PCM or RAW for Soundbar | Which One is Good for You?

When it comes to audio output for your soundbar, PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) and RAW are the two main options to choose from. These audio outputs are getting better day by day with the advancement of technology.

These acronyms may sound like tech jargon, but they play a critical role in determining the capabilities and audio quality you’ll experience from your soundbar. Both are different and have their own pros and cons.

In this post, we’ll discuss which is better, PCM or RAW, for the soundbar, their differences, and which format is perfect for your home entertainment system. Our research will help you completely understand these two digital input methods. Let’s dive deeper to learn what each audio output does.

PCM or RAW for the Soundbar: A Quick Comparison

Almost every digital media player uses PCM and RAW. Before diving into the detailed comparison, you need to know the basic differences between them. Here is a quick comparison of both audio formats:

PCM for Soundbar

PCM stands for Pulse Code Modulation, and it is a standard and most common format for digital audio. It quantizes the amplitude of audio signals at regular intervals and effectively converts the analog sound waves into digital data.

PCM is commonly used by most TVs, soundbars, and other high-end audio devices that use surround sound.

• High-quality audio with minimal loss
• The player itself decodes the codes
• Compatible with various devices and platforms
• Quick, hassle-free setup and easy-to-use
• Only supports two-channel signal transmission
• Limited audio customization options for audiophiles
• Compressed data may lose some fidelity.

RAW for Soundbar

As the name suggests, RAW is an uncompressed audio format that preserves data in its original, unaltered form, maintaining every nuance of the original sound. It is also known as bitstream.

• Enhanced sound quality in the RAW
• Enhanced customization options
• No sound compression artifacts
• Ideal for audiophiles and sound enthusiasts who seek high fidelity
• Large file sizes and bandwidth are required
• Require more technical knowledge for setup and customization
• Use a high-quality receiver, which most users may not have

Comparison Table of PCM and RAW

Differentiating factors PCMRAW
Audio ConversionEncoded for surround sound systemsAnalog to digital and vice versa
Required BandwidthFlexibleHigher bandwidth than PCM
DecodingReciever decodes the audio filesPlayer decodes the audio files
Secondary Audio SupportLimitedHigh-resolution support
ConnectivityWired and wirelessWired
Supported ByOnly digital playersDigital and analog players
Coaxial SupportFully supportedLimited
Optical SupportFully supportedLimited
CompatibilityHigh-end players with surround sound systemsCD, DVD, Blu-ray

You might still be confused about what the best audio format is for your soundbar. Well, don’t sweat. Here is the in-depth comparison to help you get more clarity.

Audio Quality and Support

If you’re an average listener, PCM can provide excellent sound quality for most content. However, it is only possible if your soundbar can decode PCM audio. If your soundbar doesn’t support PCM, you can’t get high-res sound.

RAW also offers high-resolution, audiophile-grade sound quality. It is ideal for wise listeners and those who prioritize audio fidelity. It is not widely supported, so make sure your soundbar, TV, or other devices support RAW before you can use it.


PCM converts analog sound waves into digital data. The compressed data is delivered to the receiver, where the audio file is decoded, and you listen to the audio output. This conversion occurs with minimal loss of quality.

RAW provides audio data in its original, uncompressed form, preserving all nuances. The audio file is decoded in the player and sent to the receiver. So the original audio quality will remain the same.


PCM is the most widely compatible audio format and is used by most devices, including most soundbars, TVs, DVDs, streaming platforms, and more. RAW is also very common, but less common than PCM. It may require specific software and hardware support, which limits its compatibility. It is also becoming increasingly popular, and most media players, like Blu-ray players, use this format. Nowadays, most audio devices support both formats, and you can switch between them based on your requirements.

Bandwidth Required

PCM requires less bandwidth due to compression and is suitable for most internet connections. RAW, or bitstream, requires more bandwidth because there is no compression involved, potentially straining slower connections.


