Sony, Vizio Endorse Dolby AC-4 Audio

Audio codec could be used in future video-streaming programs, over-air digital TV broadcasts
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San Francisco – Sony and Vizio are working with Dolby to develop TVs incorporating Dolby’s AC-4 audio decoders, which would play back AC-4 soundtracks that could be available with future streaming-video programs and over-the-air ATSC 3.0 TV broadcasts, Dolby announced.

“Dolby AC-4 is available now for product development and is targeted for availability in consumer TVs starting in 2017,” Dolby said.

Dolby said it “will work closely” with Sony and Vizio as well as with broadcasters and streaming services “to advance the industry’s experience with next-generation audio.”

Dolby AC-4 offers “more-efficient delivery of high-quality experiences, alternate language versions, and services for hearing-impaired and visually-impaired audiences, while providing a platform for new experiences from broadcast and Internet OTT services,” Dolby said.

The core elements of Dolby AC-4 have been standardized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and are “ready for adoption for next-generation services and specifications,” Dolby added.

AC-4 is one of two audio standards that the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is considering for inclusion in the next-generation digital-TV broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0, which among other things will bring Ultra HD 4K resolution to TV broadcasts. The other proposal is MPEG-H audio, developed by Fraunhofer, Qualcomm and Technicolor. DTS earlier this year withdrew its proposed format "to focus on opportunities in global markets and other forward-looking standards," the company said.

The competing audio formats will be able to deliver 2.0- and 5.1-channel audio as well as “3D” object-based surround sound supporting 7.1+4 and 22.2 speaker systems. The ATSC plans to choose one as its candidate audio standard by year’s end, an ATSC spokesman said. Backward compatibility with existing home theater systems is expected.

A standard for ATSC 3.0’s physical, or transmission layer is also on track to reach candidate-standard status by the end of the year to bring UHD, mobile-device support and other enhancements to terrestrial DTV.

Once the candidate standards are set, manufacturers can build equipment to test them, and final adjustments can be made to the standards before they go to a membership vote.

The ATSC’s goal is to have a final standard in place in the first half of 2017.

“At Vizio, we are committed to delivering on the full potential of IP delivery of premium entertainment and the rapid pace of innovation Dolby AC-4 makes possible,” said chief technical officer Matt McRae.

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