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PCM Stereo

 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 969
Registered: Dec-03
Just when I thought I was learning the high-res language, I notice a number of DVD-Video discs from ArtHaus Musik offer "PCM Stereo". The blurb claims better sound quality than CD, or Dolby Digital stereo. The blurb is correct. I have had these discs for some time, and was not impressed with the sound quality, before. But, on "Ext 5.1" input from the NAD T533 (not on CD or digital input) the increased clarity and resolution is immediately obvious: they sound marvellous.

It seems to me as if I am getting two-channel DVD-Audio on DVD-V disc. This would be consistent with the use of "PCM". But it would be "against the rules" for DVD-A and DVD-V formats for DVDs.

The Arthaus Musik disc literature is short on technical details, generally leaving the impression that such questions will be of interest only to the servants, not to the refined individuals who listen to opera/classical/ballet DVDs.

I have tried "Google" and not much makes sense, and even Distronics (excellent site on high-res: http://www.disctronics.co.uk/technology/) does not use the term "PCM Stereo".

Does anyone know what is meant by "PCM Stereo"?

Am I correct in concluding this is an unexpected and welcome benefit of being able to play DVD-Audio?

By the way, the Arthaus Musik "Sampler" discs are inexpensive, and an excellent showcase both for their catalogue and for the various sound formats available on DVD-V.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 983
Registered: Dec-03
Further link: ArtHaus Musik
 

Silver Member
Username: Landroval

Post Number: 131
Registered: Feb-04
Yes, PCM is just 'uncoded' digital audio. If your DVD-player decodes a DTS stream for your amp, it 'breaks' the DTS-code to make it 5.1-channel PCM, and then it makes that to the analog 5.1 audio with its DACs.

If I play CDs or MP3s with my PC and then take the sound out of the digital input, it is a PCM stream but only in stereo. DD or DTS are needed for multichannel and that requires encoders and decoders.

Also when playing a CD with a CD-player through a digital out, you have PCM.

DVD-Vs can have 96/24 PCM sound (I dont know how it differs from DVD-A, maybe it doesn't), but only in stereo, so you might have heard that and it sounded very good.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 984
Registered: Dec-03
landroval,

Thanks!

One of my problems with "PCM Stereo" is that I know that CD is PCM, and that CD is stereo (usually). So why does "PCM Stereo" sound ten times better?

I think you have the answer with:

"DVD-Vs can have 96/24 PCM sound (I dont know how it differs from DVD-A, maybe it doesn't)"

DVD-A, is 96/24 PCM for 5.1 - and 192/24 for stereo.

This compares with CD: 44/16 for stereo.

So it seems, indeed, as if "PCM stereo" is, essentially, close to DVD-A on a DVD-V disc. This was my suspicion.

If anyone doubts the benefit of a high-resolution audio formats, they have only to listen to one of those Arthaus Musik discs, in PCM Stereo. Wonderful. It is like hearing the music for the first time. Honestly, it is a revelation.

Why is this not more widely known?

All this confirms my opinion that the CD format was all about extended playing time and convenience, and sound quality was hardly considered - or it was assumed that we are all nearly deaf, and/or aren't interested in the music.
 

Unregistered guest
DVD-A almost always has some sort compression. More and more, this compression is MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing). Many companies make discs that use PCM. In fact, every CD you own is PCM stereo. Several companies, at least 2 that I know of, Classic Records and Chesky Records, make 24 bit 96 khz DVD-V discs. These discs supposidely use the entire bandwidth of the DVD format for 2 channels. I own Folk Singer - Muddy Waters, and The Glory motion picture soundtrack from Classic Records and can attest to their fantastic sound.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest
John A. - I am not trying to be an apologist for the music industry, and, the falsehoods (perfect sound forever) that were promoted back in 1982 would make you think they came from a politician. But keep in mind the specifications for the CD format were established back in 1976. The world hadn't even seen an Atari 400 at that time. That some of the better sounding discs and players have been saddled with 25 year old technology is really amazing. Thankfully the technology is advancing to where CD's can sound as good as the 120 year old technology of an analogue recording.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 985
Registered: Dec-03
Ben,

Thank you.

