Why Dolby Audio Is Superior to Standard Systems

April 21, 2020

We all know those iconic adverts we see during the trailers at movie theatres. The sports car engines revving at 100mph, the booming speakers – even the satisfying stitching sounds in the leather seats. It’s just one example of the genius that is Dolby Audio, and there’s a reason why it’s the audio of choice for so many home cinema owners. But, what is Dolby Audio, and what does it mean?

The science is in the compression

They say the devil is in the detail, and that’s certainly the case for Dolby Audio. Essentially, Dolby is an audio compression technology – it takes sound like movie soundtracks, which is designed for vast rooms and huge, cinema style speakers – and compresses it for our viewing pleasure at home. Thanks to advanced technology, it does this without compromising on sound quality. 

Movie audio is recorded in surround sound, helping to create an immersive experience with noises exploding all around us. Dolby helps to recreate this in smaller speakers that can be used in the home.

Until recently, the typical home cinema surround sound system would use five speakers and one subwoofer. Today, we have HD surround sound, giving us access to overhead speakers. This is known in the industry as a 7.1 format, as opposed to the former 5.1 format.

Where it all began

We were first treated to Dolby’s superior audio prowess in 1992. The Tim Burton classic Batman Returns was the first feature film to use Dolby Digital sound, which has since spawned Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD. Dolby’s latest products offer a ‘lossless format’, giving viewers a listening experience as close to the original as possible. 

Dolby’s competitors

Dolby’s closest competitor is the DTS system, which rose to prominence when Steven Spielberg shot Jurassic Park in this audio format. What sets Dolby apart from DTS, however, is the way in which sound is compressed.

The compression rates for Dolby are much higher than DTS – for example, it will take a standard 5.1 audio file and compress it down to 640kb per second for Blu-Ray discs, or 448 for DVDs. For HD, it compresses down to 1.7 Mbps. DTS tries to claim superiority as it does not compress sound as much – for example Blu-Rays are compressed to 1.5 Mbps. However, Dolby offers superior codec technology. 

In layman’s terms, this means a more efficient sound compression system without compromising on quality. This means that, even on the smallest speakers, you’re still exposed to the most authentic cinematic experience. Now imagine that in your own home cinema.

True versatility

If you’re looking for the highest-end product, then Dolby Atmos creates a ‘bubble’ of sound with ceiling speakers. Not possible in your current home? Not a problem – the Atmos soundbar creates the same effect without imposing architectural changes. 

You can also take your sound experience beyond the screen. A ‘virtual surround sound’ experience is available via your headphones. Imagine feeling like you’re right in the middle of a combat scene, with enemies in point-blank range, and far and wide. It also features automatic volume control. We’ve all suffered the shock of sudden audio jumps, for example between TV shows and advert breaks. Dolby maintains a consistent sound without any nasty surprises. Whatever the content, from brooding dialogue to intense shoot-out scenes, the crystal-clear audio will deliver.

Get the best from Dolby

While the technology has been optimised to work across devices large and small, it’s best when it’s free to roam: in your very own home cinema. For a live demo of Dolby surround sound, contact the SONA team today.