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I Tested DTS Headphone:X: Here’s My Full Verdict

Last updated: 4 months ago
5 min read

I purchased the DTS Headphone:X and tested it for listening to music, watching movies, and playing video games.

Did it enhance the audio experience? Or did it fall short of its promises?

Read this article, where I unravel my findings and provide an in-depth analysis of what DTS Headphone:X brings to the table.

DTS Sound Unbound Microsoft Windows app
CONTENTS (show more)

    Perfect gaming and movie experience consists of both the video and audio quality. But most people focus less on getting good sound quality and more on pursuing a higher picture quality.


    Some studies have shown that raising the audio quality offers a higher level of enjoyment than boosting the video quality.

    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.

    First, we’re going to explain:

    • What is DTS Headphone:X?
    • How does it work?
    • And is it worth getting based on our hands-on testing?

    What is DTS:X?

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

    At least, that’s the theory.

    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 a 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 to 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.

    My Verdict After Testing DTS Headphone:X

    I, Peter (the editor), purchased the DTS Headphone:X license using DTS Sound Unbound to test how this spatial audio format performs in music, gaming, and movies.

    DTS Sound Unbound interface
    This is how the purchasing page looks like.

    And I also made a comparison of Windows Sonic, DTS Headphone:X, and Dolby Atmos.

    DTS Sound Unbound search Microsoft Store
    I bought in the Microsoft Store to run on Windows.

    Is DTS Headphone:X worth it for music?

    Based on my testing, DTS Headphone:X works best for music. It amplifies tiny details and makes everything more lively. Despite boosting tiny details, it doesn’t feel like it hurts the overall dynamics in the process.

    The vocals are slightly more upfront, and you get a better sense of the bass punch. Also, you can choose between 500 headphone tunings in the app for the best experience.

    Overall, I would recommend using DTS for music if you want to extract more from your music without going on the typical audiophile (money-spending) path.

    Pick DTS Headphone X Windows 10
    It’s performs best when listening to music.

    Is DTS Headphones:X worth it for gaming?

    In gaming, DTS:X offers great imaging (accurate directions of the sounds) and a slightly bigger soundstage. The app also offers a “Spacious” mode, which makes the sound too boxy and distant.

    The tuning is a bit thinner than expected and lacks bass oomph, which makes explosions and guns a bit underwhelming.

    My verdict is that it’s an upgrade if you play open-world games where environmental cues play a bigger part. For more casual gaming, it’s not worth it.

    Fabric ear pads on a SteelSeries gaming headset

    Is DTS Headphone:X worth it for watching movies?

    Watching the DTS-supported movie Tenet, I didn’t hear a vast difference between DTS:X ON or OFF.

    I could hear some details appear slightly clearer, but overall, similar to the original audio. I honestly didn’t feel it upgraded the sound over the regular, non-DTS version.

    My verdict is that it’s not worth getting for watching movies because it makes no audible difference.

    What is DTS Headphone:X 2.0?

    DTS Headphone:X 2.0 is a newly developed standard that is even more precise at calculating proximity cues. For example, gunshot sounds have better directional and distance cues, giving you a better sense of depth.

    The overall audio clarity and bass rendering have also improved. But overall, it’s a minor upgrade, and you don’t hear the difference if you don’t compare them side by side.

    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 on 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 headphones 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?

    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 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 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.