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Dolby TrueHD 96kHz Upsampling Improves Blu-ray Audio

Dolby TrueHD with advanced 96kHz upsampling improves the quality of Blu-ray audio and delivers lossless audio with fewer digital artifacts.

Dolby TrueHD 96k Upsampling
This week at the Fidelity Forum, Dolby introduced a new system that takes Blu-ray audio to the next level.

The audio on most Blu-ray discs is sampled at 48kHz. The trouble is that even the original movie tracks are usually only recorded at 48kHz, so once a movie migrates to disc, there isn’t much that can be done.

Dolby’s new system upsamples that audio signal to 96kHz at the master stage prior to the Dolby TrueHD encoding, so you get lossless audio with fewer digital artifacts.

The “fewer digital artifacts” part comes from a feature of Dolby’s upsampling process called de-apodizing, which corrects a prevalent digital artifact known as pre-ringing. Pre-ringing is often introduced in the capture and creation process and adds a digital harshness to the audio. The apodizing filter masks the effect of pre-ringing by placing it behind the source tone - the listener can’t hear the pre-ringing because it’s behind the more prevalent original signal. The apodizing filter was adapted from technology developed by Meridian for audiophile-quality CD players selling for $18,000.

I was able to hear the results of the new upsampling process at Fidelity Forum. During the demo, all the samples sounded fuller, more distinctive and with a better soundstage. What was particularly surprising was the effect of the apodizing filter. I was initially skeptical, because the engineering description of pre-ringing seemed more like jargon, but in practice, I could definitely hear the difference. Higher tones seemed less severe and more natural.

There also seemed to be improvements in the overall ambiance of soundtracks, an airy quality that made the 48kHz versions seem flat. The results can be subtle, but they’re noticeable enough that it is worth it.

There are already home theater components that include built-in upsampling features, but since the Dolby system hits the signal with upsampling before it’s been encoded to TrueHD, the result is closer to the source. Also, other upsamplers won’t do the apodizing filter trick that contributes a lot to the final results.

In order to enjoy the benefits of a 96kHz disc, you need an AV receiver capable of playing it. Generally, newer receivers can, but not all of them. Many new receivers support sample rates up to 192kHz.

Dolby said several mixing houses have already upgraded their systems to take advantage of the new technology. In the US, two new releases Satchurated: Live in Montreal and San Francisco Symphony at 100 will feature the 96kHz soundtracks.

Ideally we’d have Blu-ray discs with audio recorded natively in 96k, but that rarely happens, especially on film titles. Until that becomes more common, Dolby’s solution is a boon for people who value the sound as much as the picture. It’s also a great tool for the enormous back catalog of movies that have yet to be released on Blu-ray, and even more reason to make sure your client's audio gear is up to date.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Audio · All topics

About the Author

Grant Clauser
Grant Clauser is a technology editor, covering home electronics for more than 10 years for such publications as Electronic House and Dealerscope. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore.

6 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Stephan Ahonen  on  05/17  at  06:53 PM

Snake oil. Do a double-blind ABX test or go home, enough said.

Posted by Noitatsidem  on  05/17  at  09:05 PM

Sorry but upsampling is NEVER worth it. I don’t care what filters or whatever other such nonsense are applied the original source audio will always be better. This is clearly just a marketing gimmick, like upsampling a DVD to 1080p, it’s going to do nothing to improve the quality of the original. It’s common sense really. Sorry, but bigger isn’t always better.

Posted by Debunker  on  05/18  at  02:45 AM

Let me know when you pass a double-blind test deciding which is the “fuller, more natural” sound. Ridiculous. :D

Posted by Grant Clauser  on  05/18  at  07:39 AM

I understand the skepticism, and I felt the same way, but when I heard the results I could most definitely tell the difference. Sometimes it’s subtle, but it’s there. Is it enough to go out in search of these discs? Honestly, there’s no reason not to—there’s no extra cost. The feature is being added to Dolby’s encoder package free to studios/mixing facilities.  As for the comment that upsampling is never better—that’s absolutely not true. Just check out any of the good 1080p upconverting DVD players on the market. Line doublers, video processors etc have been improving original video signals for years. Why is it so hard to believe that an audio process, applied to the original master, is also going to enhance the signal? Calling BS on something you haven’t experienced is simply trolling.

Posted by Brent  on  05/20  at  11:18 AM

“like upsampling a DVD to 1080p, it’s going to do nothing to improve the quality of the original.”
Any DVD (480 lines) played on any HDTV (720 or 1080 lines) is upconverted. Either the DVD player does it sending an HD signal to the TV, or the TV takes the native DVD signal and processes it to fill the screen. Whether you allow the DVD player to upconvert or allow the TV to do it should be determined by which device does it better.
Example: if you have a budget projector and a high end blu-ray player, it might be a good idea to allow the player to upconvert the signal, as it will most likely have a better video processor than an entry level display. On the other hand, if you have one of the new high end projectors that cost mega bucks and a $30 DVD player that upconverts, you will probably be better off allowing the display to handle the processing.
To make a blanket statement alluding that upconversion of any kind is snake oil is misleading, ignorant, and downright false.

Posted by Rob  on  05/29  at  01:22 PM

I used to subscribe to the “you can’t add information that isn’t there” theory when it came to up-sampling DVD players and similar audio tricks, but that’s simply not true.  While not specifically related, one has to look no further than frame interpolation to see that it *is* possible to add information that simply isn’t there in the original.  I do realize we’re talking about audio here and it’s quite different, but to say the original is the be-all and end-all of the quality you’re going to get is simply not true.

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