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Dolby Unleashes New 64-Channel Surround Sound System

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Dolby Atmos
Full of atmosphere: Dolby’s new surround sound tech employs up to 64 separate speaker channels

Dolby, the company behind much of the surround sound that you hear at the cinema or on your own audio gear at home, has demonstrated the latest incarnation of its technology at a trade convention in Las Vegas.

Dolby Atmos can use up to 64 discrete speaker feeds and 128 simultaneous lossless audio inputs. The company claims that this new audio platform “will change the experience of sound in entertainment.” The system allows for additional speakers behind, above and to the side of the screen.

It was shown off at the industry’s CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Naturally it is aiming this at auditoriums, though as with most surround sound tech, a modified version of it could eventually trickle down to the home consumer level for those who want to fit loads more speakers into their living room.

Dolby Atmos

The company’s boffins have been studying how people hear in the real world and are striving to recreate that for movie soundtracks. It combines conventional channel-based mixing methods with what it calls “dynamic audio object-based mixing”. This, says Dolby, “provides total control over placement and movement of individual sounds or ‘objects’ anywhere within a theatre environment.”

It adds, “Atmos enables adaptive rendering to ensure that the playback experience is as close as possible to the creator's original vision in any given environment, irrespective of the specific speaker configuration in the playback environment.”

The system also uses descriptive “metadata” about how the audio should be played, which means it can automatically integrate with conventional 5.1-and 7.1-channel mixes, so that the sound shouldn’t mess up when heard in places that aren’t equipped for Dolby Atmos.

The system will make its debut in a few premium locations in the US, Europe and the Far East to accompany the Disney/Pixar release Brave later this summer, with a further expansion planned for 2013.

More info is available online from Dolby

Photos © Dolby Laboratories

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