Is DTS HD Master Audio worth an upgrade? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Is DTS HD Master Audio worth an upgrade?

Hi,


I'm thinking of upgrading my 10 year old Yamaha RX-V650 to one of the new HDMI capable AVRs. The primary reason is to take advantage of DTS HD master audio formats on blu-rays. Using the old Yamaha I route HDMI from BD player directly to the TV, and optical from BD player to the Yamaha to drive 5.1 speakers.


The problem is that the optical connection won't pass DTS HD master audio, which is the common format on blu-rays. Instead, the BD player (Sony BPD-S5100) conversts and sends a lossy format (DTS 5.1?) to the Yamaha over optical.


My question is whether there is enough benefit to DTS HD master audio to justify an upgrade? Could your average person (non-audiophile) tell a difference?


Also, I have found 3 blu-rays that the BD player seems unable to extract full surround sound from the encoded DTS HD master audio (Gravity, Kelly's Heroes, and Lego Movie). So I only get stereo when watching those discs (arrrg). (I've updated to the latest firmware in the BD player to no avail). So those 3 examples make me suspicious that converting from DTS HD master audio to whatever format goes out the optical port is just a kludge. I'm wondering if the audio is somewhat compromised even for discs for which I get all 5.1 channels. Does anyone with technical knowledge know the answer to that? I plan to try an A/B test comparing the 5.1 audio from a blu-ray with the DVD version of the same movie. But I haven't tried yet (will report back if I can tell difference). If the DVD sounds better in my system then I'll probably upgrade. But it might be a difficult comparison to make (what with the time it takes to get past previews and queue up a good scene you have to "remember" if the other disc sounded better or worse). There are so many folks on avsforum with technical knowledge that I thought this might be an obvious question for someone.


Thanks for any advice.

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post #2 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 10:44 AM
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Lossless audio is not a big improvement over lossy audio. I make this statement based on a some listening tests I read about.

HDMI makes connections easier, which I think is a nice benefit

There's better room corrections in the new receivers presumably. Network audio, such as Pandora. Lots of features that did not exist ten years ago some of which are nice to have.

I don't know why you have those issues with Blu-ray.

If you have the budget, it does seem like it's not a bad idea to upgrade. You could look at another 600 series like the RX-V677. Or, if budget permits, the RX-A830, if you can find good deals on it, as the RX-A840 is out or is coming out. Don't pay list for it IMO.
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post #3 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 10:55 AM
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Rather than debating the differences between lossy & lossless are audible or not..
Why not go to a local AV specialist, and listen to both through quality loudspeakers, then decide...
HDMI is the home theater connector standard @ least for now..

Just my $0.03...
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post #4 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 11:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooke View Post
I have found 3 blu-rays that the BD player seems unable to extract full surround sound from the encoded DTS HD master audio (Gravity, Kelly's Heroes, and Lego Movie). So I only get stereo when watching those discs (arrrg).
That shouldn't happen. Is the digital output on you BD player set to bitstream instead of PCM?

As to your question: not worth upgrading solely for lossless audio, but definitely worth it for all the features that have come out since your 10-year-old receiver.
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post #5 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 11:13 AM
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Blu-rays send DD 5.1 and DTS over optical at bitrates considerably higher than the versions on DVD. They rival lossless in quality. So, upgrading just to get lossless is likely not worth it.

But, new receivers will also have features such as room correction that can make for better sound. Plus, newer source equipment, streaming boxes in particular, often only has HDMI, no legacy optical and coax connections.
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post #6 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 11:23 AM
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It is worth the upgrade.
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post #7 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 02:13 PM
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Reportedly the higher bitrate lossy on BDs is indistinguishable from lossless. I really like knowing I'm hearing the lossless version, though. Call it bias.

One less thing to worry about.
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post #8 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 02:15 PM
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Then just upgrade and be happy!
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post #9 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post
Lossless audio is not a big improvement over lossy audio.

I am in 100-percent agreement with this statement, and is something I have been trying to get across to many to my own dismay; the jump from "legacy" Dolby Digital and DTS to the "lossless" DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD formats is NOT as "night and day" as most would have you believe...it's not the same jump as, say, from VHS to DVD in terms of those formats' video quality differences. I still watch a ton of standard DVDs and their Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are just fine, even when comparing Blu-ray titles' Master Audio/TrueHD tracks; I think the jump in VIDEO -- and this is debatable with many titles -- is more significant when talking about DVD vs. Blu-ray...


