Porsche PCM 3.1 Highresolution Audio How-To

By | 26. Juli 2013

Porsche offers it’s cars with two high-fidelity audio options. One from Bose and the other made by German exclusive hifi manufacturer Burmester. A car equipped with one of these options comes with the Porsche PCM-System. This is an integrated Tuner (FM, AM, optional DAB+ and digital TV), DVD Player or DVD-Changer, Navigation-System and Media Player.

There is an optional USB-Port and a Jukebox with a 40 GB HDD. With the „Universial-Audio-Interface“-option it’s possible to connect an Apple iPod/iPhone.

Of course you can play your standard MP3 files, kick in some surround effects and enjoy your Bose or Burmester speakers. But to me that’s like eating french-fries in a michelin-star restaurant.

So we want something better than MP3. Preferably some lossless codec. So let’s take a look at the PCM’s manual to see what kind of file-types and codecs our PCM can play.

mp3 – wma – aac – wav (LPCM) – DTS – Dolby Digital AC-3 – MLP

At first glance we’re missing some of the „new (like 2001 new)“ lossless codecs like FLAC or ALAC. So we’re stuck with .wav (LPCM), MLP and maybe DTS 5.1 for surround music as an acceptable lossy-compressed alternative.

Handling-Issues

Surely a big turndown is handling and metadata. Basically with all lossless, high-quality audio formats, that Porsche PCM supports, you have to live without metadata. LPCM (.wav) files on your USB-Stick or on the PCM’s Jukebox have at least the filename to identify a track, media on a DVD or a DVD-Audio only give you a track number. That’s back to 1980 folks!

If You really want good handling, metadata, albums, track numbers in the right order on albums you need to  plugin your iPod/iPhone. Only with these media-players as input you have a good handling of your music library in your car. The downside: iPod/iPhone only support lossy-compressed formats, i.e. MP3 or AAC-LC (.m4a) up to 320kBit/s.

Jukebox and USB-Stick downside

In my experience mp3 or m4a titles on the Jukebox or on an USB Stick do have metadata, but are listed and played in alphabetical order. Sucks with albums.

HighRes Music on Jukebox or USB Stick

I’d say *not* possible, but we don’t want to exaggerate. From Jukebox and USB-Stick you can at least play CD-Quality (16bit/44.1kHz LPCM – .wav) and even 16bit/48kHz files are accepted. I’ll experiment with other resolutions soon  but at least highres like 24bit/96kHz are not supported.

DVD-Player

The built in DVD-Player can do better. It’ll play your DVDs with different filetypes, has high-resolution capabilities and even real 6 channel surround is supported.

MLP 2.0 Stereo and MLP 5.1 Multichannel (only commercially produced DVD-Audio, because as of today there is no authoring-software available to burn MLP to DVD, unless you get a cracked version of Minnetonka Audio Discwelder Chrome II)

LPCM (.wav) up to 24bit/192kHz 2.0 Stereo

LPCM (.wav) up to 24bit/48kHz 5.1 Multichannel

DTS 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Multichannel

Getting highres media files

If you own some DVD-Audio Discs you can extract the highres files to your computer. See this article  on how to rip DVD-Audio Discs.

There are quite a few websites who sell highres music in „Studio-Master“ quality. They use the lossless FLAC codec and the Music is mastered and encoded in 24/96, 26/192 up to crazy 24bit/352.8 kHz. I personally have made good experiences with LINN Records and HIGHRESAUDIO.

Burning the media to DVD-Audio resp. DVD

I found two Mac OS X Progs which can do the job: Burn (LPCM 2.0 only) and Discwelder Bronze from Minnetonka, which can burn the  PCM 5.1 24bit/48kHz files and create multichannel discs.

“Burn” can also convert from different formats to LPCM 2.0 (.wav) on the fly, so you can burn formats like FLAC to a DVD-Audio.

There should be quite a few windows programs. The english DVD-Audio Wikipedia Article references DVD-Audio authoring software. If You own an Mac, „Burn“ is the easiest way to bring your highres music to disc.

