I don’t know why every phone doesn’t have two speakers, but the fact is, very few do. Not only does the Galaxy S9 have two speakers, they are pretty loud, and more importantly, sound great. In fact, these are the best built-in speakers I’ve ever heard on a phone. Samsung says they are tuned by AKG; I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I assume some kind of EQ curve has been applied to them. Whatever they did, I’m glad they did it.
But wait, there’s more; there is also an option to turn on Dolby Atmos, which is an object-based surround CODEC from Dolby, (DTS and Auro also have competing products that also use object-based surround). Dolby Atmos supports up to one-hundred-twenty-eight speakers, but the audio engineer recording a film’s soundtrack doesn’t have to record that many different channels. Instead of using individual tracks assigned to specific channels, the engineer can assign “objects” to certain theoretical locations in space. Let’s say a movie calls for a helicopter to start flying over there on the right, then flies overhead, then to the left, then turns behind you, maybe flies around in a circle over your head. In the old days, that sound would need to be assigned to each speaker individually. But you’ve got explosions, gun shots, rain, thunder, music, whatever, so you’d get more and more tracks that had to be assigned to the different speakers in a theater. Now with object-based surround sound, each element is simply an object, and the location of that object in an imaginary 3D space is stored mathematically. (For more information, go to https://www.dolby.com/us/en/brands/dolby-atmos.html or https://www.dolby.com/us/en/technologies/cinema/dolby-atmos.html )
A Dolby Atoms decoder now has the job of engineer at playback to determine where each object should emanate from. All that decoder needs to know is, how many speakers do you have and where are they? It can recreate that imaginary 3D space with any number of speakers between two and up to one-hundred-twenty-eight. Naturally, more speakers enable a more immersive and convincing sound field, however, the sensation of space and depth created with only two speakers is still remarkable.
I was watching the new Netflix Original series, Lost in Space on my Galaxy S9, with no headphones, just the two tiny built-in speakers, and it was trippy. At no time did the sound seem like it was coming from the direction of the speakers, but more like there was a sphere of sound that was surrounding my head. Individual musical instruments, wind, and voices were coming from different places in front of me, but not from the same place.
You have to turn Dolby Atmos on by going into “Settings, “Sounds and Vibration”, scroll all the way down and under “Advanced”, you’ll see, “Sound Quality and Effects”. Click on that, and the first option at the top is “Dolby Atmos”. You can click on this to tune it further, as there are four options, “Auto”, “Movie”, “Music”, and “Voice”. I was watching Lost in Space with “Movie” mode turned on, but briefly changed it to “Voice”. Bass and treble were decreased so that voices were more isolated. I didn’t like it, so I switched it back to “Movie”.
Listening to music with “Movie” mode on sounded ultra-wide, and with “Music a little more focused and narrower with singer’s voices seeming to project from the center of the screen, while “Auto” ended up somewhere between the two.
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