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Next-Gen Audio |

I wasn’t at all interested in the new audio formats on most Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies. Most regular DVDs provide Dolby Digital 5.1 sound which is pretty good, how much better can the new formats really be? I figured only die hard audio buffs would be able to notice and mere mortals like myself wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Hey, I’m perfectly happy with the quality of most MP3 files.

Then I read this article (from another great PS3 blog):

HOW TO: Get uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio from your PS3!

He links to five rave reviews of next-gen audio and also describes his own experience:

Then I stopped paying attention to the movie and focused directly on the sound, switching to Dolby 5.1 and PCM 5.1 to compare a scene every now and then.

The results are pretty amazing. When you’re in a helicopter and your speakers are outputting in standard compressed DD5.1, it sounds good. You can tell the rear surrounds have kicked in and it’s not much of anything aside from some ambient noise.

I had a friend over as I showed him that scene in DD5.1…he said, ok, yeah? And? Then I turned on PCM audio and replayed the scene. The results were clear…you were IN that helicopter as the blades whistled above and the hum of the huge engine over the ambient war noises in the distance, which had my friend say, “Whoa! We’re in the helicopter!” Indeed, if you were to close your eyes, it feels like you’re really there.

Wow, I’m shocked! I was expecting some minor imperceptible improvements, but it sounds like the improvements are very noticeable. I can’t wait to try this out.

The downside is that you will porbably need a new receiver that is HDMI capable. You can only get the improved audio through the HDMI connection; regular optical out and older analog outputs won’t do. These receivers can be bought for as little as $250, but of course, it would be wise to wait until CES. Many new HDMI capable receivers will be announced and buyers can make more informed decisions.

I’m sure this is old news to many, but I’m pleasantly surprised to learn of this. Even people without HDTV sets can still enjoy next-gen audio on Blu-Ray and PS3. Great!

  • Personally, I’m still digging stereo (2.0 I guess :-P). But only because we’ve got these 5′ 7″ twin Polk speakers with enough bass to cause the floor to vibrate, and scare our neighbor’s dogs. No joking, it does all the aforementioned. They sound as good if not better than most movie theaters. My dad wants to finally upgrade to 7.1, but from all the systems I’ve heard, I can’t find one that sounds better than our Polks.

  • Darrin

    More channels provide better spatial sensation, but eliminating compression artifacts and increasing sound fidelity can still be enjoyed on a 2.0 system.

    Yes, Polk does make some nice speakers.

  • Sporty

    I’ve always been an audiophile so uncompressed is a no-brainer to me on quality. I used to use it on my ripped music but the space gets eaten fast. I personaly hate 192 and 256 mp3 files. I have just recently went to 320 VBR since my Ipod was getting full. One thing I’ve noticed it a lot of people aren’t as picky or just can’t tell as easliy as me on sound quality. I always look for the DTS versions of DVDs even when I had to sacrifice extras, before i went BR.

  • matt


    You should try to find smaller speakers within the same model line as your huge Polk speakers. I have a similar situation with some very large Infinity speakers and I picked up a smaller version of them for the rear speakers. Try to get a similiar style speaker for the center channel since they probally never made a center to match your Polks. If they no longer make the same line of speakers try Ebay or other internet used speaker sites. You can usually pick up old speakers for a very good price.

    The upgrade from stereo to Dolby Digital is huge. I can’t wait to get into the new Audio but a new receiver with HDMI and the new audio is not a priority (the receivers I am looking at cost over $1500. Hopefully within a year or two the prices will drop down to $800 for a fully loaded high quality receiver.

  • Michael

    Yeah, pcm 5,1 audio does make a difference. The first pcm audio blu-ray movies were decoded at a bitrate of 1.5mb and i noticed a difference between that and dvd movies, mostly that it just sounds clearer. The latest blu-ray movie that I bought and played on my PS3 was “The Descent” by lions gate, and it is the first blu-ray movie to be decoded at 6.1 pcm at a bitrate of 6.1mb and, wow, it is just like being there. At the very least it sounds exactly like you are watching it in a movie theater. By comparison dvd audio is decoded at 640kb. But, sadly, I can’t seem to get dts-hd or dolby-hd to play. I guess it’s because my audio receiver doesn’t have a hdmi port.

  • Plus, DTS HD Master and Dolby TrueHD are not supported by any receiver or pre/processor anywhere.