IMAX Enhanced: what is it, how do you get it and is it any good?

A photo of a TV on a wooden stand in a living room. On the screen is the IMAX Enhanced section of the Sony Pictures Core streaming service.
(Image credit: Future)

With so many different home cinema technologies now available from so many different brands at so many different price points, everyone’s looking for a sign that might help them pick the wheat from the chaff when trying to figure out which TV, soundbar or AV receiver to buy – especially signs from respected third-party organisations that effectively say ‘we endorse the quality of this product’.

IMAX Enhanced is, in part, one of these signs. If a TV, soundbar, speaker or AV receiver says it’s IMAX Enhanced, then that means it has been deemed capable of reaching a set of standards designed by a certification committee of IMAX and DTS engineers for various aspects of sound and picture quality. This means in turn that it’s deemed capable of doing justice to the IMAX Enhanced ‘format’. 

For yes, IMAX Enhanced isn’t just a quality assurance certification program. In fact, when it was first announced in September 2018, arguably the biggest deal about it for home cinema fans was that it also delivered a proprietary approach to mastering movies designed to offer improved picture and sound quality. 

What is IMAX Enhanced?

IMAX Enhanced – A New Level of Quality in Home Entertainment - YouTube IMAX Enhanced – A New Level of Quality in Home Entertainment - YouTube
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On the picture quality front, IMAX Enhanced titles are mastered using IMAX’s own post-production process. A process that IMAX describes (as you’d expect) as both ‘cutting edge’ and able to bring a level of consistency to IMAX Enhanced titles that still doesn’t exist across the home video authoring world at large.

IMAX claims that films mastered for the home in its Enhanced format will enjoy more vibrant colours, greater contrast and more clarity, as well as exhibiting less noise and, potentially controversially, less grain. 

Before grain fans start frothing at the mouth, though, IMAX stresses that filmmakers will always have the last say on the final look of any IMAX Enhanced title.

Another fan-favourite feature of IMAX Enhanced masters is that they preserve the IMAX cinematic aspect ratio. So where titles (including many Marvel films) contain sections shot using IMAX cameras for their theatrical runs in IMAX cinemas, the transfer will switch into that taller picture format for those sections, before returning to the the wider aspect ratio used elsewhere. These taller sections of the film often enjoy superior clarity and detail, too, due to them being filmed using the larger IMAX format.

It’s not just picture quality that’s designed to benefit from the IMAX Enhanced mastering process. IMAX Enhanced masters also use a special ‘signature’ version of the DTS:X sound format. It’s not clear exactly how an IMAX Enhanced DTS:X track differs from a regular DTS:X track, but IMAX states that it’s about preserving the full dynamic range of the original movie mix.

Where can you find IMAX Enhanced content?

The way IMAX Enhanced titles are delivered is complicated. Its ‘purest’, fullest implementation can be found on 4K Blu-ray discs, which carry both the ultimate versions of IMAX Enhanced picture quality and the DTS:X audio tracks with their extra ‘special sauce’. After a promising start, though, IMAX Enhanced 4K Blu-rays have completely dried up over the past couple of years, leaving streaming services as by far the biggest provider of IMAX Enhanced content. 

While streamed IMAX Enhanced films will have been created using the same mastering process and will offer the format’s shifting aspect ratio feature where IMAX cameras were used during filming, bear in mind that the exact picture quality you experience will depend to some extent on factors such as your broadband speed and the compression techniques and streaming infrastructure/bandwidths of the service delivering the IMAX Enhanced content. 

Streamed services don’t always provide the special DTS:X soundtracks associated with the full IMAX Enhanced monty either. In fact, it wasn’t until May 2024 that Disney+ finally provided DTS mixes alongside the IMAX Enhanced Marvel movies it had been carrying since 2021. 

Other English-language streaming services to offer IMAX Enhanced support are  Sony Pictures Core and Rakuten TV.

The amount of content available in IMAX Enhanced remains fairly limited, in truth, considering the system is six years old now. This is especially true when it comes to 4K Blu-rays, despite Sony, Paramount, and Walt Disney/Marvel Studios all signing up to support the IMAX Enhanced format. So far as we’re aware, the only IMAX Enhanced 4K Blu-ray titles released are The Angry Birds Movie 2, Bad Boys For Life, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, A Beautiful Planet, Charlie’s Angels (2019), Journey To The South Pacific, Jumanji: The Next Level, Space Station, Turtle Odyssey and Zombieland: Double Tap. These titles were all released between 2019 and 2020, with no other IMAX Enhanced 4K Blu-rays appearing since.

Note that there are plenty of other 4K (and, actually HD) Blu-rays out there that feature aspect ratio switching between regular 35mm and large format film sequences. But that does not mean that they can be considered true IMAX Enhanced releases.

Which streaming services support IMAX Enhanced?

Panasonic Disney+

(Image credit: Panasonic / Disney+)

Fortunately, while IMAX Enhanced physical media releases have dried up, the format has found an ongoing home in the streaming world. Marvel is the most prolific supporter, initially on the old US FandangoNow service but now on Disney+. There are 18 Marvel titles available in IMAX Enhanced on Disney+: Thor: Love And Thunder, Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Eternals, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Black Widow, Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, The Marvels, Ant-Man And The Wasp, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians Of The Galaxy Volumes 1, 2 & 3, Captain America: Civil War and Iron Man

These films all feature IMAX Enhanced mastering and aspect ratios that switch to the 1.90:1 IMAX ratio for sections of the films shot using IMAX cameras. Plus, since May 15 2024, many (though not quite all) of Disney+’s IMAX Enhanced Marvel titles are also available with DTS:X IMAX Enhanced soundtracks. 

