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DTS, Inc. released more details today about its DTS:X audio format, which is an object-based format that brings audio into the vertical dimension, much like Dolby Atmos.
One of the claims to fame for the new format is that it is not dependent upon specific speaker placement or a specific number of speakers. It is adaptable to a variety of configurations, according to the press release issued by the company, as long as there are speakers in a hemispherical layout around the listener.
"DTS:X is built on the foundation of providing an open, adaptable solution for content creators, cinemas and homes to fulfill our goal of bringing immersive audio to as many people around the world as possible," said Jon Kirchner, chairman and CEO of DTS, Inc. "Until recently, sound in movie theaters and in our homes has been dictated by a standardized speaker layout. Through the use of object-based audio, DTS:X is able to scale immersive soundtrack presentations across a wide range of playback systems, from efficient to extravagant, while staying true to the content creator’s vision. This approach delivers the most authentic three-dimensional audio experience ever, making the audience feel as if they are in the center of the action."
DTS:X also will feature dialog control, which will allow the user to control the volume of specific audio elements, such as dialog, if they wish. This is something that has to be enabled by the content creator, since the dialog needs to be added as an object which can be so controlled. Personally, I would have loved to have had this feature while watching the NCAA Championship game, so that the announcers could be muted while still allowing the game and crowd sounds through.
DTS:X supports lossless encoding, which has become quite commonplace on Blu-ray and is one of the differentiating factors of the disc-based format over streaming services. DTS:X can support lossy encoding where bitrates are a concern as well.
Much like Dolby's Atmos format, DTS:X will extend the DTS-HD Master Audio format that exists on Blu-ray discs. This means that a movie with a DTS:X soundtrack will be backwards-compatible with any Blu-ray player and any receiver capable of playing DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks (which is every Blu-ray player we know of, and most every A/V receiver made in the last five years or so).
DTS:X Decoding Hardware: Receivers and Processors
In order to decode the DTS:X portion of the soundtrack, however, your processor/receiver is going to need a DTS:X decoder. Currently, no processors or receivers are capable of such a feat, but DTS mentioned that the following models will receive firmware upgrades later this year which will enable DTS:X playback:
- Denon AVR-X7200W (A/V receiver)
- Marantz AV8802 (preamp/processor)
- Trinnov Audio Altitude32 (preamp/processor)
The press release also mentioned that future models capable of DTS:X decoding will be available later this year:
- Integra / Onkyo
- Steinway Lyngdorf P200 Surround Sound Processor
- Theta Digital – Casablanca IVa
We would imagine that Denon and Marantz will also be releasing models with DTS:X in their next product cycle, but they weren't specifically mentioned.
While the format is capable of supporting up to 32 speaker locations, the press release mentions that 2015 A/V receivers would support "11.2 speaker output channels." We take this to mean that the current support of Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 setups (up to eleven output channels plus a subwoofer output) will remain intact, and that no additional height or ear-level channels will be possible. This is unfortunate, as some enthusiasts were hoping for an extra set of ear-level speakers (wides or extra side surrounds) and/or additional height channels to cover more of the ceiling.
No DTS:X Movies Announced
The success of any format is content. Without content, even the best format will whither and die, so examining that side of this announcement is necessary. Unfortunately, absolutely no studios were mentioned and no movies have a DTS:X soundtrack to date, nor have any been announced.
This is a bad sign for the fledgling format and we hope that this situation is corrected very soon.
The major problem with Dolby's Atmos format for home theater has been the low number of movies available on Blu-ray that contain the soundtrack. Here it is nine months after the format was announced, and a small percentage of movies that were released in Atmos theatrically have been produced with Dolby Atmos soundtracks on their Blu-ray releases. Each title that is released is greeted with the same joy given by dogs looking for scraps to fall from the table. While some titles could be accused of being more gristle than steak, the situation does seem to be improving, albeit very slowly.
DTS needs to learn from this misstep and figure out how to get titles released if they want to gain a foothold in the market. Without movies containing the DTS:X soundtrack, the format might as well not exist. We'll update this article with news if/when it becomes available.
Source: DTS Inc. Press Release
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We weren't able to attend the DTS presentation in California, but High Def Digest has posted an excellent write-up:
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