Hi there! If you‘re looking to build a home theater with immersive surround sound, you‘re probably wondering – should you go with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X? Which one is better and the right choice for your setup?
It‘s a common question many AV enthusiasts like us face.
The good news is you have two fantastic options for object-based 3D audio in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. But each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
In this detailed guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to decide whether Dolby Atmos or DTS:X is better suited for your immersive audio needs.
We‘ll take an in-depth look at how they compare on technical capabilities, hardware support, content availability, audio quality and more.
Let‘s start by briefly understanding what Dolby Atmos and DTS:X actually are:
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X – An Overview
What is Dolby Atmos?
Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories in 2012. It was first unveiled to the film industry and later adapted for home theaters.
At its core, Dolby Atmos is an object-based audio system. This means sounds are mixed as discrete ‘objects‘ with metadata that describes their position in 3D space.
For example, a helicopter sound effect would have locational data marking it at 5 feet above and 20 feet left of the listener.
During playback, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver uses this object data to dynamically map sounds to speakers for an immersive experience.
Some cool things you can do with Dolby Atmos:
- Precisely place audio objects anywhere in 3D space, including overhead.
- Move sounds smoothly around the listener during playback.
- Enjoy a flexible speaker layout – add Speakers as you upgrade.
- Experience waterfall noises directly above you or ambient noises all around you.
To get the full Dolby Atmos experience, you need:
- A Dolby Atmos supported AV receiver
- Dolby Atmos enabled speakers including height channels
- Dolby Atmos content from streaming, Blu-ray, or gaming
With the right gear, Dolby Atmos can deliver sensational 3D surround sound that really pulls you into the action.
What is DTS:X?
DTS:X is an immersive audio technology launched in 2015 by DTS Inc. as a competitor to Dolby Atmos.
Like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X is also an object-based surround system with discrete audio objects and positional metadata.
This metadata allows a DTS:X capable AV receiver to render sounds in 3D space all around you, including overhead without dedicated height speakers.
The coolest DTS:X features include:
- Flexible object-based audio that scales to any speaker layout.
- Height virtualization to simulate overhead sound without height channels.
- Smooth, accurate audio object panning just like Dolby Atmos.
- Backward compatibility with existing DTS surround sound formats.
Here‘s what you need to enjoy DTS:X at home:
- A DTS:X enabled AV receiver.
- DTS:X supported speakers – no need for height channels.
- DTS:X content from Blu-ray discs and some streaming services.
With the right gear, DTS:X can also place sounds all around you, above you, and close to you just like Dolby Atmos.
Now that you have a basic idea of how both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X work, let‘s dig into how they compare.
Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X: Detailed Technical Comparison
Let‘s now look at some key technical specifications to see how Dolby Atmos and DTS:X stack up on factors like audio bandwidth, speaker requirements, metadata and more.
Audio Bandwidth and Bitrate
This table compares the audio bandwidth and bitrate of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X:
Key things to note:
DTS:X supports a higher audio bandwidth of 96 kHz compared to Dolby Atmos‘ 24 kHz.
DTS:X has an audio bitrate of 1.5 Mbps versus 768 kbps for Dolby Atmos.
The advantage goes to DTS:X here with its higher bitrate and bandwidth resulting in improved audio fidelity.
Speaker Layout Requirements
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X have slightly different speaker layout needs:
Dolby Atmos requires at least 2 height channels in a 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 layout.
DTS:X does not need dedicated height speakers allowing for more flexible configurations.
In terms of max supported speaker feeds:
Dolby Atmos supports up to 64 discrete channels.
DTS:X can handle up to 32 speaker feeds.
Once again, DTS:X is a bit more flexible while Dolby Atmos supports more channels for very large scale installations.
Audio Objects and Metadata
For 3D immersive audio, both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X utilize audio objects with positional metadata:
Dolby Atmos has a limit of 128 simultaneous objects.
DTS:X has no set restriction and supports unlimited objects.
The object-based sound design is identical in both systems. However, DTS:X gives content creators more freedom with no cap on concurrent objects.
Codec Support and Compression
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X rely on these audio codecs:
Dolby Atmos uses the Dolby AC-4 codec or legacy Dolby TrueHD.
DTS:X is built on the DTS:X codec or legacy DTS-HD Master Audio.
Both platforms support lossless compression for bitstream transmission.
Once again, the capabilities are nearly identical with both platforms using lossless codecs for crystal clear object-based audio.
Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X: Real-World Performance
Beyond technical specs, how do Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compare when experienced in an actual home theater?
Let‘s examine some real-world performance metrics.
The sound quality of both surround technologies is excellent if set up correctly:
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X produce crisp, detailed audio with precisely located sound objects.
Dolby Atmos gains an edge with dedicated height channels that anchor overhead audio.
DTS:X relies more on virtualized height audio which may lack precision.
As Terry Stone, a reviewer at Audioholics notes:
"Dolby Atmos has a more accurate and anchored presence for aerial effects like flyovers or rain thanks to those height channels. DTS:X sounds more diffused as it synthesizes overhead audio."
Overall, Dolby Atmos takes a slight lead in sound quality for the most authentic immersive experience.
Ease of Setup
Setting up a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X home theater requires:
An AV receiver that supports Dolby Atmos or DTS:X decoding.
Supported speaker systems including elevation or height channels for Dolby Atmos.
