Audio News

Weekly Audio News for May 4, 2005


Published on May 4, 2005

Network TV Embraces Surround Sound – Those of us who have been
enjoying hi-res surround sound for some time now may feel superior, but
the truth is we’re a very tiny minority of the public. In order to make
surround sound a mass format it needs to hitch its wagon to something
with more pull. And it has found it – network television. All the major
networks now have parallel hi-def transmission channels that carry 5.1
audio. Many primetime drama series, sports shows, and even American
Idol are now 5.1 surround. Broadcasters use gadgets such as Dolby E to
digitally encode 5.1 channels of surround plus a pair of standard
stereo channels onto a pair of transmission channels. Then at the local
station it is decoded, encoded for Dolby AC-3 and sent out with the
video. Consumers have gone in big for 5.1 surround on DVDs via their
DVD players and most now have AV receivers capable of decoding both
encoded Dolby and DTS. The hi-def version of TiVo will soon be built
right into the digital TV cable box, and it includes advanced discrete
5.1 surround sound, which is the HDTV standard. Also, both DVD-As and
the new DualDiscs are reaching the much larger portion of the public
without a universal or DVD-A disc player but who do have a DVD video
player cable of handling the data-reduced Dolby Digital 5.1 option on
all these discs.

Computerized Consumer Electronics
- The new issue of Multi-Media Manufacturer has a CES report by David
J. Weinberg which focuses on how nearly everything in consumer
electronics has become computer-centric. He points out that every piece
of home theater equipment now has an embedded computer, that portable
players include processors to decode the data and for operational
control, that more digital amplifier modules are being used, there are
computerized room EQ systems, music and video servers, even
refrigerators with Internet access (and the Japanese have an Internet
toilet). He hopes that in this paradigm shift the issues of reliability
and simplicity of use are not lost even further, as they have been in
the PC computer world. (Less so in the Mac world I might add. Also,
perhaps our recently decrying the move to put all audio and video in
the home, plus security and lighting, into a computer-based system is
beside the point since it’s already happening.)

Single Format Hi-Def DVD May Be Possible
- Rumors are that Sony and Toshiba are actually negotiating and working
together to compromise on a single high resolution video disc instead
of plunging ahead with the self-defeating separate and incompatible
systems of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.

- John Sunier




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