New Dolby Tech Heading to Automobiles

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New Dolby Tech for Automobiles

Dolby has teamed with digital audio company Dirac to create a new “immersive audio” experience for vehicles.

The system uses Dirac’s digital signal processing (DSP) and Dolby Atmos’ ‘3D’ sound. The companies claim to have created  the “ultimate immersive in-vehicle audio experience.”  It will be adopted first in Europe in a NIO ET 7  electric vehicle this year.

Dirac’s DSP addresses the uneven positioning of the speakers in the car and reflections off the surfaces, which muddy the sound.

Dolby Atmos goes beyond traditional Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound and permits recording in a third, overhead dimension. It uses a 9.1-bed channel, 128 tracks and up to 118 simultaneous sound objects (instruments, vocals, etc) to record in an immersive audio “atmosphere,” as implied in the name “Atmos.”  The technology can then be played back on traditional audio systems.  Read more here or here.

The companies will show the new sound system, announced last week, in demo vehicles around the world.  Dirac Head of Business Development, Automotive Lars Carlsson said the companies will “quite literally establish a new standard in automotive sound.”

Dolby said the new system creates “excellent detail, accurate staging, and a well-balanced sound field in all seating positions,” in the words of  Andreas Ehret, Director Automotive.

OEMs are increasingly looking to software processing as a way to cut costs in delivering premium audio.

NavTool“There is still a battle raging between the perceived value of HARDWARE and the perceived lesser value of SOFTWARE,” said Andy Wehmeyer, a DSP expert and Founder of Audiofrog car audio.

“Profits on hardware are under massive pressure. Some carmakers require the OE supplier to submit a bill of materials with costs. The carmaker scrubs that and comes back and says, ‘we’ll only pay one cent for that transistor and three cents for that transformer…’  and then the supplier has to reduce the price. Software, despite its perception of lower value with consumers, can’t be handled this way. The cost to develop software is really high, but the cost to deploy software is really low,” he said.

“Some of the OE suppliers will be resistant to using 3rd party software because if they can develop their own or license someone else’s as their own, then they get to keep some of that margin,” Wehmeyer added.

It remains to be seen how widely and how quickly or slowly the new Dirac/Dolby Atmos processing technology will be implemented.


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