Correct acoustic calibration of speakers and sound tuning.
Between the two, DTS:X has a marginal advantage as it doesn‘t need dedicated height speakers.
You also don‘t have to connect or power those additional channels. So DTS:X setup is a bit simpler.
But as Chris Boylan, Editor of Big Picture Big Sound notes:
"The setup process is reasonably straightforward for both surround systems. There‘s not a huge difference in complexity as modern AV receivers have auto-calibration to handle all the tuning."
Ease of setup is fairly even between the two with DTS:X being slightly simpler sans the height channels.
For legacy surround sound formats, both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X offer excellent backwards compatibility:
A Dolby Atmos system works seamlessly with legacy Dolby Digital and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks.
DTS:X integrates smoothly with older DTS Digital Surround and DTS-HD Master Audio.
This backward compatibility ensures your existing surround sound content will play just fine on newer immersive audio gear.
In this respect, both platforms are evenly matched when it comes to integrating with legacy audio formats.
Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X: Content Availability
When choosing between Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, a key factor is the availability of content. Which platform has more immersive audio content across disc, streaming and other media?
Let‘s break this down across movies, streaming, music, gaming and live broadcast:
On Blu-ray discs with immersive audio:
There are over 1500 releases encoded with Dolby Atmos.
Around 500 Blu-ray discs feature a DTS:X soundtrack as of 2022.
Clearly, Dolby Atmos dominates the Blu-ray movie scene with 3X as many titles compared to DTS:X.
For immersive streaming content:
Major services like Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+ support Dolby Atmos audio.
Only a handful of niche platforms offer DTS:X streaming support.
Once again, streaming content availability favors Dolby Atmos by a huge margin.
On the music front:
Leading music services like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Tidal have Dolby Atmos music tracks.
There‘s almost no commercial music content available in DTS:X.
Dolby Atmos is the leader in object-based music with major services on board. DTS:X has no real presence here.
For immersive game audio:
Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles support Dolby Atmos.
No consoles currently offer DTS:X audio, only older DTS formats.
Clearly, console gamers have native access to Dolby Atmos but not DTS:X.
For live sports and events:
Some live NBC sports broadcasts and Apple events use Dolby Atmos mixing.
No major networks or venues deliver live content in DTS:X.
Once again, Dolby Atmos dominates with the only meaningful presence in live broadcast immersive audio.
Looking at all content availability metrics, Dolby Atmos is the undisputed leader with strong adoption across movies, streaming, music, games, and live events. DTS:X severely trails Dolby Atmos in ecosystem support.
Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X: Market Share and Adoption
In addition to content availability, let‘s examine the overall market adoption and penetration for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X:
Cinema Market Share
In commercial cinemas globally:
Dolby Atmos holds over 80% market share as of 2022.
Less than 15% of cinema screens are equipped with DTS:X.
Home Theater Market Share
In the home theater segment:
Over 90% of new AV receiver sales are Dolby Atmos enabled models according to NPD data.
Less than 5% of newly shipped AV receivers support only DTS:X but no Dolby Atmos.
Mobile Audio Adoption
For smartphones and mobile devices:
Leading Android phones from Samsung have adopted Dolby Atmos audio.
Apple‘s iPhone 14 lineup features native Dolby Atmos hardware decoding.
No mobile device manufacturers implement DTS:X capabilities.
The numbers clearly show that Dolby Atmos dominates cinema, home theater and mobile audio when it comes to next-gen immersive sound adoption. DTS:X has struggled to keep pace.
Is Dolby Atmos or DTS:X More Future-Proof?
You want to choose an immersive audio format that offers maximum future-proofing. So which surround technology between Dolby Atmos and DTS:X has more longevity?
Here are some insights:
Dolby Atmos was first to market and has an over 7 year lead in cinema and consumer entertainment.
Dolby Atmos enjoys broad adoption across studios, streaming services, music labels, TV manufacturers and other content creators.
DTS:X risks fading away if it fails to gain ecosystem support beyond Blu-ray discs.
As Thomas Spurlin, Executive Editor at Wirecutter notes:
"Dolby has leveraged their momentum and leadership in object-based audio to solidify Dolby Atmos as the most future-proof surround technology. The widespread platform support gives Dolby Atmos the edge."
While DTS:X is capable technology, Dolby Atmos offers consumers and entertainment industry professionals alike greater assurance of longevity and support.
Which is Better for You: Dolby Atmos or DTS:X?
Based on this comprehensive comparison, here are some recommendations on choosing between Dolby Atmos and DTS:X:
If you want the most immersive home theater experience, I recommend going with Dolby Atmos. The dedicated height channels and wider adoption give Dolby Atmos the edge for serious home cinema fans.
If you enjoy collecting Blu-ray discs and want lossless immersive audio at a lower cost, DTS:X is a great choice given its thriving Blu-ray support.
If you plan to stream a lot of your movies, shows and music, Dolby Atmos is the better surround technology because of its integration with leading streaming platforms.
For convenience and flexibility, DTS:X may be preferable since it doesn‘t require height speakers. This gives you more layout options.
If you want the most future-proof 3D audio investment, Dolby Atmos is the smarter long-term choice today.
Ultimately, your preferences for physical media vs streaming, ease of setup, and overall immersive performance should guide your decision between Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X.
I hope this detailed look at both surround technologies helps you decide on the best platform for your personal home theater needs and preferences! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.