what is bitstream audio?

Bitstream audio is essentially 100% digital audio and is distinguishable from audio formats such as PCM which converts analog audio into digital. With Bitstream, the bite-sized pieces of digital audio, the 1’s and zeros of the audio file are streamed for playback, hence the name bitstream.

Bitstream allows more Metadata to be sent over separate channels to your speaker system when playing anything above 7.1 surround sound, and this is why you should use this option if available.

Have you ever wondered what Bitstream audio is and why it is an option on your TV?

Ever try and watch a movie through your BlueRay player and been confronted with the choice of PCM or Bitstream Audio?

Have you ever wondered why sound plays out of one and perhaps not from the other?

I have done detailed research to help you understand what Bitstream audio is and how it can help you.

How Does Bitstream Work?

Bitstreaming is a technique of shifting an encrypted surround sound audio signal from origin to an audio and video receiver (AVR).

The receiver senses the encrypted surround format and then decodes the information in accordance with the Bitstream requirements.

The sound is then amplified and sent to the speakers after the signal has been processed and converted to analog format.

The audio engineer usually makes the call on the surround sound format to be used during recordings/stream.

This audio format is encrypted as digital bits based on the format requirements

When should I use Bitstream audio?

Bitstream really shines when you make the decision to use digital or optical coaxial outputs.

These connections have limited bandwidth and struggle to transfer fully processed and encrypted signals.

The fact that Bitstream delegates the decryption to the receiver makes it ideal for these circumstances.

What is the difference between Bitstream and PCM Audio?

There is very little difference between PCM and Bitstream.

Bitstreams are however encrypted so as to provide a surround sound experience if used with an appropriate media player.

It is however true that the vast majority of audio players support PCM, for sound transmission.

Another difference between PCM and Bitstream is that whilst PCM converts an analog signal to a digital one, Bitstream generally refers to digital signals or digital data format.

Bitstream is encoded in binary form or transmitted over communication channels.

PCM on the other hand only applies to the input audio devices that are connected using HDMI cables, such as BlueRay, game consoles, and set-up boxes.

PCM is an uncompressed signal, therefore if you are getting audio delay, it is perfect as the TV does not need to compress the signal.

Examples of Bitstream Management

Examples of surround sound formats that use the bitstream transfer process include

  • Dolby Digital
  • DTS: X. increase
  • DTS-ES
  • TrueHD
  • Atmos
  • EX
  • DTS 96/24
  • DTS HD-Master Audio

What is Bitstream Audiophile

As the decrypting is done via the Blueray player or AVR (audio and video receiver), the Bitstream Audiophile functionality produces Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound bit streams from the disc without decoding them.

What is Bitstream Re-Encode

This is compatible with AV receivers that do not support the latest encoding such as for example, Dolby True HD and DTS- HD.

The Bitstream Re-encode format, as the name suggests re-encodes the surround sound formats, by first decoding them to PCM and then recoding them to prior DTS or Dolby Digital formats.

Advantages of Bitstream

Bitstream works with Digital sound tranmission.

Bitstream is compatible with High tech players that are compatible with selected surround sound formats.

Bitstream allows you to use both wired and wireless technology.

Bitstream consists of two 5.1 coaxial optical outputs and offers great versatility for high-quality audio output.

Lastly, Bitstream encodes files according to the surround sound format.

Disadvantages of Bitstream

As bitstream produces high-quality output, it requires more power and a higher quality receiver.

The device can break down quicker than anticipated as more workload is embedded on the right quality receiver in the audio setup.

Additional lower quality secondary audio transmission.

The Bottom Line

Bitstream’s main advantage is that it provides quality audio as it lets the receiver or source do the decoding.

Bitstream and PCM are not too dissimilar, however, Bitstream is better at producing quality audio, especially from the latest audio formats.

It all ultimately depends on what you want and also what kind of budget you have.

Let us know what your thoughts are on Bitstream Audio and if you have any suggestions.

Please click on the following links for additional content related to audio

What is DSP audio

What is SVC Audio

Check out the following video for a better understanding of Bitstream.

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