I have read the DVD-A specification and MLP is permitted, not required; furthermore, it is the only space-saving method that is permitted. This is because it is "lossless" in the sense that nothing of the original, PCM signal is lost as a result; it is just packing and unpacking, like bin-hex or other algorithms for making computer files smaller without losing the original content. So "compression" is probably not a good word for MLP.

From what you say, then, "PCM Stereo" in a general sense includes CD. This is what I thought. But Arthaus Musik, for one, draws a clear distinction saying, in effect "our discs have 'PCM Stereo' which is better than CD".

Also, if I understand both you and the DVD-A spec, "raw" PCM at 24 bit, 96 kHz, which we find on some DVD-Vs, qualifies as "DVD-Audio".

If that is the case, why is it not called "DVD-Audio"?

If any one thing stands in the way of the general adoption of high-resolution audio formats, my guess is that is is the confusing terminology. After years of hype and attempts to sell us the same old thing under a different name, the industry finally has something new and worth buying, but cannot agree what to call it. What a mess!

All the best.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 990
Registered: Dec-03
Jan,

Sorry, I had not read you post before sending the last.

From my acquaintance on this site, it's you and Rick Barnes from whom I should most like to hear an indepenent word on DVD-Audio (and "PCM Stereo", which is beginning to look like another term for the same thing).

For my money (and I don't have so much to splash around) DVD-Audio has finally brought digital sources up to the level of analogue. I as I just wrote to Kegger, on another thread, after that, there is nowhere else to go. At least as regards sources.

My point about CD is that sampling frequencies, sample sizes, pulse code modulation, all that, were understood in 1976 as well as they are today. Processing power was not the issue, even then. When the CD format was agreed, it seems perfectly clear to me, now, that the industry's strategy must have been "Give the punters an hour of stereo on a 12 cm disc, and sod the quality: as long as we tell 'em it is 'perfect sound', then they'll never notice the difference".

Well, some of people were politely sceptical, and you and I were amongst them, I suspect. But DVD-Audio is a DIGITAL medium that finally confirms that "perfect sound" was a lie. A serious word; a serious issue. They KNEW it was untrue. Personally, I have always reacted badly to being taken for a mug.

Give it a try, Jan! I can wholeheartedly recommend an NAD T533. Rick is going to come back with something on his Cambridge Audio Azur 540D fairly soon. I am looking forward to that. Probably there will be lots of DVD-Audio players before to long. Either that, or human beings will have suddenly gone deaf.
 

Silver Member
Username: Landroval

Post Number: 134
Registered: Feb-04
Also, if I understand both you and the DVD-A spec, "raw" PCM at 24 bit, 96 kHz, which we find on some DVD-Vs, qualifies as "DVD-Audio".
If that is the case, why is it not called "DVD-Audio"?


Nope. There is no such thing as 'raw' PCM. There is just PCM, but you can have it in many flavours, 44/16 for cd, 48/24 or even 192/32 from PC soundcards, 44/24 or 96/24 from DVD-Vs, and so on.

It is not called DVD-A because it is not that. It is just a higher definition PCM from DVD-V. But, yes you're right about it's quality beeing equal to 2.0 96/24 DVD-A.

There is also this DTS 96/24 wich is almost the same, but it uses DTS to pack the multichannel sound so it is not totally lossless. But with that you can have high resolution multichannel (5.1) sound on DVD-Vs and also with movies.
 

New member
Username: Benjwoodruff

Post Number: 2
Registered: May-04
Ok first of all, the perception among most people is that CD is the best sound you get. How can you improve on perfection?

Only a small percentage cares what their music sounds like. Even fewer have their systems set up to actually tell the difference. Consumers are disillusioned with the recording industry. The convenience of downloading decidedly lower quality music from the internet. Almost no one is willing to spend more on hi-rez recordings, and why should they? Isn't it just another scheme to shake more shekels out of the consumers pockets?

