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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!