Friday, December 19, 2014

DTS NEO:X Review

UPDATE: DTS:X will likely use DTS NEO:X instructions as a basis for 11 discrete channels.

Then use extra location data for object located sounds in the extra speakers. 

DTS NEO:X 11.1 Heights Review

Upmixing solutions in the past left a lot to be desired, leaving many purists to stick with discrete channels versus extrapolated or matrixed channels.    Can DTS NEO:X satisfy the purists?   I wanted to review NEO:X because there isn't much out there about it.  Let us find out.

NEO:X I believe has a max input of 7.1 @ 32-bit @ 48khz designed to run on SHARC.  The performance of the setup is based on horse-power in processing intermixed signals.  A good 11.1 system can output 32 different modes taking in up to 7.1 and putting out between 2.1 and 11.1. NEO:X is primarily an upmixer but it is more than that with the ability to matrix 11 channels from 7.1.  The matrix ability is excellent in terms of sending directional sound, but I have not heard it be discrete despite DTS claims.

DTS NEO:X puts out excellent upmixing ability is in addition to the its 11.1 directional matrix ability.

I recently paired an AV8801 with an MM8077 with a UD7007 thru 7 channels of the latest KEF Q series (Q900 mains, Q300 surrounds, Q100 heights, a Q600 center).  In a 3 part series trying to probe the more interesting of the 32 configurations.  In the below review I look at 5.1 +2 heights at 30 to 60 degrees higher than the listener ear height. 

DTS NEO:X as a 11.1 Matrix Format

Metadata directionality/discrete matrix processing can point audio at specific channels.

There are multiple mixing platforms that can add meta-data to a DTS-HD stream to direct sounds to specific speakers.  I haven't heard a truly discrete implementation of the matrix speakers although DTS claims it can be.  I believe the best way to think of DTS NEO:X is a DTS-HD base with extra instructions to put sound in the matrix speakers without causing a loss of sound to those running in the traditional 5.1/7.1 systems.  In this way its actually somewhat similar to ATMOS where ATMOS runs on extra metadata on-top of a DD-Master Audio track. I believe ATMOS is a bit more advanced but I can say NEO:X can specifically target sounds to an 11.1 output with only 2 channels of near-discrete or discrete height. 



NEO:6 was an upmixer that did not have meta data for a discrete sixth channel, that was DTS-ES.  Think of NEO:X as an upmixer with specific metadata instructions or "matrix channels" that can sweep music around you while not losing any of the core sounds for those not running more than the base channels.  You won't get the heights running 5.1 but NEO:X can extrapolate heights based on instructions, not only extrapolating based on algorithms.



ATMOS is another generation superior to  NEO:X.  That being said I believe NEO:X holds up very well in terms of its core function in fact I'd argue NEO:X provided the blueprint for ATMOS in terms of using metadata ontop of a core track.  ATMOS uses location based meta where NEO:X as far as I can tell has discrete matrix metadata.

ATMOS is better at height and height effects but NEO:X I believe is very good at the second dimension and it sort of expands on the instruction sets in a way that is I believe smart and scalable.  Both take another dimension to audio listening with NEO:X filling in circular gaps and Atmos providing an instruction list for object/locale based information with more ability to put out height info. 

DTS NEO:X as an Upmixer

NEO:X can take an input source and upmix it to 11.1.  DTS NEO takes some horsepower to fully implement, in-fact two receievers may be listed as NEO:X but they may not have similar performance. NEO:X has multi-processing capability to delineate and upmix.  It uses extra horsepower in it's upmarket implementation when denoted by superior chips and outputs. 

Although the price of this is some confusion the result is that with good processing NEO:X provides the best resolution through channels in an upmix scenario in terms of quality and consistency. 

NEO:X vs NEO:6 as an Upmixer

NEO:X is much better than NEO:6 as an upmixer

Although both share the same base the NEO:X is much better even at similar channel outputs.  It's sort of like comparing a 486DX to a Pentium.or Pentium Pro, the upmixing is a different generation of technology and you can hear it in terms of the sounds being sent to different channels in a more logical and stable fashion.


