Originally Posted by Upgrade
I have had a PS3 for over a year now and I have consistently been disappointed by the sound from my Blu-Ray movies. I was expecting to be blown away by the next generation audio codecs, but instead I have always been let down and it has left me thinking that I must have something set up incorrectly. With "Heat" about to arrive in a few weeks, I figured I needed to seek some advice.
My fat PS3 is hooked up to a Yamaha VX-663 receiver via HDMI and I have a 5.1 JBL speaker set up (CS480BG 6-Piece Home Cinema Speaker Package). When blu-ray movies are playing, the PS3 info bar indicates a TrueHD or DTS-Master track and my receiver indicates a PCM signal, so I am pretty sure I have that squared away. Dynamic range control is turned off on the receiver.
The things I notice that I am not satisfied with are:
1. The volume is always too low on blu-ray movies. I always have to turn the receiver volume way up past where I would normally have it for TV in order to hear a blu-ray. The dialogue is especially hard to hear. I turned up the volume on the center channel but that did not help as much as I thought it would.
2. The quality of the sound is not what I thought it would be. I have never been in awe or even startled at a surround effect from a blu-ray. Just the other day I jumped during a TV commerical because the effects in the Dolby Digital signal were so great. I knew at that point I must have set up the PS3 or receiver incorrectly.
Has anyone else had similar experiences and is there something I could change on the receiver or PS3 to get better sound performance from my blu-ray experience?
I have ABSOLUTELY related to what you are describing, and I still continue to relate to it today...let me address some of the elements you outline above...
First of all, I, too, was preparing to be absolutely smitten and blown away with my first experience of Dolby TrueHD (my player is a first-generation deck that doesn't support Master Audio at all) -- but I wasn't, and still not. The volume issue you describe above is exactly what I experience with every TrueHD-equipped disc I sample, even though you and I have different players and possibly different setups. I don't know how you have your PS3 running (unless I missed it in your post, if so, forgive me) but my player is going HDMI OUT for all audio and video...no analog connections or component feeds (which is an analog video stream). Now, my player does not bitstream the TrueHD codec, so I set its TrueHD output to "PCM" so the player decodes the soundtrack and sends it over HDMI as multichannel PCM -- my receiver then reads "MULTICH" as the listening mode, as you say yours does, so that's correct from all accounts so far (the receiver doesn't "know" exactly what codec is coming over its analog or HDMI interface in this method, it just plays back the decoded PCM signal from the source deck, so that's why "MULTICH" or "DIRECT" illuminates on the receiver).
I have been using this "internally decoded to PCM" method for a good two years now since I've owned my first generation player, where it's sending the decoded TrueHD over HDMI as PCM, but aside from what every professional swears to, that this should sound NO different from bitstreamed signals, I can swear that the TrueHD experience is severely lacking somewhere. You are right -- volume levels are way lower than when playing back bitstreamed signals of Dolby Digital and DTS, and dialogue is especially difficult to make out on most discs. "The Dark Knight" on Blu-ray has sonically wild audio once the action heats up, but I can't make out what some characters are saying if my master volume is too low -- and my center channel is 2 dBs higher than the rest for compensation. It just doesn't "satisfy" in the way that I thought it would...Dolby TrueHD, that is. I find myself comparing lossy Dolby Digital tracks and TrueHD tracks on the same disc, when they're equipped that way, and the lossy Dolby mixes always sound heavier and punchier than the TrueHD ones, the Dolby tracks bitstreamed from my player. I thought it would be the other way around; from what I have been told, though, "lossless" has nothing to do with "volume output" and a track being "hotter" which is what I thought uncompressed would do -- there's supposed to be much more dynamic range and detail in the audio mix, but to be honest, I just don't hear it...they all sound like Dolby Digital or DTS tracks to me, just lower in output.
Now, with MASTER AUDIO, that's a whole different ballgame on my system -- because my player doesn't support this codec at all, it extracts a core DTS signal from Master Audio mixes and plays that back as bitstreamed to my receiver...and these sound like good DTS tracks on DVDs to my ears, not anything spectacularly better or with "more detail"...although there are a couple of titles on Blu, like "Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" and "The Incredible Hulk," which sound absolutely incredible and lifelike in its DTS core extraction from the Master Audio stream. I have been hearing that the lossless extension of these MA tracks aren't going to be night and day over hearing the core extraction, once I get equipment that can support Master Audio, but that they WILL sound better than DVDs with DTS tracks. This has all been so frustrating since the format arrived.
So, yes, your situation in terms of sheer volume power and "lack of startling effects" on Blu-rays with TrueHD is definitely not unique at least in my experience; I recently replaced by "Casino Royale" DVD with the latest Collector's Edition of it on Blu, and the Blu-ray's Dolby TrueHD didn't impress me in the least compared to the DVD's Dolby Digital track -- from the very start, the bass on the TrueHD mix was lacking (although I AM using a player that has a known "LFE bug" of some sort that reduces bass over HDMI when the player is doing the decoding to multichannel PCM, as mine is)...but beyond that, the Dolby Digital mix on the DVD was just so much more jarring and "alive." The same wild surround effects were there from the DVD's audio track -- but the Blu-ray didn't impress me with its TrueHD mix.
I'm hoping this "clears up" or somehow "gets better" when I finally get a new player that can bitstream TrueHD and Master Audio to my HDMI 1.3a receiver, but the reports about this are a bit hazy; some say there is absolutely NO difference in letting the player do the decoding to PCM, or having the player pass the bitstream signal to the processor/receiver...all I know is that I agree with the points you have made above with regard to your PS3 and its unsatisfying TrueHD delivery.