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Wii Optical Digital Audio

I've come to the conclusion that the most disappointing feature (or non-feature) of the Wii is its use of standard Dolby ProLogic II for the audio. What's wrong with optical digital audio - something the PS2 had six years ago?!?!? I don't have a ProLogic II-capable receiver, and stereo is so early 80s. Dolby Digital has been around for quite some time.

Given that I'm getting rid of the PS2 and the GameCube at the same time, I have a free optical port in my receiver… yet the Wii won't be using it. 🙁

I don't care too much about HD on the Wii. I think 480p and 16:9 will be fine. But the lack of optical audio is just plain silly.

20 Responses to "Wii Optical Digital Audio"

  1. Isn't ProLogic this way of faking surround by filtering stereo in a different band for each speaker group? We had that on our TV (a Sony, coincidentally). That never worked. It's one of the biggest scams of the 90's on consumer electronics if you ask me.

  2. Olivier, yeah, that's basically it. Supposedly, you can create some pretty nifty effects if you build your audio for ProLogic II, but yeah: it's basically a poor man's surround. I'm miffed that they couldn't get actual surround in there.

  3. I'm in the opposite camp. Dolby ProLogic has perfectly good channel separation, and Dolby Digital doesn't really add much. It isn't a hack or a simulation or anything like that. Some people are just scarred of analog. Think Cocoa vs Carbon.

    (Also, I think you need to double check that your receiver can't decode it, because that would be pretty unusual)

  4. ProLogic II isn't widely supported. ProLogic is. They're different, and my receiver is about… five years old.

  5. Pro Logic 1 and 2 are cross-compatible. From here:

    "It is completely backward compatible with the original Dolby Pro Logic decoder, so any program encoded in Dolby Pro Logic II will play back correctly on a Dolby Surround system. "

  6. Fair enough. The point remains: the PS2 had optical digital audio six years ago and the Wii still didn't bring it to the table. That's disappointing.

  7. I just use my TV's built-in speakers. Stereo is fine with me. So I really don't care. 🙂

    It will be interesting to see how the controller's speaker is used, though.

  8. But what's the PS2 sending over that optical digital connection? You guessed it, PCM-encoded Pro Logic II.

  9. Gil Bates said on November 10, 2006:

    But what's the PS2 sending over that optical digital connection? You guessed it, PCM-encoded Pro Logic II.

    Untrue. In many cases it is sending 5.1-channel audio.

    You don't work in the XBox division, do you? You posted from an @microsoft.com address.

  10. Erik J. Barzeski said on November 10, 2006:

    Gil Bates said on November 10, 2006:

    But what's the PS2 sending over that optical digital connection? You guessed it, PCM-encoded Pro Logic II.

    Untrue. In many cases it is sending 5.1-channel audio.

    Nope. PS2 doesn't have the horsepower to generate a Dolby Digital 5.1 bitstream, only to relay it. So you'll only get true 5.1 from cutscenes and DVD-Video (basically, anything that has a pre-rendered audio track).

    "Live" in-game audio is encoded by the DSP and transmitted as PCM-encoded Pro Logic II. If you don't have PL-II enabled on your receiver, then chances are you're not hearing "live" surround from your PS2 games. Check any of the popular games. You'll likely see the PL-II logo stamped on it.

    If you see Dolby Digital on a game disc, again, that's referring only to the pre-rendered audio for cutscenes. The rest of the game is likely in 2.0 Stereo.

    PS3 is a different story.

  11. Uh...

    A small amount of research on the subject has led me to the irrevocable conclusion that Pro Logic does, indeed, contain four discrete channels of audio. No, it doesn't contain six - the center channel is a weighted average of left and right and the LFE is automatically generated. But this is the case with most surround mixing anyway, even with DD 5.1 - engineers are far too used to mixing in stereo, so the center channel and LFE are rarely edited directly.

    Anyway, the surround channels are matrixed into the analog signal, in much the same way that stereo is matrixed into an FM signal. And if you're going to tell me that FM doesn't have true stereo, you, sir, are fucked in the head.

    So. You will, in fact, be getting "true" surround sound. If something is making a sound behind you, it will come from behind you. It's just not digital, is all.

