These are the most prominent virtual 3D sound providers. They are being used for many purposes, but especially for home theater. But which is better among them?
At A Glance: DTS Virtual X is the best because it is open-source. Brands can modify it to match their products. The second is Dolby Atmos Height virtualization because its brand is continuously improving it in the lab, and the last is virtual surround because it has no brand to maintain it.
Keep reading as we will be discussing each one in detail. Also, I will compare them head to head at the end of this article. Don’t forget to read the final verdict to know which one to pick or avoid all of them.
Note: This guide is focused on home theater, that’s why we will not discuss headphones here. I have no experience with headphones. I am a speakers guy.
What is DTS Virtual X?
The DTS Virtual X was created by the DTS company, and it is a transformed form of DTS: X.
It was created to give a 3D sound object-based audio experience to those who have fewer speakers in their audio system.
It is open-source, and every brand can see its composition. Speaker and soundbar brands can modify their composition. So, it can match their product needs. They don’t need to ask permission from the DTS company.
This means that every product that is DTS virtual X enabled, will have the right type of coding of the Virtual X that those products need.
This gives the products a better hold over virtual X. As a result, the consumers will have the best possible quality of audio.
Read my this guide in which I compare it with the real DTS: X. Read DTS: X Vs DTS virtual X?
Does DTS Virtual X really work?
In-Short: The DTS Virtual X does work. Because it can create the magic of object-based audio from just 2 speakers at the front.
In-Depth: The virtual X is created to create a 3D field from a minimal setup of speakers. The spatial audio can be generated from just two speakers at the front.
I have listened to it, and it really tricks your brain. Your brain will think that the sound is coming from all around you and not only from the front.
It is working so fine that it is embedded into Av receivers, soundbars, and even TV speakers.
When the virtual X feature of the TV is turned on. The dialogue clarity enhances drastically. I have experienced its dialogue clarity.
Is DTS Virtual X good for music, movies, and gaming?
In-Short: The movies, music, and gaming feel better when DTS virtual X feature is turned on with the existing 2.1 speaker setup. No matter if the speaker layout is 2 or 2.1.
In-Depth: I tested the same content with only the front two speakers as with 2.1 and repeated the same process with each speaker layout, but turned on the Virtual X feature this time.
The same content with a combination of the speaker layout and virtual X felt amazing. The overhead effects were added to the audio.
The object-based 3D effects were felt throughout the content flow.
I enjoyed the gaming and movies more than the music. They were more immersive than the music.
So, it is better for gaming and movies, but just good for music.
Know how to perfect the home theater experience by reading my this guide. 13 tips to improve the home theater audio-video experience.
What is Dolby Atmos height virtualization?
In-Short: It gives Dolby Atmos overhead effects without the ceiling, height, or up-firing speakers. It creates this magic from just front speakers or all other speakers on the ground.
In-Depth: Furthermore, it is developed by Dolby, and it is available only to Av receivers. But it is not available in the soundbars or the TV speakers.
While on the other hand, the DTS virtual X can be found in soundbars and TV speakers.
Does Dolby Atmos height virtualization work?
It works and can create immersive sound out of the audio signals of the content. It is not magical as real Dolby Atmos but still, it can provide some amount of real Atmos magic.
The height virtualization is clear by its name. When this feature of the AV receiver is on. The listener can feel the overhead and height effects of the Atmos with only two speakers in front.
The sound doesn’t feel flat from the speakers at the front, but the flow is more 3D.
I have experimented to compare it with the real Atmos and up-firing speakers in this guide. Is Atmos height virtualization worth it? Go read it. You also know about the up-firing speakers too.
Is Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization good for movies, music, and gaming?
The Dolby Atmos height virtualization is good for movies, music, and gaming. Because the Atmos has been in this game for a very long time. There is plenty of content available in Atmos.
I have played games, music, and movies. They all sound better than just a stereo setup.
The height effects were felt very well while playing this content.
The home theater experience was transformed when turning on this feature. But remember it was only better from a stereo setup. It was not good from the surround sound setup.
What is virtual surround sound?
It provides a complete surround sound experience with just a front or stereo setup. But this format doesn’t provide height or overhead effects.
It tricks your brain, and it feels like the sound comes from every corner of the room. But the sound is only on the ground and without overhead effects.
You can feel that the battle is happening all around you in the movies, but the fighter jets won’t feel as magical as DTS virtual X or Atmos height virtualization.
The sound is kind of 2-dimensional, as the third dimension is missing here.
Does Virtual Surround Work?
In-Short: The virtual surround does work. It works on hitting the ears with different intensities, times, and different volume impacts. Due to this mechanism, it perfectly works to create the simulation of surround sound.
In-Depth: If the dialogues are at the back of the main character. Then those rays of the sound will bounce back from the back of the wall and will hit your ears.
If there is an object on the screen moving from left to right. Then the sound rays will hit your left ear first and after that the right. With this time delay, it will create a simulation of like the object moving from left to right.
When the voices are away from the main character on screen. This virtual surround sound will lower the volume of those voices and will create a simulation of distance.
So, yes, the virtual surround sound does work. I have tested it with a soundbar and speakers. Virtual surround sound can create some level of immersive sound. Stay for the verdict to know how good it is.
