By Gordon Meyer
While DTS first made its bones as an audio technology company with the introduction of their CD-based digital sound system for theaters with “Jurassic Park” back in 1990, over the last 20 years, they’ve been building quite an array of technologies for just about all aspects of audio recording, processing and reproduction, whether for your local Cineplex, home theatre or even getting better sound out of laptop speakers and earphones.
At this year’s CES, they raised the bar for immersive home audio with the introduction of their Neo.X 11.1 sound system. Even though the standard in movie theatres is still five primary channels of audio (three in the front plus two in the rear) and for Blu-ray discs a 7.1 channel mix (two additional speakers on the side), DTS’s audio engineers want to take the idea of immersive sound in a 3D space a step further by adding side, front height and wide channels to the mix.
Neo.X capable receivers will automatically convert 2.1 and 5.1 mixes to 11.1 and no doubt DTS itself will promote native 11.1 audio recordings through their extensive contacts within the music industry. I enjoyed a demonstration at CES with a very unusual piece of music created specifically to showcase 11.1 sound by musician Patrick Leonard and sound designer Diego Stocco and it did sound impressive.
Their challenge is going to be how to effectively demonstrate the benefits of 11.1 sound, especially since most electronics retailers lack the floor space for this kind of demonstration, especially since, as of CES, there were no plans announced to bring this technology to theatres where, with the right movie like one of this summer’s fantasy blockbusters, it could really show off the technology much the same way the original “Star Wars” showcased Dolby’s 3.1 channel optical stereo sound back in the late 1970s.
With the increased emphasis on 3D images, it stands to reason that there will be an ongoing drive to add more dimensionality to audio mixes as well to create ever increasingly immersive experiences for audiences. Sounds like it might be time for audio mixers to master a new sound model. Stay tuned.