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DTS:X with IMAX Enhanced on Disney+ How it Works (Deep Dive)

A/V aficionados will be happy to hear that DTS:X immersive sound has arrived on Disney+ with the “Queen Rock Montreal” live concert film and 18 movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

IMAX Enhanced with DTS:X Sound on Disney+

Note: We are keeping this article updated as things progress with the launch

Last Updated: May 24, 2024

For almost 30 years, A/V hobbyists and audiophiles have been debating whether Dolby or DTS is the better surround sound format. While DTS surround sound formats made a strong showing on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, streaming services have been dominated by Dolby. Virtually all of the major streaming platforms support Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+ and Dolby Atmos immersive surround. But only one fairly obscure streaming service supports DTS sound in North America (Sony Pictures Core). That changed on May 15, 2024 as Disney+ expanded their IMAX Enhanced content support to stream immersive surround sound using the DTS:X codec. We’ve got the full details for you and tips on how you can get it to work in your home theater or living room

IMAX Enhanced – What Is It?

When IMAX first announced their IMAX Enhanced certification program for hardware and content, the company talked about using the DTS:X codec to deliver optimized immersive surround mixes derived from the original theatrical IMAX mixes. And over time a few IMAX Enhanced movie titles have been released on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc with DTS:X sound. But trying to find DTS:X soundtracks on streaming services has been a bit trickier.

While Disney+ released around 20 films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in IMAX Enhanced format on the streaming service, the only immersive sound option available on these titles when launched was Dolby Atmos. The only streaming service that did offer IMAX Enhanced content with DTS:X surround sound previously was Sony’s BRAVIA Core (now renamed to “Sony Pictures Core”). That streaming service is exclusive to Sony TVs and to the latest PlayStation PS5 gaming console. But only a single Sony TV (the top of the line A95L QD-OLED TV) was capable of delivering movies with DTS:X surround from Sony Pictures Core in 2023. On May 15th, Disney+ joimed the DTS:X party by offering 18 of the IMAX Enhanced Marvel films in DTS:X surround as well as a brand new IMAX enhanced version of the live concert film, “Queen Rock Montreal.”

Queen-Rock-Montreal-900px
The live concert film, “Queen Rock Montreal” has recently been restored and remastered for IMAX. It was launched on Disney+ with an all new DTS:X immersive soundtrack on May 15, 2024.

At launch on May 15th, DTS:X sound was made available on the following titles in Disney+:

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Panther
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Black Widow
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Captain Marvel
  • Doctor Strange
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • Eternals
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 2)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 3)
  • The Marvels
  • Queen Rock Montreal
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Thor: Love & Thunder
  • Thor: Ragnarok

While Disney+ hasn’t added the ability to search titles for “IMAX Enhanced” or “DTS:X” yet, you can easily access the Marvel IMAX Enhanced titles by loading the Disney+ app, selecting the “Marvel” channel and then scrolling down to the category “IMAX Enhanced.”

Disney-plus-imax-enhanced-category-900px
In the Disney+ app, you can select the Marvel channel and scroll down to see the “IMAX Enhanced” category. Scroll right to see which MCU titles are available in “IMAX Enhanced” format.

Why It Matters

IMAX has established its reputation as a premium movie-going experience by providing impactful visuals (with larger screens, high dynamic range and taller aspect ratios) and with the signature IMAX 12-channel immersive surround mix with its deep ground-shaking bass. The IMAX Enhanced program is designed to replicate that experience at home. Now with the addition of DTS:X surround, the home audio mix will be a closer match to that cinematic IMAX sound mix. If you’re a fan of IMAX theaters and IMAX movies, this should be the best way to replicate that experience at home with the convenience of streaming.

A rep from Xperi (DTS parent company) explained it this way: “IMAX Enhanced sound by DTS is a different creative output from other formats. We’re encoding basically the theatrical IMAX mix which is specifically created for IMAX theatres with only minor adjustment for a home environment but by preserving the full dynamic range of the mix with that IMAX signature bass. This is a premium format for people who care about a theatre-like experience at home. Not necessarily for watching movies late at night on TV speakers when kids are sleeping next door.”

