Earlier this week DTS used the Games Developer Conference as a platform to announce a new surround sound format catered specifically to videogames.
The format, DTS Neural Surround Sound, is able to pass discrete 7.1 channels of audio on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and the PC over either an optical or stereo cable. Currently PS3 requires an HDMI connection to achieve 7.1 audio for the handful of titles that support it.
The first game due out the gate with DTS Neural Surround is the Xbox 360 version of Activision’s Prototype due in stores this June.
The announcement left us with some lingering questions about how DTS Neural Surround works with each gaming system and what we can expect from it. Mark Tuffy, Director of Business Development, Interactive Media at DTS, was kind enough to answer our questions — and hopefully yours — and shed some additional light on this new surround sound format.
Q: Neural Surround is described as being able to “convert the 5.1 signal into a true 7.1 surround experience.” Yet at the same time, only games designed specifically for Neural Surround can take advantage of it, not any random game with 5.1 surround already. Does this mean games like Prototype for Xbox 360 are initially mixed in 7.1, compressed into 5.1 and then “expanded” via the receiver back to 7.1?
Games are mixed in 7.1 and then downmixed to 5.1 (or stereo for Wii). These are then output as a 5.1 bitstream and then in the reciever they are pulled back up to 7.1.
Q: How will Neural Surround work with a/v receivers, i.e. what format will it be passed from the console to the receiver and ultimately be decoded as?
DTS Neural Surround is transmitted to the receiver in whatever bitstream format the console can support e.g. DTS 5.1 (or stereo by the Wii) and this is then decoded by the receiver.
Q: Prototype is also coming out for PS3 and the PC. With the proper firmware, both of those can already decode and pass 7.1 audio without the need for Neural Surround. Is this why Neural Surround will only be included on the Xbox 360 version and can be expect 7.1 audio for PS3 and the PC for Prototype?
DTS Neural Surround is supported on all platforms including PS3 and PC (ed. note: This response references all titles and not Prototype. Only the Xbox 360 version of Prototype will support DTS Neural Surround.)
Q: Expanding upon the previous question, would you even need Neural Surround for PS3 or the PC if you can already use DTS 7.1 surround? Owners of multiple consoles will want to know whether Neural Surround will make the Xbox 360 version better than the others.
DTS Neural surround is important for the PS3 as many gamers connect with optical to their receiver. This feature allows 7.1 support via the 5.1 formats the PS3 supports. 7.1 game audio on the PS3 Is currently only provided by LPCM over HDMI meaning DTS Neural Surround provides a great feature.
Q: How will Neural Surround work on the Wii without the benefit of an optical audio cable?
On the Wii DTS Neural Surround downmixes in real time from 7.1 to stereo for output by the analog stereo connections.
For PC DTS Neural Surround allows 7.1 audio transmission via S/PDIF for PC’s attached to home theaters which would typically only allow 5.1
Q: How does Neural Surround compare to lossless DTS-HD Master Audio as seen on Blu-ray? Is there an increase in quality/bitrate or does it only offer the additional two channels of surround?
DTS Neural Surround provides 7.1 audio for games and is seperate from Master Audio which is a bit for bit reproduction of audio for movie souundtracks
Q: Will Neural Surround take up extra space on a disc versus a standard 5.1 audio track?
For 7.1 audio you may need more space for assets but you can also pre downmix some multichannel assets before integration into the game which saves disc space.
Q: Looking forward, do you envision a future where the PS3 will be able to utilize DTS-HD Master Audio for games the same way it can for Blu-ray Disc movies/concerts/etc.?
DTS is always looking ahead in the videogame market to see how we can provide technology solutions to give higher quality audio for both developers and customers.