NEO:X is much better than PLIIz or PLIIx

Again its comparing new versus old tech and you can see in how PLIIz is implemented on the processor it runs and how the sounds seem limited in their directionality and with sometimes illogical priority of speakers directing the sound like cattle versus letting sweet butterfly wings fluttering soar to where they naturally belong. Heights sound better versus z and rears sound better than X

The upgrades in up-mixing is fantastic versus the old generations of upmixers.  DSU promises to continue this direction. 


DSU apparently will do 5.1 plus heights.  I will need to look into this more but DSU may not be better at "2D" up-mixing than NEO:X despite being a generation newer.  DSU is most likely better in a 5.1 + Heights scenario then NEO:X and will up mix more height channels where NEO:X will do more channels at the listener ear level with at least 9.1 being available at ear level thru NEO:X with the last two being for heights.   

NEO:X vs PLIIx pr PLIIz with Audyssey DSX  

Audyssey uses location based processing and measurements to correct sound at the sound field with additional speakers.  Audyssey DSX doesn't focus on sending specific sounds to increase directionality in terms of it's upmixing goals rather it chooses to improve the sound at the sound stage with additional speakers and reflections in the measured room.

Audyssey DSX is very good, is also limited at 32-bits 48Khz, so if you have high sample rates you should turn off Audyssey enhancements as with NEO:X. 

I'm going to add more information on ATMOS and AURO 3D and perhaps proper reviews.  That being said NEO:X as a premium product in consumer audio is very good and I would suggest I'm ready to take the plunge to implement 11.1 channels with an additional MM8077 and KEF surrounds.

NEO:X Game Mode is Surprisingly Good

The algorithms are so good it makes me wonder if there are more optimized titles out there then what is listed.  Case and point NEO:X Game Mode sounds amazing with CoD Advanced Warfare thru PS4. NEO:X Game Mode extracts extra dimensionality out of the base output.   Helios, Echos, Planes predictably play thru the heights.  Its natural and excellent implementation since the extra wide channels can aide in First Person Shooters if the directionality is accurate. 

NEO:X was once mentioned as meta-data to support an unlimited number of extra channels.   

Reverse Engineering NEO:X

To the best of my ability I believe that there is base track and it is extended upon with accurate directionality instructions.  Front Height will play mostly to the heights, but some to the front unless you don't have heights then it plays mostly to the front.

The meta data seems to be location based and the speakers are points along 32 options of location output.  This would be in contrast to the ideal ATMOS and UHD implementations where these locations are objects and can be measured and directed to play based on measurement.   The output will play to the specified location which seems to cover the two closest channels as well as look ahead data of surrounding channels.  "Swirls" are executed perfectly.  

From listening I would guess there is at least some look ahead functionality which helps predict the location of upmixed sound by looking at where the sounds are coming next.  I'm also guessing that NEO:X can read all existing DTS instructions and extrapolates very well.  That's the only way I can explain how good some of the upmixing sounds. 

If I was writing the algorithm I'd describe it as adding dimensions that roughly equal what was provided at base. So if you're running 2D 9.1 NEO:X a sound that is directed to a left or right speaker specifically will diminish the loudness of that directed sound from the surrounding base speaker(s) corresponding roughly to the loudness directed toward the "expanded dimensionality"/matrix speakers.

The look ahead and interlacing of sound would explain why different adaptations of NEO:X sound different dependent on MIPS and processing resources.

Final Thoughts NEO:X is a Metadata instruction set and a Upmixer:

NEO:X is very good.  the best I've heard at 2D upmixing although DSX is good enough to make it a tricky call. NEO:X is a format I don't think should be ignored however I believe it will be supplanted by an object oriented algorithm base.  It sounds like NEO:X instructions are implemented in many different DTS-HD stacks.  It will be interesting to see what DTS does in the future as Object based decoding becomes the norm.  NEO:X does provide compelling extra instructions to a format that has been excellent at implementing core + instructions.   NEO:X may be the last best 2D Matrix/Upmixer format as the next generation moves to a completely different algorithm base.



1 comment:

  1. I just bought the Denon AVR 4250CI at a steal ($400), but now I'm starting to think that DTS Neo X is a dead format and i actually lost on this deal. Will i be able to get any use from this receiver other than raw power? And will i be stuck to watching older movies to enjoy the formats included with this receiver?