Linear Acoustic calls Dolby's Volume Loudness control retrograde development

A recent announcement by Dolby Laboratories of a new technology to address TV audio loudness issues has drawn fire from Tim Carroll, president of Linear Acoustic.

At the recent CES show in Las Vegas, Dolby announced that it had developed a way at the receiver level to noticeably level sound differences without problems associated with existing technologies. Called Dolby Volume, the process is embedded in a chip that Dolby hopes manufacturers will license and add to new TV sets.

Carroll, in a news release, called Dolby Volume "a step backwards" in delivering high-quality soundtracks as producers intended them to be heard.

"We have a well-accepted, standardized technique in place using Dolby Digital (AC-3), which, via its built-in metadata system, can solve a leading issue for consumers: inconsistent volume across channels and programs," Carroll said. "I am wary of claims that systems lacking metadata suddenly require the addition of an uncontrollable single-ended process that affects all audio, thereby fixing both annoyingly loud commercials and artistically loud scenes in programs.

He said it was impossible to control loudness in this way without, to some degree, affecting all programs. In addition, the fact that it relies on consumer intervention will have predictably variable results.

Carroll noted that through metadata and tools like its LM100, Dolby was making substantial progress dealing with sound level issues. "Effectively abandoning over a decade of hard work is a tragic mistake on Dolby's part. Put simply, if loudness is now controlled by the consumer's receiver, broadcasters and post houses will have less need to be concerned with metadata or purchase a level meter or processing system."

Another major problem with Dolby Loudness, Carroll added, is that not every TV set would contain the technology. "As a result, to protect consumers that do not possess Dolby Volume," he said, "loudness control will need to be done upstream. My best guess is that it will not make broadcasters and content producers work harder to author metadata, but exactly the reverse."

Carroll said his company, Linear Acoustic, would stick with the metadata approach and would unveil new products at NAB2007.