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DTS Unveils Multichannel Headphone Technology, Play-Fi Advances

Las Vegas – DTS is putting in an appearance at International CES to demonstrate Headphone:X multi-channel surround sound technology, which promises to deliver up to 11.1 virtual surround channels over any pair of headphones.

The company is also talking up its first third-party Play-Fi licensing deals for its Play-Fi wireless multiroom-audio technology with Asus and with startup Wren Audio, a direct-to-consumer company headed by former Harman executive Mike Giffin. Play-Fi turns Wi-Fi-equipped Android smartphones into wireless multiroom music sources.

In addition, DTS announced a Play-Fi driver for Windows based PCs, enabling PCs to wirelessly stream any audio regardless of source to Play-Fi-enabled audio systems.

Headphone:X is capable of reproducing soundtracks mixed in 5.1, 7.1, 9.1 and 11.1 channels, making it the most advanced headphone-surround solution in the company’s portfolio, DTS said. The technology will accurately place the height and width channels of DTS Neo:X 11.1 mixes that are optimized for playback through home theater systems equipped with DTS Neo:X post-processing , a spokesman said. These soundtracks “may not be printed in 11.1, but they are definitely mixed and optimized for 11.1 systems,” the spokesman said.

Initially, the company is targeting the headphone technology for use in mobile devices and computers, though that focus might expand over time, a spokesman said.

DTS already offers headphone-surround technology that virtualizes up to 5.1 channels of surround sound.

Additional details about the new headphone technology were unavailable.

The company is also showcasing DTS Play-Fi-enabled multiroom-audio products under the Phorus brand. The company previously launched a Phorus-branded Play-Fi-enabled wireless speaker and a wireless receiver, which connects to existing sound systems.

 DTS Play-Fi appears in a Phorus-branded $199-suggested tabletop speaker and in a $149 tabletop transmitter/receiver, which connects to a home’s existing hi-fi systems. With the products and an Android app downloaded from the Google and Amazon stores, consumers stream MP3 and FLAC files stored in native form from their Android devices, and now with the Windows drivers, from their Windows PCs, to multiple Play-Fi speakers and transmitter/receivers throughout the house via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n.

DTS plans an upgrade to add streaming of native AAC and Ogg Vorbis files.

The Play-Fi app also supports streaming of Pandora and Internet radio, and the company plans to add support for additional Internet music services.

In early 2013, Wren Audio will launch a Play-Fi tabletop speaker, having already launched an Apple AirPlay speaker at $399 on its direct-to-consumer web site.

For its part, Asus at CES announced an agreement with DTS to add Play-Fi to Windows-based PCs. No timetable was disclosed.

Play-Fi technology prioritizes Play-Fi traffic on a Wi-Fi network to compensate for the typical types of interferences suffered by Wi-Fi networks. Play-Fi also synchronizes audio throughout the house by reducing latency to 7ms.

With the technology, up to eight Play-Fi enabled sound systems can play simultaneously, and up to four source devices will be able to stream music simultaneously over the Play-Fi network.

Up to 16 playback devices can be connected to a Play-Fi network, though only eight at a time will play. Up to four speakers can be synced to play back the same source.

The app supports Android 2.2 devices and up as well as the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD tablets.