Unless you’ve made a point of buying the handful of 4K Blu-ray discs out there that have been mastered for the IMAX Enhanced home entertainment experience, you’d be forgiven for thinking based on the looks of streaming platforms that the IMAX Enhanced system is just one thing with image quality/screen filling. In fact, IMAX Enhanced in its full form also has a sound element. Namely, a custom version of the Xperi’s DTS:X multi-channel audio format that adds some IMAX ‘secret sauce’ (which to me sounds like more dynamic range and perhaps a slightly more expansive soundstage) to the regular DTS:X experience.
Now, thankfully, a new arrangement between Xperi and Disney+ means that streamers will soon finally be able to join 4K Blu-ray owners in getting the full picture and sound IMAX Enhanced experience – provided they at least have a TV and/or AV -receiver who can handle it.
While we don’t know exactly when the IMAX Enhanced premium DTS audio experience will launch, we do know that it will be available on the same Marvel Cinematic Universe titles that currently enjoy the IMAX visual experience (wider 1.90:1 aspect ratio, cleaner picture ) quality) on Disney+.
Disney+ has also stated that there are a few IMAX- and DTS-supporting TVs out there that should be able to support the new IMAX signature sound from DTS as soon as it launches — notably models from Sony and Hisense. Although it has not provided a detailed list of compatible model numbers.
The improved sound will also be available on IMAX-certified AV receivers from manufacturers such as Denon, Marantz and JBL, again from launch.
The addition of IMAX Signature Sound by DTS to Marvel titles on Disney+ is the latest step in a long relationship between IMAX and Marvel Studios, with IMAX supporting Marvel films in theaters since 2010. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game were also first films to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras (other Marvel IMAX Enhanced titles are shown with sections using the wider IMAX ratio).
“We are excited to launch the next evolution of IMAX Enhanced technology on Disney+ in the coming year,” said Jerrell Jimerson, Executive Vice President of Product, Disney Streaming. “This unique collaboration expands our long-standing relationship between Disney and IMAX, and we look forward to delivering this new immersive audio experience along with premium playback quality for current and future titles to our audiences around the world.”
While it’s good news to see IMAX Enhanced features becoming more widespread, in addition to the fact that there isn’t a definitive list yet of which specific TV models may be able to support the new IMAX Signature Sound with Disney+, the there is also a question of whether it wants to be sent in a kind of compressed form of streaming. After all, Dolby Atmos movie soundtracks for streaming must be sent in a lower-quality “DD+” form, rather than the full, uncompressed Dolby TrueHD form they’re carried on Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray discs.
I asked Disney+/IMAX for more information on this, but they “had nothing to add at this time”. If they have anything to add at another time, I’ll let you know!