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DTS Celebrates 30 Years of Surround Sound Innovation

Since its debut in 1993, DTS has made its mark in both cinema and home audio. Let’s take a look back at its significance.

DTS 30th Anniversary Logo

DTS was founded in 1993 as an alternative to the domination of Dolby Labs in surround sound audio encoding, decoding, and processing technology for cinema and home theater applications.

Tip: DTS originally stood for Digital Theater Systems. However, as DTS has expanded its reach into other areas, it officially dropped the Digital Theater Systems moniker, and now refers to itself by just the letters DTS. 

Early Achievements

  • The first commercial movie release with a DTS surround soundtrack was Jurassic Park (1993).
  • The first home theater application of DTS was the release of Jurassic Park on LaserDisc (1997).
  • The first DVD containing DTS was The Legend of Mulan (1998). Tip: this movie was made for a home video release, It is not the animated Disney version.

Through The Years

Here is a brief description of the audio formats developed by DTS over its 30-year history.

Cinema Format

DTS 70mm: This format was specifically designed for playback for use in theaters equipped with 70 mm film projection and 6-track surround sound, but is not used often as film has been mostly replaced by digital files. 

Home Theater Formats 

DTS-X Logo

DTS Digital Surround  (aka DTS Core): This is a 5.1-channel home theater surround sound format similar to Dolby Digital, but uses less compression in the encoding process. 

DTS-ES (Matrix and Discrete): This is a six-channel home theater format (includes a rear center channel) that comes in two variations: DTS-ES Matrix, which extracts the 6th channel from a 5.1 channel feed, and DTS-Discrete which decodes the 6th channel from information already provided encoded mix that already contains that information.

DTS 96/24: This format supports 5.1 channels of 24-bit/96kHz audio for the DVD-Video format. This format was also used on DVD-Audio discs, making these discs playable on all DTS-compatible DVD players. DTS 96/24 is implemented as a core DTS stream plus an extension containing the added data to support 96/24 sound reproduction.

DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio: This format supports up to 7.1 channels of 96/24 audio. This is designated as an optional surround sound format for Blu-ray discs and intended to be an alternative for DTS-HD Master Audio where disc space may not allow it. 

DTS-HD Master Audio: The format supports up to eight channels of lossless audio for home theater applications, primarily for Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray discs. 

DTS Neo:6: This is a surround sound processing format that can extract up to six channels of audio from a two to five-channel mix. Neo:6 Music provides a subdued surround effect while Neo:6 Cinema provides a wider surround effect more applicable for movie viewing. 

DTS Neo:X: This is a home theater surround sound processing format that can extract up to 11.1 channels from a two, five, or seven-channel source. There are also Cinema, Music, and Game modes provided. However, this format was short-lived once DTS Neural:X and DTS:X became available. 

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DTS:X: Similar to Dolby Atmos, in DTS:X sound objects are not tied to specific channels or speakers. They are assigned to positions in three-dimensional space. This format can be used with as few as two speakers but works best with a setup that includes at least 5 horizontal and two height channels similar to Dolby Atmos.

DTS:X Pro: This variation extends the capabilities of DTS:X so that it can support up to 32 connected speakers, including height speakers.

DTS Neural:X: Home theater receivers that incorporate DTS:X also include a companion format called DTS Neural:X. This option allows users to listen to any non-DTS:X encoded Blu-ray, DVD, and other select content sources in a similar matter as DTS:X encoded material, but is not as precise DTS Neural:X can upmix 2, 5.1, and 7.1 channel sources.

DTS:X for IMAX Enhanced: This is a variation of DTS:X for use within the IMAX Enhanced Mode and is compatible with 5.1, 7.1, or more channel setups. However, for best results, IMAX recommends a 5.1.4 or 7.2.4 channel setup. If you already have a Dolby Atmos speaker setup, DTS:X will map the IMAX audio soundtrack to that speaker configuration.

DTS Virtual:X Logo with Illustration

DTS Virtual:X: This is a DTS processing format that is designed to provide an immersive listening experience that includes overhead sound effects but without extra vertical firing or overhead speakers. This is done via virtual sound processing algorithms. This format is very practical for soundbars.

