Q&A: Remember These DTS:X Best Practices as Industry Adoption Skyrockets

DTS expects to see more than 60 DTS:X-enabled devices come to the market by the end of 2016. Time to make sure you know how to maximize this immersive audio format.

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You've seen it as often as we have. A product update hits the market, we write about it, and in the headline of almost every story it says “DTS:X-ready” or “now including DTS:X.” 

That's a big deal to a company that has been working on rolling out DTS:X for a long time and is finally seeing a surge of devices that play nice with the audio format. CE Pro caught up with Geir Skaaden, senior VP of corporate business development, digital content & media solutions, DTS, about how this process is playing out and how dealers can best maximize their new DTS:X-enabled products.

How has the rollout of the immersive DTS:X format gone?

We’re thrilled to see the evolution of DTS:X from our launch last year to where we currently are. The first DTS:X-ready devices hit the market in 2015, and the first firmware updates began earlier this year with Denon and Marantz, with Yamaha to follow.

As each additional partner finishes certification, they will roll out their updates. We expect more than 60 DTS:X-enabled devices to be available in-market by the end of 2016. We have great partners in cinema and home entertainment, and titles will continue to roll out as immersive audio becomes the standard way of mixing audio for film.

DTS believes in delivering the best the audio experience possible.

How does DTS:X compare to other similar formats?

We want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to have the best, most immersive home theater experience ever created. DTS:X technology has the ability to carry both channels and objects to the consumer and remap them to a wide range of speaker layouts.

“We recommend full-range speakers when possible as height effects in the soundtrack may vary from subtle ambiance to thunderous helicopters or even music.”

— Geir Skaaden

Unlike fixed or prescriptive formats, this gives consumers the flexibility to determine the best layout for their specific environment. For those consumers who want immersive sound from multiple formats, they will need to design their rooms to accommodate the most restrictive layouts and then use a DTS:X setting that matches this setup.

For dealers to maximize DTS:X are there any best practice recommendations for setup?

At DTS, we believe the best possible spatial experience is derived from physical speakers in distributed locations rather than relying on secondary reflections.

When possible, we recommend the use of four height speakers in a listening environment. These height speakers should be at roughly 45 degrees elevation to the listening position to allow plenty of spatial separation from the speakers at ear level in the horizontal plane.

Further, we recommend full-range speakers when possible as height effects in the soundtrack may vary from subtle ambiance to thunderous helicopters or even music. Of course, bass management can always be used in the event that the use of full-range speakers is not possible.

Is DTS:X available in commercial theaters, and if so, what are the differences between the commercial and home theater experiences?

Commercial cinemas in North America and Asia have been exhibiting films with DTS:X sound since last summer.

It’s exciting to see the number of screens continue to grow, and more and more films mixed using the MDA (multi-dimensional audio) object-based format and exhibited in DTS:X-equipped theaters, including American Ultra, Sicario, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, and several titles in China, including The Mermaid, which recently became the highest-grossing film in China.

Cinemas typically can leverage over 50 speakers that can be addressed individually by hundreds of audio objects or as arrays in addition to the bed mix. DTS:X for the home theater experience has been designed to provide the same immersive cinematic experience with a more efficient smaller bitstream over a reduced number of speakers.

When a performance in DTS:X is encoded for home distribution, objects are prioritized, with some carried as individual waveforms and some spatially reduced into the immersive bed. This allows studios to fit these giant mixes onto a Blu-ray or into a stream while preserving the entire immersive audio experience in a lossless format.

What are some of the new Blu-ray and Ultra Blu-ray disc releases that dealers and their clients can look forward to seeing with the DTS:X format option?

While I can’t tip our hand and mention forthcoming titles quite yet, I’m excited to point to movies that have been released thus far, including Ex Machina, American Ultra, Last Witch Hunter, Crimson Peak, Daddy’s Home and The Big Short.

It is going to be a fun year for new DTS:X titles on Blu-ray and Ultra Blu-ray as the number of devices in-market continues to grow, as well as our studio partnerships.