DTS Neo:X: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Surround sound expansion a la DTS

DTS Neo:X is an 11.1 channel surround sound format. It is similar to the Dolby ProLogic IIz and Audyssey DSX surround sound processing formats, which provide both height and wide channel enhancement.

How DTS Neo:X Works

Like the ProLogic IIz and Audyssey DSX, DTS Neo:X does not require studios to mix soundtracks specifically for the 11.1 channel sound field. Still, DTS Neo:X has the ability, and doing so delivers a more accurate result.

However, without optimizing the mixing end, DTS Neo:X looks for cues already present in stereo, 5.1, or 7.1 channel soundtracks. It places those cues within the front height and wide channels that are distributed to additional front height and rear height speakers, enabling a more enveloping 3D listening environment.

DTS Neo:X Channel and Speaker Configurations

To experience the maximum benefit of DTS Neo:X processing, you should have a home theater receiver that provides an 11 speaker layout configuration. That means it supports 11 channels of amplification and a subwoofer.

In a full 11.1 channel DTS Neo:X setup, the speaker arrangement is as follows:

  • Front left
  • Front left height
  • Front center
  • Front right
  • Front right height
  • Wide left
  • Wide right
  • Surround left
  • Surround left height
  • Surround right
  • Surround right height
  • Subwoofer (11.2 channel setup uses two subwoofers)
Official DTS Neo:X Logo with 11.1 Channel Speaker Layout Diagram

An alternate speaker setup would remove the surround left and right height speakers and instead incorporate additional left and right speakers between the left and right front and left and right wide speakers.

This speaker layout variation expands the surround sound field, filling the gaps between the surround and front speakers. It also adds a larger front soundstage with height channels placed above the front left and right front speakers and additional sound coming from the rear via back surround height speakers. The sound from these speakers also projects toward the listening position, giving the sensation of sounds coming from overhead.

That's a lot of speakers. Although it is desirable to have a DTS Neo:X-enabled home theater receiver that supports 11 channels of built-in amplification, you can also incorporate it into a home theater receiver that has nine channels of built-in amplification with preamp outputs for connection to external amplifiers that add the needed extra 10th and 11th channels.

DTS Neo:X can also scale to work within a 9.1 or 7.1 channel environment, and some home theater receivers incorporate the 7.1 or 9.1 channel options. In these setups, the extra channels are folded with the existing 9.1 or 7.1 channel layout. It may not be as effective as the desired 11.1 channel setup. Still, it provides an expanded surround sound experience over the typical 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 channel layout.

Additional Control Included With DTS Neo:X

For additional surround control, DTS Neo:X supports three listening modes:

  • Cinema: Provides extra emphasis to the center channel to avoid losing dialog in the surround sound environment.
  • Music: Provides stability to the center channel while providing channel separation of the rest of the elements in the soundtrack.
  • Game: Provides more detailed sound placement and directionality, especially in the wide and height channels, to provide a fully immersive surround sound experience.

DTS Replaces Neo:X With DTS:X

DTS Neo:X is not to be confused with DTS:X, which is an object-based surround sound encoding format introduced in 2015. It includes overhead sound immersion and is a standard surround sound option on most mid-range and high-end home theater receivers. DTS:X can be considered an evolved version of Neo:X.

For some home theater receivers, the addition of DTS:X has eliminated the need for DTS Neo:X on future units. You most likely won't see both Neo:X and DTS:X included on the same receiver.

Some previous home theater receivers equipped with DTS Neo:X accept a DTS:X firmware update. In these cases, once the DTS:X firmware update is installed, the DTS Neo:X feature is overridden and no longer accessible.

If you have a receiver with Neo:X, a firmware update may be provided automatically. If you aren't sure, check with customer or tech support for your specific brand and model to see if it is available.

If you own a home theater receiver that offers DTS Neo:X, and it is not upgradable to DTS:X, it will still work as designed. If you switch to a new home theater receiver, you will be provided with DTS:X and the DTS Neural Upmixer. DTS:X requires specifically encoded content, but the Neural Upmixer works in a similar fashion as DTS Neo:X because it creates a similar immersive effect by extracting height and wide cues with existing 2, 5.1, or 7.1 channel content.

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