I figured this out after wrangling with my Samsung firmware.
It was trying to automatically adjust the signal.
In my TV settings it had to be set to PCM. In ES default / hdmi / hdmi worked.
It happened after a background firmware update I wasn’t informed of, hence my utter confusion over cause.
The clue was that after switching to my Apple TV, same issue presented itself.
I take back any suggestion it was a Retropie issue.
The thing that really sent me for a loop was that for some reason the emulation station navigation clicks immediately became inaudible (but if you crank the volume you can hear it).
This is still an issue, and I’m unsure if it’s TV/ Retropie or combination of issues. The games, playback of snaps, etc. still sound fine / normal volume.
It is not significant enough to take much of my attention.