New Dolby technology converts stereo to surround sound on PCs

7 Jan 2011

LAS VEGAS – Audio technology doyen Dolby has revealed a clever new technology it is targeting at notebook OEMs that allows users to convert ordinary stereo sound into full surround sound.

Remember that Dolby logo that used to appear on cassettes and CDs for those of us old enough to remember that? Well, the company intends to put the Dolby logo on as many PCs as a mark of audio quality, as well as enable users to have control over their audio destiny, converting distorted or stereo tracks into high-definition surround-sound experiences.

Dolby’s senior product marketing manager for PCs Kevin Brennan demonstrated how an episode of True Blood playing in stereo on a laptop could, by pressing one button, be converted into full surround sound quality.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Dolby Laboratories unveiled an entirely new suite of audio technologies as part of the fourth generation of the Dolby PC Entertainment Experience technology.

The company revealed that Acer will release the first products utilising these new technologies in its high-end Aspire Ethos consumer multimedia notebooks.

“Acer strives to improve people’s lives through technology and we know that high-quality audio and cinematic surround sound are important pieces of the overall PC consumer experience. For this reason, we continue to partner with Dolby to bring its industry-leading PC Entertainment Experience to our consumer PC lines,” said Jim Wong, president of IT Products Global Operations, Acer Inc.

“The Aspire Ethos and Aspire Z Series are professionally tuned to achieve this goal, turning digital consumption into a truly captivating sensation,” Wong said.

The latest generation of Dolby PC audio technologies creates a solution to the growing number of challenges associated with providing a high-quality PC audio entertainment experience.

These issues include those caused by stereo content that lacks cinematic surround sound, poorly mixed content with unintelligible dialogue, and inconsistent volume levels across entertainment sources. In addition, laptop speakers are typically small, not loud enough, and cause distortion when volume is maximised.

“Dolby understands that the traditional ways people consume content are evolving, and increasingly the computer is becoming a central entertainment hub through which music, movies and games are enjoyed,” said Ramzi Haidamus, executive vice-president, sales and marketing, Dolby Laboratories.

“That’s why we continue to perfect Dolby’s audio technologies to help our partners, like Acer, deliver revolutionary entertainment experiences on laptops,” Haidamus said.

Getting that surround-sound experience

Brennan explained how Dolby PC Entertainment Experience technology offers two technology suites, Dolby Home Theatre v4, which delivers immersing surround sound and high fidelity audio for all forms of entertainment content, and Dolby Advanced Audio v2, which delivers a consistent listening experience and virtual surround sound via built-in PC speakers, as well as high-fidelity audio for all forms of entertainment content.

A Surround Decoder converts stereo content into 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround sound and converts 5.1 surround sound into 7.1 surround sound.

A Surround Virtualiser creates a virtualised surround-sound experience over the PC’s built-in speakers or over headphones. ADialogue Enhancer improves intelligibility of dialogue across all types of content and a Volume Leveler maintains a consistent volume across all content and applications, according to where the user sets the volume level.

Dolby also created a new consumer interface app that provides people easy access to enable, disable and customise the new audio technologies on their laptops. Its design is intuitive and ensures that consumers know when Dolby technology is activated in their PCs.

The Dolby logo on laptops indicates that consumers can immerse themselves in premium audio that transforms their PC entertainment experiences, Brennan said.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years