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The audio pipe

What kind of audio connection do you have in your AV system? It will determine what you can get out of your audio experience.

There are three ways of hooking up your PS3 for audio: using RCA cables (red and white), using optical out, and using HDMI. I guess you could consider using a RF cable as a fourth choice, …

RCA cables only allow for Dolby Pro Logic, … It “simulates” having surround sound without actually providing true tracks for each speaker. …

Optical out can carry DD5.1 and DTS tracks to your receiver, providing a much clearer, enjoyable sound. I highly recommend using optical cable, as the results are VERY noticeable. Optical only has enough bandwidth for PCM 2.0 uncompressed, resulting in uncompressed stereo sound (stereo? Meh!). To get the full PCM 7.1 experience, you’ll need…

HDMI. This can carry the next gen audio formats such as DTS-HD MA, Dolby True-HD and uncompressed PCM 5.1-7.1 audio at a full bitrate. The only other method of getting these codecs is through analog out, which is not supported by any console on the market today (but is supported by stand alone HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players). [HOW TO: Get uncompressed PCM 5.1/7.1 audio from your PS3!]

The issues involve the basic fidelity of the recording, signal compression, signal packaging, and the number of channels. The fidelity in modern audio is a digital measure of both how many bits per sample and the frequency of sampling. Signal compression is used to minimize storage space and connection bandwidth.

The latest and greatest audio is 7.1 or 8 channel audio where one is an LFE or low frequency effects channel that doesn’t have the fidelity requirements of the other 7. The latest HDMI standard: “supports 8-channel, 192kHz, uncompressed digital audio and all currently-available compressed formats (such as Dolby Digital and DTS), HDMI 1.3 adds additional support for new lossless digital audio formats Dolby® TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ with bandwidth to spare to accommodate future enhancements and requirements.” [HDMI FAQ]. This is the latest HD resource such as is available on some Blue-Ray recordings.

The previous generation, standard DVD, used 5.1 audio in a compressed form that used S/PDIF connections (see Wikipedia).

Before that was the 2 channel stereo connection that uses techniques like Dolby Pro Logic to get surround sound.

The acceptance of MP3 audio players and the near equal quality of Dolby and DTS on DVD presentations indicates that 5.1 channel compressed audio is near the knee of the curve and improvements such as the 7.1 uncompressed extra depth audio are down in the noise of equipment choice and environment for most folks.

See also Swedish Radio What is multichannel sound and how does it work? – see the multichannel check for samples to test your system. -|- Spanner Works Dolby Digital, DTS and DVD: A History -|- Practical Home Dolby vs DTS – Which is Better? for more information about the history, the techniques, and what it is all about.

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