Sony PlayStation 3
$399.99 (40 GB)
Blu-ray discs' digital audio tracks can be:
- Linear PCM (LPCM), up to 7.1 channels, not digitally compressed
- Dolby Digital, up to 5.1 channels, lossy compression
- Dolby Digital Plus, up to 7.1 channels, lossy compression at higher data rates than Dolby Digital
- Dolby TrueHD, up to 7.1 channels, lossless compression
- DTS, up to 5.1 channels, lossy compression
- DTS-HD High Resolution, up to 7.1 channels, lossy compression at higher data rates than DTS
- DTS-HD Master Audio, up to 7.1 channels, lossless compression
(The following information represents what I have been able to glean from sketchy information available online and from the Sony PS3 manual, which can be found here. Anyone who knows more or has better information is invited to post a comment.)
The Sony PlayStation 3 can pass 7.1-channel Linear PCM through, in the exact form in which it is recorded on the disc, to its HDMI output for use by an HDMI-capable AV receiver.
Edit: From this point on in this post, I have edited what I originally posted to correct misinformation in that post. The new text is presented in green. The replaced text is
The PS3 can pass through Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio and DTS 5.1-channel audio as undecoded bitstreams on HDMI. It can also pass through the "core" bitstreams for Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution, and DTS-HD Master Audio. The "core" bitstreams for codecs in the Dolby and DTS "families" are equivalent to Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, respectively. They do not include the "extension" bitstreams which add extra channels and/or more sonic information to the surround channels.
To obtain bitstream outputs for digitally compressed Dolby and DTS codecs you must, in the PS3's BD/DVD Settings menu, select "Bitstream" (rather than "Linear PCM") as the BD/DVD Audio Output Format (HDMI). A similar setting applies to those who are using the Optical Digital output rather than HDMI.
The PS3 can internally decode either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 to LPCM 5.1 and output the latter on HDMI 1.3.
It can also internally decode Dolby TrueHD 7.1 to LPCM 7.1 and output the latter on HDMI 1.3. And as of the firmware update that Sony released in April 2008, it can do the same with DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.
It can internally decode DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1
Finally, it can internally decode the Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 "core" (which is equivalent to Dolby Digital 5.1) to LPCM 5.1, and output the latter on HDMI 1.3. The "extension" part unique to Dolby Digital Plus is ignored.
To summarize: HDMI 1.3 digital audio output from the PlayStation 3 can be Linear PCM at up to 7.1 channels if:
- That is what is recorded on the audio track being played from the disc, or
- A Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio audio track is being played and converted to LPCM
- A Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus audio track is being played from the disc, or
- A DTS, DTS-HD High Resolution,
or DTS-HD Master Audioaudio track is being played from the disc
In no case can the PlayStation 3 pass through any digitally compressed audio track as an undecoded bitstream for decoding by external gear. (It can pass through LPCM from the disc, but LPCM is uncompressed.)
HDMI 1.3 digital audio output from the PlayStation 3 can be unconverted bitstream output for Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1.
HDMI 1.3 digital audio output from the PlayStation 3 can be bitstream output that has been stripped to the equivalent of Dolby Digital 5.1 for Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby TrueHD. It can be bitstream output that has been stripped to the equivalent of DTS 5.1 for DTS-HD High Resolution or DTS-HD Master Audio. In both cases, the "extension" part of the bitstream is discarded and just the "core" bitstream is output.
In the above, I have been careful to state what the PlayStation 3 can do. What it will do, audio-wise, on its HDMI output depends on the device the PS3's HDMI output is connected to. For instance, if the external device is a TV that cannot handle any more than two channels of LPCM input, the PlayStation 3 will downmix everything to LPCM 2.0 before outputting it. This will happen automatically, since HDMI devices coordinate with one another to find a mutually acceptable format.
By the same token, when the PS3 is connected to a device that is not HDMI 1.3-capable, the connection cannot achieve the increased data rates possible with HDMI 1.3. At lower HDMI 1.2 rates, the LPCM output of the PS3 might be internally downsampled so as to reduce its data rate, and thus its audio quality.
Another caveat has to do with the TOSlink Optical Digital audio output of the PS3, as distinct from its HDMI output. Since the former has a lower maximum data rate than even HDMI 1.2 does, the PS3 might well reduce the LPCM audio output stream for that connection, by limiting the number of channels to two, or by downsampling.
Many PS3 aficionados have asked whether Sony might one day issue a System Software upgrade which will allow the PS3 to pass the various compressed audio formats through as bitstreams to be decoded by external gear. In particular, they'd like the lossless codecs, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, to be optionally treated as bitstreams for external decoding. Of these two lossless codecs, DTS-HD Master Audio is the one most asked about, since Dolby TrueHD is, after all, able to be decoded internally by the PS3 with no loss of information. (Now, as of April 2008, DTS-HD Master Audio can also be decoded by the PS3, but not passed through as a bitstream.)
To date, Sony has not been terribly responsive to these suggestions. Other than confirming that:
of the four higher-resolution or lossless audio compression codecs, the only one the PS3 can decode without sacrificing any information is Dolby TrueHD, and
- of the four higher-resolution or lossless audio compression codecs, the PS3 can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, but not Dolby Digital Plus or DTS-HD High Resolution
the PS3 cannot pass through any codecs as bitstreams rather than LPCM
- the PS3 can pass through the four advanced audio compression codecs as bitstreams, rather than decoding them to linear PCM, but it can pass them through only in their "core" 5.1-channel, low-bitrate forms
Put another way, is the only thing holding the PS3 back in this regard its firmware, or is the PS3's hardware partly to blame?
No one seems to be able to answer such questions definitively.