DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD on PC - Time for the Truth
It was a rainy winters day in Taipei when I decided to start researching options for full resolution playback of Blu-ray and HD DVD movies on my Vista HTPC. Are you ready? Seriously, are you?
From all the research I conducted in various forums based on end user experience, it looked really positive; maybe I could actually use my existing lounge room computer with little change, not having to go out and buy a standalone player to take care of the HD movie duties. I was super excited after reading up on the latest high-definition audio standards from DTS and Dolby, namely DTS-HD Master Audio (MA) and Dolby TrueHD. I wanted it all right away - give me, give me, give me!
From what I read at the beginning, it seemed as if I could use any half decent 7.1 sound card with eight channel analog outputs to receive and start experiencing new tracks in new and true HD audio style. Was it possible that a $15 magical set of Creative Home Theater cables could actually provide the solution?
Well, in short, no - at least, not exactly.
The story begins by several user experience posts at various forums which claimed that DTS-HD and TrueHD was indeed possible on the PC, and even fully working. All of the stories posted sounded very similar - each person was using PowerDVD Ultra with a number of different 7.1 sound cards / eight channel analog cables with PowerDVD as the software decoder. They even pulled down the information tab during movies and observed a sampling rate of 96 kHz and audio bandwidth rate above 1Mbps as confirmation. The information tab also confirmed the audio coding mode. They had done it! Or had they? What these enthusiastic end users didn't realize whilst spreading false hope was that PowerDVD merely reports directly from the source file attributes and not what is actually being outputted from the sound card - such confusion!
Users noted testing quality between Dolby Digital 5.1 (standard definition DVD quality) and TrueHD and were claiming an audible improvement with TrueHD selected in the movie menu options. It would not be totally inconceivable that a down sampled lossless track provides better audio quality than a non-down sampled lossy track - more confusion added to the mix!
You want more confusion? Just visit the Dolby website once you think you're getting somewhere. On a Dolby webpage entitled "Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus: Make the Right Connections" they show an install diagram for "Six- or Eight-Channel Analog External Input". After running around in circles like a mad man, thinking I had almost figured it all out, I re-read the page. I noticed that HDMI input provides, while the analog cable setup offers - two very different words used in a sneaky manor if you consider them carefully. Sure, analog will do TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus..... on a player and receiver that ignore content protection rules! Show me some of those please Dolby, and consider stop confusing an already baffling subject.
That rainy Taipei day was starting to give me a headache... I needed answers, and quick! Next page please.