PS3 SACD FAQ
Last update: September 29, 2012
This FAQ aims to be the most comprehensive FAQ on the web concerning Super Audio CD functionality on PlayStation 3, but also independent, unbiased, practical and readable.
If you have any corrections, suggestions, or relevant questions that you don’t see answered here, please use our feedback form.
No, it’s completely independent. If you like this site you can support it by following the advertisers’ links. That’s all funding we have.
For general questions about SA-CD refer to the general SA-CD FAQ.
Sony’s rationale was probably that PS3 ought to be a future-proof media player that takes all experiences to the next level in terms of resolution: games, movies and music. SA-CD is the highest-quality music media, like BD is for movies and PS3 titles are for videogames.
It should be noted that (with the latest firmware) PS2 games and DVD-Video can be upscaled to High Definition and Audio CD can be upsampled to high-resolution PCM. Of course, this does not necessarily raise the quality to the same level of the new media. Especially in the case of SA-CD the multichannel aspect is missing.
Various sources point to a high interest in surround sound and ownership of home theater systems in general and among gamers in particular:
Not anymore, unfortunately. The third generation, introduced worldwide in October/November 2007, is the first model that is not SACD-compatible. Probably all future models aren’t either. All models are compatible with DSD Disc.
Apart from finishing and bundled accessories, the differences between the models are as follows:
(CECHD01 is the type number of the 20GB unit for Europe that was never released)
The 250GB model has type numer CECH-2001B and apart from the HDD has the same specs as the 120GB model (CECH-2001A)
All models feature: BD/DVD/CD drive, HDMI 1.3a, Bluetooth 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and PlayStation1 backward compatibility.
Obviously, Sony is under strong pressure to reduce the cost of the console and SA-CD playback is simply not a function that’s essential to gameplay (unlike Blu-ray Disc playback – PS3 games are published on BD-ROM discs); it’s not even related. Did it save cost? Probably. Perhaps elimination of SA-CD allowed use of cheaper PCM DACs (Digital-to-Analog Converters) instead of DSD DACs but this is unlikely since PS3 can convert DSD to PCM in software. Also decompression of DST to DSD it can handle in software. So rather than in the ‘back end’ of the hardware, the cost reduction more likely lies in the ‘front end’, in the circuitry needed in the optical drive for dealing with SA-CD’s unique copy protection techniques. Lacking solid information about this we can only speculate here.
Super Audio CD compatibility and backwards compatibility with PlayStation2 are correlated i.e. there are PS3 models that play both SA-CD and PS2 games and there are other models that play neither while there are none that play one format but not the other. This might lead one to conclude these functions use some shared hardware but most likely it’s pure coincidence and the respective formats require different circuitry that was incidentally eliminated at the same time when Sony needed to find ways to reduce the bill of material yet are completely independent.
As explained in the previous answer, SA-CD playback (specifically handling of SA-CD’s proprietary copy protection) requires special logic in the front end i.e. the optical drive. Decoding of the DST and DSD signals in PS3 happens entirely in the back end i.e. on the Cell processor. The fact that here nothing has changed between different generations of PS3 is proven by the fact that all models can play DSD Discs.
PS2 games on the other hand are published on CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs, both of which all PS3 drives can read. The first generation of PS3 contained effectively a ‘PlayStation2 on a chip’: an integrated circuit containing ‘EE+GS’ – the Emotion Engine (CPU) and Graphics Synthesizer (GPU) from PS2, an expensive piece of silicon. To cut costs, in the second generation of PS3 Sony implemented PS2 compatibility by emulating the EE in software. Apparently the GS could not be emulated in software and was kept in. To cut costs further, in the third generation of PS3 the GS was removed altogether and PS2 emulation with it.
Originally, you could for games, CDs, DVDs and even BDs but you couldn’t for SA-CDs. The optical connection, also known as Tos-link, is a so-called SPDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface). It can carry stereo PCM or compressed multichannel audio like Dolby Digital and DTS, but not lossless discrete multichannel audio like DSD, multichannel PCM, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.