PCM supports both wired and wireless connectivity and easily connects to various devices, soundbars, and home theater systems. On the other hand, RAW only supports wired connectivity and may sometimes require specialized equipment. It is because it transmits a large amount of uncompressed data.

Choosing the Right One for You

Most modern soundbars and digital media players support both audio output formats. The best way to choose between PCM or RAW for your soundbar is to experiment and see which one aligns with your preferences and requirements.

Choose PCM:

If you are a casual listener who wants good sound quality without delving into complex setups, PCM is widely compatible, supports surround sound, and gives audio output effortlessly.

Choose RAW:

If you’re an audiophile seeking the purest and highest-fidelity sound. Although RAW requires lots of bandwidth, the result will be clearer and more definitive. If you’re willing to invest some time and effort in customizing your audio setup, RAW is the way to go.

Comparison Table of PCM and RAW

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is PCM on soundbar?

PCM on a soundbar is actually an audio format used to transmit audio signals from your source device (e.g., TV, Blu-ray player, game console) to the soundbar. It is one of the most common methods of delivering high-quality audio.

Should I use PCM for soundbar?

It depends on your specific setup and preferences whether to use PCM with your soundbar. It offers high-quality stereo or multi-channel audio for most audio content. When your TV is directly connected to your soundbar via HDMI or optical cable, and the audio quality is good, this is a good choice.

What does PCM mean on a soundbar?

A soundbar that receives audio signals in the Pulse Code Modulation format is called a PCM soundbar. This indicates the type of audio encoding used for incoming audio.

Should I use PCM with an optical cable?

The PCM format can be used with an optical cable if both your source device and soundbar support it. PCM audio can be transmitted using optical cables, and this is a viable option for many setups. It may, however, have limitations when it comes to transmitting high-resolution audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.

Should I use PCM for Dolby Atmos?

PCM supports multichannel audio, including Dolby Atmos. In order to get the best Dolby Atmos sound, you should use a soundbar and source device that supports Dolby TrueHD (via HDMI).

Is PCM always stereo?

The PCM format supports both stereo and multi-channel audio. As a result, it can transmit audio in a variety of configurations, including stereo, 5.1 surround, and even multichannel.

Is PCM better for a soundbar?

If used appropriately, PCM is a great choice for a soundbar. It provides high-quality audio and is suitable for most content types. In some cases, however, you may want to use formats that support advanced audio features such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X if your equipment supports them.

Is PCM better than Bitstream for gaming?

For gaming, you can choose between PCM and bitstream depending on your console and soundbar. You may be able to choose between bitstream and PCM output on some gaming consoles. Many times, your choice is based on your personal preference and the compatibility of your equipment. To find out which settings deliver better gaming audio, experiment with both.

Is PCM better than DTS HD?

DTS-HD and PCM are different audio formats. PCM is a way of encoding audio signals, whereas DTS-HD is a high-definition audio format. You can choose between them depending on your audio source and equipment. Both can deliver high-quality audio, and the decision usually comes down to compatibility and personal taste.

Should I set soundbar to PCM?

When using a simple stereo or multi-channel system, setting your soundbar to PCM is a valid choice. It is important to take into consideration your soundbar, source devices, and the audio content you are playing when making this decision.

Should I enable PCM?

PCM is often the default setting for many audio devices. There’s no harm in enabling PCM if your equipment supports it and you’re satisfied with the audio quality.

Should I use PCM or passthrough?

It depends on your equipment and preferences whether you should use PCM or passthrough. A PCM soundbar receives uncompressed audio from your source device, whereas a passthrough soundbar receives raw audio bitstream to decode. PCM can work well if you have a good setup, and passthrough can be used when your device supports advanced audio formats.


PCM and RAW are two different audio formats for soundbars, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

The choice between them depends on the content you consume, your listening preferences, and your willingness to invest some time and effort in their setup. Whichever audio format you choose, a well-suited soundbar will enhance your audio experience, immersing you in a world of rich, captivating sound.

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