Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA: Lossless or Not?

Everyone has an agenda. I freely acknowledge my own. My goal through my label, my digital download site and through these daily posts is to present my own personal view of high-end audio. I’ve been at this for a very long time and have some technical as well and creative knowledge when it comes to the things I talk about. Do I want this to help sell more of my recordings…absolutely. But I’m not going to spin the facts to enhance my personal financial position. That’s why any ads you might encounter on this site are there because I believe in the products.

But there are others that either don’t have the facts straight or are employed to “market” products that require a “reality check”. I’m sure you’re familiar with the strategy. I have a Linked In account and once in a while, I stop by to see some of the posting. Invariably, there are at least 6-10 sequential posts from the same person. They are always pithy quotes about how to run a business or how to succeed in life. I guess he believes it’s his job to issue the daily “fortune cookie” to all of circle just to stay relevant. It’s a turn off to me…and I can say that as long as I’ve known him, it’s been the same old thing. It just seems like he’s trying too hard.

Then there are others that insist on posting at every available site about their new product or service…and they do it by stretching the facts or being ignorant of them. Today, I noticed a post that seemed to imply that both Dolby TrueHD and DTS HA Master Audio are somehow unable to deliver great fidelity through an A/V receiver. The implication is that only PCM audio can accomplish that…and that you should buy their $300 box to keep things in the PCM format.

The author wrote, “…you are suspicious of the decoding/processing imposed by one of the two “lossless” compression codecs known as Dolby TrueHD and DTS MasterHD [sic the correct format name is DTS HD Master Audio].” He continues, “If these are cheap enough to include in a $299 AVR, how good can they be?”

They can be very good! In fact, both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HS MA are simply algorithms that are licensed by their respective owners and run on high-powered DSP chips in the A/V receivers. The same algorithm runs perfectly on an inexpensive unit or one costing thousands of dollars more. And the validity of the lossless nature of these encoding schemes is mandated to be perfect. In fact, the process requires a verification stage that doesn’t happen on uncompressed audio.

Dolby TrueHD is the current version of the old Meridian Lossless Packing [MLP] technology developed in the UK by Meridian back in the late 90s. I know those guys and they are some of the smartest DSP gurus in the world. After all, it was MLP that beat out all of the other companies when it was time to pick an algorithm for lossless coding scheme included in the DVD-Audio format.
This article tries to make the case for sticking with PCM audio and avoiding the “nasty” standard multichannel encoding schemes adopted by the Blu-ray Association (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio). In reality, whether you decode the lossless encoded datastream at the BD player (they have their own DSP decoding chips that run the licensed algorithms) or do it with an inexpensive box…the audio still got decoded from Dolby THD or DTS-HD MA. This is a perfect example of sales speak…and it’s time we recognized it as such.

There are a lot of better ways to spend $300…including getting an inexpensive A/V Receiver.


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

6 thoughts on “Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA: Lossless or Not?

  • NewHiFiGuy

    Always learn of from these articles.

  • Blaine J. Marsh

    I read stuff like this and I’m thankful that I know enough to not get sucked into this stuff. It’s a scam. I’d have a problem doing that for a living.

    • In this particular case, I’m not surprised that the individual is shameless in his continued pushing of untruths in the hope that the company that is employing him to market their stuff will get noticed. I’ve read lots of his back and forth on various forums…he is really pretty clueless. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one in the audiophile huckster business.

      • Blaine J. Marsh

        I agree. There are a lot of very good engineers / designers that have great products that also participate in this kind of misinformation. In the end it does hurt their credibility in their areas of expertise.

        • This particular individual has demonstrated that his knowledge is somewhat limited on the topic…yet he still spins his sales pitch all over the web. It’s one thing to be informative but hammering away at a sales pitch is irritating.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *