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DTS Demonstrates Master HD Audio

DTS Demonstrates Master HD Audio

The new DTS logo on the right, versus the red one we used to know.

bit-tech (finally) made it to the DTS sound room where it was demonstrating the latest in their audio lineup: Master HD. In contrast to Dolby True HD which is also a lossless codec used on HDDVD and Blu-Ray media, DTS is keen to retain the foothold it has as the preferential product of the high end enthusiast.

It also wants to continue the move into new markets with the migration of High-Definition media into peoples homes, making the true home cinema experience a real alternative to leaving the house or even downloading that compressed movie with mp3 soundtrack from Bit Torrent.

HDMI 1.3 or Analogue?

The DTS Master HD sound stream requires HDMI 1.3 for the bandwidth, although you can run it over analogue as was the case in this test setup. This is a good thing, because HDMI 1.3 with a compatible decoder isn't really available yet - v1.2 is still the standard of many products released. This is not to say that DTS-HD disks aren't compatible with current DTS products; they are, you will just get a sampled down alternative that your decoder is capable of using.

Normally PCs and analogue connections aren't the ideal way to do things, because you have to convert from digital to analogue before the discrete decoder and PCs suffer from a far greater EMI than any stand-alone product. This is not something DTS can control, however, because as a technology company they only license and screen products for DTS certification; they don't make end-user hardware.

Even if you do find something with HDMI 1.3, the compatible decoder products have only just last month started to hit the shelves. DTS had a compatible decoder present at the show, the Marantz 2600, however the link was over an analogue connection from an Acer Blu-Ray Media Centre PC. The DTS:Connect package is a specific technology set that is tailored for PCs, including DTS:Neo PC for upscaling 2.0 stereo into 7.1 multichannel PCM and DTS Interactive for converting a linear multichannel source into a DTS bitstream.

We've not previously had much luck getting either to work to a level of satisfaction with the Sondigo Inferno and HT Omega Claro, which was of great surprise to the folks at DTS. After some discussion on the subject it seems our decoder, despite being DTS certified, may not be working as we expect since a quick DTS:Neo PC demonstration upscaling a simple Mp3 into 7.1 multichannel audio provided enough evidence that it indeed does work well.

Playing the disks using some customised Cyberlink software, I sat through some full lossless HD audio goodness that I have to admit left me wanting a little more. Don't get me wrong, it was certainly exceptional quality, but I had expected something almost overwhelming from "lossless DTS Master HD", supposedly the pinnacle of consumer audio fidelity.

It appeared that they were restricted by the size of speakers, bass and subsequent loudness they could assert, and considering they were just renting a room in the Taipei Hyatt, some neighbouring companies might have been annoyed. It just reiterated the point that sufficient time and research should go into making the correct audio hardware setup, rather than just taking a compromise. How many people buy a new £1000+ HDTV and not fork out a penny on the audio?

5.1 versus 7.1?

Even though most people don't have the space for 7.1 in their living rooms, and as previously skeptical as I was, we were assured with a technical demonstration that it's certainly worth investing in. This is because you have a better balance in the surround experience, without having to sit in the exact centre of your speakers focus.

For computers, things are a little different: you aren't sitting 2-4 metres from a TV screen, you're usually less than 1 metre from your monitor which makes surround sound impractical or in most cases, improperly aligned. It was hard to convince the demonstrators at DTS, who's bread and butter is surround sound, that many people just prefer a 2.0/2.1 setup or use headphones.

Currently DTS has nothing to match the superb Dolby Headphones on the PC, although by the end of the year this is set to change with a new headphone technology arriving.

Another thing DTS can't control is the crap quality some PC audio is encoded in. They were keen to stress that making a high quality (preferably lossless) source better will always provide a far greater user experience than trying to make something out of very little. Ultimately, it takes some investment for a decent start-to-finish setup and although we're not suggesting extreme audiophile territory here, it's about time people took PC audio as seriously as they take their graphics output or PC throughput.

In hindsight though, having imprecise PC users throwing all kinds of crap together and claiming a true "HD experience" will either be thoroughly entertaining for the elite of the audio community or extremely frustrating, being subjected to endless questions about some sound card or PC problem. It's inevitable that one day the lines between high end audio and PC enthusiast will undoubtedly blur, but that may not be today.





