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Dolby Subsidiary Launches Stereo-Sound Enhancements

Audistry, a new Dolby subsidiary, has launched a package of five DSP technologies intended to improve stereo sound in midtier mass-market products expected to be on store shelves in the first half.

The package, intended for such products as MP3 portables and TVs, widens the sound stage of closely spaced stereo speakers, moves the headphone-stereo soundfield outside the head to the front and sides, deepens the bass output of small drivers to the drivers’ maximum without distorting sound, performs continuous and automatic volume-control adjustment according to the softness and loudness of a source’s audio passages and automatically converts a mono input into stereo.

The package, marketed under the Audistry by Dolby brand, is said to be more efficient than competing technologies, enabling CE suppliers to “do more with the same amount of MIPs [millions of intructions per second] and memory,” said Audistry president Chris Bennett. “Our direction is to get the best stereo experience from mass market products.”

Audistry, in discussions with CE and chip makers for the past 12 months, is announcing here that chips incorporating the technologies will be available from Analog Devices, Freescale, Intel, Miltonas, NJRC, Sanyo and Texas Instruments. Sharp is the first major CE manufacturer to adopt the package and is announcing its first products here.

Audistry is one of two Dolby subsidiaries created from Australia’s Lake Technology, a 14-year-old company purchased by Dolby in early 2005 that specializes in psychoacoustic processing of digital audio signals. At the time of the acquisition, Dolby had already been marketing two Lake technologies for about five years to CE makers under the names Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Headphone.

Although other companies’ post-processing technologies are promoted as accomplishing many of the same goals as the Audistry package, Audistry offers an efficiency advantage that delivers more performance for the dollar, Bennett said. “TV suppliers with a budget for audio enhancements are looking to add the best value and performance to the end user,” he said. Like competing technologies, Audistry uses less than 4K of memory words and operates at 15 MIPs to 30 MIPs but offers performance advantages, Bennett said. For example, the package’s stage-widening Sound Space Expander doesn’t simply boost the level of all frequencies to create the perception that the soundfield has widened, nor does it improve the separation of instruments at the expense of dialog clarity, he said.

Likewise, the Intelligent Volume Control “sounds more natural” than traditional dynamic-range compression, he noted.

The Audistry suite will complement other Dolby technologies such as Dolby Virtual Speaker, which enables a two-speaker sound system to deliver a multichannel soundfield. “Suppliers could put Dolby Virtual Speaker in a higher end TV and Audistry in their midtier TVs,” Bennett noted. Suppliers could also opt to add Dolby Virtual speaker and Audistry in the same device.

See story below for details of the technology suite’s enhancements.