If you have ever gone out and purchased a Blu-Ray or 4K Blu Ray title you have no doubt looked at the back to check for some information. How long the movie is perhaps, or maybe even what audio format it comes in. Audio formats are a hot topic and they have been for years. I’m here to help you understand them.
The year was 2001 and I was on the floor of a Future Shop in Thunder Bay Ontario. I remember hearing this incredible sound from the back of the store. It was a colleague of mine Ezra playing a demo in this incredible surround sound on a movie. He was playing it in Dolby Pro Logic and my life was forever changed. Dolby Pro Logic separated the centre speaker from the left and right. It also sent a single channel to the back to be played between 2 rear speakers.
It wasn’t long after that I was introduced to Dolby Digital 5.1. This was a surround format that that sent 5 discrete (although compressed) signals to speakers and even one for the subwoofer or what we called LFE (Low Frequency Effects). Dolby wasn’t the only fish in the pond however. DTS came out strong with their own surround format it seemed just months later and this began the surround war.
It seems like every time there is a new technology that comes out, Dolby is the first on board. DTS follows suit shortly after and takes that technology and changes/evolves it. Dolby was the first to launch ‘uncompressed audio’ which was lossless sound. This technology took your speakers to another level. The tech was called ‘Dolby TrueHD’. It is beautifully balanced and very neutral to hear. Not long after that DTS shows up with ‘DTS MasterHD’ which was the same lossless sound only far more dynamic. When I dynamic I mean that the highs and booming bass are much more pronounced.
We now live in a world where 3D audio is a thing at home. Height enabled lossless audio technology can be purchased for a reasonable price. Dolby of course, the first to hit the market with Atmos and now DTS following suit with DTS:X. Both are height enabled audio that sound amazing and yet sound different. Dolby has stuck to their very balanced approach to sound while DTS has gone very dynamic with screaming highs and booming lows.
The Good: When you buy a home theatre receiver for your surround sound or a new height enabled sound bar they don’t pick sides. The capabilities exist for these units to play both formats.
The Bad: 99% of movies do end up picking sides during the production of the movie itself. This means that if you purchase a new BLU Ray or 4K disc that has height enabled audio, you will only get one or the other, not both.
One is not better than the other. Both Dolby and DTS make amazing, immersive and lossless audio tracks to take your home movie watching experience to another level. Each company has their positive and their negative points. What it really comes down to is how you as the listener prefer to watch and hear your movies.