In a previous entry, I expressed the opinion that most DTV programming has poor sound quality, but after further close listening, I have found that there are quite a few programs that have very good or excellent sound quality, and I suppose that if I had better audio DACS, and a system with a low end, I might be amazed. One of the best is Scrubs, and I've found that most Fox TV dramas, and the CSI series, also have very good sound quality. (The video quality of the CSI series is so good that I can't get over it, but I'm watching it on a Sony Trinitron/Wega, which is renowned for its image quality and sheer weight.)
One of the bigger disappointments is the high end on the major late-night talk shows, whose bands deserve the best. However, it's hard to believe that the poor quality which I think I'm hearing could have got past all of their audio engineers, so I'm a little puzzled. If they don't watch their own programs on TV, they should so they know what we're hearing at home.
The audio DACs in my sytem are those in the digital converter box made by Sansonic, which uses Microtune ICs for tuning and demodulation. The box cost about $40, and if I had taken advantage of the FCC's coupon program, it would have been free. I run the analog audio outputs on its back panel into my receiver. So, it's not necessary to spend much money to get very good-to-excellent sound quality from DTV, which supports my previous assumption that it should be possible to obtain very good sound quality by running the headphone output of the typical HDTV into a receiver. Of course, it depends to a large extent on the quality of the built-in audio DACs, which might not be as good as Microtune's, although at this late stage in DTV development, I imagine that chips with less-that-impressive sound quality have been weeded out.