With system software v 2.00, if you’ve got an AV Receiver without HDMI PS3 can convert multichannel SA-CD to multichannel DTS for you and feed it to the optical digital output. If you disable DTS out it will output PCM stereo, also during multichannel SA-CD playback. The output frequency is 48kHz.
In version 2.01 however, DSD-to-DTS transcoding is disabled again. Optical output from SA-CD remains supported but in 16-bit 44.1 kHz stereo PCM only.
That’s unlikely, since the function requires payment of a royalty or license fee to DTS. It is conceivable that Sony make it available as a piece of software that you purchase through the PlayStation Store. The price would cover the royalty. We have suggested to Sony to do so but thus far they haven’t followed it.
Why not perform DSD-to-Dolby Digital conversion instead? After all, PS3 already has an official Dolby Digital Live encoder
That’s probably because there’s a second reason, one that applies to Dolby Digital as well as DTS: The SACD license does not allow a player to output higher quality than 16-bit 44.1 kHz stereo PCM from optical (or coaxial) digital output. It’s not likely anyone would object against Sony implementing DSD-to-DD transcoding but (for now at least) they’ve chosen to adhere to their own rule.
No (unlike PS2, reportedly). You are forced to choose between stereo and multichannel.
Streaming of the pure DSD signal would be very preferable over conversion to PCM but unfortunately (at this moment) PS3 does not support that.
This is a mystery. Standards and regulations permit it. HDMI from versions 1.2 and up can transmit DSD securely with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) and PS3 is claimed to be compliant with version 1.3. We can only hope that there are no PS3 hardware constraints here and that Sony will issue a firmware upgrade in the future that enables this function. Sony has already released AV Receivers that accept DSD input. Likely, the constraint is however in the HDMI chip; even in the new one used in PS3 Slim.
In principle any AV receiver with multichannel PCM input via HDMI will do. Models that do so include:
If you’re hopeful that Sony at some point in the future will issue a firmware upgrade that lets PS3 output a pure DSD bitstream via HDMI you may want to buy an AV receivers that’s prepared for that. Choices include:
For more information about these receivers see this overview.
Note: these lists are by no means complete.
As long as you’ve got multichannel PCM input you’re OK. Otherwise, if you’ve got Dolby Digital and DTS, you can still enjoy games, DVDs and Blu-ray Disc in surround sound but not SA-CD – except if you process it with a feature like Dolby Pro Logic II but that’s not quite how it’s supposed to be experienced.
DSD is supported from HDMI version 1.2 and up but since PS3 doesn’t support DSD output and instead converts DSD to PCM, a receiver with HDMI v1.1 will do. The resolution and sampling frequency you get (44.1, 88.2 or 176.4 kHz) depends on the receiver’s capabilities.
You will hear just the left and right front channels, so you may miss most of the sound. You don’t get a ‘downmix’ of the multichannel sound to stereo or Dolby Pro Logic because downmixing is ‘not done’ with SA-CD.
Yes, companies like Monster Cable offer high-end cables for the PlayStation’s ‘multi-AV’ output. Bear in mind that this output uses a proprietary connector type so you need very specific cables for it.
The ranking is, in order of increasing quality:
SCART can provide CVBS or RGB. Fully connected cables deliver RGB, and so will the Sony PS AV-out-to-SCART cable. Few if any AV receivers handle SCART so if you use this connection it'll have to be direct to your TV set.
Not necessarily but it does make for more convenient use if you frequently use your console for audio (and video) playback. More convenient and less awkward at least than doing so with the standard game controller.
No, you can’t.
The ‘red book’ audio or ‘CD-DA’ layer you can import but with an SA-CD you can only access this when under System Settings ‘Disc Auto-Start’ is switched off.
No, PS3 is programmed to only accept system software that is newer than what is currently loaded. No method is known for forcing it to accept a ‘downgrade’.
