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High Definition Sound Formats – Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master

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When considering a modern home cinema system you will more than likely want to take advantage of everything the new high definition video and audio formats have to offer, and have probably heard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master surround sound mentioned, but what are they, and what can they offer you as the home cinema buyer?

Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master are both high definition multi channel sound formats developed for the new high definition Blu-ray, and the now defunct HD-DVD discs.

Maximum Quality – Just like the Director intended

Both formats are capable of storing completely lossless data, so the final sound you hear is exactly as the film studio and sound engineer intended, and have not been compressed, or reduced in quality in any way. In a similar way to their standard definition counterparts (Dolby Digital and DTS), the difference between them is minimal whilst the final sound mixes may alter slightly with each movie, they are both extremely good at reproducing a very high quality sound.

To hear either Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master you will need either a Blu-ray player capable of decoding both formats, or a home cinema amplifier that can decode a bitstream signal sent from your Blu-ray player, and an HDMI cable to specification 1.3a or above (most are these days).

Although each format has various specialist sub types, the two main formats are:

  • Dolby TrueHD®
    Developed by Dolby Laboratories, Inc offers a bitrate of around 18Mbps which is a massive 36 times more than the standard Dolby Digital bitrate of just under 500Kbps.
  • DTS-HD Master AudioDTS-HD Master Audio
    Developed by DTS (Digital Theater Systems) it offers a slightly higher bit-rate than Dolby TrueHD at just over 24Mbps so can offer slightly more sound data per second, which is twelve time more than the standard DTS signal.

Most Blu-ray discs will have one of the sound formats on and some even older films will have been remastered and ‘cleaned up’ to remove hiss and drop outs and to take advantage of the lossless storage.

Nearly all Blu-ray players will support Dolby TrueHD and most will also now support DTS-HD Master. If you want your home cinema amplifier to do the decoding of the sound formats you will need to check carefully to see if both high definition formats are supported as many will only be able to process Dolby Digital and DTS.

Also see our page on standard definition digital sound formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS.

Dolby Digital is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories, Inc.

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