In reality, hi-rez audio seems like a cheap way out. To my ears, plain old CD played back on something like a Wadia, a Linn Sondek, or the Esoteric 70 transport/processor sounds at least as good as any SACD/DVD-A player I have heard. Yeah the Krell SACD standard playing SACD sounds really good, but even on really transparent, revealing systems, not much difference. And there are thousands more titles of CD than SACD and DVD-A combined.

What is the point of boards like this anyway? A bunch of middle aged white guys sitting around fretting about which of their purchases is better. Isn't it supposed to be about the music?

To paraphrase Happy Gilmore - SACD, DVD-Audio, PCM Stereo, who gives a damn?
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 992
Registered: Dec-03
landroval,

Thanks. That is great. please let me home in on one thing, because I still do not really understand these terms.

"There is no such thing as 'raw' PCM. There is just PCM, ...."

"'Raw' PCM" is not my term - I read it here, on another thread. What I took it to mean was a PCM digital signal, not processed, compressed or packed in any way. This is what I meant. I was intending to distinguish it from, for example, DTS, which has a further compression algorithm applied (and produces losses, whatever they say), and DVD-A, which MAY (note "may") have a packing algorithm, MLP, applied, but, if so, is then unpacked to give the original.

Going further, DVD-Audio specification (link to Disctronics) for an "Audio Object" is "Linear PCM":

Sampling frequency (kHz)
44.1/48/88.2/96/ 176.4/192

Bits per sample
16/20/24

Max channels
6 (@ 96 kHz) or
2 (@ 176.4/192 kHz)

Now this is pretty broad, and seems to include even CD (2 channels; 44.1 kHz; 16 bits) in which case, the only difference between a Compact Disc and a DVDisc-Audio would seem to be that the latter is double-layer....(?)

So, it seems to me that the only real difference between DVD-A and "Stereo PCM" (if, by this Arthaus Musik etc. mean "linear PCM") is the permitted modes of copy protection (see "DVD Specifications" on DVD Services (same source as previous link).

And, if there is no copy protection (allowed - also a good thing) then the question remains: What is the difference between "PCM Stereo" and "DVD-Audio"?

"DVD-Audio" and "PCM Stereo" do not, in themselves, guarantee high resolution - you have to look at the sample frequency and sample size.

My main points are: why can't the industry be clear about these things? Especially if it really believes it has something new and better to offer (which it certainly does). Why aren't sample frequency and sample size for recording and mastering printed on every disc label, so we can know what we are getting?

Ben,

The medium is what brings us the music. That is the whole point. How well can it do it, and how can we know? Whom do we believe? I also suggest that stereotypes are not a consideration for anyone who wishes to understand what is going on; that just gets in the way. Anyone who is bored by this sort of discussion is perfectly free to stop reading it.
 

Silver Member
Username: Rick_b

New york Usa

Post Number: 203
Registered: Dec-03
JohnA.,

Unless I am missing something, isn't PCM always present? PCM is just an uncompressed digital signal. If you switch off or bypass the decoder/output Bitstream(Raw), you get the uncompressed stereo digital out(PCM).

The CA 540D in it's set up menu has both SPDIF output and LPCM out. I am quite sure all DVD-A players have this set-up feature-or should.

Yes John I agree, an uncompressed digital signal should sound superior, especially for 2 channel stereo.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1000
Registered: Dec-03
Rick,

PCM is not present in SACD, and you have to pay lots of money to convert back to PCM (the chances are the master was in linear PCM) in order to do any any editing, apparently. Leaving even recording engineers wondering what SACD is all about. I am also doubtful about Dolby Digital, I will check (is that "SPDIF"?). Even if it is PCM "underneath", the compression is severe, and a lot is lost.

Please try one of those ArtHaus discs, Rick, now you have DVD-Audio, and if you get a chance. This "PCM Stereo" is another new one on me, it sounds extraordinary, and I continually need fellows like you to let me know if I have lost the plot!
 

Silver Member
Username: Rick_b

New york Usa

Post Number: 205
Registered: Dec-03
JohnA.,

It is always a pleasure to hear from you my friend, and as usual, give me more due than I ever deserve.