To that, I say, “Sign me up!”

The DTS rep further explained that the 12-channel IMAX mix is converted to a 10-channel (5.1.4) DTS:X mix for home. For those with a 7.1.4-channel home theater system, the side surrounds will not be active (surround is sent to the rear channels). Users can override this behavior by disabling IMAX Enhanced listening mode on their receiver, preamp/processor or soundbar.

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What Do You Need to Get Your DTS:X On?

In order to enjoy this new option of DTS:X sound in IMAX Enhanced content, you’ll need an IMAX Enhanced certified source component capable of delivering both the 4K/HDR video and DTS:X audio streams of these films, or at least a source capable of decoding the new “DTS:X for streaming” (DTS:X Profile 2) audio stream and sending a compatible version of that DTS:X stream to a DTS:X-capable soundbar or receiver. This source can be a compatible TV with the Disney+ app installed or it could be a standalone streaming box with IMAX Enhanced certification or at least DTS:X decoding compatibility. You’ll also need an audio system capable of decoding and playing back that DTS:X stream. This could be a soundbar, preamp/processor or an A/V receiver with IMAX Enhanced certification and DTS:X decoding or it could be an older soundbar or receiver with DTS:X decoding built in.

DTS elaborates on device compatibility as follows: “All DTS:X enabled TVs running Android TV (or Google TV) with the latest Disney+ app will be supported on May 15th. We have devices from Sony (e.g. Sony BRAVIA A95L QD-OLED from 2023, and BRAVIA 7, BRAVIA 8 and BRAVIA 9 models from 2024), Hisense (U6K/U7K/U8K series and others) and TCL in North America, Philips, Sharp and Xiaomi displays in Europe and Asia. Other platforms and devices will be supported later this year.” So on launch day (May 15th), only a few IMAX Enhanced certified Android TV or Google TV-based TVs were supported, but other streaming sources should be added in the near future.

Check out our interview with Sven Mevissen from DTS for the details on IMAX Enhanced and DTS:X sound on Disney+:

When I reached out to LG, they said their TVs don’t currently support IMAX Enhanced or DTS:X decoding directly, however select LG TVs can deliver DTS:X soundtracks to a compatible LG soundbar. Specifically the “QNED85 and above” TVs can support DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced content when used with compatible LG Soundbars. This includes all of the company’s 2024 OLED and OLED evo TVs, as well as the QNED85, QNED90 and QNED99 LED/LCD models. I confirmed with DTS that LG TVs (which use the WebOS operating system and streaming platform) would not be supported at launch but support will be added for DTS:X audio streams from Disney+ on the WebOS platform at some point in the future.

20240320_164205-Bravia-7-900px
Sony’s BRAVIA 7 Mini LED TV and BRAVIA Theater Bar 8 soundbar are both IMAX Enhanced certified and can decode DTS:X soundtracks.

My personal feeling is that third party streaming devices such as those from Amazon (FireTV Stick) and Roku are unlikely to support the DTS:X audio stream at launch (update: confirmed to be true). An Amazon rep confirmed as much to me, stating that Amazon FireTV devices do not currently support DTS. But the NVIDIA Shield TV and Shield Pro may be able to play this content properly, as long as the Shield has the necessary version of the Disney+ app. NVIDIA Shield is already compatible with IMAX Enhanced content (on the video side) and includes legacy DTS passthrough capability. However, before launch, a DTS rep told me the NVIDIA Shield does not decode DTS:X for streaming, so it would not be supported at launch. Apple TV is unlikely to work as it does not currently include any DTS format support. (update: confirmed to be true – AppleTV does not work for DTS:X content on Disney+).

