Dolby Digital Plus Requires Less Bandwidth, Same Gear

April 18, 2012

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.

Dolby Digital Plus

Tags: Amazon, ATSC, Dolby, HBO, Netflix, surround, VUDU

4 Responses to Dolby Digital Plus Requires Less Bandwidth, Same Gear

  1. Mikeyts on April 18, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Of course, the use of DD+ requires an AVR which can deal with it unless the streaming device can convert it to basic DD or decode and render it as multichannel LPCM (some dedicated streamers, like Roku 2, cannot).

  2. Ben Drawbaugh on April 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I’m pretty sure the only thing new with DD+ is the press release. Go back and re-read it again, it doesn’t actually state that Dolby Digital Plus has been changed in the past 6 years since it’s release.

    It is way better than Dolby Digital, though, and the PR did successfully raise awareness of the advantages.

    • Gabe Gagliano on April 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Rereading the opening paragraph, I see what you mean. However, I thought that the improvements to the encoding part of the algorithm were new. From the pr:
      “The latest Dolby Digital Plus encoding enhancements will reduce the data rate required by 50 percent—to 192 kbps—thanks to extensive research into algorithm optimizations. ”
      - and –
      “Dolby plans to release these enhancements for integration by professional encoder partners this summer.”

  3. Ben Drawbaugh on April 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Right, that is the advantage to DD+ over DD, it takes way less bits to do the same thing. It is like AAC vs MP3. In addition it supports high rates, 7.1 etc.

    This is why Vudu has DD+ from day one and so have broadcasters in other countries.

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