After the introduction of "real" immersive sound solutions like Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D and DTS:X, which are meant to be used on theatrical installations with real speakers, surrounding the audience from all directions and from the ceiling, the home theater system manufacturers immediately started research on finding ways to dispense with ceiling speakers, by designing upward-firing solutions that could create the same effect. Short after, the industry started to explore digital signal processing and beam forming arrays to obtain a similar translation of immersive audio from a single source soundbar, eventually reinforced with satellite speakers on surround positions and subwoofer channels. The demonstrations proved to be quite convincing for the average consumer and soundbar configurations are even being promoted as being able to convincingly translate multichannel or even object-oriented mixes. Dolby is supporting officially those configurations by licensing the use of Dolby Atmos decoding on soundbars.
Now, DTS announces they are licensing DTS Virtual:X technology as a premium immersive audio post-processing solution from DTS directly. Leveraging DTS' know-how in surround sound, the Virtual:X solution is said to deliver the perception of up to 7.1.4 channel immersive content through traditional speakers in the horizontal plane (e.g. 2.x, 3.x, 5.1). In other words, DTS Virtual:X technology replaces the complete immersive audio setup with height and rear speakers, allowing users to experience immersive audio from a simple soundbar (2.0 channel) or traditional surround configuration (5.1 channel), including both virtual surround and virtual height.
DTS is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Xperi Corporation and apparently the corporate transition also signals a new more aggressive stance on licensing technologies such as the new DTS Virtual:X, which will make an appearance in the market this summer. As the company explains, "DTS Virtual:X technology delivers three-dimensional audio regardless of the source content and number of input channels, and is optimized to work with DTS decoders, including DTS:X. DTS Virtual:X technology can be implemented in a variety of products to provide an immersive sound experience without the need for additional speakers."
"Our mission at DTS is to make the world sound better and deliver premium audio solutions to our partners and consumers," says Joanna Skrdlant, general manager, home audio at Xperi. "With the introduction of DTS Virtual:X technology, listeners can enjoy height and surround sound with simply a sound bar, making it more accessible and affordable than ever to experience the benefits of immersive audio at home."
DTS also details that its Virtual:X technology supports any input source from stereo to a 7.1.4 layout (11.1 channels), and is optimized to work with all DTS codecs, including the flagship DTS:X. For legacy content, an efficient upmixer is included to provide a natural, immersive experience. The flexibility of its architecture even enables product manufacturers to manage one or more features concurrently, including Virtual Height, Virtual Surround, Bass Enhancement and Multiband Hard Limiter.
Yamaha will be the first brand to deliver a DTS Virtual:X-ready product with the release of the YAS-207 soundbar, available for purchase in July 2017, with the DTS Virtual:X firmware update in August. Additional OEMs integrating DTS Virtual:X technology in soundbars, as well as A/V receivers and televisions, will be announced in the coming months, DTS states.
Soundbars are now the fastest growing home audio category as consumers continue to adopt them for improved audio for their TVs or in lieu of a full home theater system. DTS believes this is an opportunity to license a complete set of technologies for reference speaker design, instead of simply licensing the format decoders. According to the company, conducted research shows that fewer than 30 percent of consumers that purchase multichannel A/V receivers actually connect the height speakers and fewer than 48 percent of consumers connect the rear surround speakers, for a variety of reasons. For those users, the DTS Virtual:X technology in an A/V receiver will provide an improved "immersive sound experience" in all cases, while "still allowing consumers to upgrade for an even better immersive sound experience when they're able to add additional speakers to their system."
Also, as televisions have become lighter and thinner, and the demand for larger screen sizes has increased, DTS finds that this will be a unique opportunity to license its own technologies in that space. In the US market alone, 86 percent of US consumers now own a TV greater than 40 inches, and 18 percent now own a TV of over 60 inches, according to the Consumer Technology Association's 19th Annual Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study, published April 2017. "While larger screen sizes provide a more immersive viewing experience, the audio experience from a TV alone is compromised due to the market's desire for a thin form factor, which limits speaker driver size and placement. DTS Virtual:X technology provides an immersive sound experience without the need for larger drivers or additional speakers added to the television," DTS explains, while adding that televisions with DTS Virtual:X technology are forecast to be available in early 2018.
www.dts.com | www.xperi.com