Last month, Google Stadia expanded its feature set on the web by enabling support for 5.1 surround sound, but unlike Windows and Mac, this support was not available on Google’s own Chrome OS. Now it looks like Google is bringing 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound support to Chrome OS specifically to improve gaming on Stadia.

Right now on Chrome OS, audio is pretty much limited to stereo sound, be it through dual speakers, traditional headphones, or stereo sound through HDMI. While HDMI is capable of carrying surround sound signals, Chrome OS, for the most part, only sends out a stereo signal.

Now that Google Stadia is out in the wild, Chrome OS has gained major potential in the world of gaming. However, Chrome OS does not have the best support for surround sound, which is one of the hallmark advantages of Stadia Pro, alongside 4K and HDR streaming.

As you would expect, Google is painfully aware of this shortcoming and is working on a way to fix it. A new code change was posted to the Chromium source repository this week that claims to “support 5.1 and 7.1-channel audio of Chrome on ChromeOS.” Further down, the developer re-explains the code change’s purpose and links to an internal-only design document, the link for which fairly explicitly shows that Chrome OS is finally getting proper surround sound support because of Stadia.

In brief, this change enables multi-channel audio support (5.1/7.1) for Chrome on ChromeOS. The previous work just fixed channel_layout to be STEREO. doc: https://goto.google.com/stadia-support-5p1-cros

So how will we use surround sound on Chrome OS once it launches? According to the code change’s description, the developer was able to test 5.1 surround sound on his “Soraka” — aka the HP Chromebook x2 — by simply connecting to a compatible receiver via HDMI. That means any past Chromebook with the necessary hardware for surround sound should be able to play both Stadia games and hopefully other streaming services like YouTube and Netflix in surround sound, at least when connected via HDMI.

Unfortunately, though, given that this work is only just now making it into the Chrome OS code, we’re likely still a few months out from enjoying content in 5.1 or 7.1 surround. Considering we’re already past the “feature freeze” date for Chrome OS 84, we may have to wait until Chrome OS 85 releases in early September.

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