Dolby vs DTS: Which Is Better For Your Home Theater?

Jul 13, 2022
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dolby vs dts which is better

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I remember when I was first getting into home theater audio and I was completely lost. I had no idea which format was better: Dolby or DTS? 

I did some research and listened to both back and forth, and in the end, I decided to go with Dolby.

Dolby is more well-known and tends to be more popular with consumers. But which format is actually the best for your surround sound system?

Don't worry, I'll break down the differences between the two technologies for you in more detail below, let's get to it!

What Is Dolby Digital?

Dolby Digital comes from a company named Dolby Labs that creates audio technology and codecs. 

Look at it as Amazon packaging together everything you bought in a box (compression), and once you receive the delivery, you unbox everything inside (decompression), easy enough right?

Dolby is responsible for some of the most common surround sound formats out there which you may have heard of, including:

  • Dolby Digital

  • Dolby Digital Plus

  • Dolby TrueHD

  • Dolby Atmos

Dolby is generally considered to be more accurate, lifelike and subjectively just sounds great. 

They use a higher compression of sound data compared to DTS which can result in loss of sound details, but the company begs to differ (of course!).

What Is DTS?

DTS is another company in competition with Dolby that specializes in audio, and they developed the DTS audio format (Digital Theater Systems). 

DTS became popularized when Steven Spielberg did feature it in his movies as his preferred sound of choice, especially for the Jurassic Park series.

Since then, DTS has of course made its way into the home theater systems as well with different versions such as:

  • DTS

  • DTS:X

  • DTS-HD High Resolution

  • DTS-HD Master Audio

DTS and its tech can create an incredibly immersive listening experience full of details and a wide soundscape, particularly well-suited for movies. 

It uses less compression than Dolby Digital, which can result in a higher-quality sound as more data needs to be transferred.

Dolby vs. DTS: The Difference

Dolby and DTS are both audio codecs that deliver high-quality sound through your home theater receiver no matter how you look at it. 

But what is it that really sets them apart? Here are the details:

| Dolby

Dolby Digital is the most common audio codec in the world. It delivers 5.1 channels of surround sound, making it perfect for both movies and TV shows on Netflix. 

Can create a more realistic surround sound experience due to its compression technology.

Dolby creates a more immersive sound experience and soundstage from your surround sound speakers.

Dolby is better at reproducing bass sounds, making explosions and other low-frequency noises from the subwoofer more powerful to enjoy.

Can be lossy, meaning that some quality is lost in the compression process, and Dolby compensates with audio tweaks instead to make up for it.

Bit Rate: 640kbits/s for Blu-Ray, 448kbits/s for DVD, up to 1.7Mb/s with Dolby Digital Plus.

| DTS

DTS is less common, but it can deliver 7.1 channels of surround sound, making it ideal for hardcore audiophiles.

DTS tends to provide a crisper sound than Dolby, making it good for detail-oriented listeners with a keen sense of hearing.

Offers greater clarity and detail due to the data not being compressed as much, meaning that less quality is lost. 

Can be more fatiguing to listen to over long periods of time as it's more details to take in for your brain (really you need to compare it for yourself).

Bit Rate: 1.5Mb/s for Blu-Ray, 768kbits/s for DVD, up to 6Mb/s with DTS-HD High Resolution.

| Both codecs offer stunning audio quality 

If you're looking for an immersive surround sound experience with tons of details, go with DTS. If you're more interested in everyday listening, Dolby Digital is a better option.

The bit rate of DTS is also higher than that of Dolby, meaning that there is more information being processed per second and therefore the sound quality can be better. 

Dolby also uses a different coding method than DTS, which some say results in a more natural-sounding audio experience.

Which Should You Choose for Your Home Theater?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the topic of Dolby vs. DTS.

Making the decision between Dolby and DTS can be tough, especially if you're not familiar with either format.

In general, Dolby Digital is more widely supported than DTS, but DTS offers a higher quality sound experience. 

So, it really comes down to what you're looking for in a home theater system. Do you want something that's going to be compatible with most devices? 

Or are you willing to sacrifice some compatibility for better sound quality?

At the end of the day with all of the tech and bitrate mumbo jumbo out of the way, it's all a subjective game and you'll probably lean into one or the other based on your own personal preference. 

Now at least you know what's the difference between Dolby and DTS.

Which Is Better for Movies?

Dolby is often seen as the gold standard when it comes to movie audio, thanks to its clear, crisp sound. However, DTS can be a bit more immersive, giving you that feeling of being right in the middle of the action.

Ultimately, it's up to you which one you prefer. Just make sure your home theater receiver can handle both formats, as not everyone does.

The Verdict: Dolby or DTS?

So, which is better for your home theater? 

In my personal opinion, Dolby is the clear winner. It offers a cleaner sound with a nice depth and dimensionality which is enjoyable to listen to for hours on end. 

While DTS sounds cool and you can definitely pick up some details that you could not with the Dolby codec, it can become too much and you get tired of listening to it. 

But it's fun to alternate between the two just to pick out the difference in sound.

Of course, this is just my opinion. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which system sounds better to your ears. 

But if you're looking for the best possible audio experience for the long run, I would recommend choosing Dolby.

Frequently Asked Questions

| Which one offers better sound quality?

There is no simple answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors, including:

The type of movies you're listening to, the equipment you are using, and your own personal taste for music in general and the details in it. 

With that being said if you only look at the specs, bitrates, etc. then DTS offers a better sound quality.

But here are a few general tips to keep in mind when trying to determine which sound quality is better for you:

Listen to a variety of movie genres and see which one sounds better to you. 

Pay attention to the overall clarity and richness of the sound, and which one you could imagine listening to for hours.

| Which one is more widely used and compatible?

By far the most popular and widely used surround sound format is Dolby Digital.

| What is a codec? 

The compression of data for faster transfer between points A and B usually entails different compression levels and bit rates.

| How do Dolby and DTS sound different?

Man, this is really hard to explain in words alone as it's so subjective. 

Dolby and DTS sound different because they use different methods to encode and decode audio signals. 

Dolby uses a perceptual coding algorithm that takes into account how the human ear processes sound, while DTS uses a hybrid coding algorithm that combines perceptual and transforms coding. 

The result is that Dolby tends to sound more natural and lifelike, while DTS tends to sound more detailed and accurate.

| Who created Dolby and DTS?

Dolby Laboratories, Inc. is an American company specializing in audio noise reduction and audio encoding/compression. 

The company is best known for the development of the Dolby noise reduction system and the Dolby Digital audio codec. 

DTS, Inc. (formerly Digital Theater Systems) is an American company that makes multichannel audio technologies for film and video.

Wrap Up

I'm often asked which is better: Dolby or DTS

Truthfully, there's no right answer—it depends on your preferences and what you're looking for in a home theater experience.

Dolby is known for its more enveloping "surround sound" experience, while DTS is prized for its detail and precision. 

So which is right for you? That's something you'll have to decide for yourself. 

But I can tell you that with either format, you're sure to get a great home theater experience! So don't worry too much and just go with either.

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