Dolby vs. DTS: Potential Format War Brewing Over Immersive Home Sound

There's been an ongoing format war surrounding immersive sound in the cinema space, and now that might extend to the home market. 

Dolby and DTS are rolling out competing object-based formats and both are demonstrating their systems this week at CES. Dolby is on hand with Dolby Atmos for the home, introduced last fall, that's initially available through supported Blu-Ray players using Dolby's TrueHD codec and supported OTT services using Dolby Digital Plus.

Shortly before CES, DTS announced DTS:X -- the successor to its DTS HD -- which the company plans to launch with more details in March.

DTS has said that a large number of manufacturers would launch consumer products supporting DTS:X in 2015, including Anthem, Denon, Integra, Krell, Marantz, McIntosh, Onkyo, Outlaw Audio, Pioneer, Steinway Lyngdorf, Theta Digital, Trinnov Audio and Yamaha.

Dolby also announced wide manufacturer support for its system, including Denon, Integra, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Steinway Lyngdorf, Trinnov Audio, Yamaha, Atlantic Technology, Onkyo, Pioneer USA, Teufel and Triad Speakers.

On the content side of the equation, Dolby has developed authoring tools that allow a studio to prepare an Atmos theatrical mix for the home. Eleven such titles are currently available, including Warners' Gravity, Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction and Lionsgate's Expendables 3. (According to Dolby, roughly 200 movies have already been mixed in Atmos since the theatrical format was launched in 2012.)

Similarly, DTS:X would require sound encoded in the DTS:X format. The company said this can accomplished with any content already mixed in its MDA (Multi-Dimensional Audio) format, which is already used to master movies that are played in cinemas using Barco's Auro immersive sound system. A DTS spokesperson said DTS:X isn't compatible with Atmos mixes, meaning that at least initially, content owners might need to create multiple mixes if they want to release content for both sound systems.

Like Dolby, DTS is already reaching out to the studios and sound community to talk content for its format. Test material already encoded in DTS:X includes Fox/Blue Sky's Rio 2 and Lionsgate's Divergent.

The Blu-Ray Disc Association, which launched a 4K and high-dynamic-range-supported new Blu-Ray format at CES, said its technical specification supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

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