19 Comments

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DougEdey 12th June 2007, 15:06 Quote
I want that Amp, bindi: grab it for me plzkthx
Bindibadgi 12th June 2007, 15:42 Quote
k I'll blag two.
DougEdey 12th June 2007, 15:44 Quote
Sweet
BioSniper 12th June 2007, 15:47 Quote
Make that 3 ;)
Buzzons 12th June 2007, 16:51 Quote
Just to say, I have to agree about the 7.1 thing on desktops. I have the S750s (gigaworks 7.1s) and i only have 3 of the speakers plugged in (left middle right) as i just do not have room for the other 4 (nor stands for them) -- still great sound from the ones that are plugged in ^_^
wafflesomd 12th June 2007, 17:28 Quote
Can't say I was ever really a fan of surround sound, never really felt like anything was behind me.

I'll stick with my stereo setup and my monoblock tube amps :P
airchie 12th June 2007, 18:12 Quote
I never got into surround sound either when I had a 5.1 surround soundcard + speakers.
Was just a PITA getting the speakers located correctly and not falling over the wires.

Also, there's a typo in the front page link (and the quote in the 1st post). :)
Quote:
We sat down (on a towel) and DTS showed showed us a...
Bindibadgi 12th June 2007, 18:31 Quote
Urh! God it's so obvious but it's one of those tricks you don't see because your eyes just assume you're reading it once.
Aankhen 12th June 2007, 19:49 Quote
Mmm, sounds neat. I have to agree that surround sound is rather impractical in most computer setups, but it sure would be nice to have if it were easier. ;)
Ramble 12th June 2007, 19:51 Quote
So..this is a DRM infested lossless format..?
What's wrong with FLAC? That's the pinnacle of lossless audio for me (probably supported on more platforms too).
Joeymac 12th June 2007, 21:17 Quote
Well lossless audio..... is lossless audio. The only thing to consider is the space and CPU time it uses.

I have a that "Perfume" movie to watch on HD DVD. That has 'DTS Master HD' track... if it's lossless and so is DD TrueHD... does it matter which one you have? TrueHD is decoded by default on all HDDVD players so........ what's the point of them adding a DTS track. Blu-Ray is another matter I suppose.
I know this is about it's use on PC's..... I'm just saying...
DD and DTS are going to have a problem differentiating themselves if they are both lossless.
Skill3d 12th June 2007, 22:41 Quote
what type of receiver is it in the pictures? I know it's a Marantz, wondering if we are going to order it at the store where I work

never mind its the Marantz 2600 mentioned in the article :(

guess I'll have to destro..... test it at my work
Jipa 12th June 2007, 23:01 Quote
"HD" is climbing on my list of "these words just set me off". Before there have been megapixels, gaming, and some leetspeak-terms. I just don't see the point using words that don't mean a sh1t :) "but my dad has HD-soundcard in his laptop!"
Flibblebot 13th June 2007, 07:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougEdey
I want that Amp, bindi: grab it for me plzkthx
I'm going to an AV trade show in a couple of weeks, I can get some more info if people are interested?
DougEdey 13th June 2007, 07:42 Quote
Oooh please Fibble! I need a new AV setup.
Bindibadgi 13th June 2007, 07:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joeymac
Well lossless audio..... is lossless audio. The only thing to consider is the space and CPU time it uses.

I have a that "Perfume" movie to watch on HD DVD. That has 'DTS Master HD' track... if it's lossless and so is DD TrueHD... does it matter which one you have? TrueHD is decoded by default on all HDDVD players so........ what's the point of them adding a DTS track. Blu-Ray is another matter I suppose.
I know this is about it's use on PC's..... I'm just saying...
DD and DTS are going to have a problem differentiating themselves if they are both lossless.

Ramble, yea, I wish DRM free FLAC could be used but then everyone would be ripping off soundtracks from disks and no one would use either DTS or Dolby.

Lossless is lossless, although the multichannel coding and frequency information held within it are slightly different and handled differently by the supporting decoder.

TrueHD is just like MasterHD, and both need to be supported by a decoder and can also be scaled down. What I find incredible is that it's SO HARD to make sure you're actually listening to the full 7.1 HD version.
Da_Rude_Baboon 13th June 2007, 10:17 Quote
They used some really quality audio leads to connect up the amp. :D
Bindibadgi 13th June 2007, 10:42 Quote
Yea :D That's why I included the pic. They're like the free jobbies thrown in with walkmans.
completemadness 13th June 2007, 17:03 Quote
Jeez, its no wonder there is a divide in audiophiles and PC users if they use cables like that (tbh 7.1 in an amp that size, audiophiles use a box that size to do 2.0)

Anywho, back on topic, Seriously, its no wonder consumers get pissed off/confused, yet another standard, need yet newer equipment to run
I have to wonder how many people have actually bought into any kind of HD setup ATM
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