Does anyone remember the very first TV show that was in stereo?  Well I do, and it was Miami Vice.  I remember it clear as a bell, listening on my early Vandersteens with a Beta HiFi unit and a 20” TV!  This was the first breakthrough to get us better sound with a picture, and at the time, it was awesome.

Where We’ve Been

As more and more television shows came out in stereo, we added a center channel speaker, so we could understand the dialog better.  Dolby Pro Logic emerged which attempted to figure out the dialog track and put it in the center speaker.  Yet another small step forward.

Dolby Digital was a game changer. It was the first time that each speaker had its own discrete audio track. With Dolby Digital the engineer mixing the movie could actually direct sounds to each speaker as they pleased.  Compared to Pro Logic, Dolby Digital felt like a revolution.  

In the years following, different variations and renditions came out, including DTS, TrueHD, DTS HD Master, etc.  Some of these gave us higher resolution audio, but they all still relied on the engineer sending predetermined levels of each track to each speaker.

Where We’re Headed

Dolby Atmos and DTS-X are the biggest evolutions in home theater sound since Dolby Digital. They are part of a new breed known as “object based surround”  Both of these processes add height speakers to the room, but the really cool twist is how they work!

Object-based surround sound engineeringPicture a 3-dimensional cube.  Now imagine being able to point to any spot inside that cube and send a sound to precisely that spot!  This is the way films and television shows are mastered in object-based surround sound.  When things pan around or from side to side, that path is fully plotted out in 3D.

I am really excited about the upcoming DTS-X for yet another great reason.  DTS-X is like Atmos in that it uses height speakers and object based surround.  Typically, the center channel track contains a lot more than just dialog.  With DTS-X, we are supposed to be able to actually change the gain of the dialog track in relation to the center channel output.  If I’m watching a show or movie that wasn’t mixed well and I am having a hard time hearing it, I will be able to simply raise the volume of the dialog and nothing else!  Now that will be super cool.

Lots of new products coming out this fall will incorporate DTS-X and I for one can not wait to play around with it. If you have not come in and heard our demos of Dolby Atmos in either or Raleigh or Charlotte showroom, you are truly missing out.