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DTS Headphone:X Makes Debut with Man of Steel Score

post #1 of 182
Thread Starter 

Last Friday, several journalists were invited to Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, CA, for a demo of DTS Headphone:X. This technology encodes audio files with up to 11.1 channels and simulates what you would hear from a corresponding speaker array using any pair of conventional headphones. It was first demonstrated at CES last January, where it impressed all who heard it.

 

The latest demo was no less impressive—after hearing each speaker in a real 11.1 array (front left, center, right; side surround left, right; rear surround left, right; front height left, right; rear height left, right) identified by the voice of superstar film composer Hans Zimmer, we put on Sennheiser HD 239 headphones and heard the same thing again in Headphone:X. The simulation was so good that most of us, including me, had to take off the headphones to make sure the speakers weren't on—they weren't.

 

The deluxe edition of the Man of Steel score CD comes in a metal case.

 

The demo continued with a clip from Zimmer's score for Man of Steel, Chris Nolan's retelling of the Superman story, which opens June 14, 2013. Zimmer had been introduced to Headphone:X by his producer Peter Asher, and it inspired him to remix the score in 11.1 channels. In fact, if you buy the deluxe edition of the Man of Steel soundtrack CD, you get a code that lets you download a free app called Z+ for iOS and Android as well as the entire score mixed in 11.1 and encoded in Headphone:X. (You can download the app without buying the CD, in which case, you have access to one Headphone:X track from the score.) According to DTS, the app will be available the same day as the CD goes on sale, June 11, though some seem to have found it in the app store already.

 

After the demo, we were privileged to sit at a table with Asher and Zimmer to talk about the score and Headphone:X. Asher told us how he first heard the DTS technology at a pre-Grammy party last February and was blown away by it. He also revealed that, in addition to the 11.1 mix, the algorithm used for the Man of Steel files also includes acoustic measurements and ambient simulation of Zimmer's studio as well as the acoustic effect of his ears and head.

 

That sounds a lot like the Smyth Research Realizer, which also simulates the acoustics of any measured room and set of ears in addition to surround sound in conventional headphones. It can even be customized with measurements of your own ears in any room to which you have access, and multiple acoustic templates can be stored and recalled. Also, it provides a head-tracking feature that keeps the virtual "speakers" locked in place as you move your head around, adding greatly to the realism of the simulation. But whereas the Realizer costs thousands of dollars, DTS Headphone:X is free with the Z+ app.

 

Hans Zimmer is a musical superman.

 

Zimmer said he wanted the score to surround the listener, which is why he was drawn to Headphone:X. Especially effective in this regard is the "drum circle," which is quite prominent in the score and features some of the best percussionists in the world. Zimmer told us that he doesn't listen to CDs because he much prefers multichannel music; as he put it, "Life is in surround, so that's how I mix and what I like to listen to."

 

DTS assured us that it is working with many consumer-electronics manufacturers to implement Headphone:X in AVRs and other products, though the details of exactly how it will work remain somewhat vague. For example, will an AVR have a Headphone:X encoder for discrete multichannel signals, or will it work only with pre-encoded files? Time will tell, but meanwhile, I'll be listening to the score from Man of Steel on my iPhone.

post #2 of 182
I couldn't find (search) this in iOS. I search for Z+ and only find the Dark Knight rises soundtrack. Where is the man of steel one I should look at?
post #3 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post

The demo continued with a clip from Zimmer's score for Man of Steel, Chris Nolan's retelling of the Superman story, which opens June 14, 2013.

90 second samples from the soundtrack:



Favourite part starts at 21:31.
post #4 of 182
Wow! Just downloaded The Dark Knight Rises Z+ for my iPhone5 from the app store. Used a pair of Audio -Technica 50's to listen. Can't wait to get this experience in my living room:D But for now the experience on the iPhone with headphones is pretty amazing.
post #5 of 182
I would buy one mean pair of cans if this technology is really that good. Watching movies anytime with stellar audio - even late at night - would be a dream come true.
post #6 of 182
I cant find anything for Android. Anyone else have any luck?

