Report - Dolby Surround Sound Update # 4 - November, 1995
By Bill Barnes
Note: Some of the information in this article is also explained in the October, 1995 Surround and AC-3 updates in the Dolby Laboratories Website.
The rapid growth of home theater has continued unabated throughout this year, with record sales of surround decoders and related products. According to a recent Electronics Industries Association Consumer Electronics Group (EIA/CEG) dealer survey, more than 80% of home theater products dealers revported that their sales increased during the first six months of 1995, with an average growth of 13%. A related EIA/CEG survey revealed that home theater owners express a high level of satisfaction with their systems, rating them as a better entertainment value than other recreational and leisure time products.
These survey results are confirmed by our own recent statistics. Nearly 1.9 million Dolby Surround decoders were sold in the first half of 1995, an increase of 19.6% over the same period in 1994. This has brought the total number of decoders sold worldwide to over 17.1 million. Pro Logic units continued to be the most popular, and out of the 1,893,487 surround decoders sold during the first six months of 1995, 83.5% featured Pro Logic. Home theater owners have more Dolby Surround programming to choose from than ever before, with several new surround TV programs this fall, including "New York Undercover" and the popular "X Files". The library of surround CDs has also continued to grow as record companies such as Concord Jazz, Delos, Pro Arte, and BMG/RCA Victor release new surround titles. One of the more ambitious projects, entitled "100 Years of Film Music 1895-1995", was recently announced by BMG Classics. This series of CDs is being produced in cooperation with Deutschland Radio Berlin and will provide an overview of film music during the last 100 years. We expect to see a wider variety of Dolby Surround releases in the future, thanks to a new, simplified surround encoder policy. In the past, Dolby Surround encoders could only be leased directly from Dolby Laboratories at an annual cost of $1,000. Under the new system, encoders will be available from Dolby products dealers, with the encoder lease term extended to a full five years for the same $1,000 fee.
Complete lists of the latest Dolby Surround TV shows and CDs are available on the Dolby Laboratories web site.
Video Games, CD ROMs:
There has been quite a bit of interest in the use of Dolby Surround for video games in recent months. In September, three new titles were released by Sony Psygnosis for the Sony PlayStation game system, "3D Lemmings", "Mickey Mania" and "Sentient". Sony Psygnosis Music Producer Phil Morris summed up his support for this development by saying, "The Dolby Surround system gives us the ideal opportunity to immerse the game player in full surround sound, with brilliant stereo sound effects." These new games will join existing titles such as "King Arthur's World" by Jaleco, "Jurassic Park" by Ocean, and "Need For Speed" and "Wing Commander III" by Electronic Arts. Electronic Arts also plan to release two more new games in Dolby Surround, "Wing Commander IV" and "The Darkening", in the near future.
With the recent releases of video games and movies with Dolby Surround audio on CD ROM, a market has been created for a Pro Logic decoder designed especially for computer applications. We are pleased to announce that the first surround decoder of this type is now available from Altec Lansing, the ACS500. The basic configuration includes two magnetically shielded front speaker systems and a separate subwoofer with a full featured Pro Logic decoder. Users can either add surround speakers to complete the system, or simply use the standard speakers, which include special surround drivers to disperse the surround channel information to the sides of the room for a more enveloping effect.
The Future of Dolby Surround:
Today there are a large number of surround decoders in the market, and recently there has been much interest in the use of surround for new applications such as video games and CD ROMs as mentioned above, and car audio. This combination makes it clear that Dolby Surround has become firmly established in the home theater marketplace and has begun to spread from traditional uses, such as movies, into new areas. This is a natural progression of Dolby Surround from being just a home theater technology, with a well defined but relatively narrow application, to a multichannel audio technology which can be applied wherever high quality audio is desired. In the coming years, Dolby AC-3, with its many uses on many different formats, will serve to accelerate this trend and increase the proliferation of multichannel audio well beyond the typical applications of today. Therefore, Dolby Laboratories has decided to increase their efforts to promote the release of software in these new areas, and also to introduce two new categories of Dolby Surround products which are tailored to the unique conditions found in these markets. These new product categories include full Pro Logic surround decoding for use in automobiles, and a simplified version of Pro Logic for use in multimedia computer applications which will be used in combination with three dimensional digital signal processing (3D DSP) to create a surround soundfield using just two speakers located in front of the listener. For additional details on these new product categories, please see the paper entitled "Dolby Surround Spreads to New Product Categories" contained in the October 1995 Dolby Surround Update on the Dolby Laboratories web site.
European Surround Activity:
Recently, there has been a large increase in Dolby Surround activity in Europe, with new TV shows and decoder models appearing in many countries. The number of European homes equipped with Dolby Surround is expected to grow from around 1.5 million at the end of 1994 to over 3 million by the end of 1995, representing a doubling of the cumulative hardware base within one year.
