What is IMAX Enhanced?

 Every year there is a new home theater technology that wants to capture your attention. Although IMAX Enhanced is not new, it has been gaining popularity among manufacturers and customers looking for a premium home theater experience.

IMAX Enhanced

Table of Contents

1. What is IMAX Enhanced?

2. Who supports IMAX Enhanced?

3. What settings are recommended for IMAX Enhanced?

4. Where can I get IMAX Enhanced content?

5. Is IMAX Enhanced worth it?

IMAX Enhanced launched in 2018 as a partnership between cinema giant IMAX and audio specialist DTS. The goal was to deliver IMAX's signature picture, scale and sound in the home in 4K HDR.

We explain what it consists of, what devices you need and where you can get IMAX Enhanced content.

What is IMAX Enhanced?

Simply put, IMAX Enhanced is a certification program that guarantees the highest quality playback in the home in terms of resolution, color, brightness, contrast and sound.

The standard can be broken down into its three components: image, sound and scale.

The first refers to IMAX's Digital Media Remastering or DMR technology. According to IMAX, it can precisely reduce noise and grain under the direction of the filmmaker to optimize content for "higher quality and brighter" 4K HDR displays. Without this treatment, IMAX believes HDR content could look worse than anticipated. IMAX Enhanced also supports HDR10+ on some titles.

Sound is offered thanks to IMAX's collaboration with DTS. It uses a variant of the DTS:X immersive audio format to recreate the IMAX experience with deeper bass and a wider dynamic range than typical in a living room.

Scale refers to IMAX Enhanced titles that were shot with IMAX certified cameras or specially formatted for their 1.44:1 or 1.9:1 aspect ratio. This allows viewers to see the image in its full size, with IMAX content filling all four frames of the screen.

Who supports IMAX Enhanced?

Several content providers, television manufacturers and audiovisual brands have signed on to IMAX Enhanced. There are not as many as other formats, but IMAX Enhanced is oriented towards the high-end of the audiovisual market.

With compatible devices, there will also be no need to press a button or select a mode. IMAX Enhanced content will play automatically when it detects a compatible device/mode.

As for IMAX Enhanced screens, there are premium TVs from Sony, Hisense, TCL and Philips. In terms of speakers and subwoofers, there are JBL, Definitive Technology and Philips, while in projectors and AV receivers there are Arcam, Sony, Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Anthem, Lexicon and McIntosh, among others .

Compatible TVs are promised to feature an IMAX mode (Sony's Bravia Core streaming service also supports IMAX), while some AV receivers are capable of marking IMAX content and displaying the format.

To enjoy IMAX Enhanced content, it is not necessary to purchase all compatible products. The devices can be purchased separately, so if you have an IMAX Enhanced soundbar but not a TV, you'll get better audio performance.

But, in the words of IMAX, “when you play IMAX Enhanced streaming content on both screens and certified audio devices, the sum of the whole is greater than its parts, creating the highest quality home entertainment experience available

What settings are recommended for IMAX Enhanced?

The minimum speaker arrangement for the standard is a 5.1.4 system, that is, five speakers (in the horizontal plane), one subwoofer and four height speakers. DTS recommends a 7.2.4 system, seven speakers, two subwoofers and four height speakers, as the most optimal configuration.

If you don't have that setup or the necessary space, DTS:X is very flexible, as its decoder can adapt the soundstage to the speakers you have at your disposal. The speakers must have a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with a sensitivity of 89 dB. Subwoofers must be able to go down to 20 Hz and peak at 115 dB.

When it comes to TVs, there are no specific guidelines, but it's more than clear that you'll need a high-end TV capable of delivering good HDR performance. You wouldn't expect this format to appear on TVs smaller than 55 inches to get that full-screen IMAX effect, so if you're interested in IMAX Enhanced, you're going to need a larger TV.
As for 4K Blu-ray players, they do not need official certification. Simply stream the 4K HDR image and DTS:X soundtrack to a compatible device.

And if you don't have IMAX Enhanced equipment or don't care, the content will continue to play on your devices as normal. Only when an IMAX Enhanced compatible device is in play will the device offer the optimized presentation.

Where can I get IMAX Enhanced content?

Compared to Dolby Vision, there is not as much content available. The biggest titles so far are Jumanji: The Next Level, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zombieland: Double Tap and Bad Boys For Life.

Don't expect IMAX Enhanced content to be exclusive to 4K Blu-rays, either. If you can't find the IMAX logo on your physical 4K copy, the digital version is likely the enhanced one. In fact, streaming is where you'll start to find most IMAX Enhanced titles.

Sony and Paramount have opted for the format, the first with its Bravia Core service and the second offering several streaming titles such as Bumblebee, Crawl and Rocketman.

The Rakuten TV streaming service supports IMAX Enhanced content in Europe, but there is not a lot of content available at the moment. And then there's Disney+, which added IMAX Enhanced titles in 2021, although these appear to play with Dolby audio and not DTS sound mixes.

Is IMAX Enhanced worth it?

To be honest, we're not sure, as we haven't had much opportunity to test it, which speaks to the way the ecosystem has developed. It has not been too easy to watch content in this format, since until its launch on Disney+, IMAX Enhanced was a community in which you had to buy it or there were a handful of titles on less popular streaming services. Its implementation on Disney+ seems a little strange to us, as it seems to omit DTS sound, which is claimed to be one of the pillars of IMAX Enhanced.

In our opinion, IMAX Enhanced needs to make content more accessible and get more manufacturers on board before it can be considered a true rival to Dolby Vision + Atmos in the home theater space.

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