Home Technology Bitstream vs PCM — Which One Offers the Better Audio Experience? (2022)

Bitstream vs PCM — Which One Offers the Better Audio Experience? (2022)

6 min read

Are you trying to find a home theater system that will meet your needs but you aren’t sure which to pick in a battle of Bitstream vs PCM? We have you covered with our guide that compares and contrasts them to pick a winner. 

What Is Bitstream?

Bitstream is known as binary sequence, and it converts sound from analog into digital, says PCMag. The audio signal is broken down into small parts and then relayed in the format you choose. The digitized bits are placed onto a disc or streamed through a receiver.  

A lot of surround sound formats use Bitstream, and these include Dolby Atmos, DTS X, Dolby Digital, TrueHD, DTS- Master Audio, and more. A lot of disc players and home theater systems utilize this audio transmission technology.

Bitstream vs PCM
Img Source – Home Theater Academy

Advantages of Bitstream

When files are transmitted through Bitstream, the signal is passed wirelessly as well as through cables. Bitstream provides support for 5.1 channels of coaxial and optical output. Even if you have a device without an HDMI connection, you can still use Bitstream.

Bitstream can support very high-quality video and audio on Blu-Ray players thanks to its encoding technology, and that means your Blu-Ray player won’t be overly taxed as you use this service. 

Disadvantages of Bitstream

What’s the downside to using Bitstream? Bitstream’s supplementary audio is poor quality compared to its primary audio functions.

When you use Bitstream to play Blu-Rays, you may be dealing with secondary audio technologies like Dolby TrueHD and others. While the video may be high definition, the audio output doesn’t achieve that level, producing only standard definition.

Bitstream also is limited in that it produces digital optical output but not analog output.

When to Use Bitstream

There will be instances where using Bitstream is a good idea, particularly when you have a high quality processor for your setup. Whether using your preamplifier, sound bar, Blu-ray player, or some other high-end processor, Bitstream helps you to have a decent audio experience. If your device uses Dolby Digital, you can utilize the Dolby Digital codec to cut down on how much data is needed to make the very best sound.

Bitstream works really well with coaxial output cables as well as optical ones, say Quora users.

Bitstream can also be used to give your media players less work to do and less to process.

What Is PCM?

PCM stands for pulse code modulation, and it is a method of changing analog audio into a digital signal. PCM is something that’s been around longer than Bitstream, so it’s commonly used in radio and telecommunications applications.

When you use PCM in your home theater setup, it’s usually called an LPCM, which stands for linear pulse code modulation.

There’s no compression with PCM signals, and that means it’s going to need a lot of bandwidth in order to send signals like it should.

Advantages of PCM

PCM is compatible with the majority of CD, DVD, and Blu-ray players, according to Sony. PCM provides very fast transmission, and that helps to cut out potential lag issues. Because all the decoding work is done within the disc player, the receiver doesn’t have to do as much. Very little processing power is required from the receiver when using PCM.

You can get a really good audio quality with this streaming method, simply by changing your player to PCM. You also get better secondary audio quality than you would with Bitstream.

Disadvantages of PCM

The one big downside of using PCM is that it won’t be compatible with wireless receivers. The files sent through this transmission method are very large and are not compressed at all, as I mentioned. That means there has to be a physical connection between the speakers and receivers. If there isn’t, data is not going to be transferred effectively.

Your quality of audio will depend on the device you’re using, and that’s because the DVD/CD/Blu-Ray player is handling the decoding work.

PCM requires a lot of bandwidth to work efficiently. If your system has been configured for an output connection that’s coaxial or digital optical, you’re only going to get a transmission that covers two channels with PCM. In other words, it’s not always the best option for transmission. However, there should be no negative effect on your audio or video quality.

When to Use PCM

Your two options for audio technology are going to be Bitstream vs PCM. If your audio player doesn’t support Bitstream, then it has to support PCM.

You’ll want to use PCM when there is no AV receiver. If you’re counting on TV boxes to handle your audio output, then PCM is required in those cases.

In cases where you have an AV receiver that is not compatible with DTS HD or Dolby TrueHD, you’ll want to use PCM. It will provide better quality and more efficient transmission compared to bitstream.

Which Is Betterv – Linear PCM or Bitstream PS4?

If you’re using a PlayStation 4, which of these options should you go with? Bitstream Dolby gives games a very immersive and authentic audio quality. For digital sounds, if you’re using HDMI, 5.1, or 7.1, linear PCM is the better choice.

Should I Set My TV to PCM or Bitstream?

The setup for your TV will determine which of these options you should go with. If there’s no sound bar or home theater system attached, PCM will work fine. If there’s no receiver, Bitstream can offer you decent quality sound, since it decodes the sound for you.

Conclusion – Bitstream vs PCM

It’s not easy to pick a clear overall winner in the battle of Bitstream vs PCM. There are instances where one or the other is the better option by far, and choosing the right one will depend on the kind of setup you have and the kind of audio quality you’re wanting from your experience. Make sure you look at the different factors that we’ve covered in this article so you can choose between these two to get the best possible audio quality.

PCM is the clear choice when you’re trying to watch TV and you don’t have any devices attached to it that may stream or receive sound. Bitstream is the best choice when you’re working with a home theater system and there are speakers or a soundbar connected to your television.

Last Updated: August 1, 2022

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