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What are the Different Surround Sound Formats?

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THX Surround EX is not a technology per se, but a set of standards for playback. Lucasfilm established standards for movie theaters to provide the best audio experience to accompany a film. Those standards are now applied to audio equipment for the home theater. With the proper THX certified equipment, a program will play back with 7.1 channels; either discrete or synthesized depending upon the program encoding. THX delivers the industry standard for full wrap-around surround sound.

DTS: What is it?

DTS stands for Digital Theater Systems and is a competitor with Dolby Laboratories. They both do the same thing, encode and decode signals to provide surround sound. One key difference is that DTS uses less compression than Dolby and, some would argue, achieves improved audio quality. A drawback of the lower compression rates is that it leaves less room on a DVD for "bonus material" such as commentaries and foreign languages.

DTS competes head-to-head with Dolby Digital 5.1. Like its competitor, it delivers 5.1 channels of sound (left, center, right, right surround, left surround and a low frequency effects (LFE) channel (the ".1").

DTS-ES, ES stands for "extended sound" and adds a discrete rear surround channel. The rear channel can be played through one or two speakers. DTS has the advantage over THX because the THX rear surround signal is matrixed while DTS has a full-range discrete channel. However, presently, only a few DVDs include this encoding.

DTS Neo:6 is an advanced matrix decoder. It will take any two-channel source and expand it into five or six channels, depending on the user’s speaker layout. Two-channel sources include VHS tapes, broadcast television, stereo CDs and DVDs. DTS Neo:6 provides separate, optimized modes for stereo music materials and matrix surround motion picture soundtracks. DTS Neo:6 also decodes a center-surround channel from Extended Surround matrix soundtracks.

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