Dolby Surround was nearly impossible to miss at the recent International Funkausstellung show (IFA) in Berlin. The German magazine "Video" organized a Dolby Surround area with 17 demonstration rooms plus a central demonstration featuring the newly re-mastered "Star Wars" trilogy released by Fox Video. In addition to this special area, many manufacturers also displayed and demonstrated surround products in their own areas. This meant that Dolby Surround signs and banners were visible throughout the show, including a particularly interesting green neon "Dolby Surround" sign.
For the third year in a row, Dolby Laboratories once again organized a Home Cinema Promenade at the Live '95 show in London, September 19 through 24. This year's Promenade consisted of six demonstration rooms which featured equipment by Arcam, JVC, Kenwood, Mordant Short, Polk Audio, Sharp, and Toshiba.
A full European surround market report, including marketing statistics for selected countries and additional details of recent European trade show demonstrations, is contained in the "October 1995 Dolby Surround Update " on the Dolby Laboratories Web page.
In the few months since the last issue of Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, the first Dolby Surround AC-3 products have made their appearance on the market. Several AC-3 decoders, laser disc players, and laser discs are now available, and there have been many announcements for upcoming products from a variety of manufacturers. Progress in the areas of direct broadcast satellite, digital cable, DTV (HDTV and SDTV) and IC development has continued, ensuring that AC-3 will be a major market force in the coming years. Readers of the audio/video press, and even mainstream publications such as Business Week, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, will know that there have been a large number of articles discussing Dolby AC-3 in the past few months. This extensive coverage, along with excellent reviews of the first AC-3 decoders (such as just published in Secrets), has provided widespread exposure for the technology and established it as the premier home theater audio system.
As expected, Dolby AC-3 has made its most dramatic impact to date in the laser disc market. Approximately 30 movies with AC-3 soundtracks are already available on laser disc, with many more coming in the months ahead. A total of 46 titles are expected to be released by the end of 1995. For your reference, a list of announced laser disc titles with AC-3 soundtracks is included below.
Title: Studio: Distributor: Date: Clear and Present Danger Paramount PLDCA 01-Feb-95 True Lies Fox Video Image 08-Feb-95 Stargate Carolco PLDCA 15-Mar-95 Forrest Gump Paramount PLDCA 28-Apr-95 Interview with the Vampire Warner Bros. Warner Bros. 06-Jun-95 Drop Zone Paramount PLDCA 13-Jun-95 In the Mouth of Madness New Line Image 15-Jul-95 Star Trek: Generations Paramount PLDCA 18-Jul-95 Outbreak Warner Bros. Warner Bros. 05-Aug-95 A Little Princess Warner Bros. Warner Bros. 19-Sep-95 The Lion King Buena Vista Image 19-Sep-95 Don Juan DeMarco New Line Image 26-Sep-95 The Madness of King George Goldwyn Image 26-Sep-95 U2: Rattle and Hum Paramount PLDCA 03-Oct-95 Rob Roy MGM/UA MGM/UA 10-Oct-95 Guys and Dolls Image Image 11-Oct-95 Dr. Zhivago MGM/UA MGM/UA 17-Oct-95 Batman Forever Warner Bros. Warner Bros. 31-Oct-95 My Family New Line Image 07-Nov-95 Top Gun Paramount PLDCA 11-Nov-95 Crimson Tide Buena Vista Image 14-Nov-95 Alien Fox Video Image 15-Nov-95 Aliens Fox Video Image 15-Nov-95 Congo Paramount PLDCA 21-Nov-95 The Wild Bunch Warner Bros. Warner Bros. 21-Nov-95 Spaceballs MGM/UA MGM/UA 28-Nov-95 That's Entertainment: The Ultimate Musical Treasury MGM/UA MGM/UA 28-Nov-95 Species MGM/UA MGM/UA 05-Dec-95 The Santa Clause Buena Vista Image 05-Dec-95 Amadeus Paramount PLDCA TBA Mortal Kombat New Line Image TBA Rolling Stones Live at the Max IMAX Image TBA That's Entertainment II MGM/UA MGM/UA TBA That's Entertainment III MGM/UA MGM/UA TBA Yentl MGM/UA MGM/UA TBA
Several laser disc players have also been introduced in the past few months, with models from Denon, Enlightened Audio Designs (EAD), Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Runco, and Yamaha already available, and models from other manufacturers, such as Marantz, planned for later this year or early next year. To date, a total of 13 different models have been announced, spanning a price range from $535 to $4995 list, providing a model for almost any budget.
AC-3 Decoders and AV-Receivers:
The first consumer AC-3 decoders are available at many specialty audio stores and mass merchants such as Circuit City. By the end of the year, models will be available from Audio Design Associates (ADA), Denon, Meridian, Perreaux, Pioneer, and Yamaha. Additional models will soon be available from other manufacturers such as Adcom, Citation (Harman/Kardon), JBL, Lexicon, and SoundStream, who are planning to introduce decoders in 1996. To date, a total of 15 different models have been announced, and like the laser disc players, these decoders span a wide price range. Many models understandably fall into the "high end" audio category, with list prices ranging from $1699 to $9950.
