Dolby Headphone Debuts

There are a variety of reasons you might want to watch a DVD while listening through a pair of headphones: You're on a plane, you need to be quiet while others sleep/work, or you've got a portable DVD player and no decent sound system to hook it up to. But there's also one big reason you wouldn't want to use headphones: no surround sound.

Dolby Laboratories hates to see a good surround track go to headphone waste (even if the movie is of questionable merit), and so announced last week that next month's DVD release of Pearl Harbor will be the first DVD to feature a special, limited edition "Dolby Headphone" bonus track.

Dolby claims that the special headphone track will allow users to experience the multichannel audio experience of Pearl Harbor's 5.1-channel soundtrack over any pair of regular stereo headphones using any DVD player or receiver with a headphone jack. The company says that through a new signal-processing algorithm, Dolby Headphone generates a host of audio clues "modeled from real life, from which the listener's ears and brain derive a truly three-dimensional sound image." The company adds that stereo content sounds "richer and more spacious, as if it were being played over two speakers in a room," and multichannel audio programming is presented as if the listener were surrounded by a five-speaker home theater set-up.

Developed by Lake Technology and Dolby, the new process has already found its way into millions of computing products, including desktop and laptop computers, as well as DVD playback software says Dolby. The company says it is also licensing Dolby Headphone to consumer electronics manufacturers for use in almost any product that provides a stereo headphone jack, such as digital cable and satellite set-top boxes, VCRs, DVD-Video and DVD-Audio players, conventional and digital TV receivers, portable stereos, game consoles, A/V surround decoders and receivers, auto sound systems, and multimedia speaker systems.

Dolby's Brent Butterworth adds, "Soon we will see many consumer electronics products with Dolby Headphone processing built in, which will allow listeners to enjoy surround sound from any 5.1-channel source over any set of headphones."