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A real reason to get enthused about HD discs


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24 replies to this topic

#1 of 25 OFFLINE   RAF

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Posted January 08 2007 - 09:02 AM

O.K. I've read all the rants and raves of the Blu-ray/HD format wars. Enthusiasm abounds and most of the time the excitement of both camps is kept in check so that very little blood is spilled on the battlefield. And I'm a personal user of both Blu-ray and HD-DVD media (being careful to list them in alphabetical order to avoid being accused of showing any favoritism as a moderator here. Posted Image ) I've even followed some of the positions taken that a number of people don't see that much difference in the picture quality of an HD title (either format) when compared to a good SD movie when passed through a video processor for upscaling to 1080p, etc.

While I can understand why some people favor one format over the other for various reasons (player features, movies available, combo discs, etc.) and I can personally attest to the fact that some SD content, if properly processed, can actually get quite close in visual quality to some HD content with the right equipment there hasn't really been any reason for me to get overly passionate about HD discs...

....that is, until now.

The reason for my lack of enthusiasm for acquiring HD discs probably stemmed from the fact that I have plenty of high quality HD content already at my disposal. My dish network (and four dual tuner HD PVRs) are currently providing me with well over 30 channels of high quality HD content that looks as good as most HD discs. Yes, HD visuals can be quite stunning and for those with limited HD content elsewhere Blu-ray/HD provides a feast for the eyes. But there is one thing now out there that SD content (or even broadcast HD content) cannot provide at the moment and that something is "lossless" audio. Listen to TrueHD and similar audio codecs, compare them to "standard" 5.1 (compressed) sound and you'll immediately know what I mean.

Yes, you must have equipment that has the capability of accepting lossless content and passing it through to your sound system. But that doesn't mean anything too esoteric by today's standards. HDMI 1.1 works fine accepting LPCM (linear pulse coded modulation) as long as the player does the decoding. Both my Blu-ray PS3 and my HD-DVD Toshiba XA-1 provide this capability into my rather modest Denon 3806 used as a pre/pro. The first time you hear TrueHD (or similar) you will understand. Granted, there may be a title or two where the engineers may not "get it right" but that's definitely the exception to the rule. And the situation will only improve over time.

The bottom line: If the video aspects of HD media don't excite you, the audio aspects should. For me it was the straw that broke the camel's back. To me this is as significant a step forward, soundwise, as SACD was over Redbook CDs. I can hardly wait to see and hear some concert discs - especially when TrueHD 7.1 (and other advanced audio codecs) become the norm.

My lossless 2 cents.

Posted Image Posted Image

RAF
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#2 of 25 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted January 08 2007 - 09:08 AM

Good post, Robert, and I agree with you on the audio. I'm using the Denon 3805 and JBL Northridge speakers. Hardly high end, but the difference in sound on my system between Dolby TrueHD discs like BATMAN BEGINS, SUPERMAN RETURNS and TRAINING DAY and plain Dolby Digital is dramatic. When I listen to those soundtracks, I feel like I have a whole new sound system.

#3 of 25 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted January 08 2007 - 12:33 PM

Call me a naysayer. Posted Image Even with its better audio quality *and* the availability of being able to support multichannel audio, SACD *still* only ever will be a niche product. I *still* think the same thing is very possible with HD DVD and BD. Better audio for HD DVD and BD? So what. Most people find the audio with DVD "good enough". Shoot, how many people think compressed lossy audio via an iPod is good enough? Too many, I think.
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#4 of 25 OFFLINE   Tony Kwong

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Posted January 08 2007 - 02:33 PM

I agree! Audio is what made me purchase both formats. I'm currently enjoying BD a bit more because of the audio.
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#5 of 25 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted January 08 2007 - 06:01 PM

RAF, can you list the titles that had the biggest impact on you... DD TrueHD, pcm x.1 and/or dtsHD please.
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#6 of 25 OFFLINE   RAF

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Posted January 08 2007 - 06:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin C Brown
Call me a naysayer. Posted Image Even with its better audio quality *and* the availability of being able to support multichannel audio, SACD *still* only ever will be a niche product. I *still* think the same thing is very possible with HD DVD and BD. Better audio for HD DVD and BD? So what. Most people find the audio with DVD "good enough". Shoot, how many people think compressed lossy audio via an iPod is good enough? Too many, I think.

Kevin,

While you are entitled to your opinion (and I agree that the iPod generation has made a farce of what is now accepted as "quality" audio by the masses) I stand by my statement that the audio codecs available (with more to come) on HD media is one of the more exciting things to happen in HT in the past couple of years. Taken together with its increased visual resolution, HD in either flavor offers the best that the industry currently has to offer.

My point wasn't made to predict which format will survive the wars or even to claim that HD discs will be embraced by the casual viewer. Of course SD DVD will be good for them on their mainstream sets from the local appliance store. Heck, the only reason that most of them migrated from VHS was because it is a dying breed. What I'm talking about here is Home Theater in its most exciting incarnation and HD video and sound is where it's currently at. Remember, this is the Home Theater Forum, not elitist by any means, but not for the people who think it's absolute lunacy to spend a couple of hundred dollars or more on a universal remote.

