A while back I talked about the new SRS system for improving audio on Macs and iOS devices. DTS has now jumped into the sound improvement fray with the first Rock album released in DTS Headphone: X format, which claims to recreate an 11.1 channel system on standard headphones and speakers.
The music is the 20th anniversary release of Soundgarden's Superunknown album from 1994. You can listen to album samples by downloading the free app at the iTunes store. The idea behind the DTS Headphone: X format is to let you listen as a producer would.
"Bands have been releasing albums in surround sound for years now, but no technology has been able to provide fans with a true feeling of what it was like to be in the studio with the band. That's why I find DTS' Headphone:X technology so fascinating. The experience Soundgarden's fans will hear over headphones is identical to how I heard the mix in the studio when producing the surround sound version," commented Grammy® Award-winning producer and engineer, Adam Kasper.
DTS Headphone:X enables content producers to capture the acoustics of a high-quality audio production studio on consumer-end products. The technology externalizes and expands sound. That means listeners perceive the sound as coming from high quality loudspeakers located some distance around them. With benefits for both producers and consumers, the DTS Headphone:X technology presents a whole new way to enjoy entertainment content over headphones.
Soundgarden is also releasing the album as a 2 CD set, including the remastered tracks from 1994, and a disc of demos, rehearsals, B-sides and more. There is also a Super Deluxe 5 CD set with additional mixes and a Blu-ray audio multichannel mix.
I gave the new mix a listen via the app that is available today. I used the Beyerdynamic headphones I just completed a review of, and the sound really was terrific. The app lets you select the way you are listening; ear buds, over ear, on ear headphones, or speakers. You can hear the spatial cues move with each setting. I didn't have the plain old 2 channel mix to compare, but the sounds of the DTS 11.1 channel mix did seem to be quite different than standard headphone listening. Rather than hear the music "in my head," there were instruments in front of me, and arrayed to the sides and behind me. I also felt some instruments originated above me. I thought the DTS 11.1 mix did a good job of sounding likes I was listening to speakers with the instruments in real space. I'd love to hear more music released this way, as hard rock is not always the best way to judge sound quality. I'd prefer to hear some acoustic instruments to really judge the effect.
The free app provides some demo tracks, and you can get the full Soundgarden tracks with a code that ships with the Super Deluxe 5 CD set CD. The downside is the only way to get all the tracks is to buy that CD for US$99.00. That's a pretty steep toll, and I think people who like the group should be able to just buy the digital edition through the app.
The Soundgarden app album samples and the ability to get all the tracks requires iOS 7 or later. It is optimized for the iPhone 5. The app is not universal. I liked the DTS 11.1 sound very much. I'd be happy to hear a wider variety of music. If you'd like to try the DTS sound, head over to the Soundgarden website and have your headphones ready to go.
The DTS sound is terrific, but having the whole album in DTS 11.1 channel sound requires the hundred dollar deluxe CD set purchase, and if this terrific technology is going to take off it's got to be less pricey and with fewer strings attached.