Dolby TrueHD 96k Takes Blu-ray Audio to 11

May 17

Written by: Jeremy Glowacki
5/17/2012 11:01 AM  RssIcon

by Jeremy J. Glowacki

During my visit to Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco to learn about the company’s new TrueHD with advanced 96k audio upsampling technology, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a classic scene in This is Spinal Tap! Christopher Guest’s character Nigel Tufnel shows off his guitar amp with a volume knob custom designed to go “one louder” to 11 instead of 10. Who knew, I asked myself as I settled in at Dolby, that TrueHD lossless audio on Blu-rays could get any better than it already was? I mean it’s already lossless. How much better can it get I thought? The answer I thought was “None. None more better.” I was wrong.

But thanks to some ingenious developments inherited from Meridian’s R&D department, Dolby found a way to take lossless audio on Blu-ray Disc maybe not “just one louder” like in Spinal Tap, but at least a noticeable notch better in terms of clarity and “naturalness.”

Craig Eggers, director of content creation and playback for the home theater ecosystem division of Dolby explained it this way: “Lossless audio is a key distinguishing feature of Blu-ray content. All things being equal, you cannot improve on the quality of lossless audio coding; however, you can improve on the quality of the source PCM content prior to lossless encoding, and this is precisely what we have achieved with our advanced 96k upsampling technology. A significant amount of Hollywood content has been captured in native 48 kHz. Studios and authoring facilities that implement Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling can elevate the quality of PCM audio prior to lossless Dolby TrueHD encoding, ensuring that consumers get the very best audio performance possible from their Blu-ray playback systems.”

 Dolby HQ
Dolby Laboratories executives and engineers introduced TrueHD with advanced 96k audio upsampling technology to an small gathering of industry press here at their headquarters in San Francisco.

Depending on your ability to hear the finer details in movie soundtracks and musical performance, you may or may not be able to notice, at first, the subtle nuances added by advanced 96k. It took several passes of A/B demos of remastered and new movie clips for me to hear it. Once I had trained my ears, however, I really understood the new technology’s benefits. Movie sound effects from, say, a shattering window were more accurately reproduced with less distortion, classical music performance material from the San Francisco Symphony filled the room more with more depth and clarity, dialogue was much clearer than before, and a flurry of audio effects from a Chinese film called The Flowers of War were just as irritating to my violence-averse sensibilities, but at least much less fatiguing to my ears.

Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling is a free software upgrade for studios, authoring houses, and mastering facilities that provide the post-production magic within the Dolby Media Producer Encoder. Dolby considers the upgrade a “value-add” for its industry partners rather than a profit play. The company hopes the coding solution simply will improve the quality of the content coming out of Dolby-badged AV receivers and Blu-ray Disc players, while adding no costs to the production or to the consumer. In other words the technology is backwards compatible with any existing TrueHD product. The advanced 96k improvements will come from the disc itself and the hope is that the studios will use it in rereleases of their catalog content as well as new productions.

The key to this new technology isn’t just what would seem like an obvious improvement from 48k to 96k; it’s about reducing the incidence of digital artifacts introduced during the content-creation process. This concept took some time for me to grasp, but here’s how I understand it: When analog audio is converted to digital, a fundamental decision is made about what sample rate to use. Higher sample rates support higher audio frequencies, but consume higher bit rates. The compact disc format chose 44.1 kHz as the sample rate, which was the lowest that could support an audio bandwidth of 20 kHz. Any A-to-D converter requires a lowpass filter to prevent sonic artifacts called aliases from being generated. In the case of the compact disc, the required anti-aliasing filter must pass all the audio up to 20 kHz, then attenuate everything above 22.5 kHz. The resulting filter shape looks a lot like a brick wall, so that became its nickname. This type of filter can have a detrimental effect on the audio but is necessary to keep the audio from going above a certain frequency. Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling masks what are called pre-ringing artifacts from showing up in the final recording.

