When configuring an audio system for the first time, many individuals opt to compare PCM vs. Bitstream. Interestingly, most individuals don’t have a clear idea of making a choice between PCM and Bitstream.
Some of them aren’t aware of what Bitstream and PCM are and why they should choose one over the other. Well, the content of this article is focused on explaining PCM and Bitstream.
In addition to that, we compare these two options so our readers can decide which option to select. More importantly, our readers will be able to select the option with better awareness.
Basically, this PCM vs. Bitstream comparisons article will cover the information that helps to differentiate PCM from Bitstream. If you are new to these two terms, you may consider this as a guide. So read this comparison article.
Introduction to PCM
In simplest terms, PCM is an acronym. It represents the technical term Pulse Code Modulation. In fact, Pulse Code Modulation is a special method that converts analog signals to digital signals.
More importantly, Pulse Code Modulation doesn’t compress the files even if the conversion takes place. In general, PCM streams do sample the amplitude of the target analog signals at a predefined, uniform frequency.
Then, PCM makes use of binary coding (which is also known as numeric) in order to quantize the analog signal. In other words, a PCM file comprises a unique set of code made out of ones and zeros. And these special series of ones and zeros are interpreted from analog sound waves.
PCM coding can be found commonly in aspects like telephone systems, keyboard pianos, CD formats, digital videos, etc. Also they can be found in computer audio as well. As per the functionality of PCM, it can be used to record anything like a movie soundtrack or music.
More importantly, the specialty is that those recordings will not occupy much space when it comes to storage. You may compare a vinyl record with a Compact Disk (CD) to have a better understanding of this size.
Home Theater and PCM Audio
When it comes to DVDs, CDs, and Blu-Ray disc players, they have a special characteristic called LPCM. The abbreviation LPCM stands for the term Linear Plus Code Modulation. PCM files of this type come with a wide range of digital audio applications.
In addition to that, these PCM files are more flexible in terms of transferring between media. For instance, you can transfer these files from a disk to a home theater system. And you can get it done in two ways.
Using an HDMI Connection
It is true that PCM is considered to be a digital interpretation of analog signals. It also makes audio data audible simply by making use of digital signals. In order to get it done, you should send the respective signals to the home theater. To send these signals, you will have to use media such as digital coaxial cable, digital optical, or even an HDMI connection.
In order to make the home theater systems play audio and enjoy them, there is a process. This process converts the signal to its original (analog) form. The reason for this is that the human ear cannot hear (receive) digital signals.
It can only receive and hear analog signals. So, the signals should be converted back into analog before sending them out through speakers and the amplifier.
Using Analog Audio Connections
When there is an analog audio connection, devices like Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and CD players convert PCM internally. This process allows you to get an analog signal (which is reconstructed) transferred into your home theater or stereo receiver. This transfer is done using the standard analog audio cables you would usually find.
When it comes to a situation like this, the stereo receiver is not performing a conversion process. Instead, the conversion is done through the DVD, Blu-Ray, or CD players. These connections are available in most CD players.
However, some modern players can transfer those signals using HDMI connections. Continue with the PCM vs. Bitstream comparisons guide.
Introduction to Bitstream
Bitstream is also regarded as a Binary sequence in the world of technology. In fact, this is a sequence that represents information through ones and zeros. This respective series of digital information works well with PC, networking, and other applications that play audio.
When it comes to an audio application, Bitstream works to convert audio data into digital information. These digital information bits will then be transferred to the receiver. In fact, this is the method that can be found in devices like home theater systems.
With the assistance of this process, home theater systems can create different types of sound formats. Dolby Digital, Atmos, DTS:X, DTS HD-Master Audio, TrueHD, etc., are examples of these surround sound file formats.
Also, learn more about how to perform free audio downloads.
Home Theater and Bitstream
When it comes to home theater systems, the process can be explained as follows. Bitstream lets you transfer the encoded sound signals from one device (source device) to another receiver.
The receiver should be a compatible one with a bitstream format. If not, sound signals can be sent to the AV Processor or a power amplifier as well. You can see that these audio signals are commonly present in a variety of sound formats (which are surround).
The receiver of the system ensures that the encoded surround sound formats are detected. Then, it will start decoding the information that is already embedded with the bitstream signals.
