What Is DTS Virtual:X?

This system pushes surround sound up and out without adding more speakers

DTS Virtual:X is an audio codec designed to provide sound a sense of multi-dimensional space or of sound moving around you within an environment. Used in both cinemas and home theater systems, DTS Virtual:X may sound complicated, but it can be understood as making a few speakers sound like a lot of speakers.

DTS Virtual:X Logo and Illustration

Xperi/DTS via PRNewswire

Is DTS Virtual:X Sound Good?

One intimidating thing about the home theater experience is the number of surround sound formats. What most surround sound formats have in common, unfortunately, is that 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.

The brand and model of the 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 Does DTS Virtual:X Mean?

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 within a 3D listening space where no speakers may be present. The sound space may include either rear 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 vertical surround elements without additional speakers, wall, or ceiling reflections.

Uses of DTS Virtual:X

DTS Virtual:X is a great option for soundbars, as it delivers an acceptable immersive surround sound experience, even though the soundbar may have only two (left, right) or three (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 may 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 soundbar and home theater receiver setups that DTS Virtual:X is suited for include:

  • Soundbar or soundbar with subwoofer: DTS Virtual:X can create two 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 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 thin, there isn't enough room to incorporate speaker systems that provide a good surround sound listening experience. That is why it is strongly suggested that consumers opt to at least add a soundbar. You already reached into your wallet to buy a big 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 four phantom overhead channels.

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

How to Use DTS Virtual:X

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

  • 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 is partially determined by how much amplifier power the soundbar, 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 medium or large rooms.

  • Is DTS Virtual:X better than Dolby Atmos?

    Sound-wise, Virtual X and Dolby Atmos can provide the same results in sound. However, Atmos requires more physical speakers, which may make it less appealing to people with less space.

  • Is DTS Virtual:X better than Dolby Digital?

    DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Digital aren't really the same thing. Virtual:X is a system that simulates immersive, 3D sound. Dolby Digital is an audio compression technology that powers many of the company's products.

For the 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.
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