Spotlight on the DTS 96/24 Audio Format

DTS 96/24 - What it means for home theater and music listening

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Official DTS 96/24 Logo. Image provided by DTS

DTS 96/24 is part of the DTS family of audio and surround sound formats, that includes DTS Digital Surround 5.1, DTS Neo:6, DTS-HD Master Audio, and DTS:X, that are designed to enhance the audio experience for home entertainment and home theater listening.

What DTS 96/24 Is

DTS 96/24 is not so much a separate surround sound format but is an "upscaled" version of DTS Digital Surround 5.1 that can be encoded onto DVDs, or as an alternate listening option on DVD-Audio Discs.

What makes DTS 96/24 significant is that provides higher audio resolution than the traditional DTS Digital Surround format. Audio resolution is expressed in the sampling rate and bit-depth. Although highly technical (lots of math), suffice it to say that just was with video, the higher the numbers, the better. The goal is to provide the home theater viewer or music listener a more natural sounding listening experience.

With DTS 96/24, instead of using the standard DTS 48kHz sampling rate, a 96kHz sampling rate is employed. Also, the DTS Digital Surround bit-depth of 16 bits is extended up to 24 bits.

As a result of these factors, more audio information can be embedded into the DVD soundtrack, translating into more detail and dynamic range when played back on 96/24 compatible devices. What is interesting to point out is that in addition to upping the audio resolution for surround sound, it also benefits music listening.

Standard CDs are mastered with 44kHz/16 bit audio resolution, so recorded music mastered in DTS 96/24 onto a DVD or DVD audio disc definitely ups the quality

Accessing DTS 96/24

Most home theater receivers provide access to DTS 96/24 encoded audio content. To find out if your home theater provides this option, check for the 96/24 icon on the front or top of your receiver, the receiver's audio setup, decoding, and processing options, or, open your user manual and look at one of the audio format compatibility charts that should be provided.

However, even if your source device (DVD or DVD-Audio Disc Player) or home theater receiver is not 96/24 compatible, that is not a problem as non-compatible devices can still access the 48kHz sampling rate and 16-bit depth that is also present in the soundtrack as the "core".

It must also be noted that un-decoded DTS 96/24 bitstreams can only be transferred via Digital Optical/Coaxial or HDMI connections. On the other hand, if your DVD or Blu-ray Disc player can decode the 96/24 signal internally, the decoded, uncompressed audio signal can be passed as PCM via HDMI or analog audio outputs to a compatible home theater receiver.

DTS 96/24 And DVD Audio Discs

Another thing to mention is that on DVD-Audio discs, the DTS 96/24 track alternative is actually placed in a portion of the space allocated for the standard DVD portion of the disc. This allows the disc to be played on any DVD player that is DTS-compatible (which means over 90% of players). In other words, if a DVD-Audio disc has DTS 96/24 listening option, you don't need a DVD-Audio-enabled player to play the disc.

However, when you insert a DVD-Audio disc into a standard DVD (or Blu-ray Disc player) and you see the DVD-Audio disc's menu displayed on your TV screen, you will only be able to access the 5.1 channel DTS Digital Surround, or DTS 96/24 selection option, if they are available (some DVD audio discs also provide a Dolby Digital option as well), rather than the full uncompressed 5.1 channel PCM option that is the foundation of the DVD-Audio disc format.

Sometimes, both the DTS Digital Surround and DTS 96/24 options are labeled DTS Digital Surround on the DVD Audio Disc menu - However, your home theater receiver should display the correct format on its front panel status display.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, in terms of movie DVDs, there are very few that have been mastered in the DTS 96/24, most of the titles are only available in Europe. On the other hand, DTS 96/24 has been more widely used in Music DVDs and DVD-Audio discs. Check out the complete list of CDs and DVD-Audio Discs that include either DTS Digital Surround or DTS 96/24 soundtracks.

Since higher-resolution audio formats than those used on DVDs (including DTS 96/24) are already available for Blu-ray Disc (such as DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS:X, there are no Blu-ray Disc titles that use the DTS 96/24 codec.