DTS

DTS:X surround sound is everywhere, from AV receivers (AVRs) to cinemas to Blu-ray players. It promises to offer an immersive audio experience. But how does it work, and do you need new hardware to try it?

Multi-Dimensional Sound

DTS:X is an audio codec that was introduced in 2015 for cinemas and home theaters. It is essentially a competitor to Dolby Atmos, another surround sound format.

The codec attempts to mimic the real-world sound experience through object-based audio and surround sound speaker systems. Object-based audio is a mixing technology in which sound elements are mapped to positions in a 3D field. It comes with metadata that tells a receiver how the sound elements should be reproduced.

As a result, when DTS:X audio is played, you get an immersive multi-dimensional sound experience similar to how we hear sound in our daily lives.

The highlight of the DTS:X codec is its adaptability. It doesn’t require a specific speaker setup or a fixed number of channels to work. The codec adapts to whatever surround sound setup you have. It supports up to 11.1 channels and unlimited sound elements.

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Another cool feature of the DTS:X codec is its ability to tweak sound elements like dialogues. So, for example, you can raise the level of voices from background sounds when you want to get clear dialogues. But the dialogue control needs to be enabled by the creator.

The foundation of DTS:X lies in the company’s MDA (Multi-Dimensional Audio) platform, which allows movie studios to create object-based audio. It’s an open and free platform that supports the mixing of both object-based and channel-based audio formats. So the creators don’t need to work on multiple platforms to create soundtracks for DTS:X and other formats.

RELATED: What's the Difference Between Dolby Digital and DTS, and Should I Care?

What Is DTS Neural:X?

A vital part of the DTS:X format is DTS Neural:X, an upmixer package that comes with the codec. It ensures that the audio mixed for older DTS or non-DTS formats is optimized for your current speaker setup. So when you play content that doesn’t have a DTS:X track, the upmixer will scale it for your setup and provide a 3D sound experience. Like DTS:X, DTS Neural:X also supports up to 11.1 channels.

What Do You Need to Experience DTS:X?

Denon DTS:X AVR
DTS

Although the DTS:X codec is quite adaptable and will work with your existing surround sound setup, you’ll still need some new hardware, like a DTS:X-compatible Blu-ray player and AVR, and DTS:X-enabled content to enjoy it.

Fortunately, pretty much all major AVR manufacturers offer DTS:X support in their products. So you can get compatible devices from the likes of Denon, Marantz, Arcam, and more. Similarly, you’ll find plenty of Blu-ray players and soundbars with the codec on the market.

DTS is also working to bring DTS:X codec support directly to televisions. The first televisions with DTS:X were launched in 2021 by Turkish manufacturer Vestel. In other devices, DTS:X is supported by newer Xbox consoles and PCs running Windows 10.

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Depending on your hardware, there are a few ways you can wire your setup. You can either hook your Blu-ray player or Xbox to an AV receiver and let it pass the DTS:X audio to your speaker system or connect your Blu-ray player directly to a soundbar if it has an audio-out HDMI port. You can also connect your Blu-ray player or Xbox to your TV and use eARC port to pass the audio to a soundbar.

Coming to DTS:X content, it’s primarily found on Blu-ray discs. Several Blu-ray movie releases include DTS:X audio. Unfortunately, unlike Dolby Atmos, DTS:X content is not available via any streaming services in late-2021. But that could change in the future.

Another way to experience DTS:X is by watching a movie with DTS:X soundtrack in a compatible cinema. The number of supported theaters is limited, but you can find DTS:X cinemas in the US, Belgium, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Switzerland. The complete list of DTS:X cinemas is available on the DTS website.

RELATED: The Best Soundbars of 2021

Is DTS:X Backward Compatible?

Denon AVR
Denon

DTS:X is backward compatible. So if your AVR or soundbar supports DTS-HD Master Audio but not DTS:X, it’ll still be able to play DTS:X-enabled content. You’ll lose out on immersive object-based audio aspects, but you’ll still get a great surround sound experience. This is possible because DTS:X is layered on top of the DTS:HD Master Audio track, so essentially, your AVR or soundbar ignores the DTS:X metadata and plays the DTS:HD Master Audio track.

What Is DTS:X Pro?

DTS:X Pro is an enhanced version of the DTS:X format for home cinema users. It was unveiled in 2019 and primarily increased the number of channels supported by the codec from 11.1 to 30.2. Another change in DTS:X Pro is a new version of the DTS Neural:X upmixer to accommodate the increased channel support. So the new upmixer can enhance older DTS or non-DTS content to utilize up to 30.2 channels in your speaker setup.

The rest of DTS:X Pro is similar to DTS:X. Also, you don’t need new content for it. The DTS:X Pro decoders completely support all DTS:X content.

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However, DTS:X Pro isn’t as widely available as DTS:X and is limited to premium AVRs from Denon, Marantz, and Trinnov.

Profile Photo for Gaurav Shukla Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla is a technology journalist with over a decade’s experience reporting and writing about consumer technology. His work has appeared in XDA Developers and NDTV Gadgets 360.
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