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What Is The Deal with These "Lossless" New HD Audio Formats? I'm Not Impressed...


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#1 of 69 Nick Chavez Beverly Hills

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Posted October 23 2007 - 09:04 AM

Finally got our system up and running -- an Onkyo TX-SR605, Sony 50" SXRD rear projection set and Panasonic's Blu ray player....passing everything through HDMI and then sending it to the TV also via HDMI, I seem to be unimpressed with what is going on with these new audio formats which is why I bought into this new technology to begin with. Watching both Pirates of the Caribbean (in "uncompressed" PCM 5.1) and Fantastic 4 (both of which came in the Panasonic's box), the audio tracks are unremarkable to say the least....I understand this Panasonic Blu ray player cannot send the DTS Master Audio bitstreams yet to a receiver to be decoded, but the DTS track that defaulted to my Onkyo from the Fantastic 4 disc sounded much "lower" in output than standard DVD -- very dissapointing, as did the "uncompressed" PCM track from Pirates. All my receiver settings are right and have been calibrated correctly, so that is not the problem. I thought "PCM" tracks uncompressed would deliver a loud, raunchy much more punchy audio experience than DVD's compressed Dolby Digital mixes ever would....but this does not seem to be the case. I think DVD tracks actually sound louder and richer.....is this normal? What is going on with the audio tracks being sent from the Blu ray player to the receiver?

#2 of 69 Eric F

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Posted October 23 2007 - 10:43 AM

I don't know what your problem with Pirates was as it has one of the best PCM tracks going, but for FOX discs if you can't decode the DTS-HD MA tracks you need to decode the DTS core and not listen to it as an uncompressed track.

#3 of 69 TonyD

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Posted October 23 2007 - 10:51 AM

i think the uncompressed tracks are great.

btw can you use paragraph seperations in place of the ..... stuff.
difficult to read long passages without paragraph breaks.

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#4 of 69 Douglas Monce

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Posted October 23 2007 - 12:51 PM

Uncompressed or lossless does NOT mean louder. In fact Lossless audio actually shows its self off better in rather quiet subtle sound mixes. Noisy, bombastic sound mixes are fairly easy for a lossy audio track to reproduce because there are so many places to hide redundant or inaudible information.

Some people think that the human voice sounds richer and more full with a lossless audio track.

The notion that lossless simply means louder and more punchy is misguided one.
The over all level may actually be lower so that the really loud sounds can be louder when they happen.

Doug
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#5 of 69 Nick Chavez Beverly Hills

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Posted October 23 2007 - 01:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric F
I don't know what your problem with Pirates was as it has one of the best PCM tracks going, but for FOX discs if you can't decode the DTS-HD MA tracks you need to decode the DTS core and not listen to it as an uncompressed track.

Thanks for the input, Eric....

When I played back Pirates' PCM track, it sounded lower overall in output and richness than my original DVD's DTS mix that was THX certified; it did not make sense to me. The 1080P visuals looked kind of dirty in places, too, but I cant even go into how that aggrevates me right now....suffice to say, I know I am not running an LCD screen just a rear projection but still.....1080P does not look all that great to me out of this Panasonic player.

Anyway, back to the Fox release of Fantastic 4....indeed, I chose the DTS Master Audio track and my receiver DID decode it as the core DTS mix, as indicated by the receiver's front display ("DTS") and yet again the overall mix was rather low and restrained...dissapointing for what I thought this format was going to do.

#6 of 69 Nick Chavez Beverly Hills

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Posted October 23 2007 - 01:19 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Monce
Uncompressed or lossless does NOT mean louder. In fact Lossless audio actually shows its self off better in rather quiet subtle sound mixes. Noisy, bombastic sound mixes are fairly easy for a lossy audio track to reproduce because there are so many places to hide redundant or inaudible information.

Some people think that the human voice sounds richer and more full with a lossless audio track.

The notion that lossless simply means louder and more punchy is misguided one.
The over all level may actually be lower so that the really loud sounds can be louder when they happen.

Doug

Doug,

Okay, thank you for clarifying this for me. I WAS under the impression -- and let me tell you why in a minute -- that "uncompressed" and "lossless" actually meant that the discs themselves were freed up (kind of like Sony's Superbit approach) so the video and audio could breathe a hell of a lot better (well, in the case of lossless and uncompressed, the audio) and in turn sound punchier, more in your face than DVD.....