Read my review guide, Best soundbars under $300. Few soundbars are providing real and virtual surround sound.
Is virtual surround sound good for movies, music, and gaming?
The virtual surround sound is better for gaming, just good for movies and not good for music.
I played games, movies, and music. I like it for gaming because there were a lot of options in gaming for virtual surround and the immersive universe of the games felt right.
But I didn’t like it for movies or music. The movie experience was just good from the stereo setup and was not magical to enjoy the movie better.
DTS Virtual X Vs Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Vs Virtual Surround? Comparison.
|Features||DTS Virtual X||Atmos Height Virtualization||Virtual Surround Sound|
|Availability||AV receiver, Soundbar, and TV speakers||Only Av receiver||Soundbar and AV receiver|
|Minimum Speakers setup||2.1 or 2||2.1 or more||2.1|
|Overhead Sound effects||Yes||Yes||No|
|Sound immersive score||10/10||9.5/10||3/10|
The DTS Virtual X is available in all shapes you can imagine. You can get it in a soundbar, receiver, or TV speaker. TV speakers? Is it true? Yes, it is true. You can get Virtual X with just two speakers of the TV no matter where they are facing.
They will deliver virtual X no matter whether they are at the back, front, or bottom of the TV.
The Atmos height virtualization is only in the AV receivers. The soundbars that are rated as Atmos soundbar. Those soundbars have special speakers that fire sound to the ceiling and to the side walls from where they reflect at you. So, you can’t say that this firing of sound is height virtualization but it is one type of real Atmos.
The virtual surround is available in soundbars and receivers.
So here the winner is Virtual X and the runner-up is virtual surround and the loser is Atmos height virtualization.
Minimum Speakers Setup
The DTS Virtual X can be delivered with just two speakers of the TV. But the Atmos height virtualization can be better present with two speakers and a subwoofer or more speakers in the setup.
Now, you will question whether Virtual X performance will be enhanced by adding a subwoofer. Yes, it will but I experienced it with just TV speakers and the dialogue clarity was better. The dialogue clarity was not good without it. That’s why I can say that the DTS Virtual X is better without a subwoofer because it is embedded into the TV. Whereas Atmos height virtualization is not. It is integrated into TV at the time of writing this article.
The Virtual surround sound can be delivered with two speakers and a subwoofer.
Both Atmos height virtualization and virtual surround sound are good without a subwoofer but they are not available in the TV speakers.
That’s why I will declare the DTS virtual X a winner here. Here it is a tie between the other two.
Know how to perfectly set up the surround sound speakers. Read my this guide on how far apart should home theater speakers be. I have discussed the best angles too.
OverHead Sound Effects
The overhead effects can be delivered by DTS virtual X in a soundbar and TV speakers but for Atmos height virtualization you need a powerful receiver.
The Virtual X can provide noticeable height effects with just a soundbar with no up-firing speakers. Well, the overhead effects are not noticeable in the TV speakers but the dialogue clarity is enhanced.
There are no overhead effects in the virtual surround that’s why put it aside in this feature comparison.
Since DTS virtual X can provide overhead effects with a cheap and hustle-free setup that’s why it is a winner. You just need to turn on the TV feature or connect a soundbar with the virtual X feature and you are good to go.
I felt the immersiveness of the DTS virtual X slightly more than the Atmos height virtualization. I don’t know why. I think it is because the DTS virtual X is open source and brands can better integrate it into their products by modifying it a little if needed.
If this is the case then Dolby should also try to make their sound formats open source too.
Due to missing overhead effects. I didn’t like the immersion of the virtual surround sound.
Know how to perfect the home theater audio in just 5 steps. Read my this guide.
- However, the winner is DTS virtual X. But If you have not experienced the real Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, or real surround sound then you can go for the DTS virtual X.
- You will love it. You will fall in love with your existing audio system. But if you have experienced real Dolby, DTS, and surround sound then you will not like the DTS virtual X.
- This is the closing point. If you have experienced the real then you will not like the virtual but if you have not experienced the real then you will love this virtual.
- But if you love the immersive sound and can afford real Dolby or real DTS: X then avoid virtual and go for the real thing.
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Which is better: Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual X?
Real Dolby Atmos is always better than the DTS virtual X. The virtual X can’t come closer to the magic that Dolby Atmos can provide.
The Dolby Atmos can blow the Virtual X out of the water. It can beat any virtual setup that is in existence on the market now or in the future.
Can Dolby Atmos be simulated?
It can be simulated. The Atmos height virtualization does the exact thing as simulation.
The Dolby Atmos height virtualization can’t produce the real Atmos but it can simulate it. The simulation can’t beat the real one but it can give you a taste of it cheaply.
Is virtual surround better than stereo?
The virtual surround sound is better than the stereo. Because it adds many more angles to the existing stereo sound. The stereo is flat and front-firing but the virtual surround can make it feel like it is coming from many more directions.
The virtual surround transforms the stereo into the magic that you will love but only when you have not experienced the real surround sound.
Helpful Resources For The FAQs To Read More
- Listen to free music from the Dolby Music Library here and you will know if can it be simulated or not. (Resource for the second answer)
- This was my opinion, read more about it from this Reddit discussion. (Resource for the third answer)