If you are new to the world of home cinema you may well have heard the words ‘5.1’, ‘Dolby Digital’ or ‘DTS’ frequently mentioned. Put simply, they are both multi channel digital sound formats that are used to bring the full benefit of digital surround sound to your home cinema (and indeed to real cinemas).
They both typically consist of 6 channels of sound and to confuse matters are more commonly known as ‘5.1’ surround sound. The channels are split into with two front channels, 2 rear channels, a centre channel for speech, and the .1 part for the low frequency subwoofer sounds.
Most DVDs will support a digital sound format of some description, even when the film is quite old. In this case the original sound tape will be remastered and ‘cleaned up’ to remove hiss and drop-outs and re-recorded in a digital sound format. For bigger re-releases, the sound is often completely re-mastered into a surround sound track even when it was not originally available.
Nearly all DVD players we’ve ever come across have supported at least Dolby Digital with most also supporting DTS. This means that either your DVD player can decode the sound ready to send to your home cinema system, or you can output the raw un-decoded sound and let your home cinema amplifier do they work if you have one.
Although each format has various specialist sub types, the two main formats are:
For newer high-definition Blu-ray discs, there are two enhanced high-definition sound formats from these two laboratories, known as DTS-HD Master and Dolby Digital TrueHD. Read our page on high-definition sound formats for more information.
Dolby Digital is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories, Inc.