In addition to that, it makes sure that it adds other signals (such as post-processing information). This information is embedded in the bitstream signals themselves. Through that, it can convert signals into analog form.
Through this, it allows the respective system to amplify the sound. Then, it sends information to the speaker of the system so you can hear it.
When it comes to a bitstream process, it begins with the sound mixer as well as the content creator. The content created should be able to decide the respective sound format in order to record live transmissions.
The person who mixes sound or the sound engineer will proceed to the process of encoding the audio content in bits. That is in correspondence with the format you have chosen.
At the completion of the process, the bits (which are digital) will be placed on cable service. If not, it will be placed on a satellite service as well. Otherwise, it can be embedded in a live transmission or even saved on a disc. Disc means, (Blu-ray, DVD, or even a UHD Blu-ray).
You should know that the required Bitstream is transferred through a physical connection. This transfer takes place between the source device and the receiver of the home theater.
The physical connection can be an HDMI, a digital coaxial cable, or a digital optical cable. However, it can also be sent through a wireless connection to your home network, and it requires an antenna.
Once the information is received by the receiver, it’ll decode the digital bits to the channels that are assigned. Then, the signal will be sent to the amplifiers as well. With this approach, the listener will be able to hear the audio through the loudspeakers of the system.
PCM vs. Bitstream – The Differences
Now, let’s take a look at the differences between PCM and Bitstream for your reference. You already know well about the functionalities of PCM and Bitstream, so you can understand the differences easily.
- PCM works perfectly with all the common players, such as Blu-ray players, CDs, and DVD players.
- And PCM files derive from analog signals originally.
- PCM files generally require a wired connection between the source device and the receiver.
- PCM supports both transmissions (digital transmission and analog transmission).
- Bitstream works only with some devices that are manufactured to be compatible with the latest technology. For instance, it supports surround sound file formats such as DTS:X, Atmos, etc.
- When it comes to Bitstream, those files are encoded in bits while recording to match the special file format.
- This file format supports a wireless connection in addition to wired connections.
- It works with digital sound transmission only.
PCM vs. Bitstream – The Similarities
It is true that both PCM and Bitstream files are pretty different from each other. However, they have some similarities as well. Mentioned below are some of the similarities between these two formats.
- They offer excellent sound quality.
- Both files can be played on most DVD and Blu-ray players.
- Both of these signals should be converted into analog form before broadcasting through speakers.
Also read: WAV vs. FLAC Comparison – Which is Better?
- Is PCM better than Bitstream? PCM and Bitstream have their unique strengths. PCM offers higher audio fidelity, making it preferable for audiophiles and professionals. Bitstream, with its compression techniques, provides efficiency and compatibility for everyday applications and online streaming.
- Does Bitstream always result in audio quality loss? Bitstream employs lossy compression, which may result in minor audio quality loss. However, the loss is often imperceptible to most listeners, and the benefits of smaller file sizes and reduced bandwidth consumption outweigh the minimal loss.
- Can I convert PCM to Bitstream and vice versa? Yes, it is possible to convert between PCM and Bitstream formats using appropriate software and codecs. However, it’s important to note that the conversion may involve some quality loss due to the different encoding and compression techniques.
- Which devices support PCM and Bitstream? PCM is widely supported by audio editing software, digital audio workstations, and high-fidelity playback systems. Bitstream formats like MP3 and AAC are compatible with a vast range of devices, including online streaming platforms, portable media players, and mobile devices.
- Are there any advancements in PCM or Bitstream technology? Both PCM and Bitstream continue to evolve alongside advancements in audio technology. PCM sees advancements in higher sampling rates and bit depths, while Bitstream benefits from improved compression algorithms and efficiency, resulting in better audio quality and optimized file sizes.
Well, that’s our PCM vs. Bitstream Comparison. To conclude, we should say that there is no difference between these two files when it comes to audibility. Nevertheless, bitstream files are capable of offering a surround sound experience.
However, for obvious reasons, surround sound can only be heard if there is a compatible media player. When it comes to PCM, most audio players support it when transmitting sounds.
So, it is compulsory that you should check your device’s compatibility before choosing PCM or Bitstream.