Now, let me tell you why I believed this and what I was basing it on. When I play back DVD-Rs made by my significant other's cousin on his camcorder, the audio is encoded as PCM and the audio is LOUD....I mean deafening-loud. So much more so than Dolby Digital-encoded store-bought commerical DVDs. And when the high def films were being marketed with "lossless and uncompressed audio!" I was under the assumption that the PCM tracks on these discs would be just as loud as the audio recorded on the home-burned DVD-Rs with their PCM tracks....but it has been the opposite on titles like Pirates of the Carribean.

So when you tell me that uncompressed and lossless do not actually mean the audio is going to get or be LOUDER than the standard compressed tracks on DVDs with DTS and Dolby Digital, that concerns me because THAT is what I was specifically buying into HD for. Fantastic 4, in particular, was MUCH lower in dialogue and overall output compared to almost every standard DVD in my collection when running its downmixed "core" DTS track (stemmed from the DTS Master Audio mix on the disc)...I mean I had to crank the volume way beyond my usual DVD settings, and this did not make any sense to me. Are you sure this is normal?

#7 of 69 Stephen_J_H

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Posted October 23 2007 - 01:33 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Chavez Beverly Hills

Now, let me tell you why I believed this and what I was basing it on. When I play back DVD-Rs made by my significant other's cousin on his camcorder, the audio is encoded as PCM and the audio is LOUD....I mean deafening-loud. So much more so than Dolby Digital-encoded store-bought commerical DVDs. And when the high def films were being marketed with "lossless and uncompressed audio!" I was under the assumption that the PCM tracks on these discs would be just as loud as the audio recorded on the home-burned DVD-Rs with their PCM tracks....but it has been the opposite on titles like Pirates of the Carribean.
Why your cousin's DVD-Rs sound louder has little to nothing to do with the uncompressed nature of the PCM track and everything to do with the factory presets on the camcorder. As many will tell you, louder does not equal better. In fact, you will find that many CDs mastered near the advent of CD audio are mastered quite quietly, while current CDs are mastered to the logical limits of the technology i.e. as loud as they can be. Do the newer CDs sound better? Hardly; in fact, some are rather heavily distorted and difficult for an audiophile to listen to, but are fine for the average listener, because s/he's just going to rip them to a compressed audio format anyway.

Again, remember: louder does not equal better.
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#8 of 69 Douglas Monce

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Posted October 23 2007 - 01:39 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Chavez Beverly Hills
Doug,

Okay, thank you for clarifying this for me. I WAS under the impression -- and let me tell you why in a minute -- that "uncompressed" and "lossless" actually meant that the discs themselves were freed up (kind of like Sony's Superbit approach) so the video and audio could breathe a hell of a lot better (well, in the case of lossless and uncompressed, the audio) and in turn sound punchier, more in your face than DVD.....

Now, let me tell you why I believed this and what I was basing it on. When I play back DVD-Rs made by my significant other's cousin on his camcorder, the audio is encoded as PCM and the audio is LOUD....I mean deafening-loud. So much more so than Dolby Digital-encoded store-bought commerical DVDs. And when the high def films were being marketed with "lossless and uncompressed audio!" I was under the assumption that the PCM tracks on these discs would be just as loud as the audio recorded on the home-burned DVD-Rs with their PCM tracks....but it has been the opposite on titles like Pirates of the Carribean.

So when you tell me that uncompressed and lossless do not actually mean the audio is going to get or be LOUDER than the standard compressed tracks on DVDs with DTS and Dolby Digital, that concerns me because THAT is what I was specifically buying into HD for. Fantastic 4, in particular, was MUCH lower in dialogue and overall output compared to almost every standard DVD in my collection when running its downmixed "core" DTS track (stemmed from the DTS Master Audio mix on the disc)...I mean I had to crank the volume way beyond my usual DVD settings, and this did not make any sense to me. Are you sure this is normal?


The audio on your significant other's cousin's camcorder is loud because it has an automatic record level that adjusts the volume on the fly. If its very quite it turns the record level up to max, if things get loud it brings it down to the level were it won't distort. But the audio level is ALWAYS kept at one particular volume and that mid level is probably 4 or 5 DBs higher than a standard mix on a feature film.

