The History Of Dolby Surround

The History Of Dolby Surround

With the explosion in popularity of home cinema, and the increasingly impressive technology that powers it, it’s perhaps easy to forget that Dolby Surround is still a relatively new technology. It may seem like it’s been around forever, and indeed at just over 30 years since it really came into its own making it no spring chicken, yet compared to other sound systems like mono and stereo, it’s a relative newcomer to the party.

With its availability on everything from televisions to hi-fi systems, videogames and even music recordings, Dolby Surround is an integral part of our everyday lives. Yet it took the huge success of the original ‘Star Wars’ in 1977 to really show just what moviegoers at the time were missing. From these early days, Dolby Surround has continued to grow, and now it’s less likely to find something without the technology.

The Man Behind The Technology
Like many of the greatest inventions, Dolby Surround was the brainchild of just one person, and it’s actually named after him as well. Ray Dolby was a graduate of Stanford, as well as the recipient of the Marshall Fellowship at Cambridge University in England. Starting his own company in 1965 called Dolby Laboratories, he came up with an ingenious way to separate loud noise from softer noise, enabling him to offer a far greater range in sound.

Initially using the technology to improve audio recordings for the music industry, Dolby’s technology really took off with the release of ‘Star Wars’ in cinemas in the summer of 1977. As well as the audience being stunned by the visuals on the screen, the sound effects were just as important, and won an Oscar at the following year’s awards ceremony. Being able to hear a spaceship from behind your ears before it came onto the screen in front of you was an experience that blew moviegoers away, and Dolby Surround became the norm for subsequent films.

Current Dolby Technology
As the technology became embraced by more mediums, including the videogame arena as well as television shows and video and laserdiscs (and later DVD’s), Dolby Surround sound grew from a cinema-only luxury into a full-blown home entertainment option. Prices fell to such a level that everyone could afford it, and the result was that newer versions came to the market, building on the original technology.

Dolby Pro-Logic followed, and this helped separate the speech into a centre speaker, making for far clearer dialogue. Dolby Digital and Dolby 5.1 followed this, where a subwoofer was added into the mix for even more dynamic sound quality, especially on action films. Currently Dolby 9.1 is the latest incarnation, allowing for two subwoofers and seven satellite speakers for the best sound possible.

With Dolby Laboratories continuing to push the envelope, however, you can be sure that Dolby Surround will continue to evolve, and the next stage is the technology will be sure to be eagerly anticipated.

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