A few days ago, HBO updated its streaming video app to version 1.7 for the Roku. As far as I can tell, this version of the app has added support for surround sound. Update: One reader has reported it was added in late August Specifically, HBO GO is now streaming Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound to its Roku app. It’s a welcome improvement over the 2-channel stereo track that HBO GO launched with. Before adding it to the Roku, only the HBO GO player on select Samsung Smart TVs had supported surround sound.
Early this year, Dolby announced that HBO had selected Dolby Digital Plus to provide surround sound to connected devices with HBO GO. Therefore, I’m a little surprised that the HBO GO app is streaming regular Dolby Digital and not Dolby Digital Plus. Dolby Digital Plus is more bandwidth efficient and can provide better sound versus regular DD. It’s not a Roku limitation. The Roku 2 hardware is capable of handling it. Both Netflix and the new VUDU app on the latest Rokus bitstream Dolby Digital Plus (the 2, HD and LT).
In the world of content, it appears there’s plenty of movies in surround sound. Our favorite HBO series, Game of Thrones is also available in surround sound for both seasons one and two.
Hopefully, we’ll also see captions support added to the Roku HBO GO app in the near future. HBO recently enabled captions for HBO GO on mobile devices (iOS and Android). Another improvement would be to provide a higher bitrate video stream to connected devices. Some darker scenes still show some noticeable video artifacts. Until then, enjoy the surround sound.