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Could future MacBooks come with built-in surround sound?

Apple has filed a patent for an audio system that would improve your movie streaming experience by enabling MacBooks to imitate a surround sound setup. 

The patent describes a “system to move a virtual sound away from a listener using a crosstalk canceler”.

Related: Best MacBook

It refers to an audio system that uses one or more processors to process a sound signal on three different paths. The three paths are on either channel are then combined in a mixer producing a left and a right signal that mimics the quality of surround sound.

The system would essentially allow Apple to pack a complete surround sound system into the compact and portable MacBook, making it better for watching TV shows and films.

“A virtual acoustic system is one that gives the user the illusion that sound is emanating from elsewhere in an indoor or outdoor space than directly from a loudspeaker,” explains Apple in the patent.

“Audio signal processing for virtual acoustics can greatly enhance a movie, a sports even, a videogame or other screen viewing experience, adding to the feeling of ‘being there’”.

Apple surround sound MacBook patent

Image: US Patent and Trademark Office

The patent does note that, as with any virtual acoustic simulation, there are bound to be errors that pull the listener out of that surround sound space by alerting them to the physical source of the sound.

However, Apple has a plan to combat this by exaggerating the strength and direction of the early reflections and the reverberation levels in the audio to create a better perception of depth.

Related: Best multi-room speakers

The company originally applied for the patent in August 2018 but the document wasn’t approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office until earlier this week.

Apple has stepped up its MacBook audio game in recent years but there’s no guarantee that the company will actually act on this patent.