Dolby Atmos vs DTS: X – What are the Key Differences

Dolby Atmos and DTS: X are a type of object-based surround sound technologies that use individual sound objects to create an immersive and interactive audio experience. Unlike traditional surround sound, which is based on a fixed number of channels, these sound technologies work by breaking down audio into individual sound objects, rather than just a series of channels.

These formats also allow the sound to be placed in specific locations within the sound field, giving the listener a more natural and realistic experience. The two are used in various applications such as movies, video games, and virtual reality and they are regarded as an evolution of traditional surround sound.

How Object-based Sound Works

Object-based sound technology uses metadata to control the placement, movement, and manipulation of sound objects within the sound field. The sound is then decoded and processed by a compatible receiver or software to create a 3D audio experience.

These sound effects are often accompanied by metadata that provides information about their position, movement, and other properties, such as volume, timbre, and spatial attributes. This information is then used by a compatible decoding system to position and control the sound objects in real-time within a 3D audio space.

When a listener is playing back the object-based audio, the decoding system processes the signal, and adjusts the sound in real time to reflect the position of the sound objects within the audio scene. For example, if a sound object is moving from the left to the right, the decoding system will adjust the volume and balance of the sound to make it seem like the sound is moving across the room.

Object-based sound also allows for greater creative control over the audio mix, as individual sound objects can be manipulated independently of each other. This allows sound engineers to create a more immersive and interactive audio experience, as the sound can be positioned and moved in ways that would not be possible with traditional surround sound.

That said, this guide will explore some of the similarities and differences of both Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. At the end of the article, you should be able to determine which surround sound format is best for you. Let’s begin!

Dolby Atmos vs DTS X

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a type of object-based surround sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. It is a step forward from traditional surround sound systems, which typically have a set number of channels, such as 5.1 or 7.1. Instead, Dolby Atmos uses sound objects that can be placed and moved in a three-dimensional space.

This allows for a more immersive and accurate sound experience, as sounds can be placed and moved anywhere in the room, including overhead. The technology is designed to work with a large number of speakers, including traditional surround sound speakers as well as ceiling-mounted or upward-firing speakers, to create a more convincing 3D audio environment.

Dolby Atmos is used in a variety of applications, including movies, video games, and music. It is compatible with a range of devices, including home theater systems, sound bars, and mobile devices, and is widely regarded as one of the best object-based surround sound technologies available today.

In order to play Dolby Atmos content, you’ll need a compatible sound system with overhead speakers or up-firing speakers. However, some sound bars and traditional speaker setups can also support the technology with a height virtualization feature.

Dolby Atmos Speaker Configurations

Dolby Atmos speaker configurations refer to the number and placement of speakers required to produce the Dolby Atmos surround sound experience. There are several different possible configurations, and it is critical to understand what each speaker layout means. Common Dolby Atmos speaker configurations include;

  • 5.1.2 – This configuration consists of a 5.1 channel system (left, center, right, left surround, and right surround speakers) plus two height speakers.
  • 5.1.4: This configuration consists of a 5.1 channel system plus four height speakers.
  • 7.1.2: This configuration consists of a 7.1 channel system (left, center, right, left surround, right surround, and two rear surround speakers) plus two height speakers.
  • 7.1.4: This configuration consists of a 7.1 channel system plus four height speakers.

Note: These are just guidelines, and the specific number and placement of speakers required for a particular room will depend on various factors, including the size of the room and the listener’s preferred seating location. Additionally, some Dolby Atmos-enabled sound systems are designed to create a virtual Dolby Atmos experience using just a few speakers.

Dolby Atmos Content

Dolby Atmos is a widely used format, used but to enjoy Dolby Atmos content, you need a home theater system that is compatible with Dolby Atmos technology. You’ll also need speakers and a source device that is capable of decoding object-based and multi-dimensional sound.

Ideally, you can find Dolby Atmos content on Blu-ray discs and top streaming services such as Netflix and Disney +. Some popular movies that have Dolby Atmos audio tracks include “The Black Panther”, “John Wick”, and “The Jungle Book”.

Also read: Dolby Digital vs Dolby Digital Plus

What does DTS: X mean?

DTS: X is a popular surround sound technology developed by DTS, Inc. to provide an immersive audio experience for movie and music playback. Much like its Dolby Atmos counterpart, DTS: X does not have a fixed number of channels, which means it can adapt to the specific configuration of speakers in a given room.

The result of this is a more dynamic and precise soundstage that can deliver a more realistic and immersive audio experience. DTS: X is compatible with a wide range of devices, including home theater systems, sound bars, and mobile devices.

The primary difference between DTS: X vs Dolby Atmos is that the former utilizes an open source to map the individual sound elements to specific locations in the 3D sound space. And since most audio devices are designed to support open-source software, anyone can create and distribute DTS: X content.

