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DTS:X finally gets major streaming support starting with Disney+

Queen Rock Montreal streaming in IMAX Enhanced with DTS:X on Disney+.

In the world of spatial audio for streaming services, Dolby Atmos has enjoyed a near monopoly for years. Starting May 15, however, that will start to change as Disney+ rolls out support for DTS:X, the biggest spatial audio alternative to Dolby Atmos. Among the first titles to be presented in DTS:X will be Queen Rock Montreal, a remastered version of the concert film that was assembled from footage shot on November 24 and 25, 1981.

The change is coming thanks to Disney’s collection of IMAX Enhanced titles. In the past, viewers of IMAX Enhanced movies like Avengers: Infinity War were able to enjoy the visual side of IMAX’s presentation format: select scenes that are viewable in a 1.90:1 ratio thatalmost totally eliminate horizontal black bars when viewed on a standard 16:9 ratio TV.

However, there’s always been an audio component to IMAX Enhanced — the use of DTS:X to create a 3D, immersive soundtrack. Disney originally said it was going to add support for DTS:X on IMAX Enhanced titles in 2023, but that didn’t quite pan out.

Along with Queen Rock Montreal, Disney+ also has a catalog of 18 Marvel movies available in IMAX Enhanced, including Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, Captain America: Civil War, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Vol. 3.

We’re excited to see a streaming alternative to Dolby Atmos, and we hope other streaming services will follow Disney’s lead, however, actually getting to hear IMAX Enhanced in DTS:X (much like being able to hear Atmos) will require the right gear.

A lot of folks already own a sound system that supports DTS:X. AV receivers from brands like Marantz, Pioneer, Denon, Sony, and Yamaha usually include DTS:X processing, as do select soundbars from Vizio, Sony, Nakamichi, Denon, and Sennheiser, to name a few.

But having a DTS:X sound system is only half the battle. You’ll also need a streaming media player that can passthrough DTS:X to that sound system (if the sound system has its own HDMI input), and/or a TV that can decode or passthrough DTS:X.

Unfortunately, this is where we don’t yet see widespread support for DTS:X. On streaming devices, passthrough support is rare — you won’t find it on Apple TV, Google’s Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, or Roku. About the only devices we’re aware of that do support it are Nvidia’s Shield TV 2019 and Shield TV Pro.

However, Xperi (parent company to both DTS and IMAX) says that there are DTS:X enabled Android/Google TV devices from Sony, Hisense, Sharp, and Xiaomi that will be able to decode and play these IMAX Enhanced streams.

Editor’s note: the first version of this article stated that the new IMAX Enhanced titles would be available April 15. This has been corrected.

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Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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