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TrueHD/DTS-HD Bitstreaming: It Works!

Radeon HD 5770 And 5750 Review: Gentlemen, Start Your HTPCs
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One of the features I was most excited about at ATI’s press briefing aboard the USS Hornet was the addition of a protected audio path, which would allow cards based on the Cypress (and now Juniper) GPUs to pass encoded Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams to a stereo receiver.

Actually, this is more about allowing the playback software to pass that audio data. The path has to be implemented in such a way that the high-definition soundtrack doesn’t become accessible to a malicious user who’d happily intercept the DRM-free audio. ATI and CyberLink worked closely together to enable this functionality right as the Radeon HD 5870 was launching in a beta build of PowerDVD 9.

PowerDVD 9 properly reporting TrueHD being passed as a compressed multi-channel streamPowerDVD 9 properly reporting TrueHD being passed as a compressed multi-channel stream

Unfortunately, bitstreaming wasn’t working for me as of the Radeon HD 5870 review. Nor was it working a couple of weeks later when the Radeon HD 5850 emerged. But between then and now, we’ve been communicating with CyberLink, describing some of what we were seeing. And now bitstreaming works beautifully.

In the face of a somewhat perplexing performance environment, here’s where we see the Radeon HD 5770 and 5750 attracting the attention they deserve. Granted, the 5770 is a double-slot, full-height card, and it won’t fit in small HTPC enclosures. However, the 8.5” long board easily dropped into my nMediaPC 1000B and quite literally ran silently. If you remember back to my first experiments with Windows 7 on an HTPC, then you know I’ve been running Asus’ Xonar HDAV 1.3 in between ATI’s 780G chipset and an Onkyo TX-SR507. The combination was near-perfect, with the exception of a few Blu-ray movies that flagged my config as HDCP-incompatible, requiring AnyDVD HD to circumvent.

Mr. Onkyo happily chews on a little TrueHDMr. Onkyo happily chews on a little TrueHD

No such trouble with Radeon HD 5770 and PowerDVD 9. Even the most problematic title, Resident Evil: Extinction, played without a hitch. Best of all, the platform’s graphics subsystem went from a Radeon HD 3200 to a Radeon HD 5770. Whereas it really couldn’t game at all previously, it’s now actually quite capable of smooth play, even at 1920x1080.

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