Guide to DTS-ES and How to Use It

The DTS 6.1 channel surround sound formats explained

What to Know

  • Auto: Set home theater receiver to auto-detect incoming surround sound formats.
  • Manual: Select DTS-ES Discrete or Matrix sound on DVD soundtrack.

This article explains how to select DTS-ES on your home theater receiver. It also provides more insight into DTS-ES vs. Dolby Digital, the two primary providers of surround sound formats for home theater systems.

How to Select DTS-ES on Your Home Theater Receiver

Ensure your home theater receiver is set to auto-detect incoming surround sound formats (and DTS-ES Discrete and Matrix options are available). This means the receiver will automatically perform the proper decoding and display the selected format on your receiver display.

To manually set the surround sound format, select the DTS-ES Discrete or Matrix sound on your DVD's soundtrack.

What Is DTS-ES?

The most common surround sound formats are Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 Digital Surround. These systems require five speakers: front-left, front-right, front-center, surround-left, and surround-right. They also need a single subwoofer, which is what the ".1" designation refers to.

Besides their core 5.1 channel formats, both Dolby and DTS offer several variations. One such variation from DTS is known as DTS-ES or DTS Extended Surround, which is represented by its official logo:

DTS-ES Extended Surround Logo

Instead of 5.1 channels, DTS-ES adds a sixth channel, allowing for a sixth speaker positioned directly behind the listener's head. With DTS-ES, the speaker arrangement includes six speakers: front-left, front-right, front-center, surround-left, surround-center, surround-right, and a subwoofer.

Although a dedicated rear-center speaker provides a more accurate and immersive listening experience, such systems do not require a 6.1 DTS-ES-compatible home theater receiver. You can use either a 5.1 or 7.1 channel receiver.

In a 5.1 channel setup, the receiver folds the sixth channel into the surround channels and speakers. In a 7.1 channel arrangement, the receiver sends the signal intended for the surround-center speaker to the two rear speakers in the back of the room, creating a "phantom" surround-center channel.

The Two Flavors of DTS-ES

Although DTS-ES builds on the foundation of DTS 5.1 Digital Surround, DTS-ES comes in two flavors: DTS ES-Matrix and DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete.

The difference between the two is that if your home theater receiver provides DTS-ES decoding/processing, DTS-ES Matrix extracts the sixth channel from cues embedded within DTS 5.1 Digital Surround soundtracks. DTS 6.1 Discrete decodes a DTS soundtrack that has the additional sixth channel information present as a separately mixed channel.

DTS-ES vs. Dolby Digital EX

Dolby also offers its own 6.1 channel surround sound format: Dolby Digital EX. The desirable speaker layout is the same: front-left, front-right, front-center, surround-left, surround-right, surround-center, and a subwoofer. However, whereas DTS-ES provides the ability for a sound engineer to mix in a discrete center backchannel (DTS Discrete), Dolby Digital EX is more like DTS-ES Matrix. The center backchannel is mixed with the left and right surround channels and can be decoded and distributed within 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 channel arrangements.

Select DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and streaming content use Dolby Digital EX encoding.

The Bottom Line

Since the advent of Blu-ray Disc and 7.1 channel home theater receivers, newer DTS surround sound formats, like DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS:X, have found their way into the mix. DTS Virtual: X is expanding the experience even more with no additional equipment.

However, many home theater receivers still provide DTS-ES Matrix and DTS-ES Discrete processing and decoding. For those that have a home theater receiver with DTS-ES decoding/processing and a 6.1 channel setup, check out a listing of DVD soundtracks that contain DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete soundtracks (along with DTS-ES Matrix and Dolby Digital EX 6.1 soundtracks). The type of soundtracks available on DVDs should be listed on the DVD packaging and on the DVD's menu screen.

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