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HD sound for the networked home

David Davies 28 March 2011
HD sound for the networked home

3D and other visually driven technologies have frequently dominated the mainstream CI conversation over the last 12 months, but what about new developments in audio?

Multi-channel audio technology developer DTS continues to make great strides in bringing HD sound into the heart of the networked home, and recently showcased some of its latest initiatives at the IPTV World Forum. Ted Laverty, DTS director of worldwide licensing (broadcast), spoke to David Davies about home audio present and future.

The increasing ubiquity of 5.1 and 7.1 systems as part of elaborate home entertainment systems has been an inarguable trend of the last decade. But with 3D and the ongoing revolution in tablet technology dominating media coverage over the past 12-18 months, it sometimes feels like audio – if only temporarily – has taken a supporting role to the visual in the residential technology debate.

But as a slew of new technologies showcased at the recent IPTV World Forum demonstrate, audio developers in this area have been anything but idle. Among those turning the spotlight on its latest initiatives was DTS, which is currently devoting considerable energy to the issue of high-quality sound for IP-based content delivery.

Both at IPTV World Forum and during a recent webinar entitled ‘No Sense Without Sound: How Scalable Audio Solutions Complete the Picture’, DTS has highlighted an audio technology that adapts to the platform and bandwidth, enabling ‘immersive’ high-quality sound tailored to the end-user’s hardware capabilities.

Following through on these developments, DTS is currently working with IPTV content providers – including Orange France, Free and Roxio Now/Sonic Solutions – to integrate DTS surround sound technologies into the latest IPTV services, as well as supporting industry standards such as DLNA and Open IPTV.

During a busy week that saw DTS participate in two IPTV World Forum panel discussions – ‘The Future of the Networked Home’ and ‘Defining Industry Standards’ – the company’s director of worldwide licensing (broadcast), Ted Laverty, took time out to discuss the future of IPTV in the home and his own, rather extensive, domestic audio arrangements.

What were your main objectives for DTS’s presence at IPTV World Forum?

I think the most important thing for DTS is that we have been in a market development phase for the last few years, working with several large operators across Europe and developing technology that allows high quality audio experiences for a variety of platforms. At IPTV World Forum this year, we are moving [into a phase of] market promotion, letting people know about our successes and the various technologies we have brought out.

What were the main messages that you wished to convey during the networked home panel session?

Wearing my other media hat [as senior representative] for the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), the aim was to look forward and consider how the connected home might look in the future and how the DLNA can help achieve standards of interoperability between all the elements. Consumers do not want to be qualified computer programmers or electronics engineers in order to enjoy their content. They want a seamless experience that lets them get on and enjoy their music and films.

How ubiquitous do you think IPTV will be in the home in, say, five years’ time?

We believe that it is a market segment that is going to grow over the next few years and think that there is a great opportunity for operators to bring a wide variety of services to the home. Think about the consumer experience now, and you see that people are […] interacting with different media than they were 5, 10, 20 years ago. We think that IPTV as a delivery mechanism is well-positioned to give that complete delivery – but the standards do need to be done first [to ensure a consistent] consumer experience.

Could this usher in a new phase for surround sound in the home?

If you look at the market figures, surround sound has never really gone away and has been built on every year; Blu-ray discs provide the opportunity to deliver a very rich experience of video and audio that people have come to expect. Once people understand [the potential of high-end audio] and know how good the experience can be, it will become the expected norm.

So tell us about your own home audio set-up…

I’m not a normal person by any means because I have two 7.1 systems – one of which is to be upgraded shortly to 11.1 – and a 5.1 system. I also have a music production studio where my wife and I write music [away from the day job, Laverty has worked extensively as a musician, composer, producer and engineer for acts including indie band Chimera]. So you probably shouldn’t take me as a [standard] example!

Finally, what are DTS’s main objectives regarding IPTV audio for the rest of this year?

We want to continue to work with operators and broadcasters to deliver more multi-channel audio into homes and essentially a better quality on networks than ever before. We are hoping to see more multi-channel available for consumers, with DTS being used as the principal delivery mechanism for that.

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