Sound tracks on feature films have a very wide range from whisper quiet to deafeningly loud. The reason that the dialog level is fairly low is so that when the volume is turned up to a level where the dialog sounds about right, the loud sounds are REALLY loud.

Another reason you may be thinking that these new formats are quieter than standard DVD is that you may have the "night mode" or compression turned on on your receiver. With a Dolby sound track this will compress the volume level down so that the quieter sounds are louder. However this compression, as far as I know, doesn't work with the new advance sound formats.

So don't worry so much about the levels that the sound tracks are mixed at and just turn up the volume to a level you like.

Doug
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#9 of 69 Nick Chavez Beverly Hills

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Posted October 23 2007 - 01:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Monce
The audio on your significant other's cousin's camcorder is loud because it has an automatic record level that adjusts the volume on the fly. If its very quite it turns the record level up to max, if things get loud it brings it down to the level were it won't distort. But the audio level is ALWAYS kept at one particular volume and that mid level is probably 4 or 5 DBs higher than a standard mix on a feature film.

Sound tracks on feature films have a very wide range from whisper quiet to deafeningly loud. The reason that the dialog level is fairly low is so that when the volume is turned up to a level where the dialog sounds about right, the loud sounds are REALLY loud.

Another reason you may be thinking that these new formats are quieter than standard DVD is that you may have the "night mode" or compression turned on on your receiver. With a Dolby sound track this will compress the volume level down so that the quieter sounds are louder. However this compression, as far as I know, doesn't work with the new advance sound formats.

So don't worry so much about the levels that the sound tracks are mixed at and just turn up the volume to a level you like.

Doug

Doug,

Let me clarify a couple of things here. I know that I do not have the night mode on my Onkyo as set to on, nor is there any "Dynamic Range Compression" turned on...this I am sure of. As for the PCM tracks from a camcorder, perhaps I did not explain this right: he records his home DVDs with actual songs in the background as the video he recorded plays onscreen....selections of pop songs he chose to accompany the video, and the output in PCM is always extremely hot. I assumed I would be getting this with these "uncompressed PCM lossless" soundtracks on the Blu ray discs.

Before we go any further, let's make sure everything is running right: what exactly is needed to get the uncompressed PCM tracks from a Blu ray disc -- just HDMI? I am running an HDMI cable from the Blu ray deck to the Onkyo receiver, where the receiver's HDMI OUT is going to the TV....can the uncompressed PCM soundtracks be passed through the Blu ray player to the receiver simply through HDMI and a bitstream setting or does the Blu ray player need to be set to PCM? When playing, say, Pirates in uncompressed PCM, I choose the uncompressed 5.1 audio track from the menu and the receiver's display reads "Multichannel" with the HDMI and PCM indicators above it lighting up -- suggesting to me that the soundtrack is being decoded properly.....but should the setting on the Blu ray player be PCM or Bitstream to properly decode these soundtracks?

#10 of 69 Douglas Monce

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Posted October 23 2007 - 03:12 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Chavez Beverly Hills
Doug,

Let me clarify a couple of things here. I know that I do not have the night mode on my Onkyo as set to on, nor is there any "Dynamic Range Compression" turned on...this I am sure of. As for the PCM tracks from a camcorder, perhaps I did not explain this right: he records his home DVDs with actual songs in the background as the video he recorded plays onscreen....selections of pop songs he chose to accompany the video, and the output in PCM is always extremely hot. I assumed I would be getting this with these "uncompressed PCM lossless" soundtracks on the Blu ray discs.

Before we go any further, let's make sure everything is running right: what exactly is needed to get the uncompressed PCM tracks from a Blu ray disc -- just HDMI? I am running an HDMI cable from the Blu ray deck to the Onkyo receiver, where the receiver's HDMI OUT is going to the TV....can the uncompressed PCM soundtracks be passed through the Blu ray player to the receiver simply through HDMI and a bitstream setting or does the Blu ray player need to be set to PCM? When playing, say, Pirates in uncompressed PCM, I choose the uncompressed 5.1 audio track from the menu and the receiver's display reads "Multichannel" with the HDMI and PCM indicators above it lighting up -- suggesting to me that the soundtrack is being decoded properly.....but should the setting on the Blu ray player be PCM or Bitstream to properly decode these soundtracks?


Well again its really more a matter of how your friend mixes his tracks. He is most likely mixing it so that everything hits just under the red on the VU meters. This would mean that everything will be the loudest sound.

