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Why no FLAC support on recent Blu-Ray devices?
krafty
post Jan 13 2012, 16:11
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I've been watching recent releases of Blu-Ray players and most of them just ignore lossless formats like FLAC, WavPack and so on.
They ship with MP3 and some are shipping with AAC support, but FLAC is a dream...

Any logic reason besides contractual ties with proprietary formats?
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polemon
post Jan 13 2012, 16:27
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Usually, they use decoder chips which are basically mass produced SOCs. You can find those chips on stand-alone media players as well, those little boxes that have a few USB ports, probably eSATA, and one or more HDMI outputs. Sometimes, the same chips are also in modern TV sets, and those are usually build into DVD players as well. There, the DVD is accessed like a mass-storage device, but the decoding part is one of those SOCs.

Now, the cheapest SOCs are those that are also used in mobile media players (we used to call them "MP3 players"). Those media players can decode only a couple of files and codecs, and that's because of cheap decoder chips. Since one of those cheapie decoders are used in most DVD/BR players, they also can decode only just a few file formats and codecs.

The "better" decoder chips, like the Sigma Designs SMP8647, are used on more expensive media boxes and some higher class DVD/BR players.

Edit:
The Popcorn Hour A-300 is one of such "better" media boxes with said chip. Check the specification page, they decode a large plethora of formats and codecs.

This post has been edited by polemon: Jan 13 2012, 16:31


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Brand
post Jan 13 2012, 17:07
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I'd say the most likely explanation is that they simply don't think there's enough demand for it. I think features like FLAC support could be added with software/firmware, but correct me if I'm wrong.

My 6 year old cheap DVD player supports OGG Vorbis, for example. I seriously doubt there's a chip for its decoding. But the target audience were people who played media from all kinds of sources and so they supported many formats and firmware updates brought some new functionality as well.

Most cheap media streamers (like the WD TV and also Realtek players, not just Sigma ones) support all kinds of formats, simply because the target audience demands it. I'd say people buying Blurays are in general less tech savvy in this regard and/or just want to play movies from the discs.

This post has been edited by Brand: Jan 13 2012, 17:23
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saratoga
post Jan 13 2012, 17:34
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QUOTE (polemon @ Jan 13 2012, 10:27) *
Usually, they use decoder chips which are basically mass produced SOCs. You can find those chips on stand-alone media players as well, those little boxes that have a few USB ports, probably eSATA, and one or more HDMI outputs. Sometimes, the same chips are also in modern TV sets, and those are usually build into DVD players as well. There, the DVD is accessed like a mass-storage device, but the decoding part is one of those SOCs.

Now, the cheapest SOCs are those that are also used in mobile media players (we used to call them "MP3 players"). Those media players can decode only a couple of files and codecs, and that's because of cheap decoder chips. Since one of those cheapie decoders are used in most DVD/BR players, they also can decode only just a few file formats and codecs.


The SOCs used in these devices contain ordinary CPUs running software decoders. If they don't support a given audio format, its because no decoder software for it was provided by the vendor.
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polemon
post Jan 15 2012, 03:58
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 13 2012, 17:34) *
The SOCs used in these devices contain ordinary CPUs running software decoders. If they don't support a given audio format, its because no decoder software for it was provided by the vendor.

Erm, I can assure you, that my i.Beat Organix from TrekStor uses a SOC, with integrated DSP that directly interfaces with the headphone amp. So there's not much software decoding going on. iPods, however, use software decoders, that's one reason, why Rockbox works so well on older iPods. I've seen some of those SOCs in DVRs by Panasonic. The SOCs made by Sigma (SMP8640 Series) have very nice fully integrated decoders, actually aimed at BluRay players, among others. However, those are quite expensive. Take a look at the info sheet of the SMP8640 devices, and there's even a reference design for BluRay players based on the SMP8642.

It's just that many BluRay player manufacturers don't use them or similar devices.

I believe, to cut cost, they use cheap stuff with hardly any decoding capabilities other than VOB and the contained codecs. I know for a fact, that there are BluRay SOCs. that do basically only decode BluRay and DVD decoding work, with nothing else. It's a very cost effective solution for very cheap china DVD/BD players.