Digital Video Disc:
The recent big news in digital video disc (DVD) development is the compromise agreement reached by the two main system proponents, Toshiba/Time-Warner and Sony/Philips. This compromise means that instead of two competing (and incompatible) DVD formats in the market, there will be only one, standard format. This news has been enthusiastically welcomed throughout the audio/video and computer industries, because the existence of a single format will eliminate much consumer confusion and hesitation, and will facilitate more rapid growth of the format. According to news releases, the computer industry was instrumental in bringing about the compromise. IBM reportedly contacted the two DVD camps and expressed their desire to have a single disc format which could function as the next generation of CD ROM.
As of the time of this writing, many of the details of the compromise DVD format had not yet been announced. Press releases have indicated that much of the Toshiba/Time-Warner format would remain intact, and the data modulation techniques of the Sony/Philips format would be used. If this is indeed the case, it would mean that Dolby AC-3 would continue to be the mandatory audio standard for NTSC DVD discs and an option on PAL discs. According to the information announced thus far, certain aspects of the compromise format have been agreed upon, including the physical format and construction of the disc. The new disc will be a 1.2 mm thick bonded type, as proposed by the SD group (Toshiba/Time-Warner), and will use the EFMPlus modulation system developed by Sony and Philips. EFMPlus is said to be a more robust modulation system and its use will allow better compatibility with existing compact discs and forward compatibility with future high density extensions of the DVD format. The disc will also be dual layer for increased storage capacity and will hold 4.7 Gbyte per layer, enough to accommodate a movie up to 133 minutes in length. This capacity will allow the disc to be used primarily as a single sided format, with the option of using the second side if additional space is required.
Motorola has recently announced its newest 24 bit processor, the DSP56009, which was formerly referred to as the DSP56007. This IC is optimized for audio/video applications and is ideal for running audio decompression algorithms. It can provide a single chip Dolby AC-3 decoder resulting in reduced costs in consumer products. Several high end audio companies, including B&K Components, Harman/Kardon, and Krell Industries, have already announced their intention to use the IC in their products.
Many other IC manufacturers and algorithm developers are working on Dolby AC-3 processors, and to date, a total of 44 companies have signed AC-3 IC development and implementation agreements.
Trade Show Demonstrations:
Dolby AC-3 was highly visible at this summer's CES Specialty Audio and Home Theater show. Held in Chicago in June, this new high-end audio show replaced the Summer Consumer Electronics Show (SCES). The show featured a total of 119 exhibitors and was said to exceed expectations by the show organizers. In addition to AC-3 product introductions and demonstrations by many manufacturers, Dolby Laboratories presented a large demo room with continuous AC-3 demonstrations and displays of products available from AC-3 licensees including Audio Design Associates (ADA), Denon, Enlightened Audio Designs (EAD), Pioneer, and Yamaha. A variety of AC-3 surround decoders, laser disc players, laser discs, cable and satellite television decoders, and integrated circuits were featured in the displays.
Dolby AC-3 products from manufacturers such as Pioneer and Yamaha were also on display at the International Funkausstellung show (IFA) in Berlin, held August 26 through September 3. This show is one of the largest in the industry, with nearly 500,000 attendees. AC-3 demonstrations were also held at the Canadian Consumer Electronics Exposition this October 6, 7, and 8, where Dolby Laboratories presented a demonstration room with representatives on hand to answer questions throughout the show. The demonstration included clips for the popular movies "True Lies", "Forrest Gump", "A Little Princess", and "Outbreak". The show was open to the public, and attendees consisted of approximately 65% consumers and 35% dealers, representatives, distributors, and manufacturers.
The growth of Dolby Laboratory's digital theater sound format, Dolby Digital, has recently experienced a significant acceleration, and the number of theaters equipped with this technology has more than doubled in the last six months. There are now over 3,100 equipped theaters worldwide, and more than 250 movies have been released or announced in the format. The number of film prints produced with Dolby Digital soundtracks illustrates the popularity of the format. During the summer of this year, more than 40,000 Dolby Digital prints were in circulation (approximately half in the U.S. and half throughout the rest of the world), and by the end of 1995, it is estimated that the total number of prints will exceed 125,000. Movie companies have continued to expand their use of the format, and we are pleased to announce that Twentieth Century Fox has extended their support by announcing that they will release all future titles in Dolby Digital.
If you would like to read more about any of Dolby's technologies, there are a variety of publications available. To request information on any of our technologies you can send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voice message on Dolby's Literature Hotline at 415-558-0344. Please be sure to include your name and mailing address in your message and specify which technologies you would like to receive information on. You may also retrieve most of Dolby's literature from the Dolby Audio/Video Forum on America Online (the keyword is "Dolby"), or visit our Web site at http://www.dolby.com.
Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation
Other related articles
- Manufacturer's Report - March, 1996, Dolby Surround Sound
- Manufacturer's Report - August, 1995, Dolby Surround Sound AC-3
- Manufacturer's Report - April, 1995, Dolby Surround Sound AC-3
- Manufacturer's Report - January, 1995, Dolby Surround Sound
© Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
Return to Table of Contents for this Issue.