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What is Dolby® Headphone?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

Slipping on a favorite pair of stereo headphones is almost as nice as being transported into a late night movie, DVD, or game, except for one glaring annoyance: multi-channel soundtracks are squashed into two tracks. Wouldn’t it be great to hear those tracks as they were intended, even over headphones? Now you can, thanks to Dolby® Headphone technology. With Dolby Headphone technology built into a receiver, any pair of headphones can deliver a dynamic, multi-channel, surround-sound experience.

Dolby® Headphone is a processing technology that takes multi-channel sound tracks or recordings and translates them into virtual surround sound for output through the stereo headphone jack. Any pair of stereo headphones will deliver surround sound when a Dolby® Headphone chip is present in the equipment. This technology can be built into any audio equipment, from receivers to DVD players, gaming counsels to personal digital electronics, boom boxes to mini-stereos.

Dolby headphones can play audio on multiple tracks.
Dolby headphones can play audio on multiple tracks.

Standard surround sound utilizes five speakers and one sub-woofer, giving us the 5.1 shorthand. Two front speakers flank left and right positions delivering sounds that are “out in front” of the main action on screen. A center front speaker delivers dialog, and two rear speakers deliver noises that are coming from behind the action. The sub-woofer gives us bass frequencies too deep to be localized by the human ear. The viewer sits inside this 360-degree acoustic envelope, making movies and gaming more realistic and enjoyable.

The challenge in re-creating this over headphones is in placing sounds “around the head” when they are all actually coming from directly in front of the ear drum. Dolby® Headphone accomplishes through a complex set of algorithms that incorporate cues, delays, bounce, controlled ‘bleeds’ between left and right channels, and volume changes to mimic direction and distance from the main action, or viewer. Dolby® Headphone also uses room modeling technology to create varying volumes of acoustic space inside the envelope. The result is a very realistic surround sound experience, delivered over any set of stereo headphones. Dolby Headphone® also opens up the acoustic envelope to MP3 and music tracks.

So the next time you’re looking to upgrade an entertainment receiver, gaming counsel, DVD player or just about any other audio electronics, you might look for Dolby® Headphone technology. You can check it out now by plugging in a set of headphones and visiting the online demonstration video. Also, if you don’t have room or the budget for a surround sound speaker system, consider Dolby® Virtual Speaker technology. It delivers virtual surround sound through stereo speakers. Now that's a sweet pair of chips.

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    • Dolby headphones can play audio on multiple tracks.
      By: Warren Goldswain
      Dolby headphones can play audio on multiple tracks.