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In search of the perfect immersive sound experience

For a number of years now, innovation for TVs has focused on image quality and set design. But what’s been happening, meanwhile, around sound quality? By teaming up with Cabasse and Dolby, Orange has taken up the sound challenge and developed the Barre de Son, a soundbar offering a unique, high-quality sound experience that is also affordable.

Seeking to deliver that solution, in 2016, Theo Lainé, Orange TV Product Marketing Director fixed up a meeting with one Alain Molinié during the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the biggest consumer trade show for electronics technology innovation. “Alain Molinié,” he says, “is the co-founder of AwoX.” Recently, AwoX acquired Cabasse, a French firm founded in 1950 that has a remarkable backstory, having built up a global reputation for its expertise in acoustics and engineered a slew of innovations in acoustics, especially in Hi-Fi and Home Cinema. “Because we have already worked together, and know their exacting quality standards, we naturally approached the company to show them our project.” That was the starting point for the Barre de Son designed by Cabasse and Dolby Atmos for Orange, in search of the perfect immersive sound experience.

A thumbnail history of sound

Sound reproduction technology has seen two major innovations in the past: stereo in the 1930s, which for the first time delivered a spatialised sound experience, followed by multi-channel sound technology, aka “surround sound”, which emerged in the 1940s and which spread progressively to cinemas and then to domestic settings with the advent of Home Cinema. “Today, for its third revolution, sound has added a vertical dimension,” adds Alain Molinié. “The result is achieved through a loudspeaker that projects the sound upwards, towards the ceiling, where it is reflected towards the listener, who not only feels surrounded by the sound, but immersed in it.” This is the principle underlying the technology developed by Dolby Atmos, which in its turn is equipping a growing number of cinemas. And it’s also the technology chosen by Orange and its partners to build a product that makes no concessions in the quality stakes.

Customer experience first

The age when manufacturers developed their products in isolation before bringing them to market is now over. These days, everything starts with customer usage. The aim is to get under the user’s skin to answer a simple question: what to they expect from a sound system connected to their TV set? The answer, of course, is quality sound first of all. But they also want ease of use. Soundbars are proving to be the most suitable solution as they are less demanding that a Home Cinema system comprising multiple loudspeakers. And because in 2017, no-one wants to see any unsightly trailing wires, the subwoofer is separate and wireless. Last, while we are expecting it to deliver matchless performance in terms of cinematic experience, the system is not meant to have just that one function. You will therefore be able to channel your music playlist to the soundbar from your smartphone via Bluetooth and benefit from real Hi-Fi sound quality.

Achieving the best conditions

To design a soundbar on a par with our ambitions, teams of experts from Orange, Cabasse, and Dolby adopted a trial-and-error approach. Over a six-month period, they innovated, tested, and fine-tuned to achieve the desired result. “In Brest, where we are based,” explains Alain Molinié, “we have an outstanding location for designing our products, namely a 3,000sq.m. acoustics centre built around an anechoic chamber (also known as a “dead room”) suitable for high-precision testing. It is equipped with a production workshop for creating prototypes: we have all the tools to hand to rapidly carry out modifications and listen to the results straight away. Throughout the project, we hosted teams from Orange and Dolby at this facility to carry out listening sessions, tweak and compare the equipment in different configurations.”

An experience accessible to all

The idea was not just to stop at the production of a high-quality soundbar, but to make it affordable for every pocket. Théo Lainé adds: “What counts for us is to deliver the best possible audio and visual experience for our customers. We demonstrated this last year, when we released an HDTV decoder. And we are doing a repeat performance today with our affordable immersive soundbar, which corresponds to our ambition to democratise an experience that had hitherto been somewhat elitist. And so that our customers get the most out of their devices, we will be deploying a tailored content offering.”

Thanks to their painstaking efforts in search of the best compromise, and within the space of a few short months, the teams from Orange, Cabasse, and Dolby have managed to create a standout product relative to the systems currently on offer. In this way, the Group has once again shown that it will always go the extra mile for its customers, even if that means going out in search of the best partners in areas that are not part of its core business.

To know more : The sound Bar

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