RAF
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#7 of 25 OFFLINE   RAF

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Posted January 08 2007 - 06:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil Joseph
RAF, can you list the titles that had the biggest impact on you... DD TrueHD, pcm x.1 and/or dtsHD please.

That's a tough call at this point, Neil. Now that I've solved my HD-DVD TrueHD volume issue (by shutting OFF the "Dialogue Enhancement" on my Toshiba XA-1) I'm like a kid in a candy shop. I'm revisiting most of my HD collection (something like 50 titles or so right now and growing quickly) and everything sounds great. While the TrueHD titles have the most immediate impact I'm finding that any LPCM sent through my HDMI cable to the pre/pro to be ear-opening. Just last night, for example, I started screening the Eagles Farewell Tour I (Live from Melbourne) on HD-DVD. It's not even in TrueHD but offers a choice of DTS 5.1 and PCM stereo. And I must say that what I thought would be a couple of minutes of previewing turned into 2 hours and 37 minutes of watching and listening to the entire set (30 songs!) non-stop. The audio and video was amazing. And I'm used to the DTS demo SD that featured the group doing Hotel California several years ago when DTS on DVD was relatively new (one of my favorites). The guys in the band may have gotten older but the songs never looked and sounded better. My old favorite was easily trumped by the HD version - both visually and aurally.

Of course all the blockbusters sound great (things like Superman Returns and even "bombs" like Constantine) because of the sound effects, etc. but even little titles like Lady in the Water offer such a dynamic range in TrueHD that we literally jumped out of our seats when one of the creatures in that movie crashed through a glass door. I haven't reacted like that since the spiral staircase scene from the original "The Haunting" in the theater back in 1963. In those cases where TrueHD and "regular" sound is offered, the TrueHD sounds more lifelike but even the regular stuff sounds great. I'm not sure whether that's because the greater storage space on the media allows the sound track to be laid down uncompressed or what. I know that DTS on regular SD discs is usually compromised in most situations and I suspect it may not be in HD versions.

I hope to listen to some of the new DTS and PCM stuff as time goes on. Anything of particular significance I'll let you know. However like I said, it's all good - so far.
RAF
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#8 of 25 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted January 09 2007 - 01:58 AM

Thanks for the post, RAF!

I raved about lossless audio several months ago, back when I only had the Toshiba HD-A1. What is nice for those of us without HDMI is that you can still receive the benefit via discrete 5.1 connections, which my stalwart Denon 5803 supports.

High-resolution audio motivated me to move the Sony BDP-S1 up to the big rig, as well. Now I can experience the best of both worlds, and crank the sound! Posted Image

Now if only those DVDO iScan VP50 units were a tad less expensive!

- Steve

#9 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted January 09 2007 - 06:04 AM

Steve,

Did you contact Robert Zohn?
(I'm not asking this because I would know something specifically, but only because he did have some nice offers for members of this forum).


Cees

#10 of 25 OFFLINE   Jeff Cooper

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Posted January 09 2007 - 07:31 AM

On the topic of HD Audio, does anyone know why it is so much quieter that SD Audio?

I'm currently in the process of building my home theater and don't have a reciever or speakers yet. I do have a projector and the Tosh HD-A2 HD DVD player. My only audio option at the moment is the composite audio out to my tv direct from the player. This isn't a problem with SD DVD's played in the Tosh, but all of my HD DVD's this way are several decibles lower for the audio track.

This is a problem because I have to turn the volume way up on the TV to get the same decible level as SD DVDs and it makes the TV speakers 'buzz' at that volume level, when there are quiet parts in the soundtrack.

In this case, my Audio experience has actually worsened since I went HD.
-Jeff Cooper

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#11 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted January 09 2007 - 07:35 AM

Jeff,

Did you do what RAF did (see post #7 above)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RAF
Now that I've solved my HD-DVD TrueHD volume issue (by shutting OFF the "Dialogue Enhancement" on my Toshiba XA-1) I'm ....

Robert Crawford, who tested this on the XA1 as well as on the XA2, said you need to do this on both!


Cees

#12 of 25 OFFLINE   Jeff Cooper

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Posted January 09 2007 - 07:48 AM

I'm 99% sure that I have done this on my A2, as I am particularily freakish about turning off every kind of 'enhancment' on my HT items. I'll double check on it hopefully tomorrow night. This isn't just a True-HD issue either, the DD+ soundtracks are really quiet compared to the SD DVD soundtracks.

It may just be an issue with the composite connections. There's probably not too many people here using them Posted Image . Unfortunately, it will be some time before I will have a reciever and speakers...
-Jeff Cooper

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#13 of 25 OFFLINE   wally

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Posted January 09 2007 - 08:07 AM

Thanks Robert,

This is getting exciting. I’ve got a Denon 2805 with a set of 7.1 inputs, so if I understand correctly, purchasing a player that has analog outputs, and decoding, I can take advantage of lossless audio. Would that be PCM only, or TrueHD/DTSHD?

