Feeds

back to article PS3 firmware adds HD audio

If you like watching Blu-ray Discs on your PlayStation 3, then things are about to get better. Sony has announced a firmware update that’ll give film fans the option to use another HD audio format. Firmware version 2.30 will be released on 15 April and will enable the console to support DTS-HD Master Audio. This enables the HD …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Coat

Acoustics

This is just techno porn, and bad porn at that. Acoustic design is so badly treated, even though it is sometimes free and just requires a lot of work.

Just mounting speakers so they move the air instead of themselves makes a massive difference to anyone. Especially with Subs. 7.1 HD DTS , unless you are in a cinema, not really worth it.

0
0

24Mbit?

Last time I checked thats an insane amount of bandwidth for audio. Blueray video tops out at 40 Mbit, and it seems like there would be significantly more data in a 1080p stream than in 8 speakers.

And storing audio data at 96KHz is completely ridiculous - all this does is cut down on the complexity of the decoding hardware / software while using twice the data as 48 KHz. For the range of frequencies that the human ear can detect the two sampling rates should be just about perfectly identical.

So yeah, this is just porn. "My audio numbers are higher than yours!" Meh.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Uncompressed streams are unnecessary

The hardware that is playing this can handle a little lossless decompression. If they really want push forward the future of sound, then they need to do better than just make more channels and throw more data at it.

0
0

Its just "more is better" BS

The only reason to store audio at 24bits and 96KBits/sec is if you're a stdio who's going to be doing some mixing and processing of that audio. For the rest of us, its like having solid silver audio leads -- pretty meaningless.

The best place to start working on audio is the room. Unfortunately most of us live in small houses with small living rooms (and small TVs, come to think of it). We don't have the ability to work over the room acoustics even if we could afford to devote the space to it.

0
0
Joe

96khz?!

Ridiculous for anything in even the grandest home. No doubt just so they can sell it as an add-on.

0
0

Gearheadedness

Agree on the technical points already mentioned.

"Bit-for-bit identical to the studio master"?

Well... yesssss.... but...... what's the point? The majority of the population (here or across the channel) can't hear any difference between high-bitrate lossy encoding and lossless PCM. Unless their cinema setup is built around studio-grade monitors (of the audio kind).

As Nexox Enigma mentioned, that kind of sampling resolution is pointless. Since the limit of human pitch perception - even among mastering engineers and children - is around 18kHz, the sampling rate required to reproduce sounds as high as that (if we take 18kHz as the Nyquist frequency) is 36kHz. Hence 48kHz is more than enough for any human. Or indeed any speaker, since most can't reproduce pitches that high without ribbon tweeters.

24 bit depth is moot too. The signal/noise ratio on even high-end home audio gear is pitifully poor in relation to what would be needed to take advantage of those extra bits. Besides, the 'loudness war' and trends in audio mastering means the dynamics hardy ever go more than 10dB below 0dBFS. The bits left over at the lower volumes aren't needed.

What's needed more than HD playback is broad-sweeping audio education for the masses. Their music and movie soundtracks are getting louder and more distorted by the hour. Their hearing faculties are being so irreparably damaged by playing iPods full pelt that they don't notice how poor the sound actually is when they take the earbuds out.

The technology available in the pro-audio field for working at such high sample rates and bit depths has been round for years. But it's NOT the reproduction medium which is the stumbling block. It's the quality of the audio gear people have at home. Having a PS3 that has D-A conversion at 96/24 is pointless unless you happen to own a £3k set of speakers and some particularly well-attuned ears.

My 2p. Sorry for the blantant pornography. And the fact this post is an essay.

0
0
Boffin

Frequency range may extend beyond 20kHz

But it doesn't seem like anyone measure much beyond 15kHz. It is convenient to have audio range limited: VHF/FM stereo radio has a pilot-tone at 19kHz and a low pass filter starting around 15kHz reduces the amount 19kHz getting to the speakers.

Tests have shown people can sense sound/vibration below 20Hz and above 20KHz. Milind N. Kunchur has done work that shows humans are perceptive to sounds that would require a higher than 20KHz bandwidth and points out many musical instruments have harmonics up to around 100kHz.

Both my brother and me can hear bats.

I can hear (some) dog whistles, bat/rat scarers and some car alarms' ultrasound intrusion zone - the dog whistle is painfully loud.

Although the point of music is emotional, and low quality sound can still cause an emotional response. If you are going for realism and you are not recording and storing something a musical instrument does, when the cost of storage has reduced, then you are not going for realism.

0
0
Paris Hilton

Get a PC!

All of that stuff can be done on a pc. A games console that wants to connect to the internet, play HD video's, can have blue-ray, eventually lets you watch movies on demand... that's about what a pc can do.

