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Blu-Ray High Definition Audio Formats
Blu-ray sales are growing rapidly, and it’s hard not to be impressed with high-definition video when you see it. However, Blu-ray does more than just add better pictures, it also adds high definition sound that surpasses that of DVD.
Blu-ray discs have more storage capacity than DVDs (DVDs are around 8GB, Blu-rays can be 25GB to 50GB) and in addition to using it for better pictures, it’s also possible to increase the audio quality.
DVD audio quality is already very good and a leap forward from VHS video quality (which was stereo encoding and could create mediocre 3-speaker surround sound effects at best). Most DVDs were encoded in Dolby Digital (aka AC3) and for the majority of “modern” titles this presented them in 5.1 audio – meaning you have 2 speakers in front of you on the left and on the right another in the center and two speakers left and right behind you – and to increase bass power, a subwoofer (the “.1” part of 5.1) can be used. There was also DTS audio which was again 5.1 but was generally considered better by experts. Later both standards were extended to support up to 7 speakers and a subwoofer (“7.1”), but this was not provided universally.
All formats on DVD were “compressed” and “shiny”, so sound quality was lost during encoding and playback, unlike CDs which are uncompressed (and are therefore universally known to have better sound quality and better sound).
Blu-ray provides a number of formats (in order of current quality):
- Dolby Digital (aka AC3) – This is the minimum standard and provides audio in the same format as current DVDs (up to 5.1 channel surround).
- “DTS” – The same format that comes on some DVDs today gives up to 5.1 channel audio with higher quality than Dolby Digital (DD).
- Dolby Digital Plus – Provides up to 7.1 channel surround sound with less quality loss than standard Dolby Digital
- “DTS-HD”: The high definition form of DTS allowing up to 8 channels of digital audio with higher quality than standard DTS encoding
- “Linear PCM” (“LPCM”) – up to 8 channels of uncompressed audio, delivering perfect “CD” quality sound without any loss
- Dolby “TrueHD” – compressed but less audio loss for up to 8 audio channels
If you have a current amplifier/surround sound system, you are unlikely to be able to take advantage of the new HD audio capabilities of Blu-ray, and in the same way you had to buy a Blu-ray player to watch new Blu-ray movies, you’ll need to do the same with your surround sound system to enjoy Blu-ray quality sound. However, it sounds amazing, so if you are upgrading your system, I highly recommend that you get a demo of HD audio and consider upgrading your system.
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