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Thread: Bitstream vs. PCM out

  1. #1

    Default Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Just thought I'd share my experience in case it helps anyone. I recently bought a universal disc player (Marantz UD5007) to play my growing collection of multichannel SACDs, DVD-A, and other hi-res phys media. I'm running it through a Yamaha HTR-3066 (low end AVR).

    In my previous set up (soundbar) I had to use bitstream out of my LG blu-ray player because the soundbar did all the decoding, so out of habit I set the Marantz to bitstream (which I believe was the default). Fine, no problem. While the SACD mch discs blew me away, I didn't hear *that* much of a difference with the other formats (blu-ray, dvd-video, etc.)

    I was a little bummed, but I figured that bits are bits so maybe high end players are moot unless you're using analog outs. I accepted that universal disc players are more expensive, and that was the price of admission to the multichannel obsession I find myself in. No problem, but it was a bit of a disappointment.

    Then I Googled the difference between PCM and bitstream out, and thought it might make a difference so I decided to give it a try, and the results are...can I say OOOMMMMMGGGGG on a family site?? My wife was in the kitchen while I was A/B'ing the PCM vs. Bitstream output (with the insanely amazing Talking Heads Remain In Light 5.1) and she came out during the PCM and said "that sounds way, way deeper and better" (deeper meaning depth, not bass extension). I absolutely agree.

    I guess the difference has to do with the decoding? The Marantz is just better at handling that stuff? Does anyone know exactly? I figured I was bypassing the player's DACs either way, but I guess I was wrong? What is it in the Marantz that is making it sound better?

    Bottom line, if you have a good player and so-so AVR like me, and are using bitstream out, give PCM a try. Now the Marantz sounds like a $350 player and not the same as the $90 it replaced. I honestly don't understand all this stuff yet, how the various stages and digital, DAC, etc. all work and where the value gets added in the signal chain, but all I can is: "Give PCM a chance"--hey, might be a song there

    Might be old news to many of you, but I was blown away. Thanks for reading.

    LR: CBM 170 SE
    Center: HTM 200 SE
    Surrounds/Subs: Other
    Last edited by surroundnewbie; 04-02-2016 at 04:08 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    How is the blu-ray player connected to the receiver? HDMI? Optical?
    Nate

  3. #3

    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by natetg57 View Post
    how is the blu-ray player connected to the receiver? Hdmi? Optical?
    hdmi

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by surroundnewbie View Post
    I guess the difference has to do with the decoding? The Marantz is just better at handling that stuff? Does anyone know exactly? I figured I was bypassing the player's DACs either way, but I guess I was wrong? What is it in the Marantz that is making it sound better?
    It's definitely the DAC in the Marantz unit making the difference. The DAC is a soundbar is very cheap. Most of the cost is just to get licensing on the decoding formats from what I understand. The major cost in those units is directed to the drivers.

    Marantz has pretty great DAC implementation, especially when it comes to surround sound. You get some pretty great value in that unit.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by sludgeogre View Post
    It's definitely the DAC in the Marantz unit making the difference. The DAC is a soundbar is very cheap. Most of the cost is just to get licensing on the decoding formats from what I understand. The major cost in those units is directed to the drivers.

    Marantz has pretty great DAC implementation, especially when it comes to surround sound. You get some pretty great value in that unit.
    Thanks so much for your reply. I guessed as much but wasn't sure. Best wishes.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Missing something here... The difference between PCM and Bitstream is where the decoding of the compressed audio is performed, isn't it? The conversion from Digital to Analog is always done in the AVR/Pre-pro, unless you are using the analog output of the player, which is driven by its internal DAC.

    Otherwise it would mean that when using PCM the signal going from player to AVR/Pre-pro via HDMI would be analog, which is not the case.

    So, the difference cannot be due to the DAC of the Marantz player vs. the DAC of the Yamaha AVR, but it could be due to the differences between the decoders. Did you check with a sound meter if the levels are the same? You could get the impression that one is better than the other just because it plays louder.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by MusicHead View Post
    Missing something here... The difference between PCM and Bitstream is where the decoding of the compressed audio is performed, isn't it? The conversion from Digital to Analog is always done in the AVR/Pre-pro, unless you are using the analog output of the player, which is driven by its internal DAC.

    Otherwise it would mean that when using PCM the signal going from player to AVR/Pre-pro via HDMI would be analog, which is not the case.

