Dolby Digital vs. DTS

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Difference between Dolby Digital and DTS

Most home theater receivers you can purchase today come equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS capability. Nevertheless, you should be aware that some receivers will only support Dolby Digital 5.1, although that is fast changing as more and more manufactures have seen fit to include both innovative audio technologies with their offerings. While you should be able to get satisfactory audio quality with either one, it would still be a good idea to find out each one’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and here we present the more significant ones.

Dolby Digital
DTS

History

Dolby Digital 5.1 first entered the public consciousness in 1992 when the first movie to feature the then-new technology (Batman Returns) debuted in theaters all over the United States. Dolby Digital is now available in more than 9,000 theaters in North America alone, and in many other theaters all over the world besides. DTS for its part hit the scene a scant one year later, although it has managed to catch up to Dolby Digital in terms of the number of theaters that support the technology.

Technology

Dolby Digital’s main claim to fame is its adoption as the audio technology of choice for the then-new Digital TV or DTV standard. This early acceptance later resulted in Dolby Digital’s adoption as one of the two audio standards for the subsequent DVD standard, a position it shares with the older stereo format PCM. It was then that DTS was accorded the status of "secondary" audio standard, which it shares with the Sony Dynamic Digital Sound or SDDS. Dolby Digital for its part has a default bit rate of only 384 kbps, with a maximum bit rate of 448 kbps. In contrast, DTS has a respectable bit rate of 1400 kbps. While this would seem to indicate that DTS has better audio quality, various other factors come into play as well (such as the other components used in the system and the quality of the source data, for instance), and the fact of the matter is that everyone but the most exacting audiophile would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Both Dolby Digital and DTS provide theater-quality 5.1 channel audio, but Dolby Digital has the advantage of being the industry standard for DTV and DVD media, with the trade off being its 448 kbps ceiling. DTS has slightly better audio quality, although the availability of media that support the format is comparatively limited.

Summary

Dolby Digital

  • Was first introduced in movie theaters in 1992
  • First cinematic use was the movie Batman Returns
  • Was the audio encoding technology for the Digital TV standard
  • Has a default bit rate of 384 kbps, with a 448 kbps maximum 
  • Comes with almost all new DVD movies
  • Not supported by 5.1 channel audio CDs

DTS

  • DTS technology came after Dolby Digital
  • Introduced in 1993
  • Was often used in more expensive receivers
  • Available in almost as many theaters as Dolby Digital
  • Has a default bit rate of 1400 kbps
  • Higher bit rate may result in better audio quality
  • Is the standard for 5.1 channel audio CDs
  • Fewer available DTS-encoded DVD movies
  • Costs $5 to $10 more than Dolby Digital CDs

Which sound is better at the movie theater?
  • Dolby Digital
  • DTS
 
 

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