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Thank you, Ray Dolby

In the late 1970s, noise would regularly overwhelm pleasure.

At the movies, dialogue turned to mumble in a blizzard of ambient sound pollution. LPs crackled with surface noise. And tape recordings came with an added overlay of hiss.

Then along came Ray with his Dolby System that cleaned up tracks, like a windscreen wiper. Pleasure became pure once more.

The great sound engineer died today. Thank you Ray.

ray dolby

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Comments

  1. Theodore McGuiver says:

    I’ll second that. Top man. I had no idea he was still around.

  2. Larry White says:

    We just lost two very brilliant sound people in the last short while! First there was Mr Bose and now Mr Dolby.
    They were legends in their own time.
    Thank you both very much!

  3. Dolby has won merits for cleaning up the commercially distributed sound. But he will be more remembered for running a sometimes bullish business, that pushed competitors aside, often at the cost of the customer and at the cost of audio quality. Dolby’s lawyers were the best, no doubt about that. There were many Noise suppression systems that had better specs. (Telcom in the pro arena. Hicom in the consumer arena)
    And Dolby, together with Sony, also killed the High-End CD successor format for the consumer market. Sony, afraif of seeing their CD licensing being obsolete by a new HD-Format, opened the battle with their SACD archiving format. SACD was never meant to be a professional audio format. You can’t process it. It was an archiving format Sony had developed at that time specifically for the US Library of Congress.
    DVD-Audio was originally meant to be the HD-Audio Format. But that needed a lossless compression, for which Dolby immediately bought the patents from the inventors and subsequently strangled DVD-Audio from their side.

    So his legacy is ambiguous. May he rest in peace.

    P.S. And Mr Bose shares a comparable ambiguous legacy. Selling mediocre sound with clever marketing to the masses. Good successful business people both. Not so much sound people.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Yes, Dolby own the patent for MLP which is used as the lossless compression option on DVD-Audio, but what does that have to do with “strangling DVD-Audio”? They still use the core technology in Dolby True HD. And it’s not exactly unheard of that when advances in technology are coming around, various companies develop various competing technologies, some of which make it, some of which fail. Or do you think that advancement in audio technology is decided by a committee of old wise men with long white beards and absolutely no affiliation to any commercial interests in the audio industry?

      Neither did Dolby simply “push aside” the competition by using his lawyers. The company was famous for vigorously defending their patent and brand name rights, but what made their NR systems such a big success was simply that Dolby was there with them in the right place at the right time, and that his licensing practices made it possible for equipment manufacturers to easily and cheaply incorporate Dolby technologies. He said himself that it was cheaper for other manufacturers to license his technologies than to clone them.

      Telefunken’s High Com system was better than the established Dolby technologies at the time, but it had some problems, too, and Dolby responded to the challenge successfully with Dolby C which wasn’t a “perfect” system either, but it manage to avoid some of the problems that High Com had. But the most important factors were that that system simply came to late (1978 or so), at a time when Dolby was already everywhere and, as history would show, there were only a few years left for analog technologies to develop and flourish, and Telefunken themselves abandoned most of their R&D in analog technologies only a few years later. Plus the High Com system was fairly expensive and more difficult to calibrate properly.

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