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Dolby Labs Goes To School On Laptop Audio Issues


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

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.