Bit Mapping in this case refers to a ‘treatment’ that is done at the end stage of DSD decimation to 24-bit PCM (reportedly, internally an even higher resolution is used) to prevent distortion. Different techniques are possible. Firmware 2.10 offers the following options:
That’s a matter of taste, which is probably why Sony made this setting user-configurable. Type 3 appears to get the most favorable reviews from users.
Bitmapping applies to CD upsampling as well as SA-CD output.
The settings affect both the analog and the digital output, SCE has indicated.
Yes, it is. If you only get noise, try the following: Under "Audio Output Settings" select HDMI or Optical. When using HDMI, stipulate you want to use manual settings. Deselect LPCM 2ch 88.2 and 176.4, leave only 44.1. Under "Music Settings" set Audio CD Output Frequency to "44.1/88.2/176.4 kHz".
Note: PS3 will work just with the stereo-only 'consumer' DSD format called DSF - not with the professional DFF flavor that can handle 5.1 channels and is used for creating actual SA-CDs. PS3 also does not accept DSD128 or DXD.
No, a DSD-CD is basically just a regular CD. It’s only derived from a DSD master. See ‘What is a DSD-CD?’ Any PS3 can play a DSD-CD, if only because it’s in fact Red Book CD (RBCD).
In reality, PS3 should be capable of playing DVD-Audio content. After all, the disc is basically a DVD-ROM disc (like a DVD-Video disc is) with a particular type of audio tracks in a specific folder. Only the CPPM copy protection scheme is slightly different than CSS used with DVD-Video. The audio formats used, PCM of up to 5.1 channels and up to 192 kHz, PS3 can handle. Sony simply has chosen (for obvious reasons) not to implement DVD-Audio playback in the XMB. It is likely possible to create software (to be sold through the PlayStation Store for instance) that would let PS3 play DVD-Audio but nobody has done so yet. There’s a discussion about it here.
I’m trying to play an SA-CD but get an error message “This media cannot be played on the connected hardware”
Your HDMI receiver probably cannot handle multichannel PCM.
I’m trying to play an SA-CD but get an error message “playback of this disc using the connected device is prohibited.”
Your HDMI receiver may not be HDCP-compliant.
I’m trying to play an SA-CD through HDMI but my receiver gives no sound and no error message either.
If you’ve got a TV set/monitor/display connected to your AV receiver via HDMI i.e. you’ve daisychained your PS3, receiver and screen, the PS3 may be confused by the audio capabilities the TV set communicates downstream via HDMI.
The most elegant solution is switching off the CEC protocols that let the devices in your chain talk to each other.
Disconnecting the screen may also help but that’s probably not a very pleasing solution.
Alternatively, you can pass video through analog cables and audio through HDMI. That’s not recommended for movies and games as this may cause audio and video to be out of sync but for navigating the UI to see if it solves SACD playback it’s no problem.
Switching the video output down to 480p may also work in some cases, according to users’ reports.
If some of the speakers are silent, for instance sound only comes from the sub and rear speakers, it could be that your receiver can’t handle multichannel at the highest resolution of 176.4 kHz. Try unchecking Linear PCM 5.1 and 2.0 at 176.4kHz in the Audio Output menu to make PS3 output 88.2 kHz.
If you’ve made sure you’re playing the multichannel mix (not the stereo DSD mix or the CD layer) and you’re using the HDMI output (not optical or AV multi out) it could be that your receiver doesn’t support multichannel PCM – only stereo. Sony’s STR-DG510 and STR-DG710 are examples of such receivers.
Turn off ‘disc auto-start’ in the system setting.
Use the triangle button on the controller to reset the volume to normal zero level. Using the PS3’s volume control can cause audio distortion.
If your console has been serviced or refursbished it's possible the optical disc drive has been replaced. Only the original BMD-001 has the CXD5064 chip for decoding PSP (SACD's copy protection). The newer BMD-002 drive and other Blu-ray Disc drives do not support SACD.
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