Immersive surround sound, sometimes called "3D surround," has heated things up in the consumer audio market lately. Dolby Atmos and AURO-3D saw their first implementations in consumer products earlier this year. And now it looks like DTS wants a part of the action with their upcoming DTS:X immersive sound platform which the company announced today. Similar to Dolby Atmos and AURO-3D, DTS:X uses height speakers to augment the home listening experience.
DTS:X should not be confused with DTS Neo:X, which simulates height sounds without actual encoding or DTS Headphone:X which simulates a multi-channel surround experience on regular two-channel headphones. DTS:X is a discrete encoding and decoding format that should provide a more immersive surround sound experience when used with compatible content.
Similar to Dolby Atmos (but unlike AURO-3D), DTS:X is an object-based encoding system, which means sounds can be placed with great precision within the soundstage and can be rendered differently depending on the specific home implementation. Also, object-based sound formats can (theoretically, at least) allow the end user to create custom playback mixes for live and recorded content. I've seen and heard demos of the DTS system that allowed me to include or remove commentators in a sporting event, or adjust the level of the crowd noise or even player's microphones within the mix in real-time. It remains to be seen whether this kind of control will be available in the consumer implementation of the format.
DTS says that consumer products will soon be announced that will offer DTS:X decoding, including products from companies such as Anthem, Denon, Integra, Krell, Marantz, McIntosh, Onkyo, Outlaw Audio, Pioneer, Steinway Lyngdorf, Theta Digital, Trinnov Audio, and Yamaha. These and additional hardware partners are expected to make detailed product announcements in the coming months. It remains to be seen whether the DTS:X codec will be offered as a software upgrade to current products on the market or will require all new hardware. We expect that some high-end processors, such as Trinnov's Altitude 32 processor, will be able to add DTS:X decoding via a software upgrade.
It also remains to be seen exactly where the DTS:X content will come from or how it will be delivered to the home. With Dolby Atmos, over 200 titles have been released theatrically or announced with Dolby Atmos encoding. Also, Dolby managed to enhance the existing Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus codecs to support Atmos so Atmos content can be delivered via Blu-ray Disc and streaming media services using existing gear. To date, only four Atmos titles have made it to Blu-ray but we expect additional titles to be announced in the coming weeks.
The official launch of DTS:X is planned for March 2015, at which time additional information will be shared. Until then, stay tuned.