AAC Vs. DTS Vs. AC3

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Modern home theater system
Modern home theater system (Image: archideaphoto/iStock/Getty Images)

For home theater systems, three of the most popular formats for producing high-quality digital audio are AAC, DTS and AC3. Each of these formats use different technologies to encode data and improve sound quality of a digital file. Although the human ear can't always differentiate the minute differences between these standards on ordinary speaker systems, sound enthusiasts commonly hold an allegiance to one of these formats.

AAC: Advanced Audio Coding

Compressing digital audio files makes it easier to store or transport digital audio information. This compression, however, degrades the quality of the sound if the right format or method is not used. As part of the MPEG-4 standard, AAC makes small digital audio files. Unlike MP3s, which require 256 kilobits per second, AAC can create the same quality using only 128 kilobits per second. This gives AAC the advantage of storing a larger amount of audio files using less space while preserving sound quality. AAC also produces frequency ranges from 8 to 96 kilohertz.

DTS: Digital Theater Sound

DTS uses digital data to record and play a soundtrack. Digital Theater Systems Inc. initially created this system for theatrical applications to improve soundtracks. Sound tracks that use DTS technology allow six channels, commonly referred to as 5.1 technology. DTS recording also uses 20-bit digital audio instead of the standard 16-bit digital audio. However, DTS files take up the same amount of disk space. This allows DTS technology to record sound without manipulating it significantly.

Types of DTS

DTS technology competes with other sound laboratories such as Dolby Labs. Some of the specific DTS formats includes DTS 70 mm, designed specifically for the audio systems of movie theaters; Neo, a format that converts stereo content into a 5.1 or 6.1 channel format; and Neo X, a format that converts 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 audio tracks into an 11.1 channel output.

AC3: Dolby Digital Audio Coding 3

Dolby Digital created AC3 as a file extension for surround sound audio files used with the DVD format. AC3 provides a total bit rate of 384 kilobits per second. In order to reproduce the full effect of the AC3 track, you must playback this format using a amplified theater system that supports Dolby Digital. AC3 technology also supports audio sample rates up to 48 kilohertz.

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