How to use Dolby True HD and DTS-HD with your PS3

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The PS3 can deliver Blu-ray audio bliss courtesy losless  Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA tracks. One look at all the configuration options in the PS3's XMB (Xross Media Bar) interface, however, and you might find yourself wondering how to unlock the those audio codecs. This guide will briefly cover the reason for the confusion and then go through setting up your PS3 for lossless audio step-by-step.

First off, S/PDIF transmission -- over either optical TOSLINK or coax -- does not have the bandwidth to carry Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA signals. If you connect your Blu-ray player to your receiver with optical or coax, the audio will "fall back" to Dolby Digital, DTS or two-channel PCM (lossless, but only two channels). What you'll need is an HDMI connection. Note that with the PS3, you don't specifically need a HDMI 1.3 receiver or cable -- even HDMI 1.0 will suffice.

Many modern receivers can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA right in the receiver. This feature is making its way down to even modestly-priced models for many manufacturers, and we're happy to see it. When using a PS3, however, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA codec support in the receiver will go unused. If you paid extra just for the extra two logos, sorry. Whatever you do, don't panic -- you can still enjoy all the quality of these lossless codecs with your PS3.

Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA and the PS3
It is helpful to think of Dolby True HD and DTS-HD MA as "zipped" versions of the audio tracks that allows the Blu-ray disc to store more data (useful when space has to be reserved for other stuff -- like video, for example). Just like zip files, when you decode the Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA tracks, you get an identical copy of the original audio -- this is why it's called "lossless." On Blu-ray discs, the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA codecs can bundle up to eight channels of lossless audio information, each channel with up to 24-bits resolution at a 96kHz sampling rate, commonly referred to as "24/96." However, the PS3 cannot send these formats over HDMI for decoding in your receiver.

First, the good news. What the PS3 can do is decode (unzip) the Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA lossless audio and send it to your receiver as a multichannel linear PCM (LPCM) stream, which just about any modern receiver can decode. The LPCM audio is identical to the Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA original format, so no quality is lost.

Now, the bad news. An annoying side effect of sending the "unzipped" LPCM rather than the "zipped" Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA is that the receiver's Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA indicator will not light up because it's not decoding Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA -- the PS3 already did the decoding. Instead, the receiver will (correctly) indicate that it is receiving a LPCM signal.

Enough background -- let's get the good audio flowing...

The Set up

Step 1. Go back out to the PS3's XMB interface and go to Settings -> Video Settings. Once there, scroll down to the BD/DVD Audio Output Format (HDMI) and set the PS3 to stream Linear PCM(instead of bitstream). This will force the PS3 to decode the Dolby TrueHD / DTS-HD MA tracks and send them out as lossless LPCM on the HDMI connection.

Step 2. Now, just to be sure everything is hooked up correctly, go to the Settings -> Sound Settings in the XMB. From there, make sure the PS3 audio is set to go out over the HDMI connection and that the necessary or all LPCM formats (24-bits at 96kHz) are enabled.

You're all done! If you fire up a Blu-ray disc with one of the lossless codecs now, your receiver will no longer show the Dolby or DTS logos. Remember -- the PS3 is decoding the lossless audio and sending to the receiver as LPCM. So even though you're not seeing the fancy lights that you might have paid for, you're getting higher quality audio. What you really want to check out is the PS3's info, which should now show that you are indeed getting the lossless audio. The on-screen info bar should look on the right top corner shold look like: DTS-HD MA 5.1 Ch. 48 kHz 4.0 Mbps  or  TrueHD 5.1 Ch. 48 kHz 3.0 Mbps

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