As a side note, BR practically failed as storage medium for arbitrary computer data. It's basically still DVDs, acceptance of BR discs is way slower than it was for DVDs. I've talked to someone from a renovated computer magazine, and he confirmed that, saying that very low BR recorder sales are practically keeping BD at a high price range. He also told me, that even BD video isn't catching up that easily. And to cope with that, there's BD9, which uses inexpensive 8.5 red laser media, but with Blu-ray media structure and codecs. I't a step backwards, but that should have been done first, before the move to blue laser technology. Now, to make the high prices attractive for arbitrary computer storage, they made BDXL, which is a triple-layer BD, with 100GB and 128GB capacity, respectively. If you ask me, BD as a whole is poo, and it seems it's getting nowhere, by going in three directions at once.

krafty, in case you're looking for a good media player, don't buy a BD player, just get yourself a media box, like the one from WD, or Popcorn Hour.

Please excuse me for using various kinds of spelling "Blu-ray", which is the correct spelling I used just now. Blu-ray is a pain to type, and even more such to remember which letter is capitalized and which isn't. It's easy to refer to the disc by using "BD", but "BR" as abbreviation for Blu-ray is incorrect and actually doesn't exist. Makes no sense, I know, I don't care myself too much, just wanted to have this clarified.


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krafty
post Jan 15 2012, 19:42
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polemon, what you wrote makes sense. I also see that way.
Concerning WD, I'd have to acquire another hard disk and their price just went to the skies.
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JJZolx
post Jan 15 2012, 21:05
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QUOTE (Brand @ Jan 13 2012, 09:07) *
I'd say the most likely explanation is that they simply don't think there's enough demand for it.


Exactly. As popular as I'm sure FLAC is among hobbyists, it comprises a tiny tiny percentage of digital audio files in the real world. It will remain a niche codec until someone like Microsoft or Apple embraces it, which isn't likely to happen.
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saratoga
post Jan 15 2012, 21:39
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QUOTE (polemon @ Jan 14 2012, 21:58) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 13 2012, 17:34) *
The SOCs used in these devices contain ordinary CPUs running software decoders. If they don't support a given audio format, its because no decoder software for it was provided by the vendor.


Erm, I can assure you, that my i.Beat Organix from TrekStor uses a SOC, with integrated DSP that directly interfaces with the headphone amp. So there's not much software decoding going on.


A DSP is a type of CPU optimized for running signal processing software, so if something has a DSP, it is running software wink.gif

Another good rule of thumb is that since hardware decoder devices for audio don't really exist, if a device can decode audio, its got a software decoder.

QUOTE (polemon @ Jan 14 2012, 21:58) *
I believe, to cut cost, they use cheap stuff with hardly any decoding capabilities other than VOB and the contained codecs. I know for a fact, that there are BluRay SOCs. that do basically only decode BluRay and DVD decoding work, with nothing else. It's a very cost effective solution for very cheap china DVD/BD players.


Not sure if you realize this, but a SOC is a device with a CPU, memory, and software. Basically SOC == computer on a chip. By definition, SOCs are re-programmable.

The difference between expensive and budget SOCs is how much memory, processing power and peripherals are included.
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probedb
post Jan 16 2012, 09:21
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QUOTE (polemon @ Jan 15 2012, 02:58) *
krafty, in case you're looking for a good media player, don't buy a BD player, just get yourself a media box, like the one from WD, or Popcorn Hour.