Quote:
HDMI makes connections easier, which I think is a nice benefit

Agreed; though people still need TWO HDMI cables to do the "loop" thing between source and receiver/processor and display. In days of old, you had to run either an S-video link between the DVD player and display plus a digital audio optical/coaxial link from player to receiver for surround audio (or separate multichannel analog cables, which were a headache) or you had to run the three-cable component video (analog) connection...
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post #10 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 05:17 PM
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I completely agree with the last post.

Being french, I usually watch movies in french, and french soundtracks are always lossy (no DTS-HD for french people...)

Since I also understand english, I like to compare, for almost every movie I watch, the french, lossy DTS soundtrack to the english, lossless DTS-HD one, while watching sequences where no language is being spoken.

Many times I have tried to convice myself there was a difference, but there was none...

Of course, your room and setup might make a difference, but I can say without any doubt that the difference must be subtle, no matter the room or the setup you have.

Going from DVD to bluray, now thats a major difference with my setup...

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post #11 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 05:26 PM
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post #12 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 05:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the responses. I'm leaning towards no upgrade at this point.


What I might try instead is a different BD player. That might at least cheaply solve my issue with the blu-rays that I get only stereo. I own about 45 discs so that averages to 1 out of 15 has problem in my system. I'll post in the blu-ray player forum and see if anyone else has noticed my issue with this player. Surely someone else uses the optical connection and has watched Gravity or the Lego Movie. The sound on Gravity was particularly "weak". I had to crank the volume way up just to hear dialog.

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post #13 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 05:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooke View Post
Surely someone else uses the optical connection and has watched Gravity or the Lego Movie.
Again, set the digital out on your player to Bitstream.

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post #14 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani View Post
That shouldn't happen. Is the digital output on you BD player set to bitstream instead of PCM?

As to your question: not worth upgrading solely for lossless audio, but definitely worth it for all the features that have come out since your 10-year-old receiver.
I'll check this too, but the kids are having "Movie Night" right now. Uhm... for the uninitiated, when would you want to use bitstream and when would you want to use PCM?

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post #15 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 06:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooke View Post
Uhm... for the uninitiated, when would you want to use bitstream and when would you want to use PCM?
The digital audio output on your player, whether optical or coax, can only transmit 2 channels of PCM. If you want hear the multi-channel DD or DTS track (which always accompanies lossless TrueHD and DTS-HD MA tracks), you have to transmit those signals in their native bitstream.

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post #16 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 08:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIslander View Post
Blu-rays send DD 5.1 and DTS over optical at bitrates considerably higher than the versions on DVD. They rival lossless in quality. So, upgrading just to get lossless is likely not worth it.

But, new receivers will also have features such as room correction that can make for better sound. Plus, newer source equipment, streaming boxes in particular, often only has HDMI, no legacy optical and coax connections.
Dolby digital bitrates are higher than DVD but DTS bitrate is the same. DTS bit rate is fixed at CD bitrate (approx 1.5 Mbps), while Dolby Digital is around 500 to 1Mbps for DVD. Blu Ray bumps that up a bit.

But it's not worth the upgrade alone. 10 years worth of features like HDMI however, make it worthwhile, especially if you plan on adding other stuff to your system
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post #17 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stef2 View Post
I completely agree with the last post.

Being french, I usually watch movies in french, and french soundtracks are always lossy (no DTS-HD for french people...)

Since I also understand english, I like to compare, for almost every movie I watch, the french, lossy DTS soundtrack to the english, lossless DTS-HD one, while watching sequences where no language is being spoken.

Many times I have tried to convice myself there was a difference, but there was none...

Of course, your room and setup might make a difference, but I can say without any doubt that the difference must be subtle, no matter the room or the setup you have.

Going from DVD to bluray, now thats a major difference with my setup...

Indeed, Stef; I see we are both in total agreement...


The first time I really noticed the "lack of extreme sonic improvement" was when I was finally able to tap into the "complete" lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks via bitstream (my first Blu-ray player was a first-generation Panasonic DMP-BD10A which didn't support these new formats via bitstream and didn't support Master Audio AT ALL, instead taking the DTS "core" stream from the Master Audio soundtracks)...compared to the DTS "core" I was listening to prior to getting my new (and current) OPPO BDP-83 player, the "full" DTS-HD Master Audio tracks didn't sound ANY different to my ears...I tried a bunch of titles I had become familiar with...Live Free or Die Hard, Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3, Fast and Furious etc...and the core DTS signals bitstreamed didn't sound any different when played as the full "lossless" DTS-HD Master Audio tracks.


