Streaming DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD

When one streams a movie from Netflix or other online services, the video probably looks good, but will I get the sound of DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD through my system, or just Dolby Surround as one gets from cable?


I know of no online services that stream DTS-HD MA or Dolby TrueHD audio; they require more bandwidth than most homes have available. In many cases, the audio track is Dolby Surround, in which a single surround channel and the center channel are matrix-encoded into the left and right channels. A few streaming services and devices—for example, Netflix on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well as Vudu—now provide Dolby Digital Plus, in which 5.1 discrete channels of audio are encoded. BTW, many cable channels provide Dolby Digital these days, not Dolby Surround.

As for the video, it sometimes does look pretty good, but sometimes not so much, depending on the quality of the original source file and how it was encoded. In any event, the video data is far more compressed than it is on Blu-ray, so streaming video rarely looks anywhere near as good as Blu-ray or over-the-air broadcasts or even cable and satellite signals. In general, you are trading quality for convenience with streaming.

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mailiang's picture

Netflix currently uses Dolby Digital, which is available, as Scott mentioned, through certain devices which include many of the latest higher end Blu-Ray players, Sony Play Stations and Xbox 360's, as well as wifi ready streaming devices like those offered by Roku. Vudu offers Dolby Digital Plus which runs at a higher bit rate then Dobly Digital, but is not quite up to snuf with their lossless True HD audio format. Vudu also offers the best picture quality which streams up to 20 mps which is about as close to Blu-Ray (up to 35mps) as you can get. It should compete with most cable and satellite 1080p PPV formats.


techguy378's picture

I'm aware that Netflix offers Dolby Digital Plus on at least the PS3, but I've never gotten regular Dolby Digital audio on my HP laptop. My laptop has ATI Mobility Radeon HD 6370 graphics and is connected via HDMI to my Denon AVR-591 receiver. I have a 20mbps internet connection through Frontier Communication's FIOS internet service. How do I get this Dolby Digital sound that Netflix is supposedly offering?

mailiang's picture

Unless your device has the required firmware, you will not be able to stream Netflix audio in Dolby Digital. You will only be able to receive stereo.


msardo's picture

Believe it or not, the Oppo BDP-93 does NOT support Dolby Digital Plus for Netflix viewing only - Vudu is fine, etc. Yes, it definitely is one of the "higher end" BR players out there and it definitely excels at everything else. However, when I first got this player, I noticed Netflix only streamed in 2.0 stereo. I contacted Oppo and, at first, they said they were working on a firmware upgrade to provide 5.1. Several firmware updates later, still no DD Plus on Netflix. After contacting Oppo again, they said that they could not get a deal done with Netflix to go forward with the firmware upgrade to provide this - and it did not seem too likely for this to now happen.

Bummer for such a great product otherwise.

Mark_887's picture

Streaming media services should allow higher bandwidth users like me just click on a button for "lossless" audio!. If they did that then i'll switch in a heart beat. Btw, i order "Warhorse" on blu ray what is ultraviolet service,never heard of it?. It came with a disk.

techguy378's picture

I believe it's a feature that lets you make a copy of the movie for playback on portable video playback devices.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
UltraViolet is a feature that lets you store a copy of the movie "in the cloud" and play it on various devices such as tablets and smartphones. I haven't tried it, but from what I've heard, it's kind of a pain in the butt to use.
chrisheinonen's picture

Consider that a lossless 7.1 soundtrack like that on Tree of Life averages 4.5 Mbit/sec just for the audio track. Now consider that a 1080p stream from Amazon streaming is only 2.45 Mbit/sec for everything, including video. Even if you drop that audio track from 24/48 to 16/44.1 or so, you're still talking about an audio track that is now larger than the current film itself.

I'd say given the video compression issues present on streaming titles, and most people are probably watching streaming titles on systems without 5.1 (I know I watch 10x as much streaming on the living room and bedroom TV than the theater) that investing bandwidth in picture rather than audio is more likely going forward.

abentrod's picture

Stop the madness! if you love film, truly love film you can not watch movies on a stream, the fact that it lacks sufficient bandwidth for loss-less audio tells you just how awful the video truly is. Support Blu-ray before the studios give it up in favor of the cheap streaming option.

mailiang's picture

The problem for Blu-ray is that the market for streaming video is growing faster than that of Blu-ray. Unfortunately, studios are prioritizing profits over audio/video quality.


Mark_887's picture

Hollywood just needs to drop the price on blu ray's,30 bucks per disk is nuts. My dad still buy's standard def dvd's go figure lol

John Freeman's picture

I have an older DV-981HD Oppo universal player. It works great and the video processing is supberb. In fact I think the picture it presents from a standard DVD looks as good some of my neighbors blu-Ray players. If fact I compared a my older version of the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" vs the new Blu-Ray version on my neighbors Panasonic Blu-Ray. The old one looked just as good. Could be the TV set-up, or just the superior quality of the Oppo.

mailiang's picture

Not all Blu-Ray discs are created equal. I watch 2 to 3 BD's on my Panasonic DMP-BD 85 players, (which received a very good review from this magazine) a week, and I have to admit that a small portion of them don't look much better then DVD's. However, when it comes to most of the movies that I have seen, there is no comparison. Calibrating both the TV and the BD player properly are paramount when it comes to getting the best picture quality from Blu-Ray's, many of which look absolutely stunning on both my LCD and PDP TV's.