We've all been there. You're watching commercial TV, rapt by the last episode of your favourite show or a great film.
Then on comes an annoying advert break. It's annoying partly because they're always loud, or at least seem that way because what you were watching before probably wasn't shouting at you to buy a sofa or whatever while attention-grabbing music wailed in the background.
Dolby thinks it has the answer in Dolby Volume, an audio processing technology that analyses an audio signal to determine where important events occur then works to keep a perceptual balance between foreground and background sounds.
Another intended application is for TV/film watching if you're straining to hear dialogue over noisy action sequences or music, perhaps when volume levels are low. The technology is currently finding its way into high-end AV receivers by the likes of Arcam and Harman Kardon, but Cirrus Logic has supplied as a standalone product in the form of the Cirrus Logic Audio Volume Solution (or DCT-6A for short).
The DCT-6A is a signal processor that takes two-channel analogue PCM stereo from the phono output of the source (such as a receiver, DVD player or games console) and modifies it using Dolby Volume before piping it again via phonos to the destination (either direct to your TV or an amplifier if you prefer).
At 2in x 2in, it's small enough to dangle out of sight and is powered by a 5V adapter. Single sets of phono ins and outs sit at either end and there's a switch on the side for turning Dolby Volume on and off. A green light indicates when it's active.
And very effective it is too. Watching ITV1 using our Icecrypt satellite receiver, the balance of peaks and troughs in the sound when ads did appear was noticeably smoother than with the device turned off . And while playing a noisy shoot 'em up game on our Xbox 360 at low volume – trying not to wake the neighbours – dialogue immediately sprang to the fore, whereas before it seemed lost amid the explosive action.
So how much is it? Well, there's the rub. The DCT-6A is a 'trial' product and Cirrus Logic is not yet rolling it out as a consumer device.
Were it to do so (and charge no more than £30 for it), it would probably get a lot of interest, especially from the many readers who've written to us about noisy adverts. We'll let you know if the situation changes.