When you’re gaming, sound is almost as important as the visuals being displayed on your screen.
I mean, how are you supposed to feel immersed in the game if the audio quality is junk?
It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to enjoy gameplay when the sound quality just isn’t up to par.
The new PS5 can use PCM, Bitstream (DTS), or Dolby Digital, so you have quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to your console’s sound quality.
The PS4 only gives you the options of using PCM or Bitstream.
Sure, having Dolby Digital is a nice option, but it just isn’t available on the PS4.
And it might not even be the best option for the PS5.
What Audio Format Is Best For PS4?
When it comes to the PS4, the best audio format to use is PCM. No extra processing is needed for it, and the audio is not compressed. Both DTS and Dolby Digital are compressed and require additional processing. You will be required to have a TOSLINK for DTS if you select that as your default, but PCM will acquire sound directly from your console.
PCM is by and large the default audio setting on gaming consoles.
This is because it takes the audio directly from the console and has not been compressed.
Linear PCM gives you the option of using 5.1 or 7.1 signals, which most modern sound systems already support.
While other audio formats (like DTS) might work better for watching movies or streaming your favorite Netflix series, a highly demanding game being played on the PS4 or PS5 could experience diminished sound quality from those compressed formats.
Not so with PCM.
Allow me a few minutes of your precious gaming time (and mine) to explain to you what PCM, DTS, and Dolby Digital are, how they differ, and why PCM is going to be most ideal for gaming on the PS4.
What are the two audio formats available on PS4?
The PS4 lets you choose between PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) – which is the default audio setting – and Bitstream (also referred to as DTS).
The majority of audio players out there support PCM.
Some TVs and sound systems cannot support DTS though, so it is important to check and make sure that yours does before you trying to change the default over to DTS.
Dolby Digital is not supported by PS4.
However, it is an option for the much newer PS5, which was released in November of 2020 and includes multiple audio and video upgrades.
What is PCM, and why is it the best audio format for the PS4?
PCM is the standard format for converting analog audio into digital audio.
For example, any PCM audio that is recorded on DVD is a two-channel digital, stereo audio track.
Not only does PCM cope well when you are playing highly demanding video games, it will actually reduce the amount of lag you experience while gaming.
PCM is not compressed, nor does it require any extra processing that could possibly take away from the quality.
Taking sound directly from the console means you don’t get much in the way of distortion.
Is DTS worth trying out as a default on the PS4?
If you are playing a graphics- and sound-heavy game, DTS isn’t going to be the best choice for audio default.
Why? It’s simple: Your receiver has to decode the audio files, which takes away from the sound quality that you will hear.
You’ll probably notice more sound lag than you would with PCM as your default.
Your receiver needs more time to decode and transmit the sound to your speakers.
Your console will just do the work for you with PCM, making it quicker and more efficient for gaming.
Does PCM work well for watching movies on the PS4?
PCM does work well enough for watching movies on your PS4. If you have a surround sound system set up, you can get some good sound quality.
Since most of these system have 5.1 and 7.1 signals that are supported by the PCM audio format, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.
There are some benefits to using DTS for movies.
You can possibly get higher audio quality utilizing the 5.1 signal over digital optical or coaxial signals.
Unfortunately though, DTS’s supplemental audio gets taken down a few notches, leading to lesser quality. This also puts extra stress on the receiver.
PCM vs Bitstream: Which one is better overall?
Overall, PCM is the better choice, whether you are playing video games or watching a show or movie on your PS4.
PCM is compatible with almost every audio player on the market right now, including PS4 and PS5. Less strain is put on the receiver since the console just decodes the audio files before transmitting them to the receiver.
This leads to higher sound quality and less lag.
PCM’s one downside is that it can put some strain on your PS4 by allowing the console to choose the sound quality.
This means more work for your console’s processor.
Do other gaming consoles support PCM and DTS?
Most gaming consoles, such as the PS4 and XBox Series X, use both PCM and DTS. PCM will be the default, but you can switch over to DTS if you so desire.
Dolby Digital is also supported on newer consoles like the PS5.
Again, with Dolby Digital, usage is really going to depend on how you are using your console.
When picking an audio format for your PS4, it is important to keep in mind how much stress you will be placing on your receiver and on your processor.
When you place a lot of stress on the receiver, you will likely see more in-game lag.
That is why most players like to stick with PCM for their gaming needs.