A professional mixer doesn't mix this way because they want to be able to shock you with a very loud sound when you have been listening to something fairly quiet. Again its about using the dynamics of the sound track for a psychological effect. If you turn up the sound on one of these blu-ray sound tracks so that the music is as loud as your friends tracks, you'll find suddenly that things like explosions are VERY loud.

I believe to listen to the PCM track through the HDMI to your Onkyo, I believe it should be set in the player for PCM NOT bitstream. Also if there is a setting in the player to downmix, make sure that is turned off. But perhaps someone else can better answer this question who has an HDMI receiver. My system is set up to get the lossless audio through the analog connections.

Doug
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#11 of 69 Southpaw

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Posted October 23 2007 - 03:36 PM

Correct Doug about PCM setting on the Panny player. I have the same player and I think Pirates sounds wonderful on my setup. Defintely notice a difference between it and the regular DD track. You (Nick) should too.

#12 of 69 Nick Chavez Beverly Hills

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Posted October 23 2007 - 03:53 PM

Guys,

Thanks very much for your input; unfortunately, I am lost more than before!

See, my Onkyo is a new model, the TX-SR605, which HAS onboard HDMI Version 1.3a AND decodes these new HD formats...and so my installer who worked with me set everything to BITSTREAM in the Panny's setup menu for Dolby Digital, DTS, Master Audio DTS etc....so the RECEIVER can decode all formats, like a regular digital hookup from a DVD player, follow? But when playing these "Uncompressed PCM" tracks from Blu ray discs, what exactly should be set to PCM in the setup menu -- Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD....what? Again, MY receiver is a new one with onboard HDMI Version 1.3a.....does the PCM STILL need to be engaged INSTEAD of Bitstream?

Also, when standard Dolby Digital and DTS is passed via HDMI from regular DVDs, is it basically the same sound we're getting when these signals are passed via an optical or coax digital cable?

Thanks for your continued assistance.

#13 of 69 Douglas Monce

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Posted October 23 2007 - 04:25 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Chavez Beverly Hills
Guys,

Thanks very much for your input; unfortunately, I am lost more than before!

See, my Onkyo is a new model, the TX-SR605, which HAS onboard HDMI Version 1.3a AND decodes these new HD formats...and so my installer who worked with me set everything to BITSTREAM in the Panny's setup menu for Dolby Digital, DTS, Master Audio DTS etc....so the RECEIVER can decode all formats, like a regular digital hookup from a DVD player, follow? But when playing these "Uncompressed PCM" tracks from Blu ray discs, what exactly should be set to PCM in the setup menu -- Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD....what? Again, MY receiver is a new one with onboard HDMI Version 1.3a.....does the PCM STILL need to be engaged INSTEAD of Bitstream?

Also, when standard Dolby Digital and DTS is passed via HDMI from regular DVDs, is it basically the same sound we're getting when these signals are passed via an optical or coax digital cable?

Thanks for your continued assistance.


Your installer is correct. The player should be set to bitstream so that your Onkyo can decode Dolby Digital+ DD True HD DTS Master Audio, and standard Dolby Digital & DTS.

The odd ball is the PCM and I'm fairly sure that the player has to be set to PCM to pass it through the HDMI cable as a lossless signal. I believe if the player is set to bitstream it will convert the PCM to a high bit rate DTS or maybe just standard Dolby Digital.

For simplicity sake I would choose Dolby Digital True HD or DTS master audio when ever possible, just so you don't have to switch the players settings all the time. Both True HD and DTS MA should be identical to the PCM track once it is uncompressed for playback.

Doug
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#14 of 69 Eric F

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Posted October 23 2007 - 04:57 PM

Yes, and unfortunately the big confusion right now is which players can pass the DTS-HD MA bitstream. Hopefully Sony will be working on a firmware upgrade so the PS3 will be able to decode it internally so it outputs it as PCM, and that will suit me just fine (the end result being the same).

I think you need to expand your library of titles. It's hard to judge by just two. I suggest you pick up some of the better sounding with PCM, such as Hellboy and The Prestige (I could go on but it's close to my bed time and my memory fails me).

