DTS Neo 6 and DTS Discrete: Review of these new software options for the Tag AV32R 7.1Ex Well, I have had these operational for over a month now and I promised to post my thoughts on this new software option for the AV32R 7.1 Ex from Tag. This hasn't been the simple task I thought it might be however, some of the results surprised me and I still don't quite have an explanation (but I have a few ideas) on some points. These are MY thoughts rather than a technical review of the system. I will leave that to others. As ever the option was enabled with a quick phone call to Tag. I was up and running in minutes. No sweat or hassle. If only the competition could be this slick. As many of you know I reviewed the previous software options and a copy of the review is posted on the Tag site. This is just an update brought in by 3.5 software version. Use the search engine and find: AV32R: The software options: A review. for PL2, HDCD and MPEG options review. DTS Neo6. This generates a multi channel signal from a stereo source (much like PL, PL2, Logic 7, Tri-field, TMS and a wide host of ‘DSPs' like church, stadium, jazz club etc) This is a crowded market place now. I am a BIG fan of PL2 though, Logic 7, Tri-field, and TMS are all premium products. The rest are best forgotten IMHO. These options are for the Tag AV32R 7.1 Ex version only. I had previously heard DTS Neo6 on a Denon receiver. I was not impressed. It seemed to ‘throw' too much music out via the centre channel, I did even wonder about the set up but is was okay. It just wasn't enjoyable to listen to. PL2 destroyed it. After that demo I heard reports that DTS Neo6 doesn't use the centre channel at all. I started to get really confused. Now I enable the Tag option and this is what I have found. The Tag implementation is much better than anything I heard on the Denon. I would struggle to have them as the same format (and I rate the Denon as the best receivers I know). There are two version DTS Neo6 Music and DTS Neo6 Cinema. DTS Neo6 Cinema seems to have the correct bass and it does throw everything out of the centre channel. The ‘surround' speakers have a funny effect, almost like listening to headphones! Not a patch on PL2 Movie though. DTS Neo6 Music sends only a small amount to the centre channel in comparison and doesn't have the ‘parameters' that Logic 7 and PL2 have to adjust / tune the system. For me there is a ‘gap' in the centre stage (and I am primarily a two channel audio guy). The surrounds have a weird phasey quality and it seems the sound is coming from the surrounds and L / R speakers. Again it is an odd sensation a bit like listening to headphones. This doesn't make to very enjoyable listening IMHO. Then there is the BASS; loads seem to be missing. I checked my set up and tried PL2, TMS etc and it is all there. I cannot explain why! I do wonder whether there are several different DTS Neo implementations' floating around, either that or my hearing is going. PL2 / Logic 7 / TMS / seem to have an anchored / stable centre / front imaging capabilityand an enveloping, expansive rear soundstage. This is what Neo is missing. DTS won't work on DD 2.0 formats whereas PL2 does. It only woks with PCM or analogue signals. A big thumbs down to Neo6 then. In fact the more I listen to it the more I put in the DSP (church, stadium) quality category. Not very impressive from DTS IMHO. Others seem to have had more positive reaction to DTS Neo than I have, I have worked hard at this and cannot see how personally. I don't think it is Tags implementation (as it better than Denons) I think it is DTS producing a substandard product (in an area of the market place where we just don't need anymore cheap DSPs). I hope, when Tag allow hiding of some modes in later software upgrades, that Neo can be hidden but still keeping Discrete. Now DTS Discrete. This is a different kettle of fish altogether. I am a big fan of DTS discs anyway so I was keen to get my hands on a Discrete decoder (I am also a DD fan so no DD/DTS, which is best, debates here please). Again I have heard the Denon version and thought it okay. I wasn't prepared for the difference with the Tag implementation does. I still cannot explain why they appear so different to me as they both seem to based on SHARC architectures. Raw code probably comes from analogue devices to both companies. Again I wonder whether there is more than one version. PL2 is great on both products but these DTS codes seem different IMHO. I cannot explain why this might be. Discrete discs aren't that common but they are coming onto the market slowly and this is the biggest drawback with this option. However DTS Discrete sounds great if you have suitable disc. I spent the first few films looking for the better surround information. This was wrong. Where it is better is the L, R and to a lesser extent the C channel. Everything is just clearer / better in every way. There seems to be a ‘haze' removed from the front channels which just makes it better. It is the best movie surround I have heard to date. DTS are really pushing the quality angle here and well done for it. Now these disc I knew before with DTS and DTS + matrix but Discrete (on the same audio channel from the DVD) is so much better. Although DTS Es Haunting isn't the greatest film around the sound is a tour de force to behold. It leaves home cinema ‘newbies' speechless with Discrete and good subs. A big thumbs up from me on this one. Discrete is really good fun! I am not sure why Discrete is so much better over standard DTS, all I can think of is some ‘matrix' encoded information is removed from the discrete version but I really am guessing here. Well, two software options that turned out different to what I was expecting from them in the beginning. I don't get on with Neo at all. Discrete is Brilliant. At £99 I would consider this as the price to get into the Discrete club. I can see why DTS insisted on ‘bundling' these together. If Tag or anyone else had the option to offer these separately, they would never offered Neo as an option! The only down side is the limited number of discs at the moment but things are changing here. I would like to see more but I remember the early days of R2 discs! DTS Discrete is great fun and the best mode yet for surround movies where it can be used.