Apple TV users just got a great free upgrade

YouTube just got a whole lot better on every Apple TV, and on Amazon's Fire TVs too

Apple TV
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple TV 4K may not be the cheapest 4K TV streamer out there – that's always going to be a Fire TV stick – but it's a really nice place to spend time in, especially if like me you're not a big fan of the updated interface on the best Samsung TVs this year.

But one of the downsides is that it's so good at what it does, especially with Apple TV+ content, that when you get a less immersive experience it's really apparent. That's definitely the case with its YouTube app, which didn't support 5.1 surround sound. Or at least, it didn't until today.

The YouTube Apple TV app has just been updated with full 5.1 audio, Google announced on Twitter (opens in new tab) last night. And the update is also happening on Fire TV devices, giving them a welcome boost too.

What's new in the YouTube TV app

As Google explains, "We now support 5.1 audio on Apple TV & Fire TV devices for compatible YouTube TV content (live, DVR, & video on-demand)". The update is coming to the YouTube TV app on consoles too, but it's not ready yet: "We're working on getting this available to you as soon as possible," Google says, promising to share live updates via its YouTube TV Twitter account.

If you're unsure whether your device can play 5.1 surround sound in YouTube TV, Google has put together a useful compatibility guide here (opens in new tab). The list includes Android TV and Google TV; Roku; stacks of Fire TV devices; standard Chromecasts; and Samsung, LG and Vizio devices running Cobalt version 20 or higher. Of course you'll also need to be watching content with a 5.1 audio soundtrack and have a 5.1 or better speaker system. If you don't, one of the most effective ways to add it to your TV is with one of the best soundbars and a pair of rear speakers (or virtualised surround); the best AV systems are great too but the total cost can be quite a lot more. 

If you're not a big YouTube user the announcement might not seem like a very big deal, but if like me you like to watch live music, obscure movies and other eye-popping content it's often a bit disappointing to be stuck with a plain old stereo soundtrack, so this is a very welcome - and free - upgrade.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).