This blog-post copyright Rainer Leidl, Rainer@leidl.de – all rights reserved. All trademarks, trade names, or logos mentioned or used are the property of their respective owners.

5 thoughts on “Porsche PCM 3.1 Highresolution Audio How-To

  1. Randy Huey

    Thank you for your useful post „Porsche PCM 3.1 Highresolution Audio How-To“. I dont understand your comment that the ipod as an input media can only support lossy up to 320kbps. What about ripping music using lossless and then playing back through the USB via ipod?

  2. rleidl Post author

    Thanks for your answer. You are right. An iPod can playback lossless music in CD-Quality up to 16bit/44.1kHz (Apple Lossless, ALAC).

  3. John Borse

    Rainer, thanks for creating this blog. I’m an audiophile and owner of Porsche Cayenne with the Burmester audio system. I have many observations to share:

    * I rip vinyl records to a 500GB USB external drive in 24 bit / 48 kHz wav format using a high quality stereo system. These sound FANTASTIC on the Burmester stereo.
    * I have requested several times to both Porsche and Burmester that they support Apple Lossless or FLAC since wav format does not allow meta data tagging and in the future it would be great to show cover art which is included with Apple Lossless (and FLAC).
    * It appears to me that the new S-Class Mercedes with Burmester audio does not even support WAV — it appears to me that it only supports lossy formats via USB, so I’m thankful that Porsche supports at least WAV — that said, I find it really discouraging that such an incredible stereo system is hindered with a lack of true hi fidelity formats
    * 24 bit / 48 kHz ALAC files will play through my iPod connected the USB. However, the testing I’ve done suggests something just isn’t working well when I’ve tried this — the sound isn’t quite as jaw dropping as the sound from the hard drive in WAV format. I wonder if the iPod is actually doing the DAC conversion using it’s cheap DAC and that signal then needs to be converted to digital inside the PCM and ultimately back to analog. I just don’t know. I will try again. Certainly I would prefer ALAC support from the USB hard drive since my storage options are more extensive — for example, I’m using a 500 GB external drive now and iPod’s go up to 64 GB (maybe 128 GB soon).
    * I’ve also noticed a big difference in sound quality between playing a CD in the transport and playing the same CD ripped onto the USB hard drive. This may be due to lots of jitter from the CD player which is not a Burmester component.
    * The vinyl ripping I do is actually 24 bit / 96 kHz and I downsample to 24 bit / 48 kHz to allow the files to play in my car. It would be great if the Cayenne could support higher sample rates as it would allow audiophiles like my to not have to convert files (time consuming) and would allow audiophiles to buy music from HD-Tracks or other hi-res sites and directly play those files in the car without having to convert files which is time consuming.
    * I have had no luck in creating DVD-Audio discs, they simply will not play in my car. No definitive answer from Porsche. I used DiscWelder on the mac and I gave up
    * I suspect that the Burmester DAC does not support 24 bit / 96 kHz so although commercial DVD-Audio discs will play at 96 kHz I suspect that these are downsampled to 48 kHz internally. I’m not sure.

    In a nutshell, it appears to me that the Burmester PCM system reaches it’s peak performance via the USB in WAV format at 24 bit / 48 kHz. Although meta data tagging is not supported, it does support a file structure so I place my songs by artist / album / song and I preface each song with the track number so the sequencing is correct. Overall this works really well.

    Ideally Porsche / Burmester would extend this great system with ALAC and FLAC support — maybe even eventually with DSD support! Given that these are world class vehicles and world class sound systems I see no reason for them to not support world class audio formats like PCM up to 24/192 and DSD.

    Let’s discuss how we can work together to contact the right people at Porsche to expand their audio format support. My efforts have fallen on „deaf ears“ unfortunately.

  4. Fred

    Great write up and nice comment John. I do not have Burmister, mine is Bose, but I still belive that being able to play FLAC from your USB would certainly benefit the syste mand will give you a cleaner sound.

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