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Ask a Pro
Q. What Are the Differences Between Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, DTS and DTS-HD?
March 13, 2008 | by Bryant Moore
Bryant Moore of Moore Audio Designs breaks down these competing multi-channel audio formats.
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Posted by Locke6854  on  03/13  at  08:50 AM

If you don’t have an HDMI 1.3 receiver capable of truehd or dts master, AND you don’t have analogue inputs on your receiver, there is still hope.

The PS3, for example, doesn’t have analogue outputs, and can only pass high bitrate audio through HDMI.

If your receiver is HDMI 1.1, you might be in luck.  The PS3 (keeping with the example) can send dolby trueHD via PCM multichannel.  Also, it will send the raw 5.1 PCM uncompressed audio as is.

The problem is that not all HDMI capable receivers support these new audio formats.  Many Pioneer HDMI receivers only support HDMI passthrough, or video switching.

I suggest doing research before buying a new receiver.  Last generation’s Onkyo 604 is an example of an HDMI capable receiver that can handle multichannel PCM, but NOT internally decode TrueHD or DTS Master.  If you pair the PS3 with this receiver, your player will uncompress TrueHD and pass it along as uncompressed PCM.

Also make sure to add that if you’re using Optical cable for audio, you won’t be taking advantage of multichannel lossless sound, but instead you’ll get either
1) a lossy downconversion
2) 2 channel lossless PCM
3) silence

I’m surprised how many people are using optical cable and believe they’re listening to HD 5.1   But if it sounds good to you, and you have no alternative, I suppose that’ll do.

Posted by Tom  on  03/14  at  11:01 AM

DTS has always sounded better on every dvd than the dobly digital version on standard def dvd’s.

Not sure what you are talking about when saying:

“In theory this should make the soundtrack on a DTS-encoded DVD sound better than an equivalent Dolby Digital soundtrack, but in practice, this is not always the case. ”

Posted by Joe T.  on  03/14  at  02:52 PM

To add a bit more confusion into the mix, some of the 7.1 HDMI 1.3 receivers don’t have the processing horsepower to overlay PLIIx over the new 5.1 audio formats, whether decoded in the player or the receiver. 

For example, the Onkyo 605 HDMI 1.3 receiver can decode Dolby TrueHD and DD+, as well as handle multi-channel PCM via HDMI, but it can’t matrix the back surround channels out of 5.1 to make it 6 or 7.1.

Posted by Stephen Neal  on  03/15  at  09:04 AM

Also - don’t you have to be careful to distinguish between DTS-HD High Resolution (which is NOT lossless, and is kind of the equivalent of Dolby Digital Plus) and DTS-HD Master Audio (which IS lossless and is the equivalent of Dolby TrueHD)?

DTS-HD could be a bit misleading - as I believe it describes both the lossy HR and lossless MA variants?

Posted by Don  on  03/17  at  11:27 AM

Locke6854,

In terms of cable connections, what other options do I have to connect audio…

Posted by Joe T.  on  03/17  at  11:40 AM

Don,
If you want to use the newer codecs, you’ll need a receiver that can use the audio from HDMI (e.g., not just an HDMI switcher), -or- have multi-channel analog ins, combined with a source that decodes internally and has multi-channel analog outs.

Posted by Locke6854  on  03/17  at  11:48 AM

@Don
For the high-bitrate/lossless audio?  As Bryant said, not many:  HDMI or seperate analogue RCA cables.

My point was that you didn’t necessarily have to upgrade your receiver if it is HDMI 1.1 audio capable, and also that SPDIF (optical and digital coax) won’t work.

HDMI 1.0 passthru receivers would require analogue cables for these new formats.

Posted by Bryant  on  03/17  at  05:59 PM

Don-
I am assuming that when you ask “what other [cable] options do I have…” that you mean other than an HDMI connection. If this is so, then, as Locke6854 has mentioned, you can obtain multi-channel audio from a blu-ray player if these two conditions exist:
1. Your blu-ray player has separate (analog) outputs for each channel (LF, C, RF, SL, SR, SW, SBL, SBR) and,
2. Your receiver has the same inputs. These will probably be labeled “Ext. In., 5.1 or 7.1 Inputs)” or something similar. You connect individual RCA cables from each output of the blu-ray player to each corresponding input on the receiver. Remember SACD and DVD-Audio? This is how we had to connect those formats.
You can also get Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD through a coaxial or fiber optic digital audio cable. You most likely are already using this connection for Dolby and DTS Digital.

Posted by Don  on  03/17  at  07:52 PM

Bryant, Locke6854, and Joe T.  Thank you all. I appreciate all of your input.  This is very good information to know.

Thanks again.
d

Posted by taurean dennis  on  03/30  at  01:27 PM

you can buy a integra 9.8 preamp to get the latest formats as well. You dont need to buy a new receiver.

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