A games console had a nice niche of being cheap to let the kids play games while you use the real computer... now they are turning consoles into PC's (but without flexibility) and the things get more expensive.

Oh well... played with game consoles in the past with friends. But I would never consider buying one until I have kiddies. And if I have kiddies I will re-install my XT computer with MS-DOS and GW-BASIC so they can learn. And if they learn, they can play C&C 3 Tiberium wars for a while as a reward.

Yes, I am mean.

Paris, because she does not know what I am talking about and I would like to keep that naive thing in bed too.

0
0
PIB
Stop

Grumble, grumble, grumble

Oh stop moaning the two of you.

It seems Sony can never do the right thing:

Damned if they add something and damned if they don't.

0
0

@PIB

I was just thinking the same thing. Sony gets slammed for not supporting this that and the other audio on the pS3, so they add two and get slammed for it. WTF?

The same thing happened when they dropped the 40GB system on the market. The exact same people bitching that Sony didn't need the backwards compatibility and should drop the PS2 chipset and drop the PS3 price, were the first ones in line to bitch-slap Sony again for doing exactly what they'd be bitch-slapping Sony for NOT doing before.

Sometimes,I wish people would just chose a position and stick with it.

0
0

What's the problem?

Ok, so most folk will never get the most out of it, who cares? Some will, and they will be happy for it, others will be able to get the best out of whatever system they use.

I assume it's not cost Sony much to implement such a firmware update, but it has meant that the PS3 will now be better considered as a useful HD device for audiophiles, so well done IMO

0
0

re: Joe

"Ridiculous for anything in even the grandest home. No doubt just so they can sell it as an add-on."

Whereas I agree that this new HD audio feature is mostly pointless and most people will never notice the difference, what exactly do you think Sony will be 'selling as an add-on'?

It's a free firmware update...

0
0
Unhappy

let the tech do the talking

all i read is a bunch of moaning people. you're not forced to use it, you dont have to listen to it. however, why NOT do it? if we didnt

push the technology envelope then we'd still all be using 8bit grayscale CGA resolution monitors and mono speakers (little 1 inch diameter ones).

0
0

Beg to Differ

I spent several years at Caltech's Music Lab studying the science behind audio reproduction under James Boyk. You can google around for some of his published results, including the crucial paper "There's Life Above 20 Kiloherz!" (http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~boyk/spectra/spectra.htm). Experiments done while I was with the lab confirmed, to my ears and all those present at least, that humans can reliably distinguish between audio samples based soley on frequency OR phase differences above 20k. That most listeners lack the equipment or listening environment to hear such nuances is beside the point: a high-fidelity format worthy of the name should not be the limiting factor in the chain of audio reproduction.

Regarding 24-bit sample depth, a little math may be helpful. To first order, each sample bit adds 6dB (~20Log(2)) to your dynamic range. A 16-bit CD sample therefore represents roughly 96dB, plus a little slop from the math, assuming everything in the system is working totally linearly. It turns out that the measured transient dynamic range of a full-blown symphony orchestra is around 126 dB, which would suggest a sample depth of 21 bits. In practice, you need headroom because nobody can set their recording levels *exactly* right. Round off to a nice byte-aligned quantity, and you get 24 bits.

Taken together, the importance of >20kHz information and the raw dynamic range requirements of real-world material make so-called "24/96" audio systems a great boon.... IF they actually perform linearly up to those specs. In fact, for consumer level gear you'd be lucky if you only lose 4 LSBs due to manufacturing variation, noise, etc. That said, 20 bits of useful playback range would still improve on <=16 bit CD systems. All of this assumes that uncompromising fidelity is the goal; no doubt for many consumer applications it's a fair tradeoff to sacrifice fidelity for capacity...

0
0

@Jan Buys

The PS3 is built to have a purpose more than that of just a games console. Not everyone wants to boot a computer to play a game, or have to fiddle with requirements and hardware drivers. I could reverse the argument and say that computers are only for work and serious usage, or that people should get a console instead of a PC if they want to play games. As a media/entertainment box the PS3 is shaping up to be quite nice piece of hardware.

0
0

@Jan Buys

"A games console had a nice niche of being cheap to let the kids play games while you use the real computer... now they are turning consoles into PC's (but without flexibility) and the things get more expensive."

Close.

A games console has a nice niche of bbeing cheap to let the kids play games while you use the real computer... And every generation, some idiot in charge thinks that what people really want as PCs in their living rooms.

They produce an obscenely expensive system that in the real world nobody buys.

e.g. The Pippen, the Playstation 3

Both of these systems had features like:

*It's more than a game system...it's a computer!

*Internet and web browsing!

*Il-conceived banana shaped controllers (the PS3 did originally anyway)

*$600 price tag

Remember, just because someone is missing the point doesn't mean anything's changed. The market punishes this nonsense, so you can't really say that games consoles are turning into PCs, because the ones that sell aren't.

