(Pocket-lint) – Every good technology needs a strong rival to keep it on its toes. When DTS:X was introduced back in 2015, it provided that rival for the other big object-based audio format on the market – Dolby Atmos – but was introduced with a focus on use in the home.
While it’s fair to say that its competitor still grabs a lot of the limelight, DTS:X is still widely supported and hugely respected in home cinema circles, with AV manufacturers including Onkyo, Denon, Pioneer, Yamaha, Marantz, Arcam and Sony supporting it in their products.
But what is DTS:X, how does it differ from Dolby Atmos and how can you make use of it in your home? Keep reading to find out.
What is DTS:X?
Just like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X is an object-based audio codec, where sounds are not confined to set channels, and can move around a listener with more freedom and fluidity.
However, unlike Dolby Atmos, DTS:X doesn’t require separate “height” speakers to work (although if you have them, they will be made use of). Instead, it will adapt to whatever surround sound setup you have, up to 11.2 channels in its standard format (although DTS:X Pro can support up to 30.2 channels – more on that below).
It also has unlimited support for audio objects, unlike the Atmos maximum of 128 – although realistically, this is more than plenty.
Furthermore it is open source. This means movie producers have complete control of the Multi Dimensional Audio (MDA) platform, from where they are placed and how they move, down to the individual volume of each object – and it’s license fee free.
It’s also the sound format that is used in the IMAX Enhanced certification program, however it isn’t currently used on the Disney+ titles boasting this format.
.@Marvel fans, assemble! This Friday, re-enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe with IMAX’s expanded aspect ratio. IMAX Enhanced is coming @DisneyPlus! #IMAXonDisneyPlus #DisneyPlusDay pic.twitter.com/vYofdIE0UM
— IMAX (@IMAX) November 8, 2021
What is DTS:X Pro?
Five years after DTS:X was released, DTS announced it was expanding the number of channels from 11.1 up to 30.2 – and this is called DTS:X Pro.
Similarly to regular DTS:X, you don’t need all 32 speakers to make the most of it, but it will work with whatever you have, including height channels across the front, surround and rear channels.
It also includes an upgraded version of the DTS Neural:X upmixer, a spatial remapping engine that will enhance older content – both DTS and otherwise – to work with the extra channels on offer.
Compatibility for this upgraded format is a little more limited at the moment, and is mostly found on premium AVRs from the likes of Denon and Marantz.
What is DTS Virtual:X?
While DTS:X is encoded into the Blu-ray disc you’re watching, DTS Virtual:X is a post-processing technology carried on on-device, like the Yamaha YAS-209 soundbar or Denon’s AVR-X3700H AVR.
The aim is to give you the experience of a 7.1.4 surround sound setup, without the need for any extra speakers.
It works in a similar way to Dolby Atmos’ Height Visualization, and will work with both DTS:X and legacy DTS content.
How do I get DTS:X?
Due to the flexibility of DTS:X, anyone with a surround sound system is half way there – you’ll just need to make sure your AV receiver of choice supports the format.
Pretty much all new receivers will support it as standard, and even some older ones too. Brands including Denon, Maranz, Onkyo and Pioneer pushed out firmware updates that brought the format to models that were released before DTS:X was announced, so it’s worth checking your model before you upgrade.
As we mentioned, having height channels will improve the experience, but they aren’t a necessity.
Is DTS:X backwards compatible?
Yes, don’t worry if you have an older system that hasn’t been updated to support DTS:X – the way the format is encoded means it can step down to DTS-HD Master Audio without a second thought.
Of course, you won’t get the audio benefits of DTS:X, but it will mean you can play newer content on an older system without a problem.
Where can I find DTS:X content?
Unlike Dolby Atmos, which was made for the cinema first and home cinema later, DTS:X is primarily aimed at the home cinema market.
That means you’ll find that most DTS:X content is found on physical Blu-ray discs. At the time of writing, no streaming services currently support the format, however that could be about to change.
As we mentioned above, Disney+ has recently adopted the IMAX Enhanced certification for some films – and DTS is the official partner for that certification. However, a statement at launch stated “immersive IMAX signature sound by DTS” would be coming “in the future”. So for now, it’s a case of watching this space.
Writing by Verity Burns.