For example, some movie studios and post-production houses use open-source tools to author and mix audio content in a format that is compatible with DTS: X. Additionally, some hardware manufacturers have adopted open-source solutions for decoding and rendering DTS:X audio, making it more accessible and easier to integrate into a wider range of devices. This has allowed for greater flexibility in the implementation of DTS: X, as well as increased interaction between different devices.

The best thing about DTS: X is that it can be used with or without height speakers. This surround sound technology is designed to work with traditional 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setups as well as with more advanced setups that may or may not include height speakers.

However, adding height speakers in a DTS: X setup can enhance the overall experience by providing a more three-dimensional sound field. This can be particularly effective for action scenes in movies– for example, where sounds can be localized to specific points in space.

That said, DTS: X will still work without height speakers and can still provide a high-quality audio experience, even with a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup. The choice to use height speakers or not ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specifics of your audio setup.

DTS: X Speaker Configurations

DTS: X is designed to be flexible, and can adapt to a wide range of speaker configurations. Additionally, the technology is capable of down-mixing to a lesser speaker configuration if needed. However, the common DTS: X speaker configuration is the 5.1 setup.

This is a basic setup that provides a surround sound experience but without height information. This configuration consists of five speakers placed around the room (left, center, right, left surround, and right surround) and a subwoofer.

When choosing a speaker configuration for your DTS: X setup, it’s important to consider the size of your room, the placement of your speakers, and your budget. It’s also a good idea to consult with a professional to ensure that you have the best setup for your specific needs.

DTS: X Content

DTS: X content can be found on various platforms, such as Blu-ray discs, streaming services, and gaming consoles. Some popular movies that have DTS: X audio tracks include “The Mortal Kombat (2021)”, “The Avengers”, and “Interstellar”. In addition to movies, there are also many music albums that have been mixed in DTS: X.

Requirements for Dolby Atmos vs DTS Setups

To enjoy Dolby Atmos and DTS: X audio formats, you will need the following components:

  • A compatible A/V Receiver- To get the most out of these surround sound formats, you will need an AV receiver that supports either Dolby Atmos or DTS: X, or both. As such, ensure to check the specifications of your receiver to confirm that it has the capability to decode and playback these audio formats.
  • A speaker system- Another requirement is a speaker system that is capable of reproducing the sound in a way that creates the immersive experience that these audio formats are known for. For Dolby Atmos, this usually means a 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 speaker setup. On the other hand, DTS: X works with standard 5.1 or 7.1 setups, although some newer versions may allow for the inclusion of height speakers.
  • Content- To get the most out of either format, you will also need to have access to content that is encoded in either Dolby Atmos or DTS: X. This can come from a variety of sources, including Blu-ray discs, streaming services, or video games.
  • HDMI connectivity- Apart from the audio content, you may also want to get an appropriate HDMI connection between your A/V receiver and your TV or video source to ensure that the audio signal can be passed along in its native format.

Differences between Dolby Atmos and DTS: X

Dolby Atmos uses a combination of channel-based and object-based mixing, while DTS: X is purely object-based. This means that in a Dolby Atmos mix, some sounds are assigned to specific channels, while others are designated as objects that can be placed anywhere in the 3D sound space.

Both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos support up to 32 speakers in a cinema setup, but in a home theater setup, Dolby Atmos can be configured with up to 24 speakers, while DTS:X can be configured with up to 16 speakers.

To fully experience Dolby Atmos, you’ll require at least two height speakers. DTS: X, on the other hand, is designed to be flexible and can work with or without height speakers. In addition, Dolby Atmos is compatible with a wider range of hardware, including A/V receivers, sound bars, and televisions, while DTS: X is primarily found in higher-end A/V receivers and sound bars.

Dolby Atmos is a proprietary format, while DTS: X is an open-source-based format. This means that DTS: X is free and can be easily accessible by developers and technicians. On the other hand, Dolby Atmos is not free to use. As such manufacturers are required to pay in order to incorporate Dolby Atmos specs in their products.

Summing Up

Both technologies offer a multi-dimensional audio experience, which allows sound to be placed and moved in a 3D space. However, Dolby Atmos has been widely adopted by movie studios and is often found on popular Blu-ray releases. It has a slightly higher profile in the home theater market and is often seen as the benchmark for immersive audio.

On the other hand, DTS: X is a newer technology, and while it may not have the same level of market penetration as Dolby Atmos, it still offers a high-quality audio experience. Some users prefer the sound of DTS: X, as it is designed to provide a more natural and balanced audio mix.

Ultimately, the choice between Dolby Atmos and DTS: X comes down to personal preference and the specific requirements of your home theater system. If you’re unsure, it might be a good idea to try both and see which one you prefer.

Avatar for Jamie K. Martin

Jamie K. Martin holds a degree in Audio engineering from Husson University, Bangor. Martin spends most of his time testing and trying the technology he writes about to ensure that he provides first-hand information to our customers from all walks of life.

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