Is PCM better than bitstream

Let's imagine the following setup: The PlayStation 4 is connected to the AV receiver via HDMI cable, the AV receiver also via HDMI to the television and a 5.1 box set to the AV receiver.


The right decoder

In the sound settings of the PS4, the user can now choose between linear PCM and DTS (bitstream) and Dolby Digital (bitstream). If you choose PCM, the PS4 takes over the audio decoding of the sound material and sends it to the AV receiver, which usually outputs it unchanged to the speakers with the specified number of channels. If the PCM signal is only a stereo signal, only stereo comes out. If the signal is a 5.1 signal, then 5.1 sound comes out as well.

If you now set the PS4 to bitstream - regardless of the audio technology, for example DTS or Dolby Digital - the PS4 forwards the unprocessed signal to the AV receiver, which then takes over the audio decoding. Provided that it also supports the sound codec set on the PS4.

PCM is only a specification that regulates which device is used for decoding. The choice depends on the quality of the individual devices - in this case, on whether the AV receiver or PS4 can do the decoding better. As a rule, however, the AV receiver is usually the better choice. After all, it is aimed precisely at such cases. PCM is the best choice for those who do not have an AV receiver and output the sound via the TV boxes. What also calls for PCM: If you want to output HD sound formats such as Dolby True HD or DTS HD, but the AV receiver does not support them.


PS4: The right sound setting

Small side note for PS4 gamers: The sound setting described above only applies to games. If you want to adjust the setting for Blu-ray playback, press the option button during playback and this will take you to a menu in which the codec can be adjusted for movie playback.