A rep from Roku told us that their streaming devices (including Roku TVs) support DTS and DTS:X, but are not specifically IMAX Enhanced certified. So these may work for DTS:X passthrough at some point if the Disney+ app on Roku enables the DTS:X stream on these devices. If we get any additional details on compatible device support, before or after the May 15 launch, we’ll be sure to update this article. And you know we’ll be testing our own devices on May 15th to see which ones work.

UPDATE (May 15th): Can confirm that the latest FireTV Stick 4K Max and Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ as well as AppleTV 4K do not support this new DTS:X stream on Disney+ nor does the XBox Series X. Microsoft is an Xperi partner so it’s likely that the XBox Series X will get an updated version of the Disney+ that will support DTS:X Profile 2 at some point in the future.

Where the Magic Happens: DTS:X Decoding in the Receiver or Soundbar

Once the source streaming device gets that DTS:X soundtrack from Disney+, you’ll still need a way of decoding that sweet IMAX goodness into the 5.1.4-channel immersive surround mix for your ears to hear. That means you need a soundbar, preamp/processor or A/V receiver that can decode DTS:X.

As far as A/V receivers go, there are several IMAX Enhanced certified choices available from companies such as Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer and Sony. Select home theater processors from Anthem, Arcam, McIntosh, Storm Audio, Trinnov and JBL are also IMAX Enhanced certified with full DTS:X decoding. In fact, all IMAX Enhanced certified receivers support DTS:X decoding. Check with your manufacturer or your user manual to see if your receiver or pre/pro is IMAX Enhanced certified. Also, older DTS:X-capable receivers will work to decode the DTS:X stream if paired with a TV or streaming source component that can decode the new “DTS:X for Streaming” codec.

Pioneer VSX-835 A/V Receiver (2024 model)
Pioneer’s VSX-835 A/V receiver is a budget-priced 5.1.2-channel immersive audio performer with IMAX Enhanced certification, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding.

For Soundbars, LG offers a few that are IMAX Enhanced certified from 2023 and 2024 including the SC9S and the flagship S95TR 9.1.5-channel soundbar system. Per LG, as far as 2024 models, the S70TY soundbar and above all support DTS:X decoding. Sony’s new BRAVIA Theater Bar 8 and BRAVIA Theater Bar 9 are also IMAX Enhanced certified as is the new BRAVIA Theatre Quad speaker system, if paired with one of Sony’s wireless subwoofers (the SA-SW3 or SA-SW5). Although the 2023 Sony Soundbars (HTA-5000 and HTA-7000) are not technically IMAX Enhanced certified, they do offer DTS:X decoding so these should also work when paired with a compatible Sony TV.

In fact, really any soundbar that supports DTS:X decoding should work for this. The hard work is done by the source device in converting (or “transcoding”) that new DTS:X Profile 2 soundtrack to a format that older gear supports.

It’s important to note that even if your streaming device support DTS:X for Streaming, you may not be able to select the DTS:X stream in the Disney+ app if you connect it to a TV, projector or receiver that lacks DTS support. These devices talk to each other over HDMI in order to identify their capabilities. So if your streaming stick says, “Hey! I can handle DTS:X.” but your TV says, “Hell, No!” then NO DTS FOR YOU! As of the launch date (May 15) this isn’t an issue yet, as the TV is the streaming device. But this may become an issue later once more streaming devices are available.

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IMAX-DTS:X on Denon receiver
If you’re watching (and listening to) IMAX Enhanced DTS:X content, your receiver or soundbar will usually let you know on the front panel display.

The workaround for this would be to connect your streaming device directly to a DTS:X compatible receiver or soundbar, then connect that to the TV for the video signal. Of course, this doesn’t matter when the streaming app is built into an IMAX Enhanced certified TV (like the Sony A95L QD-OLED, for example), but even then you need to make sure you plug that TV into a compatible receiver or soundbar using an HDMI cable if you want to enjoy that sweet DTS:X immersive sound.

What’s the Frequency, er… Bandwith, Kenneth?

