Dolby Labs Goes To School On Laptop Audio Issues

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Dolby Labs and a major university conducted a test that the two organizations hope will lead to the creation of a standardized benchmark for mobile computer devices.

The test, commissioned by Dolby, consisted of exposing 78 people to Dolby’s Home Theater v4, SRS Premium Sound and Waves MaxxAudio 3 played through six laptop computers from Dell and Samsung. The study was conducted by a large San Francisco Bay-area university, which declined to be named at this time. The school’s name will be released when the institution releases the test findings on its own at a later date.

While the final result had Dolby beating out its competitors, Dolby and the university said the test also showed how hard it is to directly compare competing audio technologies without an industry standard.

“We would love to develop an international industry audio standard for mobile PCs,” said Kevin Brennan, Dolby’s marketing director, adding that it is hard for individuals now to articulate the audio quality of a laptop.

Creating a better laptop audio experience is now even more important due to tablet PCs and laptop makers know they have to boost the laptops audio capabilities to better compete with tablets, Brennan said

The OEMs have told Dolby they still believe the device’s speakers play the most important role in audio delivery, despite consumers’ heavy use of ear buds and headphones.

However, the task of supplying high-quality audio for the ever-shrinking laptop makes this task more difficult, Brennan said. To counter this situation, Dolby is working on taking a more active role in actual laptop development. This could create a situation where Dolby can tell an OEM the most efficient way to design a device to deliver an optimal audio experience.

Under the current system, Dolby is often presented with a design that has the speakers incorrectly placed and is asked to create a high-quality sound field with its audio-enhancement technology.

Brennan added that tablet manufacturers face the same problem of creating an audio experience on an increasingly smaller platform.

By working with an outside university, Dolby wanted the test to be viewed as being scientifically vigorous, said Poppy Crum, Dolby’s senior scientist for sound technology research.

The listeners did not see which computer they were hearing, and each person listened to music and a movie that utilized the different sound technologies.


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