Dolby Atmos Vs DTS:X – What’s The Difference?

Audio, especially high-quality audio, has been improving in the last three decades. High-quality audio once came at a price, both financially and in terms of size. As devices got smaller and more powerful, even movies and TV shows came with high-quality audio, such as 5.1 and more recently, 7.1 surround sound.

You will see tags like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but will be left wondering what they actually mean. Both refer to a way of encoding audio so that it can be decoded at the highest quality by a home theater or cinema system. The two are slightly different but the differences should still be explained.

Dolby Atmos Vs DTS X – The Differences

As we have established, the two are ways of encoding sound so that it can be reproduced in surround sound systems for the best possible immersive experience. The two mentioned standards are the highest ones and are meant to be used with systems beyond traditional 5.1 surround systems.

They do come from two different companies so one can expect differences in implementation and device/media support.

Dolby Atmos – High-Quality Audio With Specialized Speakers

Dolby Atmos represents the highest offer of sound quality that Dolby Labs offer. It is meant to be used with surround systems that exceed the traditional five-speaker and one subwoofer setup. Additional speakers are necessary, such as ceiling speakers or soundbars which are aimed at the ceiling.

One of the benefits of Dolby Atmos is that they added another layer of sound, a vertical one, which is why the extra, top-firing speakers are necessary. For those who are unwilling to add more speakers or drill holes in their ceiling, there are TV sets that support Dolby Atmos, and have speakers which add that vertical layer. Dolby Atmos is supported by most streaming services, and it can be found on blu-ray discs as well.

DTS:X – Quality And Practicality

DTS:X is a bit different to Dolby Atmos but it strives to create the same results, an immersive listening experience. DTS:X can be implemented with any standard speaker configuration, whether 5.1 or 7.1 and unlike Dolby Atmos, it does not require any additional speakers.

DTS has a free license for movie engineers to implement their technology, where they can control all of the aspects of how the audio will be shaped, which should cover most standard 5.1 and 7.1 setups. DTS:X has a PRO variant that supports up to 30 speakers and 2 subwoofers.

The downside of DTS:X is the media support. Most devices support DTS:X, but the media, such as soundtracks and streaming services are lacking.

jurassic park dts disk

The first movie supporting DTS

Home Cinemas

Home cinemas are often different to typical gaming setups, and they include a surround system, most often a 5.1 system. Depending on your system and your willingness to purchase a new speaker, either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X should do the trick, particularly if the highest-quality audio and visuals are the goal.

Dolby Atmos is supported by most streaming services which should make it easier for the consumer to watch a movie with Dolby Atmos, provided that they have an upright-firing speaker. The media also needs to support Dolby Atmos.

DTS:X is supported by most audio devices, including home cinemas. Even older devices support it via a simple firmware update. However, streaming services are lacking in support and movies are still adding the technology. On the other hand, no additional speakers are necessary, nor speaker re-arrangement.


DTS Sound Unbound is an application that is usable on Windows and XBox products, to unlock DTS:X and various other DTS technologies which can enhance everything from movies to video games. It works with both headphones and speaker setups, turning them into a much more expensive audio system for no money at all.

Dolby Atmos also has its presence in video games, and depending on the game, some have Dolby implemented. The problem with Dolby is that they have exclusive devices that support Dolby Atmos, such as headphones or headsets, speakers or even laptops. DTS has support for every device while Dolby requires implementation from the manufacturer.

Headphone Listening

DTS Headphone:X is a way of enhancing headphones, any pair of headphones, for an overall better listening experience. That includes music, movies and games. It is available as a part of the Sound Unbound application, which can also enhance one’s speakers. Note, however, that the application can only do so much if the equipment is at the lowest end of quality. It also depends on the source media, as well as anything in between, like having a decent sound card.

Dolby has their own implementation but it requires using Dolby-enabled devices, such as headphones, speakers, TVs, computers or consoles. They also offer Dolby Vision, which is used to enhance the visual experience when watching movies or playing video games, but it also requires direct support from a device.

Conclusion and Summary

Both Dolby and DTS offer great solutions for gaming, watching movies, and all around, having a better listening experience. Due to Dolby being older, they get the label of being an industry standard.

However, DTS offers a great, often better experience, and does not require any additional gear or external support for headphones, speakers or other devices. The differences between the two are minimal but the experience could vary depending on the devices that the user owns.

Dolby Atmos requires additional speakers for a complete experience while DTS:X does not. That does not mean that DTS can revive an old audio system or make very cheap headphones sound much better. Either of the solutions will work for a better listening experience, provided that the audio devices are solid and that the media has either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X implemented.

About The Author

Milan Zagorac

Milan has always been interested in writing and technology, but managed to pick up a love for music, literature and sports along the way. Essentially a jack of all trades, his interest in all things tech as well as love for the written word, keeps him well occupied.

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