Recent evidence from the TV world suggests that manufacturers are no longer only interested in picture quality and design; sound quality, too, finally appears to be returning to the TV performance agenda. As well as many TVs trying to fit better and more powerful speakers into their slender designs, lots of mid-range and premium TVs (and more than a few budget ones, too) have started to feature built-in playback of the Dolby Atmos soundtracks carried by more and more films and TV shows on both physical media and streaming services.
Dolby has announced today, though, that these audio moves are about to be joined by a new expansion to its Dolby Atmos ecosystem that has the potential to take TV sound to a whole new level.
Called Dolby Atmos FlexConnect, the main idea behind Dolby’s new sound tech is to enable compatible TVs to be partnered with accessory wireless speakers, so that people can enjoy a much fuller, more immersive Dolby Atmos experience than it’s possible to get from even the best built-in TV speaker systems.
FlexConnect doesn’t just enable the addition of extra wireless speakers, either. It also features an intelligent auto calibration system that can optimise the sound from your newly expanded speaker system to your specific room layout and speaker set up. So the system doesn’t require a perfectly symmetrical room set up to work, or any manual tweaking of speaker levels and balances.
While Dolby has occasionally dabbled in own-brand hardware, though, it typically operates as a sound and video software technology company that licenses its products to third party hardware manufacturers – a practice which also applies to Dolby Atmos FlexConnect. This doesn’t mean, though, that AV fans are going to have to wait too long to get their hands on it.
Dolby’s announcement of Atmos FlexConnect is actually a joint statement made in conjunction with TV-making giant TCL, which is going to become the first brand to feature FlexConnect in its 2024 TV range. In fact, TCL is also going to be producing a line of FlexConnect accessory speakers to go with its compatible TVs.
FlexConnect can work with one or more wireless speakers, which can be placed pretty much anywhere in your room. There’s no need for any connecting cables or other hardware beyond the wireless speakers and FlexConnect capable TV.
The wireless speakers don’t have to be large, either, so it’s an upgrade you can make to your TV sound system even if you don’t have a big living room. Especially with the FlexConnect auto-optimisation system on hand to optimise the sound no matter how many (or how few) accessory speakers you’ve added, and no matter where you’ve put them.
This auto-optimisation system doesn’t require any external mic systems, either; all the mics required are built into the FlexConnect television set.
The system – which is going to be powered initially by MediaTek’s Pentonic Smart TV series chipset – adapts easily to the addition of extra device types, too, so you can keep building your FlexConnect set up in stages as finances allow. This should also incentivise TCL and other potential supporting manufacturers to come up with all sorts of different FlexConnect-capable device combinations and form factors.
“We are very proud to take a significant step forward on the future of immersive audio with our latest partnership with Dolby, says Frédéric Langin, Chief Commercial Officer, TCL Europe. “Delivering great experiences for our customers is at the forefront of what we do. With Dolby Atmos FlexConnect, users can unlock incredible immersive sound no matter how they arrange their audio devices.”
If you want to experience Dolby Atmos FlexConnect in action ahead of its full launch on TCL’s 2024 TV range, TCL will be running FlexConnect demonstrations at the IFA technology show in Berlin between September 1st and September 5th.
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