    -gorman

  12. Uh...

    From the Dolby site:

    "When a Dolby Pro Logic® soundtrack is produced, four channels of audio information—Left, Center, Right, and Mono surround—are matrix-encoded onto two audio tracks."

    So the number of channels is indeed four, but there IS a separate centre channel in Dolby Pro Logic (which is clearly noticable while playing games). The rear channels are mono.

  13. All right, well the rears ARE in fact discrete in PL II, though not in Pro Logic, so the backwards compatibiliy isn't perfect, however, the additional bandwidth allowed for the rear channels means that in many cases PL II will sound as good as or better than most original PL material.

    I agree, however, that the lack of toslink is a little weak, as anyone who has an old CD player and a new surround receiver can probably tell you. A digital connection, especially considering the sheer computing power of most new receivers, would be nothing but a blessing, even if, like PS2, the only stuff games throw down would be PL II.

    I would like to know which PS2 games, by the way, have so much as a cut-scene that's DD 5.1, as my decoder shows only DD 2.0 (ProLogic II) on any games I've ever tried.

  14. The Wii is the only component I have (PS3, etc.) that does not support the TOSLINK optical audio. Oh well, would make life just a little bit easier.

  15. I'm sure this post is old... and maybe no one will read this, but being an audio engineering student and having mixed multiple recordings in 5.1 surround sound and having a solid grasp on sampling theorem and the analog to digital conversion process (A/D) that takes place in a Nintendo Wii (any disc player to for that matter). Gil Gates stated it best when describing the process of Dolby encoding, however a note to Gil you wouldn't say PCM-encoded Audio, because PCM audio isn't encoded, it's simply a BWF.Wav file, that has been downsampled to 16bit (there is no encoding process involved).
    Does anyone know why a TOSLINK cable is better than analog audio?
    All it is simply doing is bypassing the Wii's Analog to Digital converters and using your receivers instead, Gil was right the game is still going to be Dolby Logic II encoded, either way. The only improvement in sound quality would come if you knew that your receiver's A/D converters where of a higher quality then the the Wii's A/D converters (look at your tech. specs dynamic range, noise floors, then do an A-B test). Most of the time the receiver's A/D will be better, especially if your receiver is worth anything. Other than the conversion process, you're not gaining anything if the Wii had an optical out. The games themselves need to be mixed and encoded with better quality surround format themselves for there to be a difference (PS3 maybe Xbox 360 have better encoded games, DTS, AC3, 5.1 PCM) I dunno, about this however I don't own any video game systems except an Atari 2600. And remember stereo will always produce a better phantom image then surround sounds, generated image using that crappy little center channel speaker you bought at Best Buy or Tweeter or any chain for that matter. Speaker quality is a whole different story. You guys want great sound from you gaming systems, Fix first all the time-domain errors in the room, put a good time coherent flat Eq'd stereo pair of speakers in front of your, have good spatial difussers behind you, quality A/D conversion in the box and you're ready to go, just like the audio engineer had while mixing your game.

  16. > Does anyone know why a TOSLINK cable is better than analog
    > audio?

    I'm sure you know the reasons that digital transmission (as opposed to recording, another issue altogether) of audio is often considered better than analog, but the answer I *think* you're looking for is this: Optical transmission of digital audio is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference from neighbouring AC cables, etc, whereas copper cables (particularly unshielded ones) carrying an analog (or digital) signal are.

  17. [...] does not support digital audio. Therefore the connectivity is entirely [...]

  18. Regardless if there was direct 5.1 support, you still get a cleaner signal from an optical line than you do from R/L analog RCA cables. I only had a few games on PS2 that had 5.1 cut scenes, almost all had PL-PL2. My setup on my sound system was a monster S-Video cable with the R/L connections not even bothered to connect, but optical for the audio. Sound quality is infinitely times better. And in all honestly, with how Nintendo is with peripherals, they-or someone- will make an USB add-on for it.

  19. you can also buy the RCA DT2AD analog to digital converter like i did, it will jus simply change any analog output into a digital TOSLINK or coaxial input which means you will get a constant 16bit 48khz PCM signal no matter what you connect to it.

  20. Would a usb soundcard with optical output work with the Wii


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