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Digital Sound - Why Does It Matter?

Last Updated on May 1, 2014

Digital Sound Digital Sound 7.1 Channel
 Dolby Surround 7.1 Dolby Atmos logo
Dolby Digital Dolby Digital Surround EX
DTS Digital DTS Digital ES
SDDS Digital

The BigScreen Cinema Guide makes a point of highlighting movies showing with digital sound presentations, such as Digital Sound, Digital Sound 7.1 (for 7.1 channel presentations), Dolby Surround 7.1 (the Dolby-branded version), and Dolby Atmos, as well as the film-based formats of DTS Digital, Dolby Digital, and SDDS Sony Digital. These digital sound presentations are indicated by the use of the logos at the right throughout the schedule listings.

Note: Theaters that do not specify exactly which digital format is being used, but only that the film is being presented in digital sound, we will display one of the appropriate generic "Digital Sound" logos at the right. As film-based presentations begin to disappear with the industry transition to Digital Cinema Projection systems, the SDDS, DTS, and Dolby-branded formats (except for Dolby Surround 7.1 and Dolby Atmos) will disappear with them. When that happens, we will discontinue the generic Digital Sound logo, as all Digital Cinema presentations have Digital Sound, making the distinction meaningless and repetitive.

Typically, when a movie is shown in a digital sound format, the quality of the theater's equipment is a little higher. Many theaters found out that the better dynamic range (how loud and how soft the sound can be) of digital sound really stressed their equipment. The good theaters have made improvements to their sound systems so that the advantages of digital sound translate into a better audio experience for the movie-goer.

The best way to describe the advantage of digital sound is clarity. You can compare the difference between analog and digital sound to the difference between old cassette tapes and CD's. The digital sound presentation will have less dropouts, better dynamic range, and more clarity and overall sound quality. Prints that are in poor condition can trip up most of the digital sound systems, but we have found digital sound presentations to be far superior to analog presentations. All three digital formats provide for two separate surround channels, making special effects have more impact, especially in films like Twister, where debris can be flying all around you!

Digital Sound is Best with Digital Cinema

 Digital Cinema Projection When you see the Digital Sound logo next to the Digital Cinema logo, you're going to experience the best sound format possible!

This is because the digital sound format provided by Digital Cinema is compressed with no loss of quality from the original. By comparison, the digital sound formats included on film are compressed with technologies that remove some of the audio in order to get it to fit into the space provided.

To simplify the comparison, think CD audio vs. MP3 audio. Most people think MP3's are pretty good, but many people appreciate the extra quality provided by the original CD.

What About THX?

THX is not a digital sound format, but rather a certification for movie theaters that dictates the quality of the construction, the components used, and a calibration of the sound system that is repeated on a yearly basis. THX makes digital sound better!

For more information about THX, please see What is THX?

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