It depends on the player. I ditched a Play!ON and a PS3 for my Oppo, it plays pretty much everything....and the video passes through the same decoder and processing that putting a disc in the drive gets which is better than most media players smile.gif
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kornchild2002
post Jan 16 2012, 15:34
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I think there was a time when the chips used in DAP's (or "mp3 players") did a large portion of the decoding. I remember back in the day the company that made the chips inside of the 3G (or 4G) iPod worked with WMA but Apple locked that out through the iPod's firmware. Things have definitely changed in the last 5-6 years. Hardware acceleration is often used for video playback (where the decoding is off-loaded to a dedicated chip) but audio decoding is often handled via software. For example, take the iPad 2. The A5 processor is a SoC developed by Samsung and Apple. The iPad can natively playback only mpeg-4, mpeg-4 AVC, mp3, AIFF, audible, ALAC, PCM WAV, and AAC audio and video content through iOS. However, I can fire up the VLC app and playback content that isn't natively compatible with iOS. How is that possible is the SoC does all of the work? Software. The same holds true for Android devices these days. My Droid X plays everything audio through software decoding. The days of dedicated hardware for audio decoding are limited. I believe audio receivers used to do this for Dolby TruHD and DTS HD MA but now I think that is all capable through software as well.

As for FLAC with Blu-ray players... It really isn't a priority since the format isn't widely known. John Q Public isn't going to turn down a Blu-ray player simply because it doesn't support FLAC playback. The extent of knowledge when it comes to devices like this is t[/quote]hat the common consumer knows how to turn it on, put the disc in, close the tray, and start playing the movie. They aren't really going to care about audio file format compatibility or if the player support some "obscure" format (I say obscure since it really is compared to the two most common formats either knowingly or unknowingly used by people). I do know that Oppo makes a Blu-ray player that works with FLAC files. It pretty much works with everything out there and even offers USB2.0 and eSATA ports for hooking up external media. The only drawback is that the player costs $500.

There are other alternatives as well. Many modern Blu-ray players with built-in wi-fi capabilities are compatible with DNLA/UPnP streaming. With the right software, you can have it transcode to something the Blu-ray player works with on-the-fly. I used to do that with my PS3. The software would transcode all of my ALAC files to 320kbps mp3 so my PS3 would play them back. I set the software up that way as it could have transcoded to PCM WAV as well (I just didn't care and 320kbps mp3 consumed far less bandwidth). I know LG and Sony have a few Blu-ray players capable of doing this. Even my $70 Insignia Blu-ray player works with streaming software.
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Soap
post Jan 16 2012, 15:45
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I'm not sure it's crystal that SoC = System on a Chip - a basic computer and all the peripherals needed to use it on one easy to integrate chip. A SoC is a generic general purpose computer, perhaps with a DSP which should be thought of as a math coprocessor which is good at the type of maths used in A/V codecs. It is ALL software. There are no "MPEG4 decoders", there are processors which are good at the math needed for MPEG4 and which may come bundled as a "black box" solution to the system builder, but inside that black box is software and what codecs the black box decodes is flexible.

I don't grok what you're saying about the iPad. What Apple decides to make a core function of the O/S vs what others offer in application software has nothing to do with this.

This post has been edited by Soap: Jan 16 2012, 15:48


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kornchild2002
post Jan 16 2012, 17:05
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I was trying to show that the SoC the iPad uses does not dictate file compatibility as it is all done through software. Some SoC's might have the hardware necessary for certain decoding parameters (i.e. hardware acceleration of HD video) but it is the software that determines what is decoded and, to my knowledge, this is mainly only used for video while audio seems to be all software decoded. Either way, I was showing that the parameters of the SoC don't really control the file formats that something works with. Otherwise the WMV or FLV video I load up in VLC to play on my iPad 2 would not work.
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saratoga
post Jan 16 2012, 17:55
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QUOTE
I remember back in the day the company that made the chips inside of the 3G (or 4G) iPod worked with WMA but Apple locked that out through the iPod's firmware.


It wasn't "locked out" exactly. Rather Apple didn't purchase the WMA software from Microsoft, so there was no WMA decoder included. Eventually I ported the ffmpeg one to those chips, and it of course worked fine. They're just CPUs, they don't care what code they run so long as its compatible with the processor's instruction set and memory.
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kornchild2002
post Jan 17 2012, 00:10
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OK. I wasn't sure if those were hardware driven or not and if Apple locked it out via the firmware or just didn't add the software decoder.
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saratoga
post Jan 17 2012, 03:28
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No these devices generally do not have hardware assistance for audio codecs since they only use a few 10s of MHz at most, and also since decoding audio is fairly branchy and complicated, which makes it very costly to do completely in hardware. Usually even "dedicated" mp3 decoder ICs are really just SRAM and a very simple DSP core with an mp3 decoder burned into an embedded ROM.