Regards!
post #7 of 182
So is DTS Headphone:X software, that for example, a AVR can get in an update? Or is it on a hardware level? I just bought a new Sony receiver
i wonder if it can be upgraded? If it can be downloaded to a smart phone then why a TV or AVR should do the same??

Either way it seems pretty cool!!!
post #8 of 182
I'm surprised how quickly DTS dumped front wides in favor of rear heights.
post #9 of 182
I can't seem to find anything on the app either, checked itunes, and google play. Hopefully the app becomes available soon.
post #10 of 182
From their site, I found this interesting:
http://www.dts.com/professionals/sound-technologies/headphonex.aspx
Quote:
The DTS Headphone:X experience first requires surround content to be encoded as a DTS-HD bitstream, with the room information embedded in the stream. Next, DTS Headphone:X (embedded on a PC, tablet or phone) calibrates the headphones. Finally, the reference data is decoded and post-processing enhancement is employed to deliver a truly amazing, home theater quality surround sound experience over headphones.
post #11 of 182
My guess is that the Z+ app will be released closer to the release date of the soundtrack (6/11) or film (6/14). The article seems to imply that it's already out, but it looks like he just heard a demo, and not the release version of the app itself.

It's not too long to wait, since it's a complete surprise and very welcome news. I've been hoping that HeadphoneX would get some traction, and snagging a composer who bridges the classical and popular music worlds is a good strategy. Here's hoping future blu ray multichannel releases include similar digital content. My hope is that apple and the other big boys eventually adopt this (or something like it) as a standard for mutlichannel music and movie content and start building it in at the OS level. Done right, it should be as simple as selecting your headphones in the settings app and toggling headphoneX on and off directly in the music or movies app, a la airplay.
post #12 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by JD NC View Post

My hope is that apple and the other big boys eventually adopt this (or something like it) as a standard for mutlichannel music and movie content and start building it in at the OS level. Done right, it should be as simple as selecting your headphones in the settings app and toggling headphoneX on and off directly in the music or movies app, a la airplay.

Same here! The thing holding me back from really investing in surround sound system is all hardware: the speakers, wires, and stuff, plus in our home anyway (kids) it's not always practical to turn up the volume to even really utilize such hardware, but if i could watch a movie, and get the surround sound through headphones, now I'm excited. smile.gif
post #13 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by RocShemp View Post

I'm surprised how quickly DTS dumped front wides in favor of rear heights.
Probably going to be an option, letting users choose between 4 heights vs 2 heights + 2 wides, since there are 3 titles already on Blu-ray with Neo:X encoeded height and wide channels.
post #14 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post

Zimmer had been introduced to Headphone:X by his producer Peter Asher, and it inspired him to remix the score in 11.1 channels.

Is Man of Steel going to have 11 discrete channels? A true 11.1? Or will it be encoded like the three Blu-rays that already provide 11.1, but not through discrete channels.

Does HDMI 1.4 not limit channels to a total of 8?
post #15 of 182
Remember dolby headphone? It was first introduced on the pearl harbor dvd two disc set...I listened to it...very good surround sound. Also some cds were mixed in dolby surround. John williams cds by sony music. And dts 5.1 was used for a faux surround sound remix of dark side of the moon..
post #16 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by zuluwalker View Post

Is Man of Steel going to have 11 discrete channels? A true 11.1? Or will it be encoded like the three Blu-rays that already provide 11.1, but not through discrete channels.
None of the above. Hans Zimmer did an 11.1 mix of his score, not the entire soundtrack (dialogue, effects, music), just the score. For the moment, there is no way to deliver that as discrete 11.1 content.

The three Blu-ray titles encoded with Neo:X heights and wides were all done by one studio, Lionsgate, who have a history of upmixing their movie soundtracks: in the early days of BD they upmixed theatrical 5.1 tracks to 7.1 for home video, and now they're upmixing theatrical 7.1 tracks to 11.1 for home video. By comparison, Warner Bros has no history of upmixing their theatrical soundtracks for home video release, and there's no indication they're going to break that history with 'Man of Steel'.

