Dolby: Why mobile audio and video quality matters

Dolby and LG have been collaborating since 2008

"We're two years into this market and so we're on a high trajectory," muses Dolby's President of Europe, Robin Dyer. The market he's talking about is mobile, something Dolby is becoming increasingly involved in.

LG is rolling out Dolby Mobile - now on version three - across its range, having employed the technology on the LG Renoir and Arena previously.

"In the mobile space we've never really had a good encoding solution, that's why we've launched Dolby Media Generator. That gives content providers the power to adapt their content for mobile," says Dyer.

Dolby says it is targeting both content producers and handset manufacturers with its strategy. "We are playing the double-ended play, so now we've got Dolby Media Generator out there we can start to see content that's encoded properly, optimised for the mobile phone.

"Once you then get the mobile phones out there that have playback and decoding solutions in, then you get the best immersive experience. It's just a case of continuing momentum.

"There's an awful lot of content out there now and this gives consistency - if Dolby is going to put its name to it, we want to get consistency. Another element is that we can compress down to low bit rates - 24Kbps. That will give you, say, 25 per cent of the file size of a normal MP3 file.

"So you're looking at 1MB for a three minute music file, so there's a lot of advantage in terms of storage."

Are consumers bothered?

When quizzed about whether consumers are that worried about content quality on mobile, Dyer is nonplussed. "When you speak to mainstream consumers - obviously traditionally we've always spoken to audiophiles - you get a sense that the content [on mobile] is personal. I don't feel this personal affinity to my LCD TV or DVD player, but my mobile phone I do.

"People will want to use it in different ways. It's a bit like when people first heard surround sound – it's hard to go back to mono or stereo. But that's what Dolby's about – making that experience real. If you then transplant that onto a mobile phone, yes they want that experience.

"If you're watching a movie for, say, two hours on a phone and you get this 'in the head' experience, it gets a bit full on. If you can press a little Dolby Mobile button and get completely immersive surround sound on a phone, that's something that once people hear, they won't go back to normal stereo. But it's getting them to hear it in the first place.

A tough sell?

"How are people going to hear about it? Well, when they think about Dolby they think about quality and they think about sound. If it was a case of Phone A and Phone B and one had Dolby and one didn't, they'd probably go for the one with Dolby on it, because they know it would sound good.

"We've done some research to find how much more people would be prepared to pay [for a phone with Dolby mobile], but European phones are generally about subscriptions. People do care, so we say to manufacturers that it gives them a... selling point."

Dyer adds that the ability for handsets to connect to other devices opens up more possibilities. "It's really now enhancing handsets even more – it's about bringing the mobile into the home.

"You've had this multimedia phone before, but being able to take that and plugging it into a 1080p flat panel with HDMI... what you'll see this year is a range of devices with HDMI out, so you get a full 5.1 discreet multichannel playback with somewhere between an SD and HD experience.

"Not as crisp as Blu-ray, but certainly better than SD DVD. So that's going to be quite exciting."




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Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.