Both IMAX Enhanced and ‘regular’ versions of these Marvel titles are available on the Disney+ servers, so make sure that you choose the IMAX Enhanced version if that’s the one you’re keen to watch. The header screen will say 'IMAX Enhanced' among its technical details if it’s the correct version.

The only non-Marvel IMAX Enhanced titles on Disney+ are Queen Rock Montreal and Lightyear – the latter of which appears without a DTS:X soundtrack option. Keep an eye out for more new Marvel and Pixar movies to get the IMAX treatment on Disney+ following their theatrical cinema runs.

The single biggest repository of IMAX Enhanced titles is the Sony Pictures Core streaming service exclusive to Sony TVs. We counted 157 titles in total, split between more recent titles that you have to use Sony TV purchase credits or cash to buy, and older catalogue titles included within the two- or one-year subscription you get free depending on the value of the Sony TV you’ve bought. IMAX Enhanced titles in the catalogue section stretch back as far in time as 1969’s Easy Rider.

Sony Pictures Core pushes the format aggressively too; there’s an IMAX Enhanced option within the main filtering options down the left side of the home screen, and even a demo video of what IMAX Enhanced is all about. The IMAX confirmation for a particular title also appears right near the start of the long list of technical specs the service provides for its films. 

So far as we can tell, every single IMAX-mastered title on Sony Pictures Core is featured with the ‘signature’ DTS soundtrack associated with the full IMAX Enhanced experience. Though having watched a few, by no means all of Sony Pictures Core’s IMAX Enhanced titles feature switching aspect ratios. 

Rakuten currently carries 61 IMAX Enhanced titles on its European service. We won’t list these in full here as you can find them all simply by searching Rakuten’s library for ‘IMAX Enhanced’. Essentially, though, they’re all Sony Pictures films, most of which were released between 2015 and 2022. 

Note that while Rakuten’s TV app lets you search for its IMAX Enhanced titles, there’s nothing on the TV app’s provided technical info on any film to confirm that they are IMAX Enhanced titles. You can only tell when you start watching them – or, strangely, if you search for IMAX Enhanced titles using Rakuten’s smartphone app, which does actually include IMAX Enhanced confirmation in the information on each title.

Which products are IMAX Enhanced certified?

Marantz Cinema 30 AVR

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The last bit of the IMAX Enhanced story we need to cover in more detail is the hardware. Starting with the fact that support for IMAX Enhanced is currently restricted to TVs, speakers, soundbars and AV receivers/processors; there’s currently no support, for instance, on any external video streaming boxes or sticks. It’s also the case that far from every TV, speaker, soundbar or AVR brand has obtained (or sought) IMAX Enhanced certification.

We’ll cover which ones have in a moment, but it’s important to clear up right away that even TVs and audio products that don’t have IMAX Enhanced certification can still actually get some benefit from IMAX Enhanced titles. So non-IMAX Enhanced TVs will still be able to enjoy the shifting aspect ratios of IMAX Enhanced titles, as well as the ultra-clean, colourful masters. It’s just that owners of those TVs can’t be sure they’re unlocking the full quality of those masters because the TV hasn’t been certified by IMAX itself. 

TVs that aren’t IMAX Certified also won’t include the IMAX Enhanced picture preset that many IMAX Certified TVs now get. This preset is calibrated in line with the image values used when creating IMAX Enhanced masters, for more accurate playback.

Non-IMAX Enhanced TVs will still be able to get Dolby Atmos sound with many IMAX Enhanced titles, but not the DTS:X mixes now added to most of Disney+’s IMAX Enhanced titles. In fact, at the time of writing, the only TVs offering the full DTS:X-backed IMAX Enhanced experience from Disney+ are the Sony A95L TV from 2023, Sony’s 2024 TVs, the US Hisense U7K and U8K 2023 models, the US Hisense U7N and U8N for 2024 (North America), and TCL's 2024 TVs, plus select Philips, Sharp and Xiaomi Google TVs in Europe. You will also need to make sure that your Disney+ app has been updated to the latest version. 

Some of LG's OLED TVs are also apparently set to get the DTS:X IMAX-Enhanced support feature for Disney+ later this year, though it wasn’t working at the time of writing.

Outside of the TV world, Sony continues its embrace of the IMAX Enhanced format with a trio of home cinema projectors: The VPL-XW5000ES, XW6000ES and VPL-XW7000ES

Turning to audio devices, Sony’s new Bravia 8 and Bravia Theatre Bar 9 soundbars, most mid-range and up LG soundbars since 2022, and a couple of Philips soundbars are all capable of playing the IMAX Enhanced DTS:X format. Polk and Definitive Technology, meanwhile, have obtained IMAX Enhanced certification for their Legend/Reserve and Dymension speaker series respectively. 

Finally, a wide range of AV receivers and processors from most of the AV world’s most respected brands now implement IMAX Enhanced support. Denon, Marantz, JBL, Anthem, Arcam, Audiocontrol, Mcintosh, Onkyo, Pioneer, StormAudio and Trinnov all have IMAX Enhanced-capable AVRs and processors in their line-ups that are capable of playing the IMAX Enhanced-specific DTS:X audio mixes. Just check the specifications of any model you’re interested in to be certain that IMAX Enhanced is included.

The range of content and, especially, AV products able to support IMAX Enhanced is growing all the time, so if you like what IMAX Enhanced does, keep an eye on our news and reviews channels for further additions and developments.


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This is everything you need to know about Sony Pictures Core, which features loads of IMAX Enhanced movies