Usually when you look at a datasheet and they say that a system supports mp3, wma or AAC what they mean is that the SDK comes with decoders already implemented and (if you so choose) you can license those decoders (or just use your own). If you dump a lot of these device firmwares, you can see that the codecs are actually compiled with different compiler versions then the rest of the OS, since they don't even bother licensing the source, just the compiled binaries. In the case of Apple though, they used all their own decoders anyway, since they're a huge company and can afford to develop their software in-house.
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saratoga
post Jan 17 2012, 03:41
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Incidentally, the reason so many of these devices won't support gapless decoding is that the company in question would have to actually license the source code to add the feature, and they generally don't want to pay to do that. Unsurprisingly, Apple was one of the earlier companies to start doing full gapless decoding, since they already owned the decoder source code it didn't cost them anything beyond some programmer's time.
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Brand
post Jan 17 2012, 12:06
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 17 2012, 03:41) *
Incidentally, the reason so many of these devices won't support gapless decoding is that the company in question would have to actually license the source code to add the feature

Could you explain that in more detail?
I thought gapless playback was simply a matter of programming (perhaps adding a bit of buffering or whatever..). How does licensing come into play?
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saratoga
post Jan 17 2012, 18:45
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QUOTE (Brand @ Jan 17 2012, 06:06) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 17 2012, 03:41) *
Incidentally, the reason so many of these devices won't support gapless decoding is that the company in question would have to actually license the source code to add the feature

Could you explain that in more detail?
I thought gapless playback was simply a matter of programming (perhaps adding a bit of buffering or whatever..). How does licensing come into play?


Programming requires source code. If you just buy a binary decoder, you can't change it, and so its not really possible to add new features (at least without extraordinary effort anyway).
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knutinh
post Jan 18 2012, 17:24
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 15 2012, 22:39) *
Not sure if you realize this, but a SOC is a device with a CPU, memory, and software. Basically SOC == computer on a chip. By definition, SOCs are re-programmable.

Perhaps, but a SOC with dedicated camera-processing would still be a SOC. So SOC does not mean that all resources are highly re-programmable.

The line between "programmable" and "fixed function" can be blurry. A dsp is perhaps more specialized than an Intel chip - depending on your definition of generality. If a chip contains a low-power general-purpose cpu + fixed-function fft/transforms, it still may not be flexible enough to be software reconfigured to do flac, even though it may be able to decode a given (complex) lossy format.

-k
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saratoga
post Jan 18 2012, 19:10
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QUOTE (knutinh @ Jan 18 2012, 11:24) *
The line between "programmable" and "fixed function" can be blurry. A dsp is perhaps more specialized than an Intel chip - depending on your definition of generality.


Not really. A DSP is still generally going to be Turing complete, a fixed function device is not. Thats a pretty well defined line. You will of course have fixed function devices too; at very least any audio device must have a DAC, but that doesn't somehow make the CPU less flexible.

QUOTE (knutinh @ Jan 18 2012, 11:24) *
If a chip contains a low-power general-purpose cpu + fixed-function fft/transforms, it still may not be flexible enough to be software reconfigured to do flac, even though it may be able to decode a given (complex) lossy format.


No, such a device would still be able to decode FLAC quite easily. FLAC is extremely fast, and FFTs occupy only a small portion of decode time for MP3, so the main CPU would have to be plenty fast.

Never mind that no actual SOC works like that smile.gif
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knutinh
post Jan 18 2012, 21:54
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Jan 18 2012, 20:10) *
Not really. A DSP is still generally going to be Turing complete, a fixed function device is not. Thats a pretty well defined line. You will of course have fixed function devices too; at very least any audio device must have a DAC, but that doesn't somehow make the CPU less flexible.

It is still possible to integrate a highly flexible but extreme low-powered core to a less flexible but high-powered core. This SOC will seem to have very high flexibility and very high computation power, but not both at the same time.