    So, the difference cannot be due to the DAC of the Marantz player vs. the DAC of the Yamaha AVR, but it could be due to the differences between the decoders. Did you check with a sound meter if the levels are the same? You could get the impression that one is better than the other just because it plays louder.
    I was assuming that he was indeed using the analog outputs of the CD player or sending PCM to the AVR, but even if he's using the DAC in the AVR, it's going to be better than what was in the soundbar. I'm still a little confused on the setup comparison and how the soundbar figures into the setup, so that would help.

    Also, I think you can set it up to send PCM to the AVR over HDMI and use the DAC in the blu-ray player instead of the AVR, but I could be wrong there. I checked the manual and it does look like the HDMI output port can be configured to PCM.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by MusicHead View Post
    Missing something here... The difference between PCM and Bitstream is where the decoding of the compressed audio is performed, isn't it? The conversion from Digital to Analog is always done in the AVR/Pre-pro, unless you are using the analog output of the player, which is driven by its internal DAC.

    Otherwise it would mean that when using PCM the signal going from player to AVR/Pre-pro via HDMI would be analog, which is not the case.

    So, the difference cannot be due to the DAC of the Marantz player vs. the DAC of the Yamaha AVR, but it could be due to the differences between the decoders. Did you check with a sound meter if the levels are the same? You could get the impression that one is better than the other just because it plays louder.
    Thanks, MusicHead, that's very interesting...and touches on my original confusion. I don't have a sound meter, but I'm a former audio engineer and do lots of AV production for my current company, so I feel I'm a pretty disciplined, critical listener. I also turned up the volume on the bitstream to see if I could hear some of the details that came through on the PCM, and they were still faint or nonexistent. That doesn't exempt me from hearing incorrectly, just throwing it out there.

    The difference is noticeable at all volume levels, and involves very specific details that I couldn't hear in bitstream even at higher volumes: certain high percussion parts, certain panning and other surround mix effects I couldn't hear nearly as well in the bitstream. Like I said, my wife could hear the difference from the kitchen. The bass parts are much more defined, but in that area I wondered myself if it could be a level or output issue between the two modes....but those midrange and upper register details just don't come out in bitstream the same way, if at all.

    I had assumed the AVR would be handling anything over HDMI, which is why I was so surprised. I guess I shouldn't rule out the level issue...maybe I'll get a sound meter. Thanks for the help and suggestions!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by surroundnewbie View Post
    Thanks, MusicHead, that's very interesting...and touches on my original confusion. I don't have a sound meter, but I'm a former audio engineer and do lots of AV production for my current company, so I feel I'm a pretty disciplined, critical listener. I also turned up the volume on the bitstream to see if I could hear some of the details that came through on the PCM, and they were still faint or nonexistent. That doesn't exempt me from hearing incorrectly, just throwing it out there.

    The difference is noticeable at all volume levels, and involves very specific details that I couldn't hear in bitstream even at higher volumes: certain high percussion parts, certain panning and other surround mix effects I couldn't hear nearly as well in the bitstream. Like I said, my wife could hear the difference from the kitchen. The bass parts are much more defined, but in that area I wondered myself if it could be a level or output issue between the two modes....but those midrange and upper register details just don't come out in bitstream the same way, if at all.

    I had assumed the AVR would be handling anything over HDMI, which is why I was so surprised. I guess I shouldn't rule out the level issue...maybe I'll get a sound meter. Thanks for the help and suggestions!
    Yep, this is as I assumed in the previous post. You are indeed sending PCM to the AVR, so the Blu-Ray player is doing all of the work and your AVR is just acting as an integrated amp.

    I own a Marantz AV7701 and have also found panning effects and deep bass to be incredibly improved. The soundstage is much more stable, wide, and deep than what I was previously used to. I'm really impressed with the kind of technology Marantz is able to provide for such a low cost. I don't think serious audiophiles pay them enough attention, just because they're a large mass market company.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Bitstream vs. PCM out

    Quote Originally Posted by sludgeogre View Post
    Yep, this is as I assumed in the previous post. You are indeed sending PCM to the AVR, so the Blu-Ray player is doing all of the work and your AVR is just acting as an integrated amp.

    I own a Marantz AV7701 and have also found panning effects and deep bass to be incredibly improved. The soundstage is much more stable, wide, and deep than what I was previously used to. I'm really impressed with the kind of technology Marantz is able to provide for such a low cost. I don't think serious audiophiles pay them enough attention, just because they're a large mass market company.
    Thanks sludge, sorry I didn't see your first response when I responded to Musichead. Based on some earlier reading I thought that PCM out "might" do as you said, and make the AVR just an amp (I assumed the guts of a $600 MSRP player might be better than a $200 AVR, though I know price ain't everything), and my experience is telling me YES, the Marantz kicks butt. But I still get confused trying to figure out what's doing what to whom, and where and when

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