DTS:X : First impressions

It is finally here. DTS:X, announced on December 31st 2014 and then delayed and delayed and delayed, has finally landed in our home theaters. Or at least for those who are lucky enough to have a Denon and Marantz receiver that already received the update. Because as of right now, there is no official date from the other receiver vendors (Yamaha said March, but no specific timeline yet while Onkyo/Pioneer are still very extremely quiet).

I did the DTS:X update to my Marantz SR-7010 as soon as the new format came out and spent a couple of hours experimenting with the new format and it’s up-mixer, Neural:X. I can say that the experience has been only positive.

Just so you know, my tests were conducted with a 7.2.4 layout in my dedicated home theater room, with a Top Front and Top Rear layout that has been installed according to Dolby’s recommendations for Dolby Atmos. An Emotiva XPA-5 powers my five main base layer speakers while the Marantz takes care of the surround backs and the four overhead speakers.

The first question I was asking myself when testing was of course if DTS:X would sound better or even any different from Dolby Atmos. I sampled both Ex Machina and American Ultra with their native DTS:X soundtracks. No surprise here : there is no obvious difference between DTS:X and Atmos over a 7.2.4 setup. I’m not sure the two movies used are great demo material for the format either, but some of the scenes in the opening for Ex Machina proved interesting from an ambiance perspective.

The second question for me was of course with the Neural:X up-mixer and how it compared to Dolby Surround. To test this, I started by being extremely impressed by the up-mixer with the DTS 2016 demo disc DTS Master Audio movie scenes. I don’t know if DTS had in mind to choose scenes that would work well with Neural:X but it was to the limit of asking myself if I should not lower the overhead speakers level.

Then the real tests begin. To test Neural:X against Dolby Surround, I used some material I watch often to compare audio changes, including the into to the first Hobbit movie and selected scenes from the bootleg edition of Almost Famous. I cannot say that I sensed a huge advantage to Neural:X compared to its Dolby counterpart, but it does offer a little bit more action in the overheads. I will happily use the new DTS up-mixer with any DTS based content and I would not regret Dolby Surround at all. The other advantage for Neural:X is with Front Wides in a 9.2.2 configuration, as they are not used by Dolby’s up-mixer.

In the end, I tend to say that the arrival of DTS:X has one main advantage : it should allow us to get even more object based mixes coming from studios. I’m really curious to see which format will be more present on Ultra HD Blu-ray. The format started with a lot of Atmos titles and only one movie in DTS:X, but I’m wondering if this is going to change over the next months as DTS:X becomes available in more receivers.

15 thoughts on “DTS:X : First impressions”

  1. Neural:X Sounds interesting as well. I am interested in how this will alter older DST-HD MA content.

    Glad you are set to go Steve.

    1. The effect of Neural:X on DTS-HD MA is really positive, it adds a sense of depth to the soundtrack without changing it too much. It’s very similar to what Dolby Surround does to DTS-HD MA (if you have a receiver that allows DS to be used on DTS).

      1. So far 2 for 2. Watched Fellowship of the Ring and Star Wars Empire Strikes Back with Neural X on their DTS Master HD tracks and they sound so much louder and bit more boom than I remember the Master HD default sound. But still wondering if up mixing to Neural X makes you lose any sound quality overall… Anyone help on this? Is it better to take a Master HD track and up mixing it Neural X or just play the Master HD track regularly?

        1. I’m a little bit on your side on this. I think Neural X sounds more boomy, but some subtleties are lost in the process. Can you do Dolby Surround upmixer with your receiver on DTS-HD MA ? If so, for me this is the preferred way of listening to non-object based material.

  2. thats very good, no surprises makes no dissapointments! wich receiver you have if i may ask? do you know where the problem was with dts:x to make it work a few months ago? could you check (if you want) ‘the last witchhunter’ for us please? the dialogue level kinda sucked i heard but thats were dts is famous for (we can all think that). i believe that track is real dts:x material.

    last thing Steve, if sony invented dolby atmos isnt it so if a company wants to use a patented technology, they have to pay a lotta cash to use the same technology? and when they distribute the brand dts:x on receivers for the home and theatre equipment, sony receives also some % on the contracts? but i think this time atmos is a true competitor for dts to balance the market for good when it comes to uhd movies. if that press release about the revenant is true about the dts hd master track it can only mean one thing: sony is putting dts:x on hold for this movie. maybe there is someone with another opinion? lets be all geeks about this 😉

    greetings

    1. Hello !

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I’m using the Marantz SR-7010. The Last Witch Hunter is on my list too, I’ll be getting the Ultra HD Blu-ray of it on the 15th (Canadian release date) and I will report back for sure.

      Regarding your other question, first it’s Fox and not Sony who are responsible for The Revenenant;) Then, from what I understand (please correct me if someone knows otherwise), the fees are paid by the receiver makers and not by the studio. So Dolby and DTS receive money when a receiver is built with Atmos/DTS:X. The studios would pay the mixing company which needs on their side to buy the required mixing tools, but I think that DTS’s suite is free and Dolby’s one also or very affordable for them.

      So in that case, there’s no obvious reason for Fox to no do it for The Revenant to be honest. I’m really not understanding this one and still hoping it’s a mistake in the presse release.

      I hope I got your question right 😉

      Steve

      1. yes, that was my question 🙂 thank you for answering, i thought every studio had a mixing room, it makes logistics much easier for the director. but the revenant, the more days upto release, the more it stays dts 7.1. how come every fox theater released movie has atmos and on bluray it doesnt is a mystery for me and all of the entire human race.
        i love the yamaha flagship, it has everything people need at a fair price! if you can have the uhd Hancock, that sound is crazy good i have read (SONY)! new demo material for us soundfreaks 😉 haha i love it how that sounds! its weird about the fox uhd release(s) now i checked them all and they kinda suck… not one dts:x! and there are really good movies released by that studio.

        lets stay positive in these dark Fox days and hope for the best!

          1. they are in the power to make an antrance on the uhd market with a blast but nooooo… it would be awesome to work for Fox or any other company and make those decisions. i do it even for free!

          2. it would be cool to work with the directors and mix everything top-notch. another cool thing is for the imax experience they mix a different track because of the high standard equipment. interstellar and many others has 2 mixes, one for regular or thx certified theatres and one for imax otherwise the imax track would blow the speakers lol

            aaah the industry!

  3. I have to say Neural:X has really been awesome for the standard Dolby 5.1 that I am getting for football games and TV programs. Really fills the room and the ceiling speakers are giving me a more life like sound when watching sporting events as well as filling the room for Netflix/Amazon movies.

    When playing DVD Blu-Ray movies the height speakers seem more aggressive on DTS:X vs. Atmos sound tracks which I like! I still like both formats, but the Neural:X has really been a game changer for day to day TV shows.

    I am using a Yamaha 2050 with 5.1.4 set up.

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