Movie soundtracks can comprise hundreds of sound elements captured on set, in the field, or in studios at various sample rates, and either mixed directly or converted to the 48 kHz sample rate used by digital audio workstations on dubbing stages. Each A-to-D converter and sample-rate converter includes its own anti-aliasing filter, which is designed with the intent to minimize distortion artifacts. Unfortunately each filter may leave “fingerprints” on the audio.

Upsampling audio allows DSPs and D-to-A converters to perform with reduced side effects on the audio. As a result, some higher end AV products have begun adopting such processing. As with any algorithm, there are design trade-offs to be made that can affect DSP MIPS requirements and sound quality. Meridian Audio took an uncompromising approach to the problem, devoting all the DSP resources necessary to achieve the upsampling capabilities for its flagship CD player, the model 808.2. Besides performing upsampling, the process incorporates the ability to mask the side effects of any upstream anti-aliasing filters in the chain, replacing them with a filter designed to high-sample-rate, audiophile standards. Meridian calls this an apodizing filter. By using apodizing filters, the pre-ringing that can be caused by certain brick-wall filters can be totally masked. This advanced upsampling and filtering technology is now integrated as a preprocessing feature in Dolby Media Producer.
 Dolby Mixing
A demo of TrueHD with advanced 96k audio upsampling technology Dolby's new mixing room.

The apodizing filter included in Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling technology acts as a gatekeeper to prevent undesirable artifacts introduced upstream from A-to-D conversion from intruding on the sonic perfection of lossless audio playback.

The first Blu-ray Discs to feature Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling are The Flowers of War, and the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray Disc titles for the Joe Satriani concert film, Satchurated: Live in Montreal, and San Francisco Symphony at 100 have been premastered using Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k.

According to Dolby, authoring houses and mixing facilities worldwide already have upgraded to Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling within the Dolby Media Producer Encoder v2 to provide customers with the highest-quality audio experience available on Blu-ray. These facilities include United States-based Deluxe Digital Studios, Giant Interactive, Mi Casa Multimedia and POP Sound POP Sound, and Technicolor; and leading China-based companies Best & Original Production Limited, Hualu Publishing & Media Co., Ltd., and Media Asia Films.

“One of the best features in Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96k upsampling is the apodizing filter, which makes remarkable improvement in the articulation in high-frequency attacks while simultaneously cleaning up midrange mush,” Brant Biles, president and chief engineer, Mi Casa Multimedia told Dolby after using the new technology. “Upsampling with the apodizing filter on any program information, whether it is music, dialogue, or effects, delicately unveils the sound and adds an extra dimension of depth, and clarity.”

I couldn’t agree more.



3 comment(s) so far...


Dolby TrueHD 96k Takes Blu-ray Audio to 11

Fantastic reporting Jeremy, I look forward to seeing that feature included in all new AVR's and pre-pro's in the future. I think this evolution may not be absolutely necessary though, not a reason for owners of current HDMI v1.4 connectivity to feel compelled to upgrade unless they were planning to anyway. When Dolby describes its latest incarnation as "lossless", I hear an oxymoron, there is no such thing as lossless compression. The word that matters to me and most other audio and videophiles is "un-compressed". Its surprising that they would not emphasize that terminology since its the reason Blu-ray music sounds so good. Even the best of the "lossless" compression methods is still compressed 2:1, using Meridian Lossless Packing. Blu-ray music soundtracks in Dolby TruHD and DTS Master HD are "un-compressed", with 50% more clarity, resolution, and dynamic range the result. I plan to write more about compression, we've lived with it on vinyl, tape, CD, and DVD because of the storage limits of those media. Because Blu-ray has 50 Gb of storage space per disc, no compression is necessary. Regards, Bob Rapoport President, TRG Marketing

By on   5/18/2012 5:50 AM

Dolby TrueHD 96k Takes Blu-ray Audio to 11

Lots of hoohah about a new name for an old hat on a newish lady. Good thing it's free.

By on   5/18/2012 11:56 AM

Dolby TrueHD 96k Takes Blu-ray Audio to 11

Lots of hoohah about a new name for an old hat on a newish lady. Good thing it's free.