Multi-Room Audio 

DTS Play-Fi Logo

DTS Play-Fi: Introduced in 2012, DTS Play-Fi is primarily a wireless multi-room music streaming platform. Using a downloadable app (iOS, Android, Windows), users can stream music from select music services as well as music stored on media servers or PCs to compatible wireless speakers and soundbars. Play-Fi can also be used to add wireless surround speakers to compatible soundbars.

PC and Mobile Formats

DTS Surround Sensation (aka Ultra PC): This format is designed for the PC environment. It extracts a 5.1-channel sound field from a stereo source and then turns it back into stereo output for computer speakers or headphones. Surround Sensation was a predcessoir to DTS Headphone:X.

DTS Headphone:X Logo

DTS Headphone:X: This is a DTS format that is optimized for PCs, mobile devices, and game consoles. DTS Headphone:X doesn’t require special headphones, as the audio processing is incorporated into the playback device. Headphone:X works with both encoded and non-encoded content.

DTS Connect (DTS Interactive, DTS Neo: PC): DTS Connect is a two-part system for use on a computer platform. PC audio is converted to DTS audio and then passed to an external audio system via Digital optical/S/PDIF cable. The two components of the system are DTS Interactive and DTS Neo:PC. Compatible sound card required.

As you can see from the above, DTS has been and continues to be a big part of home theater, mobile, and PC  audio. 

From Jon Kirxhner, CEO of Xperi (parent of DTS): “When you felt and heard the impact of the DTS soundtrack for Jurassic Park in 1993, we knew we were onto something…We’ve come a long way since our theater breakthrough moment and the pace of innovation and change in the industry has me excited about a future where you can have an always-on, anytime, anywhere, on any device higher quality experience – whether it’s music, movies, video games, or some other kind of content.

DTS Family Entertainment

As part of its 30th Anniversary, DTS has released a Tuning In To Sensational Entertainment Trends Report. This report provides some insight into the preferences and habits of consumers revolving around entertainment experiences, at home and on the go.

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When it comes to TV and movie viewing we tend to emphasize video but sound is also a significant part of the entertainment experience. When people don’t have clear sound quality negative viewing and listening experiences ensue.

The survey result indicated that 85% of respondents indicated that sound quality for watching TV shows or movies on TV is somewhat to very important.

58% of respondents indicated that they had differing sound needs compared to other people with whom they’re viewing shows and movies, leading to issues like:

  • Listening on a lower/higher volume than ideal (33%)
  • Watching content separately (19%) 
  • Having arguments about sound level (17%)

Additional Report Highlights included:

Streamline Home Entertainment Set-up: Respondents indicated that they want to simplify their home entertainment set-up by preferring interconnected home systems that:

  • Takes 5-minutes or less to set up (72%)
  • Are compatible with their current systems (71%)
  • Work over Wi-Fi (63%)

Audio Ampifies Gaming Experiences: Gaming respondents indicated  the perfect auditory companion to complement their gameplay included:

  • Listening to the audio through their TV (47%)
  • Using headphones (41%) 
  • Through a smartphone (40%)

Breaking Through the Noise: Multitasking has become the norm and made true entertainment immersion a challenge at home. Putting on a streaming video or music service at home is often paired with:

  • Scrolling on phones (45%)
  • Cleaning the house (42%)
  • While Cooking (40%)
  • While Exercising (27%) 

Evolving Preferences In Connected Cars: As more drivers view their vehicles as a third space, drivers indicated:

  • That they would like their vehicle to offer a more comfortable physical environment (41%)
  • A system that would automatically understand their seat position, temperature, lighting, and entertainment choices when they enter the vehicle (39%)
  • Possess an even better audio system/sound (38%) than they already have

Opinium Methodology

The DTS Tuning In To Sensational Entertainment Trends survey was administered to 4,000 adults, 18 and older, living in the U.S. and U.K. between April 18- 24, 2023 (2,000 U.S., 2,000 U.K.). Both surveys were weighted to nationally representative criteria.

CARAVAN Methodology

The connected car data results are from CARAVAN®, and a report titled: “The Vehicle as a Third Space.” The study surveyed 844 people from the U.S. who currently own or lease a vehicle. Fieldwork took place between August 26-28, 2022.

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