One of the most highly anticipated holy grails of high-resolution audio has arrived, with high-end home theater enthusiasts getting their first listen to full lossless DTS-HD Master Audio.
Although a good number of discs (including all of Fox's Blu-ray releases) have included DTS-HD MA tracks, until now existing hardware has only provided the ability to decode the standard 1.5 Mbps DTS core.
Now, thanks to a firmware upgrade released last week for Samsung's new BD-P1400 Blu-ray player, for the very first time consumers with compatible receivers are finally hearing DTS-HD MA in all its glory.
Note that unlike most TrueHD compatible next-gen players, the BDP-1400 doesn't decode the MA tracks internally, but rather it outputs them via HDMI 1.3 as a raw bitstream for decoding by a compatible receiver, such as Onkyo's TX-SR875 or TX-SR905. Several other Blu-ray players are due to include bitstream output in the coming months as well, including Pioneer’s BDP-95HD, Sony’s BDP-S500 and Samsung’s BD-P2400.
Initial reports are quite positive, with users reporting audio quality that matches or exceeds that of Dolby TrueHD.
Although the current cost of a high-end receiver capable of decoding the tracks via bitstream is likely to keep DTS-HD Master Audio out of the hands of all but the most dedicated home theater enthusiasts, word on the street is that DTS is working with Sony to add internal DTS-MA decoding to the PS3 before Christmas. In addition, for those who do not require more powerful wattage per channel, the 90 watt per channel Onkyo TX-SR605 is available for as low as $399 from some online retailers and also has DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding.
We'll be outfitting our review reference system to include DTS-HD Master Audio decoding shortly, and will post our own initial impressions at a future date.
In the meantime, we've set up a dedicated thread for discussion of Master Audio output from Samsung's BDP 1400 in our forums area. If you've been lucky enough to sample the recently-unlocked tracks, please weigh in!
(Thanks to Steve B. for his help with this article!)