Bitstream Vs PCM: 6 Ways To Tell Them Apart

The problem of many new users when choosing an audio conversion system for their device is the difficulty in distinguishing between Bitstream vs PCM. Some people think they are the same, but it is still challenging to choose.

We have put together the facts surrounding the two through research and review from experts and users. The article also provides how both of them handle the receiver and player.

BitStream Overview

Bitstream Vs PCM

BitStream plays the role of a system that converts the audio into digital ones, transmitting this information to the receiver – a bit represented by a 0 or a 1.

Once you start choosing a sound format for your device, the device process will begin. It then encodes the audio into digital in the selected form.

This process continues until the encoding is done and the bits are to the disc, streaming source, Physical connection, or in the TV transmission.

Currently, surround sound TrueHD, DTS X, Dolby, EX, ES, DTS 96/24, HD-Master Audio, and Digital can be available with this one. It is often in home theater and modern disc players.

PCM Overview

HDMI ARC Vs Optical

PCM, aka pulse code modulation, represents the process of converting an output audio signal into a digital signal for your player. It was born a long time ago and is often available in telecommunications and radio.

PCM used in a home theater system or PS4 game console will be linear pulse code modulation or LPCM. Unlike Bitstream, the signal cannot be compressed, requiring more bandwidth transmission space. 

In case you use an optical or digital coax output cable connection from your Blu-ray player or disc player to the AVR, it allows you to transfer two channels of audio. Yet, these problems will end if you use the HDMI audio output.

Blu-ray or other disc players often use this method of audio conversion.

Bitstream vs PCM: Which Is Better?

Sound Quality

In terms of sound quality, Bitstream wins when creating surround sound over fiber. Meanwhile, the rival cannot do the same, resulting in quality loss. Furthermore, it cannot work with advanced codecs like DTS or Dolby.


Bitstream was born for the latest, most modern, and not backward compatible products. If you own an old home theater player, it cannot work with it.

In contrast, life is much longer, but it has compatibility with new ones. Therefore, in this respect, PCM ultimately wins.


If Bitstream is not compatible with all legacy systems, connecting to all the latest devices and technologies is straightforward, even wireless ones. With the rival, you can switch from wired to wireless listening most simply.


Signal decoding is a big problem that it is also tricky for experts to judge superiority. If Pulse-code modulation eliminates time lag since the player is a decoder, the device can connect TVs and APPs or even match your receiver directly.

The audio player quality limits Pulse-code modulation, and Bitstream can use Dolby Digital or DTS to produce better quality.

Secondary Audio

While Bitstream is a single stream of bits per stream, its rival has more concurrent transmissions along with it. So, Pulse-code modulation can handle primary and secondary audio better than the other one.


If Bitstream is limited to modern, digital audio, then PCM can work with digital signal players and receivers. Therefore, Pulse-code modulation is still the standard for transmission.

Features Bitstream PCM
Sound Quality Produce better sound Limited quality
Compatibility Not compatible with older devices Good compatibility with new and old devices
Connectivity Wireless connectivity Connection restrictions
Decoding Draw Draw
Secondary Audio Poor handling Better primary and secondary audio processing
Transmission Only suitable for modern, digital audio High standards


You may have chosen the most suitable product for yourself through the above article. They are all valuable designs and compatible with many devices.

If you want to show your guests a surround sound system with an action movie, then Bitstream is ideal. In contrast, PCM would align with the psychologically heavy classics. We hope you will have a perfect experience with these two devices!

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Solomen is the founder of, and he is happiest when working with technology and able to help others. In his free time, he often listens to Baroque music, swims or runs. Feel free to contact him on social media!

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