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What is AC3

Rob Parsons Updated on Apr 15, 2022 4:22 PM


Developed by Dolby Laboratories, AC3 (Audio Coding 3) is lossy audio encoding used to supply surround sound. AC3 has its another name "Dolby Digital" and is mainly used on DVDs, Blu-ray disc and other utilities. AC3 boasts of providing 5.1 audio channel which consists of five full channels (which are left front, right front, left rear, right rear and center) and one low frequency effect channel, which gives you an immersive feeling. In contrast to its former audio format AC3 Pro-Logic, AC3 improves fidelity with 48 kHz of sample rate.

See Also: What is DTS HD MA


AC3 is the preferred audio encoding to provide surround sound for home theater and cinema. With the support of 5.1 audio channels, the sound comes into your ears in all directions, Providing you with a crisp and clean melody from the five main channels and strong bass effects from the LFE ( low-Frequency Effect) channel.

AC3 works effectively and efficiently to reduce the size of data by removing the unnecessary parts for the purpose of easier transition and distribution. This way, AC3 delivers wonderful sound without degrading the quality. Thus, AC3 is widely applied in TV/radio broadcast or game consoles. With the emergence of Dolby Digital Plus, AC3 stuff will become more compatible in the near future.

By Comparison with DTS ( Digital Theater System )

DTS and AC3 have something in common. Similarly, DTS is a lossy audio format. Equal to AC3, Apart from digital surround sound, DTS also supplies six discrete audio channels including five main channels alongside with a low frequency effect channel.

But in terms of retaining fidelity and achieving better acoustic effect as well as dynamic range, DTS with higher bitrates is doing slightly better than AC3, but occupies more storage space than AC3. When it comes to compatibility, AC3 with smaller size performs better than DTS, so AC3 is more universally accepted.

It is up to you to decide which format to choose. If you pay more emphasis to compatibility and video quality rather than audio quality, then go with AC3. If you give weight to audio quality, then DTS is satisfactory in producing clearer sound.

Other Versions:

Dolby Digital EX

Dolby Digital Surround EX

Dolby Digital Live

Dolby Digital Plus

Dolby TrueHD

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