PCM VS Dolby VS DTS: Which One Leading Audio Supremacy!

Don’t you feel bewildered watching superhero movies at the theater? Creating this surreal backdrop gets nearly possible for surrounding audio quality. Audio compression tech now comes with several taglines of brands. 

Confused? We are about to spell these out here.

Well, which aspects influence much on PCM vs Dolby vs DTS comparison?

Three techniques that you will see in this article are the top-most in the audio compression world. Dolby brings us rare moments designed for extended rooms and huge speakers. Converting analog to a digital signal to broadcast widely suits PCM. And, DTS has a higher bit rate, perfect for theaters. 

All of the differences these share are our core topics to discuss in this article. 

So, keep following to let us spill all the beans! Shall we?

PCM vs Dolby vs DTS: Quick Comparison

Before getting into any details, get some gist of this quick PCM vs Dolby vs DTS comparison. Let’s dive in!

Comparing AspectsPCMDolbyDTS
Compressed TypeUncompressedCompressedCompressed
Compression Ratio1.5:1 10 to 12:14:1 
Bit Rates64 megabytes per second448 to 640 kilobits per second1.5 megabits per second
Number of Channels2.0 channel5.1 to 7.1 channel maximum5.1 to 7.1 channel maximum

What’s new you have taken from here? Still, processing into your head? No worries, we would like to be of service. 

Relevantly, interested to know speaker setups too? It might seem similar to in wall and off wall speakers comparison, but it’s not. 

Now, Off we go!

PCM vs Dolby vs DTS: Detailed Comparison

It’s time to make all things crystal clear. By the end of this detailed comparison, you can differentiate these in terms of specific factors. 

HD Audio

When the aspects all fall down to HD Audio, three formats are available. These are-

  • Linear PCM or Pulse Code Modulation
  • Dolby TrueHD Audio
  • DTS-HD Master Audio. 

Interestingly, each comes as lossless. Still, you can figure out some differences. 

Well, consider a few Blu-ray discs that are Linear PCM. Also, we have some Blu-rays with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA

Among all these, Linear Pulse Code Modulation comes as uncompressed lossless. Meanwhile, compressed lossless holds the other two audio systems. 

Source: lifewire.com

Relevantly, Linear PCM handles a massive space whereas a lesser area does the job for the rest. After the audio processing, PCM brings out WAV. 

Audio Interchange File Format and Free Lossless Audio Codec can be the other two systems. Though disparities you may barely notice while watching shows, most users praise DTS. 

However, Dolby has several wings in it. Similar to the Dolby Digital, Digital EX and Digital Plus comparison. 

Winner: DTS

Compression Varieties

Pulse Code Modulation or PCM comes raw. Technically, it is considered an uncompressed state. 

These unencoded analog waveforms represent us digitally. What flaws this raw format of digital audio may create then? 

Think about it while we take a quick glimpse at the others. Unlike PCM, Dolby Digital or even DTS comes organized and compressed. 

By the nature of compression, a lot of possibilities or risks lie there. 

Suppose we have taken a 5.1 surround sound system. Our task is to estimate the repository space of the uncompressed DVD quality audio. Let’s say, 1.5 hours is the time limit. 

6 channels x 16 bps = 96.

Then, 96 x 48,000 samples/second = 4,608,000.

Lastly, 4608000 x 60 seconds/minute x 90 minutes = 24883200000 or 24.88 gigabits. 

In other words, it stands at nearly 8.3 GB. Can you imagine how big the number is for 90-minute uncompressed DVD audio?

So, converting from WAV files to DTS or mp3 files is quite bothersome. The same recording will differ from day-night in these separated formats! 

As soon as the file converts WAV, you can catch the bulkiness. Basically, the lack of compression of PCM makes this happen. 

Along with that, the shortage of pre-rendered audio won’t allow movie-based audio sourcing.

On the other hand, Dolby, DTS brings lossy digital squeeze algorithms. This system allows encoding a few PCM channels into the bitstream for a repository. 

Then, decoding bitstream again for playback purposes into PCM channels. Interestingly, 8.3GB is possibly converted into 800MB. 

Meanwhile, minor cases of quality loss may take place in return. Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio are the systems inside the Dolby and DTS respectively. 

These both also successfully decode the same PCM signals without any quality drops.

Winner: Dolby

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Bit Rates

The major contrast between the DTS and Dolby Digital lies in their audio bit rates along with compression levels.

Dolby digital squeezes 5.1 channel digital audio. Later, you will get a raw bit rate consisting of almost 640 kilobits per second. 

But here are some smaller cases-

  • Dolby supports 640 kilobits per second (applicable to Blu-Ray discs only).
  • However, 448 kilobits per second (applicable to DVD audio, and video). 

Meanwhile, Dolby Digital utilizes a variable squeezing level of approximately 10 to 12:1. 

Source: insider.com

On the other hand, DTS surround sound has better bit rates. Per second, its maximum raw bit rate goes up to 1.5 megabits. Inner variety in formatting is also existing here. 

DTS supports 768 kilobits per second to DVD audio and video. Along with that, you may find a very low compression rate here- 4:1! Thinking about what are the odds? 

Well, the lower your compression will be in encoding, the more realistic the sound will get. As a result, there are enough chances for DTS to hit the higher audio standard.

If you select PCM, it will receive a 2.0 channel. For home theater, and soundbar connectivity cases, PCM doesn’t suit much. 

The sound quality in these cases won’t be top-notch from PCM. Perhaps, multi-channel surround sound is not achievable. 

But usages of TV speakers are suitable through PCM. It delivers-

  • For video: 4MHz BL Spectrum or 64 megabytes per second.
  • For audio: 4kHz BL Spectrum or 64 kilobits per second.

However, if you see your samsung home theater rear speaker unresponsive, there might be issues with its bit rate.

Winner: DTS

Final Verdict

Among all these, DTS has got a big number of channels. However, Dolby doesn’t fall far from DTS, chances of quality drop exist.

Meanwhile, DTS surround sound system brings a good compression ratio. As a result, users get highly satisfied with a smoother audio listening experience. 

On the other hand, PCM carries positive vibes too. However, very selective usages of PCM have made it less competitive among these. You might want to compare PCM with raw for a better understanding.

Winner: DTS


Dolby or DTS- Which One Is Suitable For Gaming?

Digital Theater Systems or DTS is highly user-friendly for gaming purposes. It holds a large portion of gamers for serving boosted sound on headphones. Dolby also comes with these facilities but lacks the prominent impact like DTS. But brands are barely an issue if you get a built-in surround sound.

Do Every TV Carry Dolby Atmos?

Yes, almost every television supports Dolby Atmos. It gets enabled to the right hardware and the tech activation by receivers or speaker systems. Many users think that buying a new TV enables Dolby Atmos. But Dolby can imitate virtual surround sound while you are having a pair of earbuds.

What Are The Most Significant Drawbacks of PCM?

Pulse-code Modulation or PCM barely can endure analog signals. Also, you will find the highest error rate. It is unable with the time-division multiplex (TDM) too. However, it asks for a larger bandwidth for transmission compared to other formulas. Noise, crosstalk keeps lower increases attenuation.

Final Words

You have come a long way to understand PCM vs Dolby vs DTS better. Choosing a specific format carrying superior sound is tough. 

As several factors pop up, keeping your head confused is normal. Hopefully, our article has cleared these.

Find our article helpful? Feel free to let us know.

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