Thanks to Sony, April 15 will be slightly less painful for 10 million people this year. Of course, I’m talking about the upcoming rollout of a new firmware that will allow PS3 owners to finally experience DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Up until now, the PS3 has only supported Dolby’s TrueHD, meaning that films like I, Robot, Independence Day, the Die Hard collection, Fantastic Four, and anything from Fox and New Line (who exclusively use the DTS-HD MA format on their Blu-ray releases), could only be heard in their far more lossy Dolby Digital versions.
While the world is fawning over Blu-ray’s impressive visuals – and, admittedly, Blu-ray is awfully purty to look at – the audio also sets it apart as a true next generation format. Listening to a film or concert in TrueHD or HD Master Audio is like pulling cue tips out of your ears. Sounds are more detailed and intricate and surround information is just more there. It’s like your whole life has been spent listening to music ripped at 128 kbps MP3 and then finally experiencing a CD. (Please, keep the “CD’s suck!” comments to yourselves.) Enjoying either of these lossless audio formats with a PS3 requires a receiver with an HDMI input. And since both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio are decoded by the PS3 and output as PCM, this means that it will work with any version of HDMI (1.0, 1.1, 1.2. 1.3….)
Further, in the crazy world of constantly evolving Blu-ray specs, this lets the PS3 take another giant step forward as the premier Blu-ray player, as the firmware update eliminates the final major omission in its feature set. As one of the few machines currently on the market to feature an Ethernet connection for upgrades, Sony has demonstrated time and again their commitment to upgrading the unit to remain state of the art. While other manufacturers are scrambling to release new hardware – ie: buy our new and improved player -- to be Blu-ray profile 1.1 compliant and enable features like BD Live, Sony has steadily rolled out the updates at no charge. Bravo!
Don’t get too giddy about the firmware update – I doubt that Uncle Sam will consider it big enough news to warrant an extension. – John Sciacca