One of the biggest challenges in the world of streaming media is available bandwidth. While most of that bandwidth is consumed by video, it does not lessen the importance of audio to create an immersive home theater experience. To help achieve that experience, Dolby announced enhancements to its Dolby Digital Plus surround sound codec. Announced at this year’s NAB show (National Association of Broadcasters), Dolby has developed a new set of algorithms that require only half the bandwidth to stream 5.1 surround sound. Before this, a minimum of 384 kilobits was required to stream Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. Now, Dolby states that the same sound can be delivered with 192K of bandwidth.
Traditional Dolby Digital 5.1 in the home requires a minimum of 384K. Therefore, the enhancements could drive wider adoption of Dolby Digital Plus. Streaming media providers could realize incremental bandwidth savings. What’s really nice about Dolby’s announcement is that we won’t need to upgrade our set top boxes, A/V receivers or Blu-ray players to take advantage of it. The algorithm changes are only used during the encoding process to author the media. The decoding done by our home theater gear hasn’t changed.
According to our sources, Netflix is already taking advantage of the technology. Dolby stated that the enhancements will be shared with professional encoding software developers this summer. Other platforms utilizing Dolby Digital Plus include VUDU and HBO GO. Dolby Digital Plus is also part of the ATSC standards for digital TV transmissions. HBO is in the process of rolling it out on HBO GO connected devices; it’s currently available on select Samsung Smart TVs. Amazon Instant Video has licensed it but is currently using regular Dolby Digital. Finally, no word if the new Apple TV plans to support Dolby Digital Plus down the road in addition to its current Dolby Digital support.