As Disney+ is a traditional streaming service, network bandwidth is always a concern. For this reason, DTS:X on Disney+ is delivered via a lossy compression option which our friend at DTS claims is “technically lossy but perceptually lossless.” The rep also told me that the recommended and “typical” streaming bandwidth for the DTS:X audio track over streaming services is 448 kbps (kilobits per second). This is actually lower than the streaming bandwidth used by the older DTS Surround codec on DVDs (768 kbps and 1.5 Mbps). Fortunately advances in codec technology over the past three decades allow the latest, most efficient version of the DTS codec, called “DTS:X for Streaming” or “DTS:X Profile 2” to do more with less. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so we’re looking forward to checking it out ourselves to see how it sounds.

20240517_153703-queen-dts-x-900px
On a DTS:X-compatible streaming device, once you’ve opted into DTS:X sound on Disney+, DTS:X will show up as the audio option on all compatible content.

Per DTS, the DTS:X for Streaming codec for IMAX Enhanced takes the original 12 channel IMAX mix from theaters and converts that into a 10-channel mix for home. The mix is fixed at 5.1.4 channels – five surround, four height and one LFE channel. If played back on an IMAX Enhanced receiver which is configured for 7.1.4 channels, the side surround speakers will be inactive, with all surround channel duties being handled by the rear speakers. If you want to over-ride this behavior, you will need to set the receiver or soundbar to a non-IMAX sound mode.

How Do I know if My Gear Supports IMAX Enhanced with DTS:X Sound?

Other than the specific components identified as being compatible with DTS:X sound on IMAX Enhanced content, it’s difficult to say exactly what components will work to deliver DTS:X sound from IMAX Enhanced content on Disney+ on May 15th. However, DTS reps tell us that, once the feature is enabled in Disney+, compatible gear will effectively identify itself to the user. Sven Mevissen from Xperi (DTS parent company) explains:

“Disney+ users with a compatible device will get a notification in the form of an audio control panel that will appear when selecting an IMAX Enhanced film for the first time, letting them turn on IMAX Enhanced sound if they choose to. Once opted in, every title available with IMAX Enhanced sound will play with IMAX Enhanced sound moving forward.”

Update (May 15) – I’ve now confirmed that DTS:X with IMAX Enhanced content on Disney+ works with the Sony BRAVIA 7 MiniLED TV connected to a Denon AVR-X3800H receiver or to a Sony BRAVIA Thatre Quad speaker system. Listening to the “Queen Rock Montreal” concert movie and “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3” I noticed immediately how much more dynamic the soundtrack was on the DTS:X track. Also, bass extension is firm and extended lending more impact to the experience. As far as IMAX aspect ratio, I did notice that the “Versions” option to select between IMAX and traditional CinemaScope or Widescreen aspect ratios on Disney+ does not seem to be working on two of the titles (“Queen Rock Montreal” and “Guardians of the Galaxy, Part 3”). No matter what I select, I’m getting the IMAX Aspect ratio for those two titles. But I expect this is something Disney+ will fix once they figure out it’s broken.

Now that the feature is available, Disney+ users can load the service and search for “Queen Rock Montreal.” If you play this title and see a pop-up window asking you to enable DTS:X then you should be good to go. If you don’t then your streaming device probably is not supported yet.

On a compatible streaming device, at any point, while watching one of the DTS:X titles, you can hit the down button on your streamer remote to see an audio options setup icon – this is where you can toggle DTS:X sound on or off.

20240517_141404-audio-options-600px
20240517_135015-imax-dtsx-600px
With DTS:X titles on Disney+, a quick hit on the down button while streaming will expose an Audio Options panel were you can turn DTS:X on or off.

The Bottom Line

So there you have it. Disney+ has become the first mainstream streaming service to deliver on the IMAX Enhanced promise with 4K/HDR visuals, IMAX Aspect Ratios and a DTS:X immersive sound mix derived from the original 12-channel IMAX soundtrack. It will be interesting to see what people think when they experience this at home. Our first impressions have been positive with noticeably expanded dynamic range and solid bass extension on the DTS:X soundtracks. The initial roll-out of the feature on May 15, 2024 has been fairly limited as it only includes DTS:X compatible TVs built on the AndroidTV or GoogleTV platform. DTS says they will expand support to other devices over time.

