UPDATE 10/23: Added TVs/speaker systems that include TruVolume. See below in bold.
Santa Ana-based SRS Labs wants to make some noise about its latest gadget: A device that steadies the volume of annoyingly loud TV commercials. (See lots of pictures below.)
The company, which has quietly licensed its sound technologies for years to electronics makers, plans to launch a half-million dollar marketing campaign for TruVolume, a technology that knows when an overly loud TV commercial is about to air and lowers its volume to match the show being watched.
Coincidentally, legislation working its way into Congress this week would force advertisers to keep volume to a minimum. The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, would prevent commercials from being broadcast louder than their accompanying TV program. SRS believes its technology could fix this.
During a visit to its Santa Ana office last week, I heard what it was all about. Steve Roney Jr., product marketing manager for SRS Home Entertainment Division, played a TV clip from the recent U.S. Open with an IBM commercial. He played it on a Vizio TV, which has TruVolume built in.
With TruVolume off, the volume of the TV commercial was significantly louder. With TruVolume on, I barely noticed the volume change.
I recorded the experience with my point-and-shoot camera and put it on video for readers to judge. (SRS also offers a demo on its site.) Since SRS didn’t have sound meter, I added one from my video-editing program to show the volume changes during the commercial. You can see an obvious jump in volume when the loud TV commercial plays:
Yes, yes, you’ve probably heard about volume levelers before. There’s Dolby Volume in Toshiba TVs, Sony TVs offer “SteadySound,” to name a few.
But here’s why SRS says its TruVolume is different.
The competition lowers the volume so commercials don’t blast viewers’ ears. But that also lowers the volume of explosions in movies and shrieks during a touchdown in a football game.
SRS, instead, takes all audible signals, ignores the extreme lows and highs and focuses on the middle range volumes. Loud bursts in this middle range are typically TV commercials. Its technology can distinguish between talking levels of the announcer to the sudden crowd cheers in the game to the obnoxiously loud TV commercial. SRS offers a more detailed explanation about what’s really happening in its “Leveling the Volume white paper, a PDF file.
Sounds like something that would benefit any consumer, right? Unfortunately, consumers can only get SRS TruVolume if they buy certain new HDTVs.
That’s why SRS is working on a portable gadget that would sit between a TV and set-top box so older TVs can benefit from TruVolume. SRS is calling the line “MyVolume.” The small white box, pictured on right, has standard audio inputs for older TVs. A second prototype (see gallery below) includes an HDMI version. A multi-channel version is also in the works for homes with surround-sound systems.
SRS is looking for companies to make and sell the product. Allen Gharapetian, the company’s vice president of marketing, said such a device will likely range from $50 to $200, depending on how many audio inputs it will offer. The company could end up offering the gadget itself, much like its WoW Thing, a device that improved the sound quality of inferior MP3s, from last decade. But it’s hoping to find other companies to make and distribute the gadget.
After all, Gharapetian said, “We’re an R&D company.”
UPDATE, 10/23: Here are the products that currently have SRS Labs’ TruVolume:
Samsung TVs: LN40B650T1FXZA, LA32B550K1RXXM, LN40B530P7FXZA, LN40B53, LN32B53, LN37B53, LN32B36, LN37B36, LN40B36, LE22B45, LE26B45, LE32B45, LE19B46, LE22B46, LE26B46, LE32B46, LE19B65, LE22B65, LE26B35, LE32B35, PS42B45, PS50B45
VIZIO TVs and soundbars: VSB210WS Sound Bar, VA370M, SV420M, SV320XVT, SV421XVT, SV471XVT, VT420M, Vf551XVT, VP504FHDTV10A.
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