What to look for when shopping for home theater gear: HDR explained

Shopping for new home theater gear can be quite confusing. Whether you’re in the market for a new TV, sound system, speakers, or something entirely different, there are a lot of terms being thrown around. Maybe you’re not quite sure what “Dolby Vision HDR” is, but your friend told you that you just had to have it vs. HDR10. Or, maybe you want the most immersive audio experience possible, but aren’t quite sure how to get it. In this series, we’ll go over everything you need to look for when shopping for new home theater gear, including HDR types (this post), surround sound setups, as well as differences in TV panels and resolutions.

What is HDR

HDR, or “high dynamic range,” is a relatively new standard. HDR enables the ability for an image to have very bright (but not blown out) whites, while having deep (but not crushed) blacks. Maybe you’ve watched a scene in a show or movie where the character is in the shadows, but you could barely make them out. Or, perhaps you’ve viewed pictures where the entire image looks fantastic, but the sky is completely blown out. That’s where HDR comes into play, giving you the ability to view an entirely well-exposed image. But, HDR isn’t wholly straightforward, because there are many different standards.

Though there are five different versions of high dynamic range currently, but we’re only going to cover the main three. You might see HDR10+ (a Samsung standard) or Advanced HDR by Technicolor (an LG standard), but generally, you’ll find one of the below technologies on the TV of your choice.

Source: Dolby

HDR/Simulated HDR

This is the “lowest” form of HDR, if one could say that. It’s not “real” HDR, in essence. What this technology does is simulates a high dynamic range in a scene by using algorithms and AI, which can achieve a fairly decent result. Since all the TV is doing is artificially changing the scene, it’s not quite the quality that the directors would have intended, but it’s great for movies or shows that weren’t shot in HDR, to begin with. This is also the most budget-friendly option for TV manufacturers, as it doesn’t require quite as much processing power as the other standards.


HLG (hybrid log gamma) is designed to be used with broadcast TV and allows your display to take standard dynamic range and high dynamic range images and combine them into a single feed. This gives your TV the ability to display broadcast television in a better format, which is excellent for viewing over-the-air content like the World Cup.

Source: Dolby


HDR10 is the original version of HDR, and it’s currently the most commonly used option out there. HDR10 is more advanced than simulated HDR, but not quite as high-end as Dolby Vision. HDR10 gives you a scene-by-scene application of its settings. This would mean that every time the camera angle changes, or maybe the show or movie goes to a new scene, the HDR parameters can update to give you a better image.

This is great for many shows, as generally, one entire scene will need the same HDR profile, but for more complex shots, it’s not quite the best option. HDR10 is fantastic for more budget-friendly TVs, but it does lack in full capabilities, especially when you own an OLED TV (more on that later).

Dolby Vision

Dolby Vision is the industry standard for high-end HDR, developed for Dolby Cinemas. This version of HDR uses a frame-by-frame application process, giving you a new HDR image with each frame. Considering most movies are shot in 24p (or 24 frames per second), that means for each second of a film you watch, your TV just displayed 24 new HDR-compatible frames. This gives you the best possible picture when watching compatible movies, as Dolby Vision offers far greater precision than the scene-by-scene method vs. HDR10.

Source: What Hi-Fi

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