Be that as it may, I still hold that the audio formats on Blu-ray (and, subsequently prior on HD DVD) are NOT the night-and-day difference originally suggested to us when the format(s) launched. I review many titles throughout a month, and I don't think these lossless formats are heads and shoulders above DVD's lossy tracks. Are there outstanding Blu-ray soundtracks that exhibit jaw-dropping dynamics like the TrueHD track on The Dark Knight and the DTS-HD Master Audio track on The Dark Knight Rises? Sure. But they don't blow you completely against the wall when comparing their tracks to the lossy ones found on the DVD versions, for example; to my ears, they're equally good and involving. Interestingly enough, Geoffrey Morrison, one of the ex video editors of Home Theater Magazine said the same thing about Blu-ray and HD DVD when the formats arrived, that he didn't think the "jump" in improvement was nearly as noticeable with the audio than with the video of these formats...


Now, your comments regarding the room, etc. are spot on, as well -- of course these tracks (or any) won't sound that great playing them through a $99 in-a-box system picked up at a local flea market...so you have to have at least some kind of decent gear to play it back on...but in general, I don't think there's all that much to get excited about with regard to so-called "lossless, master quality" audio...

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post #18 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Success! I now have 5.1 surround from those 3 blu-rays!


Turns out I needed to change an audio setting on the BD player. Specifically, I needed to change a setting called "BD Audio Mix Setting" from ON (default) to OFF. The setting description is "Set whether to mix interactive audio & output". Not sure what "interactive audio" is, but it was killing the surround on my audio output.


The first thing I verified was the Digital Audio setting (per sdurani). It has two options: AUTO and PCM. It was on AUTO, so I left it alone.


Then I tried a setting called "Downmix", which is described as "Set whether to apply Dolby surround to the output audio signal". It was set to the default STEREO. I changed it to the only other option which was SURROUND. This looked promising, but made no improvement, so I changed it back to STEREO.


The last thing I tried was the "BD Audio Mix Setting" which did the trick, as I described at the top of this post.


Wow, what a difference! All 3 of the problem blu-rays now play with full surround. Gravity sounds great! The positioning of voices from Klooney, Bullock, Houston, and the other astronaut is very clear during the opening scene as they drift about and the camera pans around (which doesn't make a lot of sense in space, but sounds natural). And I don't have to crank the AVR volume way up just to make out what they say. HUGE difference.


I just noticed that all 3 of the problem blu-rays are Warner Brothers. Maybe there is something in the way they master their discs that includes "interactive audio". I wonder if the mis-setting on my BD player was impacting the audio for all my blu-rays. It'll be fun to re-watch a few and see if I perceive a difference.


Thanks to Sanjay (sdurani) for sending me down the path that led to this fix.


And thanks to everyone else for the opinions on DTS HD master audio. With the stereo problem solved I'm finding it hard to justify the expense of an upgrade, so I'll hold off for now.
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post #19 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worf View Post
Dolby digital bitrates are higher than DVD but DTS bitrate is the same. DTS bit rate is fixed at CD bitrate (approx 1.5 Mbps), while Dolby Digital is around 500 to 1Mbps for DVD. Blu Ray bumps that up a bit.

But it's not worth the upgrade alone. 10 years worth of features like HDMI however, make it worthwhile, especially if you plan on adding other stuff to your system

Hey Worfsta...


Good to see ya outside of AudioReview, my man!

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post #20 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:07 PM
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Interestingly enough, with regard to all this talk about "bitrates" and the way they run with lossy tracks that may be on Blu-ray...I have noticed that when there are trailers on a Blu-ray title before the main feature, and they're accompanied by Dolby Digital audio, they are WAY WAY louder, more aggressive and punchier than the actual feature film that's in (usually) DTS Master Audio; I mean, I find myself saying "Now THAT is how the actual FILM should sound...not just the TRAILERS..."


Good examples of this are with Sony's BD releases of White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen -- the trailers preceding these films are ridiculously loud, bassy and "in-your-face" in terms of audio delivery...once the actual films begin, their DTS Master Audio tracks get quieter and way less "aggressive" in nature, requiring one to crank the master volume way up to compensate...I never understood this, but I suppose there's something to be said about the lossy bitrate preparation on these discs and the mastering levels toyed with...

