Option-Click: Surround Sound…CDs?

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In my October 2008 column (see emusician.com), I shared an elaborate recipe for creating surround sound DVDs. Those discs contained 5.1-channel Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio, which is universally supported on DVD players. However, there's another popular way to distribute your surround music on disc, and although it's less compatible, it's far simpler to produce. It's called the DTS CD.

DTS, like AC-3, encodes six channels of audio into a 2-channel file. But it employs gentler compression, so many audiophiles feel that DTS sounds better. The DTS CD variant uses 16-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV files, which you can burn to dirt-cheap CD blanks using any standard program. Play the disc normally, and you'll hear white noise. But send the signal over S/PDIF to a DTS-compatible receiver, and it expands back into 6-channel surround. Incidentally, this DTS pass-through ability is a good test of your audio interface. Unless the DTS signal is “bit perfect,” it will remain noise. (If you're using a software CD player, be sure to turn off EQ and other processing — even volume reduction.)

You can create DTS CD files inexpensively with Minnetonka SurCode CD-DTS (surcode.com; $99) and Immersive Media Research Vortex Surround Encoder Pro (im-research.com; $75). (For more about David Battino's work, visit batmosphere.com.)