Dolby Labs Interviewed Regarding PC Audio
Dolby has been well respected in the professional world of audio for some time now. When did the company first get involved in the world of personal computing?
Dolby: Dolby is the global leader in entertainment technologies for the movies, at home, or on the go. Therefore, it made complete sense that the surround sound specialists who bought cinematic surround sound from the movie theater to the home, should target PCs.
Our initial focus was DVD playback software and for many years there have been a huge variety of DVD playback applications available that not only play a DVD, but give PC users the opportunity to enjoy their movie or music video in virtual surround sound, either over any standard headphones or 2.1 speakers.
Then, in 2005, as the PC became increasingly used by all types of consumers for entertainment, Dolby launched the "PC Entertainment Experience". This enabled PC manufacturers to integrate a suite of Dolby technologies directly onto the PC motherboard, meaning that whatever you did on your PC and whatever application you used, you could enjoy all of your movies, music and games in cinema-style, high-quality Dolby surround sound.
TT: Was there a key motivating factor behind the move into personal computing for the company? Is it a case of moving with the times?
Dolby: In all the areas that we work - be it at the movies, TV, games, or mobile phones, Dolby's over-riding goal is to improve the entertainment experience for consumers. In the last decade, we've seen dramatic changes in the way that consumers use their PCs. No longer just used for emailing, managing personal finances and online shopping, PCs were becoming increasingly used by consumers to store, manage and experience their entertainment.
Audio is of course an essential part of the entertainment experience, so for this reason it made sense for Dolby to integrate technologies into the PC that would enhance its audio performance.
TT: Regarding the 'Dolby PC Entertainment Experience' which is one of Dolby's most recent packages for sound restoration and maximization, who is the target audience for this product? - It sounds like something for movie buffs largely, but will the average user be able to get as much out of it?
Dolby: The Dolby PC Entertainment Experience was developed with all types of consumers in mind; movie buffs, music lovers and gamers - regardless of whether they are "hard core" users or use their PCs for entertainment just from time to time.
TT: Following on closely from the last question, will this software require any special knowledge of sound in general, or more specifically surround sound, to be used to its full potential?
Dolby: The audio settings for Dolby Home Theater and Dolby Advanced Audio are all preconfigured, so no specialist surround sound knowledge is required. We also designed the audio controls to be very easy to use, even for the most inexperienced of PC users.
TT: It sounds like a difficult task transforming the (literal) multi-media PC of today into an all encompassing audio powerhouse; especially when just using software. How did Dolby compensate for the seemingly endless amount of different speaker/sound card combinations out there at the moment when designing the Dolby Home Theater v3 and Dolby Advanced Audio packages?
Dolby: One of the great new features in Dolby Home Theater v3 and Dolby Advanced Audio is our "Audio Optimization" technology. This technology enhances the speaker performance of laptops and is individually configured according to the characteristics of a laptop's speakers. This means that for each model of laptop, the manufacturer sends Dolby a sample and one of our expert audio engineers tune the technology in order to get the best possible audio performance and experience from that machine.
The results are really impressive! Today's sleek and slim laptop designs mean that the space available for speakers is becoming smaller. Therefore "Audio Optimization" from Dolby is an essential technology, as it can dramatically boost the audio performance and quality of any laptop speaker - no matter how small.
TT: I'm interested in the natural bass element of the software, particularly in how the bass is shifted up one octave. Can you expand on this technology for our readers?
Dolby: Natural Bass extends bass response up to an octave by recognizing, measuring and working within the characteristics and limitations of the speakers to harness their best, most natural-sounding bass response.
Working from the assumption that the best bass sounds are the ones your ears actually hear, Natural Bass is designed to produce an optimal bass response from speakers of almost any size. The technology pushes speakers to produce as much bass performance as possible while guarding against sudden peaks that could potentially damage speaker elements. And it maintains clearly audible bass, even when the volume is set low.