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post #21 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:27 PM
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If your AVR has 5.1 analog inputs you can get a Oppo 103 which has analog outputs and can deliver the HD audio through your AVR.
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post #22 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooke View Post
Success! I now have 5.1 surround from those 3 blu-rays!
Turns out I needed to change an audio setting on the BD player. Specifically, I needed to change a setting called "BD Audio Mix Setting" from ON (default) to OFF. The setting description is "Set whether to mix interactive audio & output". Not sure what "interactive audio" is, but it was killing the surround on my audio output.
The first thing I verified was the Digital Audio setting (per sdurani). It has two options: AUTO and PCM. It was on AUTO, so I left it alone.
Then I tried a setting called "Downmix", which is described as "Set whether to apply Dolby surround to the output audio signal". It was set to the default STEREO. I changed it to the only other option which was SURROUND. This looked promising, but made no improvement, so I changed it back to STEREO.
The last thing I tried was the "BD Audio Mix Setting" which did the trick, as I described at the top of this post.
Wow, what a difference! All 3 of the problem blu-rays now play with full surround. Gravity sounds great! The positioning of voices from Klooney, Bullock, Houston, and the other astronaut is very clear during the opening scene as they drift about and the camera pans around (which doesn't make a lot of sense in space, but sounds natural). And I don't have to crank the AVR volume way up just to make out what they say. HUGE difference.
I just noticed that all 3 of the problem blu-rays are Warner Brothers. Maybe there is something in the way they master their discs that includes "interactive audio". I wonder if the mis-setting on my BD player was impacting the audio for all my blu-rays. It'll be fun to re-watch a few and see if I perceive a difference.

Thanks to Sanjay (sdurani) for sending me down the path that led to this fix.
And thanks to everyone else for the opinions on DTS HD master audio. With the stereo problem solved I'm finding it hard to justify the expense of an upgrade, so I'll hold off for now.
'Bout goddamn time!

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post #23 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:45 PM
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By the way, DD+ is 640 kbps and dts is 750 kbps to 1500 kbps. ...On Blu. ...On DVD, DD is 384 to 448 kbps, and dts is the same as in Blu (750 kbps for all, and first titles by Universal were @ 1.5 Mbps).
There are exceptions of course, some DVDs are only 192 kbps for DD. ...Usually stereo audio soundtracks.

CD is 1500 kbps (1.5 Mbps).

Alright, shoot now.

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post #24 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:46 PM
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Sooke, a reason to upgrade that may interest you - Dolby Atmos.
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post #25 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worf View Post
Dolby digital bitrates are higher than DVD but DTS bitrate is the same. DTS bit rate is fixed at CD bitrate (approx 1.5 Mbps), while Dolby Digital is around 500 to 1Mbps for DVD. Blu Ray bumps that up a bit.
On DVD, DTS was typically 754kbps, with a few early titles at 1.5Mbps. while DD was 448kbps.

On BD, the legacy DTS core is usually 1.5Mbps, with a couple of titles having a 754kbps core, while DD companion tracks are 640kbps.

There is no version of Dolby Digital that is 1Mbps (640kbps is max bitrate for the codec).
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post #26 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani View Post
There is no version of Dolby Digital that is 1Mbps (640kbps is max bitrate for the codec).
True, and it's called DD+

All islanders should know that.
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post #27 of 121 Old 07-19-2014, 09:56 PM
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Putting bitrate numbers aside for a moment, all I know is that the "core" DTS stream sounded identical on a Blu-ray (when bitstreamed) to the full lossless Master Audio variant; I didn't detect any differences whatsoever...now, that may be completely different from talking about lossy DTS and Dolby Digital on DVDs, though there I don't hear much of a difference either between 'em and lossless tracks on Blu, as we have been discussing...

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You anti lossless critics are entitled to your opinion. I am NOT an expert. I have climbed the ladder from a humble "jalape" AVR to a very competitive High-End Onkyo TX-SR875. Prior to the Onkyo TX-SR875 I had for at least six years the Denon AVR5700 which was no slouch, either.
BTW my BD player is the Oppo BDP-83 which was the King of blu ray players for a good while. I have played the Top Gun DTS ES 6.1 SD DVD version VS the blu ray version that has both lossless formats DTS HD Master 5.1 and DD TRUE HD 5.1. I find the DTS HD Master 5.1 richer, fuller and enveloping the Home Theater room more. The sound spreads wider. That to me is sound superiority from the lossless format. The Dark Knight is another title that makes my point. That's only a start. I can go from one title to another to the next, etc.
Once more you anti lossless critics you can NOT sell me your agenda.
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post #29 of 121 Old 07-20-2014, 12:28 AM
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I do think master audio sounds fantastic, the subwoofer channel alone in Tron Legacy has done things to the sub never heard from regular DVD mixes. Guess you just need a good system.

Also music sampler disc with the oppo sounds great, more like the 24 bit 96khz PCM FLAC's.

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post #30 of 121 Old 07-20-2014, 07:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orbitron View Post
Sooke, a reason to upgrade that may interest you - Dolby Atmos.
I just did a quick read on this. From what I can gather, Atmos will do a custom re-mix on the fly to match your particular speaker configuration. It will be interesting to see how this is implemented in AVRs. Sounds like it will be available later this year. Thanks for the tip.

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