#14 of 25 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted January 09 2007 - 08:13 AM

Keep in mind that the Panasonic BR player has 7.1 outputs...
Posted Image
with lossless decoding pending. That would allow you all of the lossless codecs. The PS3 will do it via hdmi currently.
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#15 of 25 OFFLINE   wally

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Posted January 09 2007 - 09:20 AM

Cool Neil, thanks.

I guess 7 short RCA cables and a 1x4 HDMI switch are cheaper than a new HDMI switching receiver, at least for now Posted Image

#16 of 25 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted January 09 2007 - 10:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by RAF
O.K. I've read all the rants and raves of the Blu-ray/HD format wars. Enthusiasm abounds and most of the time the excitement of both camps is kept in check so that very little blood is spilled on the battlefield. And I'm a personal user of both Blu-ray and HD-DVD media (being careful to list them in alphabetical order to avoid being accused of showing any favoritism as a moderator here. Posted Image ) I've even followed some of the positions taken that a number of people don't see that much difference in the picture quality of an HD title (either format) when compared to a good SD movie when passed through a video processor for upscaling to 1080p, etc.

While I can understand why some people favor one format over the other for various reasons (player features, movies available, combo discs, etc.) and I can personally attest to the fact that some SD content, if properly processed, can actually get quite close in visual quality to some HD content with the right equipment there hasn't really been any reason for me to get overly passionate about HD discs...

....that is, until now.

The reason for my lack of enthusiasm for acquiring HD discs probably stemmed from the fact that I have plenty of high quality HD content already at my disposal. My dish network (and four dual tuner HD PVRs) are currently providing me with well over 30 channels of high quality HD content that looks as good as most HD discs. Yes, HD visuals can be quite stunning and for those with limited HD content elsewhere Blu-ray/HD provides a feast for the eyes. But there is one thing now out there that SD content (or even broadcast HD content) cannot provide at the moment and that something is "lossless" audio. Listen to TrueHD and similar audio codecs, compare them to "standard" 5.1 (compressed) sound and you'll immediately know what I mean.

Yes, you must have equipment that has the capability of accepting lossless content and passing it through to your sound system. But that doesn't mean anything too esoteric by today's standards. HDMI 1.1 works fine accepting LPCM (linear pulse coded modulation) as long as the player does the decoding. Both my Blu-ray PS3 and my HD-DVD Toshiba XA-1 provide this capability into my rather modest Denon 3806 used as a pre/pro. The first time you hear TrueHD (or similar) you will understand. Granted, there may be a title or two where the engineers may not "get it right" but that's definitely the exception to the rule. And the situation will only improve over time.

The bottom line: If the video aspects of HD media don't excite you, the audio aspects should. For me it was the straw that broke the camel's back. To me this is as significant a step forward, soundwise, as SACD was over Redbook CDs. I can hardly wait to see and hear some concert discs - especially when TrueHD 7.1 (and other advanced audio codecs) become the norm.

My lossless 2 cents.

Posted Image Posted Image

Great summary RAF! Posted Image

I've probably become more of a video guy the past few years since I went the way of front projection in 2003. But that said, listening to these HD tracks (haven't heard the BD versions but I'm sure they're great too)...is quite enthralling.

I look forward to a year from now maybe? being able to own a 1080p projector and using my HD-DVD player to watch movies. Who knows I may own a BD player by then too Posted Image....

#17 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted January 09 2007 - 12:37 PM

Jeff,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Cooper
It may just be an issue with the composite connections.
Your audio path "doesn't know" that you're using composite.
Perhaps it has nothing to do with the setting of the Dialog Enhancement, but it's worth a check, IMO.


Cees

#18 of 25 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted January 11 2007 - 02:41 AM

On a related note,

Are there any $500-600 HDMI receivers (of decent quality/performance) which handle all of the advanced audio options (LPCM, TrueHD, etc.)?

#19 of 25 OFFLINE   Jeff Cooper

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Posted January 11 2007 - 05:05 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cees Alons
Jeff,

Your audio path "doesn't know" that you're using composite.
Perhaps it has nothing to do with the setting of the Dialog Enhancement, but it's worth a check, IMO.


Cees

I tried several options last night, and no matter what I do, the audio on HD DVD's coming out of the composite L/R channels is very quiet to SD DVD's with the same settings. Dialog enhancement was off, as well as Dynamic Range Control. I tried changing around the HDMI audio from Bitstream to PCM, and the other Audio menu from PCM to Downmixed PCM, and nothing changed.

Kind of a bummer as connecting to my TV speakers is my only option for now. Tonight, maybe I'll try turning on Dialog enhancement and Dynamic Range Control and see if that does anything, even though they're supposed to be off.
-Jeff Cooper

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#20 of 25 OFFLINE   ChristopherDAC

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Posted January 11 2007 - 05:23 AM

You have Dynamic Range Compression at work when outputting Dolby Digital to the L/R connections (which are a stereo pair, and have nothing to do with "composite" anything). I don't know if you can turn it off, or if it's on by default, but that is reducing the dynamic range of the AC-3 to something your TV speakers can handle — a built-iin function. This does not apply to PCM audio, which therefore sounds lower most of the time but blows out the highs.


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