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Dolby Digital vs DTS: Understanding Surround Sound Formats

Dolby vs DTS

As many people nowadays like having a Theater experience in their Home itself, advanced surround sound technologies like DTS and Dolby Digital enables them to do so. 

These two being the most popular and effective surround sound technologies that exist in the market and is supported by a broad range of Audio systems and Smart Televisions. 

If you have the latest television, then you might be having support for one. Otherwise, you will require to buy an A/V receiver, Soundbar, or Home Theater to experience much more immersive sound. 

The battle between Dolby Digital and DTS is still ongoing. Some Audiophiles argue that DTS offers encoding at a higher bitrate than Dolby while some consider Dolby to be a better counterpart which offers better and higher quality sound. 

Moreover, Dolby can maintain their codec more efficiently as it can operate even at lower bit rates while DTS finds it difficult.

To find out the answer to this, you need to read through. 

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What are Dolby Digital and DTS?

Dolby digital
Source : Wikipedia

Dolby Digital, an audio compression technology developed by Dolby Labs is one of the most common Audio technology that you will find. 

If your LED TV has Dolby Audio Feature available then it can help you enhance the audio experience with surround sound quality. The technology made its debut with the release of Batman Returns in 1992.

It provides you 5 full-bandwidth channels including, front left, front right, center, surround left, and surround right, for immersive sound effect.

When watching movies and TV shows using Dolby Digital you will have a theatre-like experience where you can hear sound with intense clarity.

Dolby has also developed some advanced formats like Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD.

With Dolby digital plus, you can enjoy HD quality surround with up to 7.1 speaker channels. On the other hand, True HD can provide you lossless sound similar to the standards of movie studios. 

DTS
Source: Wikipedia

Similarly, DTS which stands for Digital Theatre System was brought into the market to compete with Dolby in 1993.

DTS is also a similar audio codec aimed to enhance sound quality and create surround sound effects. The very first movie to feature DTS was Steven Speilberg’s, Jurrasic Park

Like Dolby, DTS has also introduced their advanced surround sound codec like DTS-HD for High-Resolution Audio with support to 7.1 channels and DTS-HD Master for lossless format. 

So what is the difference between Dolby Digital and DTS?

Both DTS and Dolby Digital does a great job of delivering high-quality sound experiences. 

The main difference between both these Audio codecs is the compression levels and bit rates.

Even though Dolby is much more popular and widely adapted, many consider that because DTS encodes higher bit rates it delivers better sound quality.

Dolby Digital can compress at a bit rate of 640 kilobits/s from a 5.1 Digital Audio channel source.

However, this rate of speed is limited to Blu-ray discs. For DVD Video and DVD Audio, it can support up to 448 kilobits/s only. 

While on the other hand, DTS supports higher bitrates of up to 1.5 Mb/s (megabits per second) and for DVD discs 768 kilobits/s

What we have found in studies that the lesser compression used during encoding the better sound quality can be delivered.

As there are multiple versions available, Here’s a breakdown of each to standard their bit rates.

Dolby

Dolby Digital – 640 Kbps with 5.1ch maximum sound (found in DVDs)

Dolby Digital Plus – 1.7 Mbps with 7.1ch maximum sound (supported by streaming services like Netflix, PrimeVideo)

Dolby TrueHD – 18 Mbps with 7.1ch maximum sound (lossless quality available on Blu-Ray discs)

DTS

DTS Digital Surround – 1.5 Mbps with 5.1 maximum channel sound

DTS HD High-resolution – 6 Mbps with 7.1ch maximum sound 

DTS HD Master Audio – 24.5 Mbps with 7.1ch maximum sound (lossless quality)

Dolby Atmos Vs DTS:X

This next generation of Surround sound technologies enhances the overall home theater experience.

Earlier, Audio gears used to deliver sound in two dimensions including front left and right, front center, rear left, and right of a particular room.

But these technology uses the third dimension i.e overhead sound effects (height) for a much more great realism in surround sound experience. 

DTS and Dolby both are object-based Audio formats which means they can record and mix Audio based on individual sounds (like Bullets being Fired, People speaking, Wind blowing, Birds chirping, etc). 

As every sound is treated individually by putting up a meta description that defines the aspect and placement of the sound, much more realistic sound is reproduced. 

This gives the Filmmakers and Audio professionals, to mix and place individual sounds in your listening space more creatively and move them around in three dimensions.

Once such an Audio is played on DTS:X or Dolby Atmos, the decoder in your A/V receiver assembles these Meta descriptions of Individual sounds and place them accordingly for best in class experience. 

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Labs was the first to introduce three-dimensional surround sound technology in 2012.

With the newly installed overhead speakers in many theaters in the United States, Pixar’s animated feature film “Brave” was released on this platform.  

You can check out this soundbar with Dolby Atmos integrated. 

If you are planning to implement Dolby Atmos in your Home theater then you will require an A/V receiver and one or two pairs of loudspeakers in your ceiling. 

This will deliver the sensation of height to create a spherical, 3D sound experience. 

The Ideal setup consists of a one-ceiling speaker in the front of the listening position while the second-ceiling speaker behind the listening position. 

DTS:X

DTS: X is nothing much of a different technology when compared with Dolby Atmos. However, DTS introduced their three dimensional sound stage technology in early 2015

Still, there are multiple factors that distinguish these two technologies. 

Unlike Dolby Atmos, DTS does not require you to fix the sound in a particular location for it to work. So, basically, you can arrange your home theater speakers any way you’d like. 

Another feature that differentiates DTS:X from Dolby is that it gives you the authority to customize your listening experience. 

Whenever you are watching a movie and having difficulty in understanding the dialog, DTS:X will allow you to adjust just that particular element of the soundtrack.

Similarly, you can eliminate unnecessary sound elements to emphasize a focus on a particular sound.

How can you play Dolby Atmos and DTS:X?

As we’ve already discussed both these technology relies on over the head speaker which can create an immersive experience. Hence, that is a must!

Dolby atmos
Source: Dolby

Apart from that, you will require these following components:

  • An A/V receiver with additional signal-processing chops or amplifier power to boost up the overhead speakers. Most of the A/V offers support to both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing. 
  • A Blur-ray player or Dolby Atmos-enabled devices like Apple TV. Not every device is supported by both Dolby and DTS:X. 
  • Two HDMI cables will be required to connect A/V receiver to the TV and another for connecting the receiver to the TV. 
  • A surround sound speaker system. 

Which one you should get DTS or Dolby Digital?

Based upon technicalities like bitrates and compression levels, DTS emerges as the better option to avail.

However, Bitrates and compression levels alone cannot determine the sound quality and some Audiophile may argue that Dolby has a better signal to noise ratio and speaker calibration

Both Dolby Labs and DTS are facing off each other in the race of innovation to deliver a better sound quality experience for users.

So no matter which one you get, your Home theater experience will be top-notch. 

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