What do you folks think about IMAX Enhanced content on Disney+ with DTS:X immersive sound? Big news or much ado about very little? As always, let us know in the comments.

Updates:

4/27/24 – added note about Disney+ audio panel to confirm DTS:X sound

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4/29/24 – added details about LG TV and soundbar compatibility

5/8/24 – added stronger wording – only select DTS-X compatible TVs on the AndroidTV or GoogleTV platforms will work on launch day (May 15th)

5/13/24 – confirmed with DTS that TCL’s Google TVs with IMAX Enhanced certfication and DTS:X decoding will support the new DTS:X streams on May 15. Also, added details about IMAX 12-channel track being converted to a 5.1.4-channel DTS:X mix for home.

5/15/24 – confirmed that FireTV Sticks and Roku sticks do not support the new DTS:X streams on Disney+

5/18/24 – Tested and confirmed that Sony BRAVIA 7 TV works on Disney+ for DTS:X streaming. Added some details of what to look for when testing as well as an easy way to scroll through the MCU “IMAX Enhanced” titles available on Disney+

5/24/24 – We had lost DTS:X on the BRAVIA 7 TV temporarily after adjusting some audio settings on the TV. I believe the important setting in the “Picture and Sound” menu on the Sony TV is “Prioritize HDMI Signal Information.” This needed to be “On” in order to get DTS:X sound. Also added more specifics about compatible Hisense models (U6K, U7K, U8K). Earlier Hisense models may not be supported.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Asa

    April 26, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the updated info/clarifications. I wonder if other studios will remaster/rencode other titles?

    I looked up the specs on my receiver/TV (Denon AVR-X6500H/Sony XBR-77A9G) and they’re both fully compatible (both have latest firmware/software).

    I’m looking forward to the Queen concert, and may pull up one of the Marvel movies just to hear how it sounds, and to see if it’s that much different, doing a sequence the day before and the same one after. If you have the Blu-ray of the concert, you can also do an A/B comparison.

    I wonder if they’re going to do any of the Star Wars movies?

    Happy TGIF!

    • Chris Boylan

      April 26, 2024 at 8:20 pm

      What streaming device will you use? I’m pretty sure your set only supports legacy DTS decoding (not DTS:X) so it’s possible the Disney+ app on your TV may not pass that DTS:X stream to your receiver. I tested the 2023 OLED (A80L) and was not able to get that set to pass DTS:X from BRAVIA Core’s IMAX Enhanced titles to a compatible soundbar. The only way I was able to get a DTS:X stream to the sound bar was by bypassing the TV entirely and plugging a Blu-ray player directly into the bar. Do you have any credits on BRAVIA Core (now called “Sony Picture Core”) that you can use to test? I believe Sony Pictures Core does have a few IMAX Enhanced titles with DTS:X soundtracks that you can test with.

      It’s possible that the Disney+ app may behave differently from Sony Picture Core, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it won’t pass DTS:X from your set either. I guess we’ll know for sure on May 15th. Good luck!

      • Asa

        April 26, 2024 at 9:47 pm

        Mmmm…will have to do some additional testing to see what my receiver is passing, but according to Crutchfield, my hardware *should* pass it based on specs for both. I’ll have to see if I can track down a sample as I’m not currently “core” user. As you say, time will tell, but it seems odd that they’d go to such lengths on something that very few people could take advantage of. Crutchfield’s info could be dated as well.

        https://www.crutchfield.com/S-3JFbojActb0/p_15877XA9G/Sony-MASTER-Series-XBR-77A9G.html

        (Details tab / scroll down to IMAX Enhanced Technology).