Having a pentium4 system with the latest Nvidia Cuda-capable GPU might serve as an example. The complete system can run any application, and will have a massive theoretical flop performance. It may still be sluggish running Photoshop or anything else that is not able to take full advantage of that GPU (either due to lack of programmer resources, or because the task maps poorly to the specialized design of GPUs).
QUOTE
QUOTE (knutinh @ Jan 18 2012, 11:24) *
If a chip contains a low-power general-purpose cpu + fixed-function fft/transforms, it still may not be flexible enough to be software reconfigured to do flac, even though it may be able to decode a given (complex) lossy format.


No, such a device would still be able to decode FLAC quite easily. FLAC is extremely fast, and FFTs occupy only a small portion of decode time for MP3, so the main CPU would have to be plenty fast.

Never mind that no actual SOC works like that smile.gif

Google returned this:

http://www.dsprelated.com/showmessage/86052/1.php
QUOTE
>> How difficult do you guys think it would be to recode FLAC to run on a
>> microcontroller like an AVR?
>
> Completely unrealistic. May be, the mono @ 8kHz decoder will fit
> although I doubt about it.


QUOTE
"There is an ever demanding need to develop low power audio devices using MP3 technology. From the profiled results of MP3 algorithm on ARM processors, it has been observed that the synthesis filter bank in the audio decoder consumes maximum power. "

http://www.inderscience.com/search/index.p...mp;rec_id=26438

Silicon Ocean MP3 decoder ASIC core (MP3-SO1E)
http://www.siliconocean.com/id56.html

-k

This post has been edited by knutinh: Jan 18 2012, 22:02
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saratoga
post Jan 18 2012, 22:21
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QUOTE (knutinh @ Jan 18 2012, 15:54) *
Having a pentium4 system with the latest Nvidia Cuda-capable GPU might serve as an example. The complete system can run any application, and will have a massive theoretical flop performance. It may still be sluggish running Photoshop or anything else that is not able to take full advantage of that GPU (either due to lack of programmer resources, or because the task maps poorly to the specialized design of GPUs).


To be clear, I'm not claiming that all devices are equally fast. I'm well aware that different types of processors exist. Instead, what I am saying is that there is a very clear difference between a processor and a fixed function device. One is programmable. One is not. The difference is absolute and can be proven mathematically. Your example of a P4 and a GPU is underscores my point: both are Turing complete devices capable of decoding FLAC smile.gif

QUOTE (knutinh @ Jan 18 2012, 15:54) *
Google returned this:


As I said, if you can decode the non-FFT parts of MP3 in software, you're fast enough to decode flac. You've linked an unknown person saying an unknown processor cannot decode FLAC. That seems possible to me, lots of processors are too slow to decode MP3, so they might also be too slow to decode FLAC.

That said, I'm not sure about your link, AVR32 can decode FLAC just fine. That guy might simply be wrong.

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Vinyl
post Oct 23 2012, 13:54
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QUOTE (krafty @ Jan 13 2012, 16:11) *
I've been watching recent releases of Blu-Ray players and most of them just ignore lossless formats like FLAC


Why not?
I long time search and find now Pioneer BDP-150-K and Yamaha BD-S473.
This two models have FLAC support.
Only Yamaha BD-S473 no have analog audio outputs, this no good for my vacuum tube amplifier.
So today I'm going to buy Pioneer BDP-150-K with analog outpots, for enjoy lossless audio ;-)

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eahm
post Oct 23 2012, 17:24
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QUOTE (JJZolx @ Jan 15 2012, 13:05) *
QUOTE (Brand @ Jan 13 2012, 09:07) *
I'd say the most likely explanation is that they simply don't think there's enough demand for it.


It will remain a niche codec until someone like Microsoft or Apple embraces it, which isn't likely to happen.

Really? So where is ALAC support on recent Blu-ray devices?


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krafty
post Oct 23 2012, 20:02
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As of 2012 this has changed.
All current Panasonic BD players are supporting FLAC.
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