I will certainly look into PCM stereo. In my short tenure with DVD-A, I feel it is superior to SACD. I thing SACD will suffer the same fate as DIVX. In the end, DVD-A will win out as the format of choice. I can certainly hear the sonic advantages of DVD-A over CD, the only thing I can't get past right now is the multi-channel thing. I need more time to digest, so I will keep listening and learning. Remember I'm just T-Rex looking around wondering how everything changed in the last few billion years. Cheers!

Ben,

What have you got against middle aged guys of any color? LOL!!!!!
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1005
Registered: Dec-03
Rick,

As another T-Rex, my opinion is that not much has changed. Admittedly, there are now some small, furry things running around; also DVD-Audio. I think that's about it...
 

Bronze Member
Username: Docdat

CopenhagenDenmark

Post Number: 70
Registered: Apr-04
"As another T-Rex, my opinion is that not much has changed. Admittedly, there are now some small, furry things running around"

Hehehe, the image that line conjured up for me was priceless! I can just imagine a T-Rex looking down at the small mammalian creatures, thinking "what are those tiny silly buggers? How do they even survive!"
:D
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1012
Registered: Dec-03
Giving birth to live young; feeding' em milk; keeping the same body temperature all the time. Wimps. This place has always been the righful home of dinosaurs, like me and my friends. Can't see that ever changing.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Black_math

Post Number: 84
Registered: Dec-03
CD and DVD-A use PCM (Pulse Code Modulation, I think).

SACD uses DSD (Direct Stream Digital).

SACD is a brand new technology while DVD-A is an enhanced version of the old technology. Which is better, neither in my opinion. I have both and I have made actual comparisons with my home system. I suspect some people here have not done this.

I prefer SACD because I can buy hybrid discs and the SACD catalog is far superior to that of DVD-A. I believe that DIVX is more like DVD-A. DVD-A will not play on a regular CD player, just like DIVX would not play on a regular DVD player.

 

j. vigne
Unregistered guest
John A. - I saw a copy of Shostakovich's 7th that was formatted in DTS that said it would play on a DVD-Audio player but did not indicate it could be used in any other player (SACD).

?

I would like to interject this piece of information into this discussion and I might end up copying it to another if it seems warranted. This is from the April/May issue of "The Absolute Sound". From a review of the Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, yada yada, Philips 0001511-19. Forget what you feel about the magazine as their music reviews are done differently from their equipment reviews.
"It's the technical execution of these DVD-As that audiophiles may find disappointing. First of all, the audio specifications for the MLP ("Advanced Resolution") programs given on the backs of the jewel boxes bear little resemblance to what's actually on the discs. Sometimes it's better (48kz/24-bit); sometimes it's worse (44.1kHz/16-bit). Pop DVD-As routinely offer 96/24 sound in six channels, not infrequently 192/24 for the stereo program. ... The multichannel mixes are tastefully done - ... For the record, this one's 44.1/24, for both the two channel and surround versions. ... Conventional wisdom, in some quarters, has it that SACD will emerge as the "audiophile format" and DVD-Audio as something else. The nature of these discs is not inconsistent with that scenario."
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1026
Registered: Dec-03
Jan,

Thanks!. Anything specific on the Shostakovich? Naxos have a "Leningrad" scheduled, I wonder it is that. I am not wild about their latest DVD-Audios recorded in Moscow; they put the control in the hands of clowns, and tout a "digiflex" technology for merging channels.

Meaning, "Honey, I Blew Up The Pianist!".

The earlier ones are much better - their Shostakovich "Jazz Suites" is really fine. BTW all their DVD-A titles are being ported over to SACD, too, though they've only done a few, so far.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1031
Registered: Dec-03
Jan,

"that was formatted in DTS that said it would play on a DVD-Audio player but did not indicate it could be used in any other player (SACD)"

Yes, Jan - that's pretty clear. A single example of an SACD/DVD-A hybrid disc would indicate a truce in the "format war". I doubt we shall ever see that.

