Video and Audio Center Blog

Friday, April 17, 2015


Surround sound has been a feature of home theaters for years while mobile devices languish with nothing more than “stereo” for ears. But that could change, thanks to a mobile version of Dolby’s Atmos. Brett Crockett, Senior Director of Sound Technology Research, Dolby Laboratories, explains.

What is Dolby Atmos?

Brett Crockett: Dolby Atmos began in the cinema in 2012 with the release of Pixar’s Brave. With Dolby Atmos, sound mixers are able to move object-based sound anywhere in the room to create a realistic atmosphere that brings the story off the screen and makes you feel like you are in the film. It frees from channel-based audio and allows sound to come from any direction, including from above.

After its release into the cinema, Dolby Atmos was introduced into the home, bringing the cinema into the living room. Dolby Atmos for the home delivers the same immersive object based audio soundtrack created for the cinema to the consumer on BluRay and Streaming services using updated versions of Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus. Dolby Atmos powered receivers decode signals and determine how to use your home speakers to best recreate the precise placement and movement of sound. Also, the Atmos soundtracks create realistic soundtrack through the use of sounds above the listening, which can be produced by overhead speakers or Dolby Atmos enabled speakers that fire sound upward towards the ceiling where it is reflected back down and perceived as overhead sound.

What does this mobile adaptation of Dolby Atmos do?

Brett Crockett: Dolby Atmos on Mobile adapts the premiere cinema sound experience onto your mobile device over headphones. It creates a powerful, moving sound that flows all around you. It’s like having your home theater in your pocket.

Is this done through hardware or software?

Brett Crockett: Dolby Atmos decoding, rendering and playback is all done in SW. This allows the manufacturer to easily integrate it into existing products and product lines. Dolby Atmos mobile can also be used with any pair of headphones.

So how does it work?

Brett Crockett: Dolby Atmos for mobile devices work with any normal stereo earbuds or headphones. It delivers the best experience for Dolby Atmos content but it also greatly improves the sound of music, games and television shows in any format on your device. It provides crisper dialogue, greater subtlety and nuanced soundscapes, maximized loudness without distortion and consistent playback volume for a very wide variety of content.  

How do you get that “overhead” effect in headphones?

Brett Crockett: Dolby has taken its deep knowledge of how humans hear and have created new Atmos compatible headphone virtualization technologies that include the “overhead” or height effect.

Does this require Atmos-compatible audio?

Brett Crockett: The Dolby Atmos experience is only available on Dolby Atmos enabled mobile devices. However, you will still have an improved viewing experience of non-Dolby Atmos content on a Dolby Atmos enabled mobile device.

Where can Dolby Atmos be found?

Brett Crockett: Dolby Atmos can run on any mobile device that has the Dolby Atmos decoding and rendering software on the device, which will take spatial information from the audio objects created for the cinema and renders them in virtual, three dimensional space over headphones. It produces a natural atmosphere of sound and overhead sound that brings the story alive all around you.

Dolby Atmos is available on the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and Lenovo announced recent Dolby Atmos available on the Lenovo A7000 smartphone and two tablets, the Lenovo TAB 2 A8 and the Lenovo TAB 2 A10-70.  More Dolby Atmos enabled mobile devices by Lenovo (Tab 2 A8 and A10-70) were announced at Mobile World Congress 2015, along with the world’s first Dolby Atmos smartphone, A7000 by Lenovo.

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