The ones that sell are, consistently, the cheapest, lowest specced machines that get the basics right and are game systems first. The Playstation, the Playstation 2, the Nintendo Wii. Three winners, all featuring the weakest hardware of their generation, all sold on their games.

0
0

@Joe Cooper

Sorry, but I think you're a little misled in your beliefs. The Wii isn't sold on its games, it is sold on its control system, even the adverts for the games can often show you that. Unfortunately while the games are very playable, they are also very short-lived in their interest. It is sold on its novelty value, and "home-multiplayer" fun.

Then there's the fact that the Wii is aimed at a different market, the non-typical gamer. These are people who buy proportionately less games than your typical console gamer. Most people I know who own more than one console (say a 360 plus a Wii) play mostly on their 360 and only bring out the Wii for family parties and the like.

It's also well publicised that Sony certainly were making a loss on the PS3 (not sure if they still do), but planned to make their gains through the sale of Blu-Ray's and games. Then of course, quite a few people are NOW buying the PS3 because it is also a very functional Blu-Ray player, and cheaper than standalone players of the same quality.

In fact, I think this is the main point - that half of the intention of the PS3 was to market their Blu-Ray format - which obviously worked fairly well considering it has beaten HD-DVD to death now. So we should hardly be surprised when the recent updates concentrate on improving the Blu-Ray experience.

I'm not having a bash at the Wii, it's very good at what it does, but it's best not to confuse it as having the same aims or market as the other "big two".

0
0

complaining

err... stop complaining. This will be a better audio source, but you don't "have" to use it that way. just go down to curry's and buy your one-box hi-fi / surround system and you'll never know anyway.

0
0

For Joe...

"Ridiculous for anything in even the grandest home. No doubt just so they can sell it as an add-on."

So by all counts then I, and virtually everyone I know, have had delusions of grandeur with our original 48KHz 5.1 AV setups? When we all upgraded to 96KHz for the extended frequency ranges and the 7.1 of DTS-EX we must have set some serious alarm bells ringing at the AV Secret Service Police. I must have imagined the extra clarity I heard in the audio playback of sound streams using the 96KHz range.... I can expect imminent arrest then with the purchase of my all singing all dancing HD AV amp decoder.

So can all my friends who are making the change... Quick sell up or skip the country they are coming for us!!!!

(and we are talking about at least 20 people none of whom live in mansions, and are not much different from you average consumer. Just a little more clued up).

0
0
Gold badge

24-bit 96Khz

>And storing audio data at 96KHz is completely ridiculous

Says who?

If it is so ridiculous why is it the entry level in digital recording hardware? most studios have gone beyond this now with 192Khz D to A.

What would you rather listen to? the original studio master or a dithered downsampled 48Khz version?

0
0
Bronze badge

Purpose of the PS3

For me, I use the PS3 for games and am stopping using my PC/laptops for anything but work. It means I can buy lower spec PCs, or just keep my old PCs longer.

I now use my P3 as a media/games centre but not really for surfing.

Back on topic: It's nice to see these free upgrades coming out but yes people are probably right that I won't hear too much, if any, difference.

On the other hand they have put out other stuff which I am using and there's more to come, so I'm a happy bunny for now!

0
0
Flame

@Joe Cooper

"The ones that sell are, consistently, the cheapest, lowest specced machines that get the basics right and are game systems first. The Playstation, the Playstation 2"

Let me stop you right there. Neither of these consoles were the "cheapest, lowest specced" machines when they launched.

If you actually look at the launch price of the PS1 (in 1995) and the PS2 (in 2000), and factor inflation, the prices of these consoles are not that much cheaper than the UK £425 PS3 launch price.

PS2 was £299 back in 2000

PS1 was £299 back in 1995

Of course, it's convinient for your argument to forget this, and try to fool people by pretending the PS2 has always been £95, and that's why it suceeded, but the reality is, it was also expensive early in it's life.

There are over 12million PS3 owners that disagree with you that the PS3 is overpriced, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. Right now, if you pay 360 prices (only a few quid cheaper than a PS3), you get shitty hardware, 2000-era DVD drive, and a fragmented product range, many of which lack even a hard disk.

If you pay Wii prices, you get a slightly revamped GameCube, with mostly crappy underwhelming games. A PS2 is vastly more fun that a Wii.

0
0

@Jan Buys

Nice game, thanks for playing, but no. Not a single one of the PC-based Blu-ray players currently on the market correctly passes DTS-HDMA audio streams to an outside amplifier, nor do they correctly decode it in order to pass PCM. Sure, they'll figure this out eventually, along with removing the need to have multiple players installed, because each one has bugs with a different set of discs (for instance, the latest PowerDVD Ultra 8.0 removes all HD-DVD support from version 7, but still can't play Across The Universe.) However, right now the PC is a pretty poor Blu-ray player.