In the extras for the BD of 'Inception', there are several tracks from Zimmer's score in discrete 5.1 DTS-HD MA. If Warners decides to do something similar on the 'Man of Steel' BD, by including the score in discrete 7.1, we might get to hear the music in surround. An even bigger IF is that they might decide to take Zimmer's 11.1 mix and use Neo:X to matrix the additional channels down to discrete 7.1. Only problem is one of compatibility: Zimmer's 11.1-speaker layout was 7.1 + 4 heights, while the Neo:X 11.1 decoder in current gear is 7.1 + 2 heights & 2 wides (just like the three Lionsgate titles).

Anyway, that's a lot of "if"s, so don't get your hopes up with false expectations. Instead, if you like the music get the deluxe edition of the soundtrack in the metal tin, and download the entire score in DTS Headphone:X for free. This way, at least you'll get to hear the music over a virtual 11.1 layout.
post #17 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by russds View Post

I can't seem to find anything on the app either, checked itunes, and google play. Hopefully the app becomes available soon.

Hello. Z+ app is available for download now in the app store. http://darkknightrises.rjdj.me and the itunes preview is here: https://itunes.apple.com/app/the-dark-knight-rises-z+/id542656871?mt=8
I downloaded to my iPhone 5 this morning( June 3rd) . While the app is free and there are demo soundtracks to listen to, you can also purchase additional soundtracks.
post #18 of 182
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by petec1962 View Post

I cant find anything for Android. Anyone else have any luck?

Regards!


I'm afraid I miswrote; it's only available for iOS at this point. I've asked DTS if they are working on an Android version; I'll let you know as soon as I hear back on that.

post #19 of 182
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LBJ2 View Post


Hello. Z+ app is available for download now in the app store. http://darkknightrises.rjdj.me and the itunes preview is here: https://itunes.apple.com/app/the-dark-knight-rises-z+/id542656871?mt=8
I downloaded to my iPhone 5 this morning( June 3rd) . While the app is free and there are demo soundtracks to listen to, you can also purchase additional soundtracks.


Interestingly, DTS says it will be available starting June 11 (the day the score CD is released), but if you found it now, great!

post #20 of 182
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kascnef82 View Post

Remember dolby headphone? It was first introduced on the pearl harbor dvd two disc set...I listened to it...very good surround sound. Also some cds were mixed in dolby surround. John williams cds by sony music. And dts 5.1 was used for a faux surround sound remix of dark side of the moon..


I do remember Dolby Headphone, and I agree, it was very good. But I think DTS Headphone:X is better. Also, I thought the 5.1 mix of Dark Side of the Moon was a true remix in 5.1, not a faux anything.

post #21 of 182
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JD NC View Post

My guess is that the Z+ app will be released closer to the release date of the soundtrack (6/11) or film (6/14). The article seems to imply that it's already out, but it looks like he just heard a demo, and not the release version of the app itself.

It's not too long to wait, since it's a complete surprise and very welcome news. I've been hoping that HeadphoneX would get some traction, and snagging a composer who bridges the classical and popular music worlds is a good strategy. Here's hoping future blu ray multichannel releases include similar digital content. My hope is that apple and the other big boys eventually adopt this (or something like it) as a standard for mutlichannel music and movie content and start building it in at the OS level. Done right, it should be as simple as selecting your headphones in the settings app and toggling headphoneX on and off directly in the music or movies app, a la airplay.


You're right, the app's release date is supposed to be June 11 with the soundtrack CD, but apparently, some folks have found it on the app store already.

post #22 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post


Interestingly, DTS says it will be available starting June 11 (the day the score CD is released), but if you found it now, great!