#15 of 69 Dave Mack

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Posted October 23 2007 - 05:18 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen_J_H
Why your cousin's DVD-Rs sound louder has little to nothing to do with the uncompressed nature of the PCM track and everything to do with the factory presets on the camcorder. As many will tell you, louder does not equal better. In fact, you will find that many CDs mastered near the advent of CD audio are mastered quite quietly, while current CDs are mastered to the logical limits of the technology i.e. as loud as they can be. Do the newer CDs sound better? Hardly; in fact, some are rather heavily distorted and difficult for an audiophile to listen to, but are fine for the average listener, because s/he's just going to rip them to a compressed audio format anyway.

Again, remember: louder does not equal better.


agreed. I just got the new Springsteen CD and as much as I like the actual album and music and even the "production", the final CD is mastered SO damn loud and it's SO damn compressed, it sounds like listening to it through an air conditioner, harsh and muddy as hell. I have a HK cd recorder, nice unit, which has VU meters like a casette deck, (for recording analog so you know when you're overmodulating when making a recording) and the CD is all the way to the very limit, 4 bars in the red, technically clipping.
I then watched the music video for the first single through comcast OnDemand and even though the cable had it's own compression, the sound was MUCH better. Not harsh, not distorted and you could actually hear and distinguish all the different instruments. I'm sure that's more what the original final recording sounded like in the studio, before Bob Ludwig who "mastered" it for CD, got ahold of and basically ruined it. I'm amazed people in the industy get paid for some of what they do. Basically what "mastering" means today is to compress it as much as possible and get it as LOUD as possible.

And I'm not alone. Just google, "springsteen magic compressed" and look at all the hits!

http://www.google.co....e7&rlz=1I7DMUS

Many "remastered" versions of older albums, this is all they do. Pump up the bass a bit, compress the hell out of it and do what's known as "brickwall limiting" where they try to get it as loud as possible without audible distortion. This helps people out who put it on their ipod as it compresses easier and many people assume louder is better.
(Although there often is..) What happens than is that there is no more dynamic range. The difference between what should be soft and then loud is virtually nil.

The same thing applies to film soundtracks. When I hear people bitching about a track saying it's low, that to me is often a GOOD sign as there is headroom in the track.

#16 of 69 Bob_L

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Posted October 23 2007 - 05:48 PM

Nick:

Because the new formats have a bit more dynamic range (the difference between the quietest and the loudest sounds), they may be engineered so that they'll have somewhat less volume when you use your normal volume setting.

I'd suggest you turn up the volume so that dialog levels are similar to what you're used to. I think you'll then find that quiet sounds are not only quieter but clearer, and loud sounds will easily paste you against the back wall. (I'm assuming your system designer configured equipment that will handle the potential blast.)

As other posters have said, it's not about consistently higher volume levels, it is about increased dynamic range and clarity.

I hear this improvement consistently in HD DVD releases, and not just in the Dolby TrueHD tracks. The improvement is obvious to me in the Dolby Digital Plus tracks, too.

#17 of 69 JulianK

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Posted October 23 2007 - 08:55 PM

There's a good video explaining this on Youtube, here:



#18 of 69 Vern Dias

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Posted October 23 2007 - 11:11 PM

Bob already said this, but it bears repeating..... A simple solution to the uncompressed tracks being "softer": It's called a volume control. Simply turn it to the right until the dialogue is clearly audible.

Then be prepared to be blown out of your seat on the effects and be amazed by the sonic details like birds chirping, or crickets singing, or the sound of surf, or the sounds of a soft breeze being reproduced by your surround channels.

Lossless is all about dynamic range and detail, not how "loud" the soundtrack sounds at average levels.

Ted

#19 of 69 Jeff Adkins

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Posted October 24 2007 - 12:21 AM

Although I'm not real familiar with exactly which model it was, one of the Panny models had a problem with outputting PCM at too low of a level. It was easily fixed with a firmware upgrade. Unfortunately, that's all I can really remember about it but you might want to look into it just in case.

#20 of 69 Southpaw

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Posted October 24 2007 - 01:55 AM

I think Nick's problem with this particular movie is the PCM setup on his Panny player. The installer did the right thing by bitstreaming *most* of the audio codecs but for uncompressed PCM, you are going to want to PCM it and not bitstream. That should make a difference. The Panny won't bitstream TrueHD or DTS HR either so PCM those as well. The DMP-BD10A doesn't have the capability to bitstream those codecs. The only BD player right now that can is the Samsung 1400.


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