Sounds Good

Nandagopal Rajan | Print Edition: May 2012

Till a couple of years ago, anyone buying a notebook had to spend extra on external speakers. The sound in laptops were so bad that many dealers had started bundling these small speakers with all laptop and netbook purchases. The only exception was the MacBook series which somehow seemed to have audio which you could hear over the noise of the air conditioner or the television. But then things changed, and changed drastically. One of the pioneers of good sound in regular laptops was the HP Pavilion series which had sound good enough to sell as an entertainment device.

"We monitor consumer trends and changes in usage patterns to constantly improve our products," says Ketan Patel, HP India's Director- Product Marketing. "We understood that young customers needed top quality audio and a better overall experience. So we integrated the technology into our device." To ensure top notch sound, HP now has Beats Audio, Dolby and Altec Lansing depending on the product range.

Adds Patel: "Once we have this kind of audio quality the overall experience goes up; be it listening to music or playing games or doing presentations." The new HP Pavilion DV6, for instance, has quad speakers-two in front, two behind and a sub-woofer. HP has been able to integrate more speakers in the same space due to technological advancements. "But the Beats Audio branding means we have integrated the hardware that is compatible with the technology making the experience much more superior to other hardware. So in machines like the dm4 we have the same audio experience with and without the headset."

Acer, meanwhile, has tied up with Dolby to enhance the audio quality in most of its devices. In fact, the Iconia range of tablets from the company has arguably the best sound in the segment. Says Saji Kumar, Director-Product Management, Acer India: "To ensure that consumers receive a wholesome experience while watching videos on their notebooks/ tablets, we have equipped our consumer product range with the latest Dolby features. There is no compromise being made on audio quality."

Across companies and devices, Dolby has been working to improve sound quality. "We want to ensure that the sound reproduction is such that the artiste's intent is not lost what ever screen you might be listening the work on," says Ashim Mathur, Marketing Head at Dolby Laboratories India. He says that Dolby has a five-screen strategy, ensuring that the sound quality remains consistent across screens-from a cinema theatre to a mobile phone. However, Dolby enhances sound at the software level, tuning each device to ensure it has "cinematic sound quality". The proverbial 'Dolby Effect' can be experience on a range of Nokia phones starting with the N8 launched last year.

Mobile phones have had great sound for a few years, ever since Sony-Ericsson launched its Walkman series followed by Nokia XpressMusic. But now these devices have sound quality good enough to rock a party without any external help. Plugged into a home theatre or speaker system, phones like the N8 and new Nokia 808 Pureview will leave you wondering if the sound is actually coming from something that can be held in your palm. "But," says Ashim Mathur of Dolby, "this sound quality does not come easy. A lot of time and energy has to be spent to get the sound quality right." Meanwhile, HTC has also announced that Beats Audio will be a feature in some of its topend phones.

In mobile phones, good sound is also about the microphones used. While Motorola phones have made their mark with great audio, especially the Rokr series, the company has also improved the voice clarity of its devices. "Our range of smartphones have a reputation for excellent voice clarity," says William Moss, Director of Communications, Asia-Pacific, Motorola Mobility. "We've also made it convenient for people to converse on our Bluetooth headsets by using combinations of up to three microphones in the headsets, along with our Crystaltalk technology." This, he says, dramatically reduces background noise and provides amazing audio on both sides of the call.

Sound Out These Devices

Geat audio doesn't mean the loudest of the lot. Here is a look at the best sound reproduction across various segments of mobile devices.

Rs 24,500 onward
Apple is the best with whatever it does. Although, we don't have big names like Dolby Mobile or Beats Audio to build-up a winning case for the iPad, it actually doesn't need one. The sound quality on the iPad is equally good and loud as on the iPhone 4.

Rs 19,990 onward
Netbooks are usually forgiven if they dish out lousy sound. But the Mini 210 needs no such allowances. Though just 10 inches big, this one features Beats Audio and can really pump up the music.

Rs 14,550
For ages, the Walkman brand represented the benchmark in good sound. This smartphone is no exception as the phone is as focused on its music as its smart functionalities. The company has used xLoud loudness enhancement engine paired with the Walkman (music player) to give clear, loud and distortion-free sound. The dedicated Walkman key on the top allows instant access to music, the icing on the cake.

Rs 99,999
While this premium Ultrabook is a stunner thanks to the integration of glass in its body, it will be the Beats Audio branding that will make this a favourite of audiophiles. To ensure that the sound is just the way you want it, the 14-inch Spectre features a aluminum analog volume dial for precision volume control. It will also be among the first devices to feature built-in HP Wireless Audio that lets you stream audio to any compatible wireless speaker.

Rs 36,000
The new smartphone in town is not just about a quadcore processor and the latest Android operating system. It also has Beats Audio onboard that claims to offer excellent audio. With this technology, users get to hear authentic, deep sound with true, finely-tuned details while listening to music or watching videos. HTC has allowed developers to access Beats Audio API using which even applications could take advantage of this sound technology.

Rs 35,900
Not many tablets are bothered about offering superb music, so Acer's Iconia Tab A501 is an exception. Thanks to the Dolby Mobile onboard, the tablet offers great sound output. Dolby Mobile creates cinematic surround sound experience while extending bass response for adding more depth and feel to the music. It also enhances high frequencies for clear detailed sound.

Rs 54,190 onward
Despite its ultra-thin form factor, the MacBook Air is one of the best sounding devices around. The MacBook Air delivers full stereo sound with the left and right speakers placed in such a way that the sound projects through the keyboard. No wonder it is a preferred device for many creative artistes.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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