The app is not new, the Man of Steel app will be an upgraded version of the Z+ app. The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack is nowhere near as good as the man of Steel preview DTS sent me.
post #23 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post


I do remember Dolby Headphone, and I agree, it was very good. But I think DTS Headphone:X is better. Also, I thought the 5.1 mix of Dark Side of the Moon was a true remix in 5.1, not a faux anything.

Does DTS Headphone:X do any sort of HRTF calibration like Smyth does with it's Realiser? I'm having a hard time seeing how this is more than a modest improvement over Dolby Headphone. 

post #24 of 182
Thousands of industry insiders are all wrong? It is a huge improvement over Dolby Headphone
post #25 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Susilo View Post

Thousands of industry insiders are all wrong? It is a huge improvement over Dolby Headphone

I didn't say anyone was wrong, just looking for clarification. I'm trying to understand what about this new tech makes it sound so much better than Dolby Headphone. The headphone profiling seems nice, as is the headtracking and using HD bit-perfect audio instead of lossy DD.

 

I saw the reference to the Smyth Realiser which calibrates for an individual's HRTF and room/speakers. My understanding is that this is the secret sauce that makes the Smyth sound so convincing. I asked the question because it was not clear to me from the opening post - does DTS Headphone:X tech utilize individual HRTF calibration like the Smyth system?

post #26 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by ATB View Post

I didn't say anyone was wrong, just looking for clarification. I'm trying to understand what about this new tech makes it sound so much better than Dolby Headphone. The headphone profiling seems nice, as is the headtracking and using HD bit-perfect audio instead of lossy DD.

I saw the reference to the Smyth Realiser which calibrates for an individual's HRTF and room/speakers. My understanding is that this is the secret sauce that makes the Smyth sound so convincing. I asked the question because it was not clear to me from the opening post - does DTS Headphone:X tech utilize individual HRTF calibration like the Smyth system?

My apology! I misinterpret your post.

1. Headphone:X is actually a "dumbed down" version of Smyth Realiser. This was explained to me by the DTS engineer during CES2013

2. Headphone:X does not use the listener's HRTF data but the data of "the average listener" which in "nearly all cases" are "more than sufficient". (Again, according to the engineers)

3. Listening to Headphone:X at CES and having tried the Smyth Realiser, the end result is actually very very close, minus the customization, of course.
post #27 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by ATB View Post

I'm trying to understand what about this new tech makes it sound so much better than Dolby Headphone.
I'm guessing it does a better job of externalizing the sound for more listeners than previous such technologies did. If you've heard various headphone spatializers/externalizers over the years, then you know that they're all not created equal. Even without convolving your particular ears, Dolby Headphone did a better job than the competition at countering the in-your-head impression you get with headphone listening. It's not unreasonable to find that the externalization processing has improved over the quarter century since Dolby Headphone.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ATB View Post

The headphone profiling seems nice, as is the headtracking and using HD bit-perfect audio instead of lossy DD.
Dolby Headphone wasn't limited to DD any more than DTS Headphone:X requires HD bit-perfect audio (despite DTS reps at CES saying that the audio first needed to be packed as DTS-HD MA). Notice that the first public demo of Headphone:X is an MP3 download (Man of Steel).
post #28 of 182
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Susilo View Post

Headphone:X does not use the listener's HRTF data but the data of "the average listener" which in "nearly all cases" are "more than sufficient". (Again, according to the engineers)
For the 'Man of Steel' download, we'll be listening through Hans Zimmer's ears rather than the usual "average listener" that Headphone:X would typically use for processing. (according to the presser in the first post)
post #29 of 182
You are correct, Sir!
post #30 of 182
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ATB View Post

Does DTS Headphone:X do any sort of HRTF calibration like Smyth does with it's Realiser? I'm having a hard time seeing how this is more than a modest improvement over Dolby Headphone. 


Yes, it does, but it can't be customized with your personal HRTF; in the case of the Man of Steel score, the algorithm includes Hans Zimmer's HRTF in his mixing studio. I don't know who's head and room they will use for other Headphone:X files; probably some sort of "average" as others in this thread have said.

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