Background

As you know, the Squeezebox ecosystem was built for two-channel music. Try to play 5-channel PCM and you'll only hear front left and front right, which isn't much fun if a big chunk of the music is on the center channel. Also, your player might stutter, sometimes more than a little.

But there is at least one way of playing multi-channel music through a Squeeze player, and that's by playing DTS encoded content. DTS is a 'bitstream' technology, and Squeezebox servers and players can pass the entire bitstream through the system for decoding in your surround sound processor. Yes, DTS can play all six channels through your Squeezebox player, assuming that the player can handle the bit-rate, and assuming that you pump that stream of bits into a surround sound processor that has DTS decoding capability. Today, neither of those is a big hurdle. Almost all SSPs handle DTS, and many Squeezebox players can handle the bit-rate, including the Logitech Touch (with the 192/24 upgrade) and some Pi-based devices. And it should work via SPDIF (LogitechTouch, HiFiBerry Digi), and USB.

DTS uses compression to squeeze six channels into one integrated bitstream of around 1.5MB/s. When you encapsulate this bitstream as a FLAC file, your Squeeze player will obligingly unwrap it from FLAC and pass it on to your DTS-capable surround sound player without attempting to uncompress the bitstream. Your Surround Sound Player performs the next stage of decompression, converting the DTS stream into 5.1 PCM and then using its DACs to output 5.1 analog audio to your amps and speakers.

Worth a try? Certainly. So where do you get the DTS files?

DTS-CDs were never very popular for some reason. If you have a bunch of DTS-CDs, you're not an average music collector. But you're also in luck: you can rip them, load them onto your Squeezebox server, and play the surround sound content just as easily as slipping that disk into your universal silver disk player. Actually, more easily, once you've done the ripping. (There are also DTS channels on many DVDs and BluRays, but that's a bit more challenging, so we'll leave it to another article. 

How to Rip a DTS-CD

Just use your normal everyday CD ripper/converter to rip your DTS-CDs. It will spot the DTS AIFF files on the CD and you just need to tell it to encapsulate it in the format of your choice: FLAC for instance. ALAC will also work, if you insist. If your ripper of choice doesn't work, try copying the AIFF files to your hard drive and ask the ripper to convert them.

Just remember: absolutely no lossy compression is allowed. Even the highest quality MP3, OGG or AAC compression will destroy the integrity of the bitstream. So stick to FLAC or ALAC.

Then upload the files to your Squeezebox Server as usual, and rescan the library. 

How to Rip DTS tracks from a DVD or BluRay

Place holder - we're working on it.

Playback Requirements and Limitations

We've successfully played back standard definition DTS (5.1 x 48/24) using Squeezebox Server 7.8.0 with Touch, Pi+HIFiBerry Digi, Pi/PiCorePlayer via USB to a US/spdif converter, and Pi via HDMI 1./4. Only HDMI was problematic - it worked sometimes, not others - depending on the version of PiCorePlayer in use. Theoretically, it should work. We haven't tested DTS HD Master Audio yet, but we suspect that might be pushing the PiCorePlayer too far.

Anyway 5.1 48/24 sounds rather excellent.

You need:

  • DTS music in your library encapsulated in FLAC or ALAC format.
  • A DTS-capable Surround Sound Processor with SPDIF Coax or optical audio input, or USB input.
  • A Squeezebox player rated to handle at least 2 x 96/24 content, configured to play via SPDIF (e.g. through a HiFiBerry Digi) or via USB, depending on your SSP, and able to unwrap FLAC or ALAC. See the list of tested players above.

Configure your Squeezebox player via the Squeezebox Server web interface:

  • Crossfade: None

  • Volume Control: Output level is fixed at 100%

  • Bitrate Limiting: No Limiting
  • 
Volume Adjustment/Replay Gain: No Volume Adjustment

These configuration settings are important. DTS just won't work if the bitstream is corrupted in any way.

That's it. Enjoy your surround sound music.

BTW If you play your DTS files through a non-DTS DAC, you'll hear a lot of white noise. Harmless, but not very interesting.

 

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