The previous posters are all correct that 96/48 output is overkill from a technical standpoint. But since there are discs out there that contain it, people would still like to be able to listen to them, thanks.

0
0

What's the problem?

I can't see me using it on my ps3 in the near future but if for some reason I decide I do want to use it at least I won't have to go out and buy another blu-ray player which would take up more space and have another remote for me to keep losing in various parts of the house (how do they get in the fridge?).

My point is, if someone else wants to make something I've already paid for better with no downfalls and no extra cost I'm not gonna complain!

0
0
jai
Silver badge

re: let the tech do the talking

actually, i've recently got rid of my full surround sound system with the big speaker stacks and got a dav-IS10 system - so technically i've gone back to speakers with 1inch diameter.

:-)

0
0
Bronze badge

Great news

Though bear in mind this is (I believe) pass-through to an amp that supports it, not internal decoding. Therefore you will need an HDMI 1.3 amp with DTS-HD MA decoder built in, plus of course the speakers to go with it (and probably George Lucas to pop round to personally THX approve your room's accoustics).

At least it's now fully up to spec on that part (though pass through Dolby TrueHD would be nice as I believe the PS3 converts it to lossless PCM first, an overhead that is unnecessary).

What Blu-Ray needs now however is some competition in the market with the same specification (up to profile 2.0, DTS-HD MA, etc). The problem it has is its very success, the PS3. For mass market appeal it really needs more full-spec players than the PS3 and not just by Sony, and let's be honest, no one really considers Blu-Ray to be anything other than the PS3. Talk Blu-Ray and the only advice ever is to buy a PS3.

Fine for Sony, but only decent competition will drive prices down and encourage a decent range of products from entry level through to high-end AV to satisfy everyone, and it's at the high-end where the likes of DTS-HD MA will benefit. After all, what AV enthusiast with a £50k AV system is going to want a games console powering it?! He wants a system with funky valves and retro design with lots of stainless steel, not kids bedroom plastic styling and a Sony badge ;-) (regardless of whether the PS3 actually does the job). Besides that, there will always be some people who just won't buy Sony kit and that will harm the format, no matter how much fanboys jump up and down about the PS3.

0
0
Thumb Up

TimM

Good point all round. Pioneer and Panasonic do see to be slowly winding the BR player product range into life a bit more now the HD disc format confusion is virtually resolved. I know they don't tend to be the prettiest devices but Pioneer and Panasonic know how to spec stuff and usually raise the bar for other hardware companies. Or at least provide very good value for money spec wise in the third generations of their products. Fingers crossed.

Totally agree with you though (and that is as a PS3 owner by the way before anyone starts!)

0
0

@TimM

Actually, the DTS-HDMA is being decoded to PCM inside the PS3, just as with Dolby TrueHD. The PS3 has an early hardware implementation of HDMI 1.3, and doesn't have the ability to pass bitstream data for the HD audio formats, so it's not an unnecessary overhead at all.

0
0

@Mark Neidengard

Many thanks for your input on this, Mark. I respect your expertise and as a young recording engineer (and music student) can appreciate your point about storage media. In terms of dynamics, as I see it, the outlook is bleak for the futures of audio resolution of this level in consumer-grade equipment.

Audiophile-grade equipment will always be niche. It just takes more people to realise that it is the quality of the signal chain beyond the PS3's outputs that determines whether the extra bitdepth and extended frequency response are worth it. In 95% of cases, it won't be.

Anyone who doesn't think the speakers and acoustics are the most important part of the consumer signal audio chain is deluding themselves.

0
0
Bronze badge

@Iain

In which case, it's another thing to warn PS3 purchasers if they've spent a lot of money on an HDMI 1.3 amp with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA decoding, as essentially it would be a waste of money if they go buy a PS3 because it can't bitstream these formats (and vice versa if a PS3 owner is looking at a new amp).

Sure conversion to lossless PCM is going to provide the same results, but it is still a waste of the amp's features. May as well just stick with earlier HDMI amps with multi-channel PCM support.

However I would still say it's an unnecessary overhead to convert to PCM. Understandable if it's a hardware limitation, but that processing power could be better spent elsewhere if it could actually bitstream HD formats properly rather than having to do a conversion.

Again, it's another reason why we need some proper competition out there driving full-spec and high-end AV quality rather than just rely on what most people still see (rightly or wrongly) as a games console.

Oh, and also there are environmental (and electricity bill) concerns. The PS3 is a big power horse with a lot of power being used to do most of it's Blu-Ray job in software. With more dedicated players, and especially from competitors, we would see a shift to integrated chipsets and off-the-shelf components that have much lower power requirements.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.