PCM Vs Bitstream for Audio: Which one is Better?

Now imagine you are looking forward to an exciting movie night with thrilling
audio quality, but you are stuck in the battle to choose between PCM and
Bitstream for audio.

It might be a tough decision, considering the ALMOST same audio quality.
However, both methods got their pros and cons.

What’s more, to get started with the article, we need to know what PCM and
Bitstream are. Well, both are means for the audio transmission from the source to
the receiver in a home theater system. And to make the best home theater
system, you will need the perfect audio quality. Hence, you got to choose
between PCM or bitstream.

In this article, we will shed light on the difference between bitstream and PCM
and the one fit for your situation.
Let’s start with the basics:

What is Bitstream?

What is Bitstream?

Bitstream is a method to transfer the audio from the source to the listener
through bits of information (1 and 0). To put it another way, bitstream converts
the analog signal into digital which is then interpreted in different ways.

In bitstream, the audio flows in the binary form before reaching your ear.
Bitstream is used by many sound formats as DTS, DTS-ES, Dolby Digital, Plus,
Atomos, DTS: X, DTS HD Audio Master, etc.

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How does Bitstream Work?

In a home theater system, bitstream sends encoded signals from the source to
the theater receiver. The receiver then decodes the signals according to the
bitstream information. After converting the signal, the audio is sent to the
speaker and is audible to the listener in the form of sound beats.

In simpler words, the signals got compressed and transfer from the source to the
receiver. Their signals can be heard in form of sound waves.


Pros and Cons of Bitstream

Bitstream is undoubtedly a useful way of transmitting data in the form of bits.
Still, it has some lacking.

Anyways, let us uncover when bitstream proves helpful and when not:

Pros

  • The bitstream can be useful for both wireless and cable systems.
  • Low bandwidth prevents sound degradation.
  • Supports both digital and coaxial cables.
  • Best sound output.
  • Decoding is performed by the receiver so less pressure is on the player.

Cons

  • Do not support secondary audio.
  • Not fit for classical devices like CD or DVD players.
  • It only deals with digital sound transmission and not analog.
  • More strain on the receiver since it performs all the decoding.

What is PCM?

What is PCM?

PCM stands for Pulse-Code Modification. PCM does not deal with compressed or
uncompressed files, it simply transmits them forward in the form of analog
signals.


PCM has been the old fellow and has been in the industry for so long as in the
early 1900s. It has been the first in telecommunication and radio services.

Therefore, it is a standard and authentic form of transmitting audio with greater
compatibility.

PCM format is used by many audio files such as Dolby, DS: X, Dolby TrueHD,
Atomos, CD, DVD, and many more. You might be check Fix Discord Screen Share No Audio Chrome

How PCM Works?

Well, a PCM has high bandwidth for the best sound quality and prevents sound
distortion. It sends the signal to the receiver after decoding it.

In other words, a PCM sample the analog signals at regular intervals. This signal is
then coded into a digital one and transmitted to the receiver.


Pros and Cons of PCM

PCM being the senior in the industry is the standard way of signal transmission.
Nevertheless, PCM has advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Supports older devices such as CD and DVD players.
  • Transmits both analog and digital signals.
  • Less strain on the receiver since all decoding is performed by the player.
  • High sound transmission with no lag.
  • Supports secondary audio.
  • Low-cost tooling for efficient transmission.

Cons

  • Do not support wireless signals.
  • The player decodes alongside audio transmission thus sound quality may degrade.
  • Supports no more than two channels.
  • Higher bandwidth is required.
  • Digital and coaxial output are not favored.

Bitstream vs PCM: Side-to-Side Comparison

FeaturesBitstreamPCM
DecodingSignals are sent in compressed
form to the receiver for
decoding.
Signals are decoded before
sending to the receiver.
CompatibilityCompatible with high-end
players, supporting all sound
formats.
Compatible with older devices
like CD, DVD, and Blu-ray
players.
SignalsTransmits only digital signals.Transmits both digital and
analog signals.
ConnectivityWorks for wireless or a cabled system.Works only for a wired
system.
BandwidthLess bandwidth is required.
Thus, high sound quality.
High bandwidth is required
thus the audio can suffer
quality loss.
Secondary audioDoes not support secondary
audio.
Supports secondary audio.
TransmissionLess transmission rate since it
deals with compressed data.
Better transmission since
PCM uses raw uncompressed
data.
Digital/Coaxial OutputSupports digital/ coaxial or
optical output.
Limited support to digital/
coaxial or optical output.

When You Should Use Bitstream?

You should prefer using bitstream as in the mentioned cases:

  • Your sound system depends upon the receiver to decode the signals.
  • You want wireless connectivity.
  • Have less bandwidth cable.
  • Have modern tech devices

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When You Should Use PCM?

You need to use PCM in these scenarios:

  • You want to hear high-quality secondary audio.
  • You want your player to do the decoding and limit the burden of the
  • receiver.
  • You want to process both digital and analog signals.
  • You wish to play CDs, DVD players, or Blu-ray players.

Final Thought: Bitstream vs PCM?

To put an end to the discussion, we will say there is no obvious victor between
bitstream and PCM. Both bitstream and PCM have their distinct uses and areas
where they prove effective.

It depends upon the audio quality you want to hear and the setup you have.
If you have a wired classical audio system and want to pay attention to secondary
audio, then PCM is preferred.

However, if you want to play an action movie with the loudest volume in a
gathering without any wired connection, then bitstream is for you.
Let us know your opinions on this. What do you prefer: Bitstream or PCM? We’d
love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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2 Comments

    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion with me! I hope you enjoyed reading the comparison between PCM and Bitstream.

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