I made two posts to try to try to indicate what little is needed to play a DVD-Audio disc. The answer is: any DVD player. People just don't seem to know, or do not believe. The following for anyone in doubt.

Home Audio > CD Players > Twilight of the Compact Disc

Home Video > DVD Players > DVD-Audio
 

Bronze Member
Username: New2ht

Post Number: 16
Registered: May-04
According to the 'DVD-Audio' thread, it says to achive true analog sound you have to use analog connects instead of coax or optical? Not sure if I understand this completely. I'm excited about buying a DVD-A but now I'm a little reluctant if I have to start switching wires around. Help me understand this, please...
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1062
Registered: Dec-03
New2HT,

That is correct. The reason is "digital rights agreements". You cannot get DVD-Audio by means of the same optical or co-ax connection to the receiver as the one that works for Dolby Digital and DTS. With DVD-A, the digital processor is in the player, not the receiver. There are some Pioneer models which are an exception, but there you need a completely different sort of digital connection, anyway.

It is not so difficult, in practice.

With CD (or other two-channel sources) you already have a choice of two ways to connect the player and receiver: digital and analogue. If you use the analogue (2 x coaxial cables each with an RCA plug at each end) then it is the player that is doing the conversion from digital to analogue.

DVD-A requires the same set-up, but for all six channels. So you can have 3 x stereo analogue co-ax RCA interconnects, or 2 x 3. They cables are inexpensive.

PCM Stereo and DVD-Audio two-channel use only two of those six channels: the front left and front right. This means you can get DVD-A two channel, even with just a stereo amp, and with single stereo analogue interconnecting cable.

Whether listening in 5.1 (six channel) or stereo (two channel), once it is set up, you do not have to switch cables. You just switch inputs on the amplifier or receiver.
 

New member
Username: Symform

Post Number: 3
Registered: May-04
John A - I think I finally understand! I just looked at the back of my Mits. DVD player and it only has the 2 following outputs..

1) Bitstream/PCM - COAX or OPTICAL
2) Analog Left and Right (stereo)?

Am I out of luck with the 6 channel analog?
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1071
Registered: Dec-03
Jack,

Yes, it certainly looks like it.

Category 2 is too vague. That "Analog Left and Right" is the output from a DAC/processor in the DVD player; the source of that "(stereo)" signal could also be "Bitstream/PCM". If you had true DVD-Audio, you would have six RCA sockets on the back panel (in addition to the two for stereo), and probably have another output option, such as "3) Analog 5.1".

The nearest thing to DVD-Audio is DTS. If you get any DVD-Audio disc, it will still have DTS sound in what is, strictly speaking, a DVD-V partition. If you want to get some idea of what DVD-Audio can offer, that is not a big outlay. You would play such a disc with option "1) Bitstream/PCM". DTS is PCM, but compressed. DVD-A is not compressed.

Hope that's clear!
 

New member
Username: Symform

Post Number: 4
Registered: May-04
John - It is crystal clear. So now I'm off to the nearest music store in search of a DTS Music DVD. Thanks again...
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 1072
Registered: Dec-03
Jack,

Great.

But look also for a "DVD-Audio Disc" - as in my two links, above, May 13. It will have DTS, also Dolby AC-3, and will play on any DVD player.

DVD-Audio jewel cases are the same width as that of a CD case, but they are taller, making them rectangular, and a bit more solidly built. I find that if I ask a sales person in a music store, he/she often does not know what I am talking about. Or else, he/she says they do not carry DVD-Audio discs, because nobody can play them. If you disagree, he/she may look at you with polite disbelief. If you find a disc on display, and show it, proving they do carry them, you can cause offence.

You can get to feel like Gulliver, on his travels, eventually.

All feedback welcome, Jack!
 

mikerd
Unregistered guest
Got a question i have a Audigy 2 Platinum sound card and i wanted to connect my pc to my sony reciever but when i connect through the coaxial cable i can only set it as 2 channels so i only see front left and front right speaker its at pcm/96kHz and i am wondering how i can get all channels to work meaning all speakers would it work if i connected my pc to my reciever through an optical cable? and can i get higher kHz quality like 192?
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