When audio is transmitted from a player or transmitter to a receiver or speaker, it is usually sent in either PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) or bitstream format. In order to get the most from your sound system, you should know which of these two is better. This article will as a result compare PCM vs Bitstream, so let’s begin.
It is only the decoding of the compressed file that makes a difference between PCM vs Bitstream. In comparing PCM vs. bitstream, compatibility with devices and supported frequencies are more important than sound or transmission.
The bitstream decoding process can be utilized by several newer AVRs (Video/Audio Receivers) to take advantage of PCM over bitstream connections.
Getting an audio stream, though, goes beyond receiving and decoding. Thus, let’s discuss everything in great depth and end the PCM vs bitstream debate once and for all.
Table of Contents
PCM vs Bitstream: The Basics
A PCM device represents analog waves with an algorithm. Over 100 years have passed since this technology became the standard for transmitting audio signals.
Moreover, a PCM file can be sent compressed or uncompressed since PCM is an algorithm. Receiving an input, a device decodes the information then sends it to a receiver.
It is possible to use PCM audio files, but your device will decode the file before sending it over to the device you are using for receiving the audio. Whether you use a regular PCM signal where the quantization levels are determined by amplitude or an LPCM signal where the quantization levels are linear, the method remains the same.
PCM has become an industry standard for audio streams ever since it was invented in the early 1900s. This technology is used by almost every device that converts digital audio into analog sound, and vice versa.
Your sound system will enable you to set the audio output to PCM when you connect it to a Blu-ray player. All audio formats can be played on your player, including Dolby, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, and DTS HD Master Audio.
These decoded audio files will be sent uncompressed to all receivers in your home theater system by your player.
In this way, once your AVR receives the input file, it will not have to deal with it. The device will be responsible for delivering these files to your speakers.
It is common for AVRs to connect to CD players with this type of connection, so any AVR capable of playing PCM files should work. Audio signals can be transmitted via analog and digital inputs with this method, and it is the most popular way to do so.
Bitstream vs PCM: Which is more common?
We use a bitstream to convert audio input into digital bits when we convert it to a binary code – or 1’s and 0’s. This is the technology used by PCM and other hi-res audio transmissions, but it does not make this technology obsolete.
Bitstreams offer fewer options than PCM, but their sound output is almost identical to PCM, and may even be higher in frequency.
If the player is set to transmit bitstream rather than compressed audio files, the receiver will receive compressed audio files. Upon receiving the data, your receiver will decode it for uncompressed output. AVRs, AV preamplifiers, processors, and power amplifiers can use this method to generate surround sound formats from the player.
Any encoded surround sound format that a receiver receives from a player will be detected by the AV processor when the receiver is set to bitstream. Using the instructions contained in the signal, the processor will then decode the file.
Many higher-end receivers have a feature that converts the digital signal to analog, allowing audio to be amplified for better output.
In terms of surround sound codecs utilizing bitstream, Dolby-Digital +, Dolby-True HD, Dolby-Atmos, DTS, DTS ES, DTS 106/27, DTS HD-Master-Audio, and DTS-X are the most common options.
You won’t have much trouble with bandwidth because the files you play are compressed. Bitstreams can be transmitted with both wired and wireless connections if your device is capable of handling them.
The system provides you with many more options when setting up your home theater, but it does not work with most CD players. To take advantage of this transmission, you’ll always need to make sure the device you’re using is compatible.
On this page you’ll find one-to-one comparisons of: Bitstream vs PCM
Each transmission method has its advantages and disadvantages, but neither is better than the other. When comparing PCM vs bitstream on the same speakers for a similar audio format, you will most likely hear the same output.
If the Blu-ray player has a PCM output, it can decode codecs like Dolby-TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD-Master Audio, and DTS-HD-Master Audio, not just the soundtracks.
After the player decodes and uncompresses the audio signal, the receiver sends it to your speaker, while the speaker continues to play it.
Due to this setup, the player takes care of all the work, including untethered access to secondary audio, including descriptive audio, audio commentary, and supplementary audio tracks. In this case, PCM would be the better option as it has this feature.
If you are connecting your sound system via coaxial or digital optical audio, your options for PCM may be limited. Because only two channels can be sent, either may be unable to handle high-resolution uncompressed output.
How do you choose PCM vs Bitstream?
Using bitstream as the audio output for a Blu-ray player will require a different method of transmitting files. It is important to fully understand that the process will bypass all of the internal DTS and Dolby decoding engines of the player. You will be responsible for converting and decoding digital signals that are transmitted by the player to your receiver.
