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What is DTS Headphone:X and How Does It Work?

Last updated: 4 weeks ago
4 min read

Surround sound exists for many years, but it was usually reserved for big cinemas or expensive home-theater systems. Thankfully you can now experience 3D audio just by using a simple pair of headphones. And you can do that with the help of audio standards, such as DTS Headphone:X.

DTS Headphone:X logo

Perfect gaming or movie experience consists of both the video and audio quality. But in most cases, people tend to focus less on getting good sound quality and are more eager to pursue higher picture quality.

However, some studies have shown that raising the audio quality offers a higher level of enjoyment than just boosting the quality of the video.

That makes sense because detailed 3D audio can give a better immersion than a 2D picture on the screen. It helps us better understand what is happening inside the game or a movie, giving the objects we see a whole new meaning.

While there are many multi-channel audio standards, we’re going to look more closely look at:

  • What exactly is DTS Headphone:X?
  • How does it work?
CONTENTS (show more)

    What is DTS:X?

    DTS: X is an object-based audio codec that is used to create 3D surround sound experience at your home. It increases the audio soundstage, so you get a feeling of realistic, spacious sound. But what does the “object-based” mean in audio applications?

    DTS Headphone X Demo

    The previous surround sound standards were mixed in a way that the channel signals were predetermined. In practice, the original source already carried the information on what each speaker is going to play. While this can give you a good sense of 3D space, the depth of the sound isn’t as good.

    This is where object-based audio comes in. Instead of already knowing what a certain speaker is going to play, DTS:X tells the amplifier where a specific sound is located. It can be slightly further, closer, or even above the viewer. Based on the location of the sound, numerous speakers start to play.

    With the help of multi-channel speaker setup, you get a sensation of the sound moving around you. The audio experience is similar to the Dolby Atmos. However, DTS:X technology is more flexible in terms of how many speakers you want to use.  Also, you don’t have to mount additional speakers on the ceiling.

    What is DTS Headphone:X?

    It works similarly like the normal DTS:X, but it can also take other multi-channel streams and convert them into surround sound for your headphones.

    Supposedly it can mimic a true 11.1 surround system otherwise found in your local movie theater. It can also use in-game audio from objects to amplify the overall audio experience, giving you an even more accurate 3D surround sound.

    It does that by calculating where a specific sound is coming from and adjusting the loudness accordingly. Sound reflections are also taken into account, making you feel like you’re inside a game.

    DTS Headphone:X technology also works for:

    • Music: there are audio tracks out there that are recorded in DTS surround sound, but you can also amplify the experience with the existing tracks you have on your phone or PC.
    • Movies: audio needs to be recorded for DTS:X, but it can also use other multichannel streams.

    What is DTS Headphone:X 2.0?

    A newly developed standard is even more precise at calculating proximity cues. In practice, from where and how far away the sound (for example, gunshot) is coming from, giving you a better sense of depth. The overall audio clarity and bass rendering have also improved with version 2.0.

    HyperX gaming headphones

    Where can you find DTS Headphone:X 2.0?

    It primarily comes with the best gaming headsets, but you can also find it in certain mobile phones or through a downloadable app for your PC or Xbox.

    Where is the signal being processed?

    The new surround sound signal is processed in real-time. Where the processing happens, depends on the headphone themselves. It could be:

    • Processed inside the headset
    • On a base station that later transmits the audio to the headset
    • In software on your gaming platform (PC or Xbox One)

    Gaming headsets usually do all the processing internally. But if you have standard, non-gaming headphones, the conversion happens in software.

    What is DTS Sound Unbound?

    Even regular headphones are usually pretty good at pinpointing particular sounds. That is why you don’t have to buy a dedicated headset with a DTS Headphone:X technology. You can use your existing headphones and simply let the software do all the processing.

    For Windows 10 and Xbox One, you can download the DTS Sound Unbound app, which was developed in collaboration with Microsoft. You can try their 14-day trial to find out if it suits your needs. Afterward, the price for a full license is $19,99.

    DTS Sound Unbound Microsoft Windows app
    This is how the DTS Sound Unbound app looks on Windows 10.

    So far, the list of games, where you can experience this standard’s full potential, is quite short, but it’s promised to grow bigger. The supported games are:

    • Gears 5
    • Borderlands 3
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
    • Forza Horizon 4
    • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
    • Assassin’s Creed: Origins
    • For Honor
    • Final Fantasy XV
    • The Division 2
    • Resident Evil 2
    • Metro Exodus

    DTS Headphone:X On Your Mobile Phone

    At the beginning of 2015, DTS Inc. started rolling out its DTS Headphone:X feature to select mobile phones. The goal is again to recreate a more accurate spatial audio, giving you the same experience as if you are sitting in front of a 5.1, 7.1, or even 11.1 speaker system.

    What is even better about this mobile DTS Headphone:X feature is the option to tailor your existing pair of headphones to sound better with DTS:X. You can either configure your headphones by yourself or choose the preset from the 230 models and 60 brands database.

    You can also see DTS:X Ultra inside the mobile phones like Asus ROG line-up or Zenfone 6, and in gaming laptops.

    How Do You Get the Best DTS Headphone:X Experience?

    As mentioned, the standard can use all kinds of audio signals to amp the 3D sound. However, the best way to experience the true DTS Headphone:X is when movies/games/music are mixed specifically for this standard.

    Headphones and headsets marketed as DTS Headphone:X compatible are also a better choice to get the most out of this surround codec. That is because these headphones are already pre-calibrated and tuned to ensure the most accurate presentation.

    When choosing the DTS Headphones:X inside the DTS Sound Unbound app, the DTS:X comes included. That way, you get the best DTS experience to cover all of your gaming and movie-watching needs.

    Also check the alternative, Windows Sonic for Headphones which is free.