How much of a step up are the new HD sound formats offered by Blu ray discs? Are they a significant improvement over the current Dolby and DTS digital soundtracks, or are you only going to notice the difference on high end speaker setups?
Yes, that's been a question for me as so far I haven't HEARD any of the new HD audio formats so remain to be convinced. I've always been very happy with my own set-up (Meridian G55 and G57 amps plus Spendor S8s and S3s + C3 centre, B&W sub), and find it hard to imagine how this can be improved. On the AV side my listening is split between movies and music (opera/jazz).
It's a simple matter of compression - standard Dolby/DTS soundtracks are more compressed than their HD counterparts, and in the case of Linear PCM soundtracks on Blu-ray discs you're listening to uncompressed audio.
So, there's more audio information on offer - which on a good mix means anything from clearer dialogue to incredible dynamics with action and musical scores. Superb stuff.
According to the marketing blurb, the newest HD audio formats are compressed/decompressed with a lossless algorithm (unlike MP3 for example), therefore it's not so much a case of extra information, more one of guaranteed reproduction of the original bitstream on decompression (and therefore less 'artefacts'). Consequently higher bandwidths are required as the initial compression is not as severe as with something like standard Dolby.
I certainly notice the difference. I would say that my set-up is fairly modest or mid-range at best, especially compared to some. However, it has certainly helped me to appreciate what the new sound formats have to offer when well implemented. A great example of this would be Master & Commander on Blu-Ray. Although the disc is a disappointment in some ways - it lacks some of the extras the deluxe edition DVD had and the picture transfer isn't anything to write home about, it's worth it just for the superb DTS HD-MA soundtrack. I don't think I've ever felt as immersed in a scene as I did during the opening attack on the HMS Surprise by the Acheron. It was a great reminder of the way that surround sound should be utilized and a significant step up from the standard DVD (which I've also got). It's no surprise that the mixers won an Oscar for their work. My neighbours now hate me of course.
Of course HD sound won't help a bad soundtrack sound better, it'll only highlight its shortcomings. At the end of the day it all goes back to the work of the technicians, recordists and mixers who put the soundtrack together - if they did a good job, the HD format will serve to highlight that. I'm excited that Blu-Ray can finally showcase the work of those people without any compromise.
Great to read how well it sounded for you. I'd be interested in doing a comparison between SD and HD for the sound (same movie or else a normal DVD and Blu-Ray). At least my neighbours are quite a way from me so I don't need to worry too much (he says!). Any other recommendations as regards movies to check out for HD sound quality?
I did exactly that-rented 'I Am legend' and 'Wild Hogs' in both BD and DVD after I borrowed my buddies PS3, and I was amazed at the difference-fully justifying my investment in the Onkyo 875, now it's time to buy my own Blu-Ray machine.
[quote user="Collectus"]Great to read how well it sounded for you. I'd be interested in doing a comparison between SD and HD for the sound (same movie or else a normal DVD and Blu-Ray). At least my neighbours are quite a way from me so I don't need to worry too much (he says!). Any other recommendations as regards movies to check out for HD sound quality?[/quote]
From a purely sound perspective, Cars, Ratatouille, Pan's Labyrinth, Casino Royale, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Blade Runner, 3:10 To Yuma are a decent start and good films to boot. I've only got a very select collection at the moment so I'd be interested to hear the recommendations of others.
I cannot yet get True HD sound to my onkyo 605 because i am using a pc for blu-ray, i can however tell the difference in sound from standard def and can say without boubt that DTS MA is the best sound. I too have a modest set up (my front speakers are Mission 737's which are 18year old but as good as the day i bought them!) but i think it does me well and i look forward to being able to pump out proper true hd in the near future!
Thanks for all your suggestions - sounds pretty convincing, I must say. Now I need to convince she who must be obeyed that I ought to have a BD player, up-to-date TV/monitor and a receiver to handle the HD sound! Only problem is that the room is going to get full of boxes!!