What is the difference between PCM vs Bitstream in Samsung TV explained

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The sound settings are one of the important things you should do as best you can to enjoy watching TV.

In the sound settings there are two settings PCM and Bitstream, when you set up the TV you have to choose the right setting. The default setting out of the box is PCM, this is a universal setting and will work in all situations.

HDMI Audio Input format

What is PCM in Samsung TV explained

PCM is short for pulse-code modulation. This does not apply to modern televisions at all, because PCM in audio was originally used to refer to the conversion of analog audio to digital. The acronym was widely used in telephony in the middle of the 20th century and in the 70s and 80s, when digital audio processors came out, it was also used here.

In today’s TVs, the PCM setting means the following: the digital audio signal will be processed by the TV audio processor. The audio will be converted to 2.0 or 2.1 format (two speakers and a subwoofer). Then, the audio will be sent to the TV’s speakers or sent to the TV’s audio outputs. If this setting is selected, even Dolby multi-channel audio will be converted to a lower level format.

So, PCM is a universal setting suitable for all cases. The TV usually has two speakers, the headphones also have two speakers. What’s more, almost any external speaker (except top-of-the-line ones) has two speakers.

However, in case you have high-end acoustics, this setting will not work for you, because the sound will be of worse quality than possible.

What is Bitstream in Samsung TV explained

Bitstream – streaming audio. This format is more advanced and designed for higher-end audio. When you select the Bitstream setting, the audio stream is not processed by the audio processor of the TV, the audio passes through the TV and goes to the audio outputs. It is assumed that in this case the digital audio will be processed by the external speaker processor.

This setting applies if you have a sound bar or an external 5.1 or 7.1 speaker.

What’s better: PCM or Bitstream?

It all depends on what peripheral you use to listen to audio. If you are using a high-end audio peripheral, you should use Bitstream to maximize audio quality. However, if you are using built-in speakers or a low-end audio peripheral, it is better to use PCM, because Bitstream will degrade the video quality (because the audio peripheral does not have an audio processor to process the sound).

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1 COMMENT

  1. “However, if you are using built-in speakers or a low-end audio peripheral, it is better to use PCM, because Bitstream will degrade the video quality (because the audio peripheral does not have an audio processor to process the sound).”

    Please explain why bitstream will degrade video quality.
    Also, degradation of video quality cannot be explained by a lack of audio processing in the peripheral.

    I think things got confused here.

    bitstream vs PCM is above all a question of what audio format is supported by the audio decoding (whether decoding in done in TV or in external audio decoder)
    we typically use PCM when the audio is DTSxxx which is poorly supported by TV and soundbar.

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