What is DTS HD Master Audio?
This audio codec is one of two lossless audio codecs which is built into the Blu-ray specification. The other is Dolby TrueHD. Both work on the same principal; they both use the master audio recording of the film, and using lossless compression (similar to what FLAC is to WAV) to generate a smaller file size, and is variable in data rate. For example, if there is silence in any one audio channel, rather than encode that silence, it will discard that information and resume again when the silence ends. But it's important to note that there is no compression here, it's bit-for-bit master recording. This is in slight contrast to PCM sound, which is also built into the Blu-ray spec. PCM is uncompressed sound, but there is no fancy losslessness, so files are bigger, taking up precious space on the disc.
The way that the PlayStation handles the aforementioned formats is to simply 'unzip' both TrueHD, and now DTS HD Master Audio, and output them to an amplifier in uncompressed PCM form. There is nothing lost in the transition. Allegedly, the PlayStation 3 lacks the necessary hardware to bitstream the raw information to the amplifier, this just means that anyone who has an amplifier that can play PCM can also benefit from these audio codecs.
The DTS HD Master Audio codec is the best option of all three, because of a very smart design by the DTS engineers. Embedded in each DTS HD MA audio track is a 1.5 MB/s 'core' track. This means by having just one audio track, those with standard DTS amplifiers, or standard TVs will still hear the core track, whilst owners with a DTS HD MA certified amplifier (or in the PlayStation 3 case - just a PCM amplifier), will be able to extrapolate additional information with greater enhanced detail.
This is in contrast to the Dolby TrueHD codec, which if it features on a Blu-ray disc, needs to be joined by an additional standard Dolby Digital soundtrack, to meet disc standards. By DTS only employing one audio track to suit all needs, it means more disc space can be allotted to the image, and extra features.
So, now we know what DTS HD MA is, and what it does, let's see how it performs with TweakTowns' first look.