Pcm Vs Bitstream – Which One is Better?

Bitstream and PCM are two audio standards for the transmission of audio signals from the audio player(transmitter) to the speakers(receiver). When you buy an audio system, you will have the choice to choose either PCM configuration or Bitstream configuration. You will want to get the best output from your audio system. That is why it is important for you to understand the similarities and differences between Bitstream and PCM so that you can purchase the perfect product.

What is PCM?

PCM stands for Pulse Code Modulation. PCM is a standard by which analog signals into digital signals without any compression. It is basically an algorithm whereby the amplitudes of the analog signals are sampled regularly after fixed intervals. After sampling them, the algorithm uses binary coding to quantize the signals into zeros and ones.

Pros and cons of PCM


  • PCM improves the quality of access for additional audio tracks. It can provide better noise performance when compared to an analog system.
  • With PCM, there will be no lagging. It is quick and direct which makes it ideal for long-distance communication.
  • PCM allows decoding in any type of player device. One can easily use different types of coding techniques for the received signal. PCM has a digital nature that enables storing PCM signals.
  • PCM is secure and makes sure there will be less work for the receiver. This helps to add or drop channels conveniently with secure data transmission.


  • One of the biggest drawbacks of PCM is that it transmits a two-channel signal over coaxial or digital optical. This makes it require a large bandwidth when compared to other analog systems.
  • There can be an overload when the modulating signal changes between samplings.
  • Even when PCM is there, the type of player can determine the audio quality. In this way, we can say that the player itself does most of the work.
  • The decoding and encoding of PCM can be complex.

PCM Use in Home Theater

You can easily transfer PCM to the home theater system in the following ways.

Analog Audio Connections: With an analog connection, the Blu-ray disc player can convert PCM signal in its analog form. All you have to do is to use a standard analog audio cable. The receiver will not perform any type of additional conversion for the audio. Keep in mind that this connection is available in many types of CD players.

HDMI Connection: PCM allows you to use the signal in digital form. You can use HDMI, digital optical, or digital coaxial connections for sending the signal. When you connect it to the home theater system, the receiver can convert the signal in analog form. However, the digital audio data is converted before it is sent to the amplifier and speakers.

What is Bitstream?

Bitstream has different names like Digital Bitstream, Bitstream Audio, and Bit Stream. Most commonly it is called a Binary sequence. It is the sequence of information that is represented by 1s and 0s. Bitstream is mostly used in audio applications where it converts the data into digital information. It is very common for home theater systems and is being used in various formats. Owing to this, Bitstream is highly applicable for audio applications, networking, and PC.

Pros and cons of Bitstream


  • With Bitstream, there is a possibility of high-quality
  • Bitstream sends encoded 5.1 signals over coaxial or digital optical. It can offer surround sound channel signals.
  • When you switch on to Bitstream, it is the home receiver that decodes audio.
  • When there is high-quality audio processing by the receiver, you can take the advantage of high-quality audio decoding.
  • Bitstream puts less strain on the media player.


  • Bitstream requires a high-quality receiver for better results. Owing to this, more strain will be on the receiver.
  • It can decrease the quality as it scales down the supplemental audio.
  • There will be limited secondary audio quality.

Bitstream Use In Home Theater

When you use Bitstream in home theater systems, it transfers the encoded sound signals. This is done with the help of a source device and the audio signals can be in different surround sound formats. The receiver can decode the included surround sound before decoding the information. It makes sure that the system can amplify the sound for you to hear it.

You need to note that the Bitstream process begins with the content creator and sound mixer. The content creator decides the surround sound format. The sound mixer then encodes the audio for the selected format. While playing the audio, the source device sends the required Bitstream to the home theater receiver.

In most cases, it needs a digital optical, coaxial, or HDMI cable. However, it can even be sent wirelessly. The digital bits are stored in various formats and the signals are transmitted in 0s and 1s series.

PCM & Bitstream: Comparison Chart

Parameters PCM Bitstream
Working Process Converts analog to digital signal without any compression. Encodes audio files in bits during recording.
Decoding Players decode audio files and send to receiver. Players send audio files to receiver and the receiver decodes.
Audio Transmission Requires higher bandwidth to reduce distortion. Does not have high requirements and offers more flexibility in transmission.
Secondary Audio Better secondary audio quality. Good secondary audio quality but limited options.
Support Supports both analog and digital signal transmission. Supports only digital surround sound transmission.
Requirement Requires wired connections. Works with wired as well as wired connections.
Compatibility Works with DVD and Blu-Ray players. Works with high-tech media players.

Similarities Between PCM and Bitstream

Even though PCM and Bitstream are different, there are many similarities between the two. You will have to note that when you apply it in audio production, their configuration appears to be very similar. The following are the main points of similarities between PCM and Bitstream.

  • Conversion: Both PCM and Bitstream convert into analog form through the speakers.
  • Functionality: The main function of both is to offer superb sound quality.

Differences Between PCM and Bitstream

  • Compatibility: PCM enables you to use it with most types of DVD/CD and Blu-ray players. On the contrary, Bitstream works with high-tech players that support selected surround sound formats.
  • Connection: PCM requires a wired connection to the receiver from the source device. One of the greatest advantages of Bitstream is that it lets you use both wired and wireless connectivity.
  • Transmission: Bitstream works with digital sound transmission. On the other hand, PCM supports both digital and analog transmission.
  • Audio: While PCM converts the files into analog signals, Bitstream encodes it according to the surround sound format.
  • Output: PCM requires more bandwidth for reducing quality degradation. Bitstream offers great versatility for high-quality audio output.
  • Optical Outputs: Bitstream consists of two 5.1 coaxial optical outputs. In comparison, PCM has minimum support for coaxial or optical numbers.

When To Use PCM?

The function of both PCM and Bitstream is to improve the audio quality. However, there are reasons to use the PCM configuration. The following are the points that you should keep in mind on when to use PCM configuration.

If you are looking to have a direct and fast connection that reduces the output latency, you can opt for a PCM configuration. You can even use PCM for high-quality secondary audio. Additionally, if your sound system supports only the audio file from the player, it will be better to go for PCM. You can even go for the configuration if you are looking to relieve the receiver from converting audio files.

Keep in mind that PCM works with every type of player. However, it may not be able to provide smooth transmission when you have a sophisticated sound system. Another important factor is that the space capacity is very high. You will not be able to use PCM wirelessly as it transmits large audio files. In doing so, it requires a physical connection for efficient transmission of data.

When To Use Bitstream?

Bitstream can definitely offer you more options. Here are the reasons that enable you to go for this technology. You can opt for Bitstream if your receiver has better processing power. Another important factor of using the technology is when your sound system relies on the receiver for processing the files. Furthermore, you can even go for Bitstream if you are looking to enjoy 5.1 surround sound. Finally, you can look for Bitstream for having maximum flexibility while playing high-resolution audio.

There are many things that you need to keep in mind while choosing Bitstream. While using the program for secondary audio, the output can be limited. If you don’t have a high-end receiver, the processing capability is reduced and there will be no improvement in the sound quality. You need to invest more so that there will be a noticeable difference.


While choosing between PCM and Bitstream there can be no notable difference. The only major difference can be due to the audio processor. However, there are many similarities and differences between the two. A receiver that does not come with an HDMI port can provide a better surround sound experience with the Bitstream. On the contrary, PCM supports most types of audio players and you can have many options. It boils down to the question of what your needs are.

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