By on   5/18/2012 11:56 AM

Your name:
Gravatar Preview
Your email:
(Optional) Email used only to show Gravatar.
Your website:
Security Code
Enter the code shown above in the box below
Add Comment   Cancel 


<July 2015>
July 2015 (2)
June 2015 (16)
May 2015 (10)
April 2015 (15)
March 2015 (14)
February 2015 (11)
January 2015 (16)
December 2014 (12)
November 2014 (10)
October 2014 (19)
September 2014 (21)
August 2014 (13)
July 2014 (15)
June 2014 (12)
May 2014 (12)
April 2014 (14)
March 2014 (15)
February 2014 (14)
January 2014 (24)
December 2013 (11)
November 2013 (12)
October 2013 (15)
September 2013 (19)
August 2013 (18)
July 2013 (19)
June 2013 (12)
May 2013 (18)
April 2013 (17)
March 2013 (13)
February 2013 (16)
January 2013 (26)
December 2012 (9)
November 2012 (11)
October 2012 (16)
September 2012 (11)
August 2012 (15)
July 2012 (13)
June 2012 (8)
May 2012 (9)
April 2012 (10)
March 2012 (7)
February 2012 (11)
January 2012 (14)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (12)
October 2011 (8)
September 2011 (4)
August 2011 (7)
July 2011 (11)
June 2011 (12)
May 2011 (8)
April 2011 (6)
March 2011 (9)
February 2011 (10)
January 2011 (9)
December 2010 (4)
November 2010 (7)
October 2010 (4)
September 2010 (9)
August 2010 (7)
July 2010 (8)
June 2010 (12)
May 2010 (6)
April 2010 (8)
March 2010 (10)
February 2010 (11)
January 2010 (1)
December 2009 (6)
November 2009 (6)
October 2009 (11)
September 2009 (6)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (4)
June 2009 (5)
May 2009 (7)
April 2009 (9)
March 2009 (7)
February 2009 (9)
January 2009 (8)
December 2008 (9)
November 2008 (6)
October 2008 (7)
September 2008 (7)
August 2008 (3)
July 2008 (5)
May 2008 (1)
April 2008 (4)
March 2008 (3)
February 2008 (5)
January 2008 (2)
November 2007 (1)
October 2007 (4)
September 2007 (2)
August 2007 (3)
July 2007 (4)
June 2007 (6)
May 2007 (6)
April 2007 (4)
March 2007 (4)


Skip Navigation Links.
Skip Navigation Links.

The Story behind the World's Most Interesting AV Mounts
Read More»
By Matt Pruznick

Hey Sony, How about a Little Something for the Effort?
Read More»
By John Sciacca

4 Ways to Prepare for Install Headaches
Read More»
By Todd Anthony Puma

Seven Ways to Rock Referrals and Get New Clients
Read More»
By Cat Toomey

A Resi Guy’s Perspective on InfoComm
Read More»
By Todd Anthony Puma

Slide Show
Slide Show

Audio Video Systems, Plainview, NY
Slide Show

Station Earth, Fergus, Ontario, Canada
Slide Show

Audio Command Systems, Westbury, NY
Slide Show

Evolution Video and Sound, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Will I Prefer All Highly Ps3 Games
Read More»
Mulberry Mulberry taschen tasche Maulbeere Maulbeere Bayswater
Read More»
Cheap Jordans Online Cheap Authentic Jordans Cheap Jordans Free Shipping
Read More»
Video Game Testing - How To Get An Activity Tester Job
Read More»
Madden 11 Cheats - Redefining The Experience Of Football
Read More»
Top 10 Highest Selling Games Near The Playstation 2
Read More»
Best Lord Of The Rings Games
Read More»
Ncaa Football 2010 Player Ratings (Mi Wolverines)
Read More»
heal of battle Authentic Mikko Koivu Jersey
Read More»
heal of battle Authentic Mikko Koivu Jersey
Read More»