DTS announced at Mobile World Congress today that its Headphone:X technology will make its debut in Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 800-series processor. According to DTS and Qualcomm, the turbo-charged processor is due to appear in mobile devices in the second half of this year. And, since the Snapdragon 800-series is expected to be used in next generation Smart TVs, it is likely we will see it hitting home theaters in the near future as well.
After years of berating virtual surround sound technology, DTS effectively changed our tune with its highly impressive demo at CES 2013. DTS explains that Headphone:X ” … externalizes sound, so instead of the listener hearing it inside their heads, as is typical for traditional headphone listening, they perceive it as coming from high quality loudspeakers located some distance around them.” We might normally be quick to dismiss such a description as over-hyped marketing drivel, but having experienced Headphone:X first hand, we can confirm that’s exactly what it does.
DTS’ unique approach simulates the sound of a surround system as it is heard in a room environment. To demonstrate the technology, DTS first played a demonstration clip through a 7.1 speaker system. Then, we were asked to put on a rather ho-hum pair of Sennheiser on-ear headphones. The same demo clip was repeated through the headphones using Headphone:X. The emulation was so convincing, we removed our headphones to make sure the speakers had not been left on. Special headphones are not required, so even bundled earbuds will do. To say that the technology is ground-breaking is not an overstatement.
Though the technology will first appear in mobile phones and tablets, it is expected that the Snapdragon processor may be used in some Smart TVs soon. Once this technology is folded into TVs and A/V receivers, home theater owners will finally have a decent alternative to their surround speaker systems for those times when making a lot of noise is prohibited.