms will be the next to get immersive audio "if everything runs smoothly."

The account followed up by stating that other popular devices such as Apple TV, Fire TV and games consoles like PS5 and Xbox Series X will also receive the 5.1 surround sound update, adding that it's working with partners to get the feature ready for those devices.

Analysis: when is YouTube TV 5.1 audio coming?

5.1 surround sound for YouTube TV is already supported by a select few devices. These include some of the best LG TVs and Samsung TVs, as well as the original Chromecast model. But we're still waiting on the feature to be supported on Roku devices and other streamers.

It's especially odd that YouTube TV 5.1 audio currently isn't supported by its parent company's devices, such as Chromecast with Google TV. We're naturally happy that they'll get the feature soon, but surprised that Google didn't prioritize its own devices.

YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan has seemed keen to address the delay, telling The Verge last month that the "rollout of that feature has certainly been a lot slower than I would’ve liked...

"...hopefully over the next six months, you start to see that in a lot more devices out there as they go through their various stages of software upgrade cycles. I think that if we’re chatting in six months, that situation should be dramatically better."

If we take Mohan's comments at face value then, we can expect 5.1 immersive audio to launch on a wider range of platforms during the latter half of 2022.

It's certainly not coming to Roku devices anytime soon, as the soon-to-launch Roku OS 11 update has made no mention of updates to YouTube TV. It's entirely possible that Roku's new dialogue volume boost feature will work with YouTube TV, but for now, Roku owners will have to sit tight alongside Google TV, Android TV and Apple TV users.

One last thing worth noting is that while 5.1 audio sounds like an excellent addition to YouTube TV, it'll only come into effect on movies and shows that fully support the immersive audio feature. So, while the feature should work as intended with most content, you'll get the most immersive audio experience by watching content that's been made with 5.1 surround sound in mind.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.