The Pinnacle for Blu-ray Soundtracks?
In its never-ending quest to squeeze every last drop of detail out of movie and music soundtracks, Dolby Labs has created a tool that enables studios and authoring/mastering facilities to take sound quality to an even higher level. Blu-ray Discs bearing a gold seal that says “Dolby TrueHD Advanced 96K Upsampling” have been pre-mastered to improve the quality of the original source content prior to lossless encoding. In addition to upsampling (typically from 48 to 96 kilohertz) to restore a soundtrack’s natural tonality, the new process is said to mask pre-ringing digital artifacts introduced during content capture and creation that can cause unnatural edginess or harshness. Improvements can be subtle or dramatic, depending on the quality of the source material, Dolby says.
“I came to Dolby and heard our material through the Dolby upsampling process,” said Jack Vad, producer/engineer at San Francisco Symphony in a video interview. “I have to admit, I was baffled. I didn’t understand and to this day still don’t understand why it sounded better. It has more ambience. There is more articulation. There are things about the general quality of the sound that is just much more inviting. And I’m not saying these things in the context of them being subtle. To me, it was clear the first time I heard it.”
A number of respected authoring houses and mixing facilities around the world have already upgraded to the new technology, according to Dolby. The list includes Deluxe Digital Studios, which has handled Hollywood content since the days of Charlie Chaplin.
Initial Blu-ray titles carrying the gold seal include Joe Satriani’s Satchurated: Live in Montreal and San Francisco Symphony at 100. The soundtracks are compatible with any Blu-ray player, but to experience the benefits of advanced upsampling, make sure your A/V receiver has 96-kHz digital-to-analog converters, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re using vintage gear.