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Qualcomm and DTS Pair Up for Headphone:X Phone Surround Sound

qualcomm-dts

If you use your phone or tablet to watch movies or TV shows, you might be interested in the latest technology Qualcomm and DTS are cooking up. It’s called Headphone:X, and it helps the headphones connected to your device deliver virtual 7.1 surround sound — perfect for viewing media or playing games like 3D RPGs, platformers and shooters.

The technology relies on Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 800 processor, which handles the post-processing on the audio to output the virtual surround sound through your phone or tablet’s headphone jack. You’ll supposedly be able to use any type of headphones with a device that supports the technology. At Qualcomm’s Mobile World Congress demo stand, the company used a very standard pair of Sennheiser headphones to make the magic happen, though you could use any other brand, or any other headphone type (earbuds, for example) to achieve the same experience.

The Headphone:X technology combined with the Snapdragon 800′s ability to play ultra high-resolution 4K video, means the smartphones and tablets of the future could wind up being very powerful media playing machines. Qualcomm expects new phones and tablets to start using the Snapdragon 800 processor in the second half of 2013. Device manufacturers are able to use the processor without including support for the virtual 7.1 surround sound feature, but Qualcomm doesn’t anticipate many manufacturers doing so because it offers a solid bullet point on a device’s list of features.

There’s really only one snag that Headphone:X could run into at the moment, and that’s the fact that 7.1 surround sound isn’t supported by many online movie services or mobile games yet. Netflix and Lovefilm, for example, only support 5.1 surround sound. As these chips make their way into more devices, however, there could be an increase in services that support 7.1.

We’ll have to wait and see for ourselves how convincing the Headphone:X surround sound is through a pair of average headphones, but if it’s as good as the surround sound in the video below, we’ll be anxiously awaiting the arrival of Headphone:X devices later in the year.

— Shawn Farner

Shawn Farner is a Harrisburg-based tech blogger who has been involved in online media for over seven years. He covers consumer electronics, Web-based services, and tech startups. Read disclosures here.