DTS Virtual:X Surround Sound – Overhead Sound Without Speakers

Pushing surround sound up and out without adding more speakers

DTS Virtual:X Logo and Illustration

Xperi/DTS via PRNewswire

DTS Virtual:X is a complicated name, but it means making a few speakers sound like a lot of speakers.

Why Is There a Need for DTS Virtual:X?

One intimidating thing about the home theater experience is the sheer number of surround sound formats.

The brand and model of home theater receiver, AV preamp/processor, or Home theater-in-a-box system you have determines the surround sound formats you have access to.

What most surround sound formats have in common, unfortunately, is they require a lot of speakers.

However, with the popularity of soundbars and headphone listening, there is more demand to get a surround sound experience without extra speakers.

DTS has taken on this task with the development and implementation of DTS Virtual:X.

Built upon the already established DTS:X and DTS Neural:X surround sound formats, DTS Virtual:X expands the immersive listening experience without extra speakers.

How DTS Virtual:X Works

The technology behind DTS Virtual:X is complex. However, to boil it down, Virtual:X analyzes incoming audio signals in real-time and employs sophisticated algorithms to make the best guess on where specific sounds should be placed in a 3-Dimensional listening space where no speakers may be present. The sound space may include either rear and/or overhead sounds.

The process tricks the listener's ears into perceiving the presence of additional "phantom" or "virtual" speakers even though there may be as few as two physical speakers present.

DTS Virtual:X can work with any incoming multi-channel audio signal, from two-channel stereo, 5.1/7.1 channel surround sound, to immersive 7.1.4 channel audio. Using up-mixing (for stereo) and added processing for other sound formats, Virtual:X creates a sound field that includes the height and/or vertical surround elements without additional speakers, wall, or ceiling reflections.

DTS Virtual:X Applications

DTS Virtual:X is a great option for soundbars, as it delivers an acceptable immersive surround sound experience even though the soundbar may only have 2 (left, right) or 3 (left, center, right) channels (and maybe a subwoofer).

For home theater receivers, if you don't want to connect height or overhead speakers, DTS Virtual:X processing provides an alternative that you might be satisfied with. The horizontal configured surround sound field is intact, but Virtual:X extracts the overhead channels without the need for additional speakers.

Examples of sound bar and home theater receiver setups DTS Virtual:X are suited for include:

  • Soundbar or soundbar with subwoofer: DTS Virtual:X can create 2 phantom horizontal surrounds and up to four overhead channels.
  • Soundbar with physical surround speakers and subwoofer: DTS Virtual:X can create up to four phantom overhead channels to supplement the soundbar system's existing speakers.
  • Home Theater receiver with a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker setup: DTS Virtual:X can create up to four phantom overhead channels in addition to the physical speakers already present. For example, DTS Virtual:X can both add a phantom sixth and seventh channel and two height channels to a 5.1 channel receiver or up to four overhead channels to a 7.1 channel receiver.

DTS Virtual:X and TVs

Since today's TVs are so thin, there isn't enough room to incorporate speaker systems that provide a credible surround sound listening experience. That is why it is strongly suggested that consumers opt to at least add a sound bar – you reached into your wallet to buy that big-screen TV, you deserve good sound too.

However, with DTS Virtual:X, a TV would be able to project a more immersive sound listening experience without adding a soundbar.

DTS Virtual:X and Two-Channel Stereo Receivers

Another possible configuration, although not implemented by DTS at this point, is to incorporate DTS Virtual:X into a two-channel stereo receiver.

In this application, DTS Virtual:X could enhance two-channel stereo analog audio sources with the addition of two phantom surround channels and up to 4 phantom overhead channels (similar to its use in with a sound bar setup).

If this capability is implemented, it would change the way we perceive the traditional 2-channel stereo receiver, providing added flexibility for use in both an audio-only or audio/video listening setup.

How to Set Up and Use DTS Virtual:X

DTS Virtual:X doesn't require extensive setup to use.

  • On soundbars and TVs, it is an on/off selection.
  • For home theater receivers, in the speaker setup menu designate that you are not using physical surround back or height speakers, then DTS Virtual:X can be selected.

Effectiveness based on room size is partially determined by how much amplifier power support your sound bar, TV, or home theater receiver provides. Soundbars and TVs would be more appropriate for smaller rooms, whereas a home theater receiver would provide be more appropriate for a medium or large size room.

The Bottom Line

The number of home theater surround sound formats can sometimes be quite intimidating for consumers. This causes confusion as to which one to use for any given listening experience.

DTS Virtual:X simplifies the expansion of the surround sound listening, by providing primarily the perception of height channels, without requiring additional speakers. This solution is very practical for incorporation into soundbars and TVs. Also, for home theater receivers, it provides a practical solution for those that don't what to add physical height speakers but still desire a more immersive listening experience.

CDs, vinyl records, streaming media sources, TVs programs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs can all benefit from DTS Virtual:X processing.

For best results in a full home theater environment, adding dedicated physical height speakers (vertically firing or ceiling mounted) provides the most accurate, dramatic, result. However, DTS Virtual:X is a game-changer in the crowded field of surround sound formats.

DTS Virtual:X is available on

  • Soundbars: Select models from LG, Vizio, and Yamaha.
  • Home Theater (AV) Receivers: Select models from Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, and Pioneer. 
  • TVs: Select UK models from LG.