        • Chris Boylan

          April 27, 2024 at 3:40 am

          Yeah, the Sony A80L is also IMAX Enhanced certified, but it was unable to pass along a DTS:X stream from the BRAVIA Core app when I tested it. But things could be different with Disney+. I just added an update from DTS to the bottom of the article. Apparently once Disney+ enables the DTS:X feature, when you select an IMAX Enhanced movie from the service, you’ll get a confirmation message to enable DTS:X sound on your device. Once you’ve confirmed, all compatible content will deliver the soundtrack in DTS:X. So if you see that pop-up message on May 15th, you should be good to go.

          • Asa

            April 28, 2024 at 3:00 am

            Excellent! Will give it a go in a few weeks. ♫♪♪♫

            Disney+ currently has IMAX Enhanced movies with a few Marvel selections, but as you mentioned in the article, they’re non-DTS:X. Looking forward to it, and thanks for digging into this.

  2. Andrew Gordon

    May 28, 2024 at 12:17 pm

    I have a new Sony 85″ X90CL fully array LED TV with a Sony STR-AN1000 AV receiver. Both are advertised as IMAX compatible. When I stream IMAX content from Sony Bravia Core app, the receiver appears to successfully decode the IMAX audio and displays “IMAX DTS”, BUT when I stream IMAX content from Disney Plus (the streaming app on the TV itself), it DOESN’T WORK and I do not get IMAX DTS but rather “Dolby Atmos” or something else that isn’t IMAX. What is going on here?

    • Chris Boylan

      May 29, 2024 at 2:20 pm

      The only Sony TVs that support DTS:X Profile 2 decoding (required for DTS:X to work on Disney+) are the A95L OLED from 2023 and BRAVIA 7, 8 AND 9 from 2024. Sadly “IMAX Enhanced certified” on a TV doesn’t mean the TV can decode DTS:X. On TVs it means it can handle the IMAX picture mode and meets IMAX Enhanced certification picture quality guidelines.

      • Andrew Gordon

        May 29, 2024 at 7:55 pm

        Chris thanks so much for your reply to my earlier post. It seems though, that my Sony 85″ X90CL can in fact decode IMAX DTS:X as it successfully sends that to my AV receivers (I’ve tried both Denon AVR-X3800H and Sony STR-AN1000) while using the Sony Bravia Core app – both receivers display IMAX DTS:X while playing IMAX content from it. Why then would the TV be able to successfully decode IMAX DTS:X from one app (Sony Bravia Core)and not another (Disney+)? Does this DTS:X Profile 2 actually explain that, where the Disney+ app needs that and the Sony Bravia Core app does not?

        • Chris Boylan

          May 29, 2024 at 9:17 pm

          Hi, Andrew,

          I suspect, but haven’t confirmed yet, that Sony Pictures Core uses DTS:X Profile 1. Sony Pictures Core’s PureStream bit rate is really high – like 80 MBPS for the combined audio and video stream – so it can deliver DTS:X the “old way” using DTS-HD High Resolution Audio as the transport codec (this is called “DTS:X Profile 1” by the DTS guys). Disney+ uses DTS:X Profile 2, which is actually a completely new codec with almost nothing in common with legacy DTS:X. There is no “DTS Core” in the stream any more. And the new DTS:X Profile 2 is channel based (not object-based). Your TV likely does not include DTS:X Profile 2 decoding. But you should complain to Sony support that it doesn’t work. It’s entirely possible that Sony could deliver DTS:X Profile 2 decoding in a firmware/software update if enough people ask for it, particularly if the TV was advertised as supporting “DTS:X.”

          BTW, if you don’t mind my asking, which titles specifically on Sony Pictures Core are you seeing DTS:X (not core DTS or DTS Neural:X) but the actual “DTS:X” logo show up on your receiver? On the BRAVIA 7, I’ve already tried several titles on Sony Pictures Core and am only getting core DTS 5.1 (not DTS:X) or Dolby Atmos options. I’m not seeing any DTS:X on Sony Pictures Core titles yet. This is the other reason that I suspect Sony Pictures Core and Disney+ are using different versions (different “profiles”) of DTS:X.

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