What is Dolby Headphone?
Binaural recordings have been around for quite some time, but Dolby Headphone is something entirely different. So what is Dolby Headphone exactly? The technology aims to take a standard 5.1-channel or even 7.1-channel surround-encoded mix and present it in real space using any pair of headphones or earphones. That means Dolby wants to provide you the opportunity to experience full and immersive surround sound. They ant this even when the source content wasn’t recorded using a binaural microphone (as virtually no surround mix is).
Using Dolby Headphone for Binaural-Like Effects
If you have a pair of headphones, you can experience a really cool binaural environment. Just queuing up the demo video below, sit back, and listen. This Dolby Headphone example utilizes a microphone that captures what your ears capture but subtracts itself from the recording space.
Now, with that in mind, note that Dolby Headphone is a type of DSP (digital signal processing) technology that takes a 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround sound mix and plays it back through any pair of headphones as if it were a binaural recording. It’s actually pretty cool. To experience it, check out this video:
Dolby Headphone Simulates Surround Sound
What Dolby Headphone is doing—and quite well in our opinion—is creating the sensation of being in a well-mixed room that has up to five discrete loudspeakers. If you think about the implications of this, you can begin to see how incredibly useful a feature like this is. From late-night viewing of movies to dorm-room applications and gaming, Dolby Headphone is something that revolutionizes the home theater when you simply can’t utilize full surround sound.
Of course, in addition to getting some pretty decent surround mixes off your headphones, you can also take and upconvert standard stereo tracks to surround as well. That means watching Hulu Plus’ lame stereo-encoded movies might actually be more engaging. And certainly, you can experiment with stereo music tracks to enjoy with a bit more depth and dimension.
What makes Dolby so compelling is that it can be found in any device with a headphone output. It doesn’t have a ton of overhead and the licensing cost seems to be the biggest hangup with respect to mass adoption. So far, the biggest adopters for Dolby Headphone have been Plantronics, Turtle Beach, and Tritton. Gaming applications seem to be the big deal, but we’d like to see more use in home theater applications in the future.
Features of Dolby Headphone
- Monitors the content of discrete frequency bands
- Perceived loudness can be adjusted for up to 40 frequency bands
- Human hearing perception-based DSP
- Low volume mix restoration and dynamic range compression
- Works with mono, stereo or surround sound sources
Do you have any devices that feature Dolby Headphone? Are you more interested in this for gaming or home theater? Give us feedback on our Facebook page to let us know.