You can set the player to transmit bitstreams, which will result in uncompressed audio files decoded by the receiver.
In addition to compression, higher-quality audio codes can be used to encode output. Examples include Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS:X.
The player and receiver are connected, so you don’t have to worry. You can take advantage of higher frequencies with either wired or wireless bitstream transmission, providing your sound system with the best output.
It is difficult to set secondary audio settings for bitstream transmission. A receiver will compress both DTS-Ultra and Dolby-TrueHD into the same bandwidth if a file uses high-resolution secondary audio formats like Dolby-TrueHD, DTS HD, or higher.
Consequently, you can only use bitstream if your program uses hi-res secondary audio in order to produce a standard definition output.
PCM vs Bitstream: Similarities
Bitstream vs PCM, both of which are capable of producing high-quality audio, may seem very different in terms of the formats they can generate. As long as you don’t need a secondary audio output or a higher resolution codec to tell the difference, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.
You can listen to standard-resolution audio or high-resolution audio on your speakers.
As long as the output of both variants is the same, there is no noticeable difference between the two configurations.
Several players allow you to switch between PCM vs. bitstream connection seamlessly. AVRs work in the same way, but you have to make sure the one you choose can support both formats so you can get the output you want.
In terms of PCM vs. bitstream, both require converting audio files to analog before speakers can output the output. There may be differences in the way audio files are converted, but they’ll always end up in analog format before they can be played.
PCM vs Bitstream: How do they differ?
You won’t be disappointed with either configuration if you’re only interested in the audio quality your speakers can produce. The installation of a sound system can be one of the most difficult tasks you will ever have to deal with. The design of an automobile is influenced by many factors, and sometimes one feature has to give way to another.
If you are really concerned about output quality, don’t confuse it with file quality-the ability of your player or receiver to convert audio files is the most significant difference between the two.
Raw PCM signals are generated by your converter and are not affected by codecs, such as DTS or Dolby Digital. Bitstreams work with encoded audio files, but they can handle higher frequencies, which makes it possible to produce high-resolution audio.
Whatever the process is, the results are the same no matter how different it is. Lossless compressed audio, such as Dolby-True-HD and DTS-HD-Master Audio, can be compressed in high-quality without sacrificing sound quality.
The two configurations also differ in terms of compatibility with devices and other connections. While PCM is compatible with almost all devices, bitstream may only work on devices that support high-resolution surround sound.
Additionally, you will need a physical connection in order to hear PCM files, as the files your player sends take up a lot of space and can’t be transmitted wirelessly.
What Are the Benefits of Using PCM?
- In order to unlock secondary audio of high quality, you need to find a way to do it.
- In order to minimize output latency, you need a faster and direct connection.
- Your receiver should not be burdened with converting audio files.
- If the player that you are using has the ability to decode audio files. Then you are using a sound system that is capable of doing just that.
Despite all these advantages, bitstream configuration is still superior to PCM. One reason is that PCM only transmits coaxial or digital optical signals over two channels.
While it is not a deal-breaker, it is still a concern for those in search of better transmission options. Especially when considering the space requirement for this configuration.
Additionally, when using the concept of this configuration, it is important to consider compatibility. It is possible to play PCM files using virtually any MP3 player. If you use a sophisticated audio system. Your media room’s sound system may not be capable of providing you with the smoothest and lossless transmission.
In addition, some people may have trouble setting up wireless connections between the player and receiver. PCM transmits large audio files. So the only efficient way to transmit the data is through a physical connection between the player and the receiver.
When using PCM, you will be forced to have a wireless connection or upgrade your speakers. If you want better secondary audio tracks and lower latency.
When Should Bitstream Be Used?
Here are some reasons why bitstream may be a better option for your sound system:
- The sound system of your home theater needs to be more flexible when playing high-resolution audio.
- It is equipped with a receiver with stronger audio processing capabilities.
- It is the receiver that decodes and processes the files in your sound system.
As a result, you won’t get good results from using bitstream for programs requiring secondary audio. It will still work, but only in standard definition. Which may not work well with a set-up that takes advantage of multiple frequency bands.
When you use bitstream, you can usually get better audio output than when you don’t. While they may not be using high-end receivers with superior processing abilities. It is still possible to hear the same sound quality on PCM rather than bitstream.
In order to gain the full benefit of bitstream’s high-quality output and wireless connection. You may need to choose standard resolution secondary audio when using bitstream.