DTS recently sponsored the "Sound Matters" neurological study, which was run by a company called Neuro-Insight in New York. The purpose of the study was to see whether increasing audio quality using DTS Headphone:X, or increased video resolution was more important to the audiences watching "mobile content" on a smartphone or tablet.
As you can see in the above video, Neuro-Insight invited one hundred 18-35-year-old men and women, who regularly watched audio visual content on smartphones or tablets, to participate. As the participants watched four pieces of content at various audio and/or video resolutions, Neuro-Insight used their proprietary SST technology to monitor the participants brain activity along five different metrics:
- Long-term memory encoding: A measure of how much the brain is remembering
- Engagement: A measure of content’s personal relevance
- The Hedonic Index: A measure that equates broadly to how likeable an experience is
- Emotional Intensity: The strength of any emotional response
- Attention: Measures how much visual attention is being paid to the content
The Sound Matters Results
Audio matters more.
Overall, when participants upgraded from standard-quality audio to Headphone:X, the particpants' Hedonic Index jumped an average of 42 percent, which means the test subjects were enjoying the content that much more. To break it down, the study used 280p, 480p, and 1080p video content. When Headphone:X was added to 280p, the Headonic Index rose by 29 percent; with 1080p, there was a 35 percent increase in enjoyment. However, in that 480p mid range (common for many YouTube clips), the Hedonic Index rose by a whopping 66 percent.
As for increasing video resolution, the "impact of changes in video quality on tablets was statistically insignificant."
"Headphone:X audio was the clear winner in this study," said Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight. "When we switched to enhanced audio, the patterns of brain activity seen were similar to those seen when we eat something we find enjoyable, hear a funny joke or, for that matter, anticipating the ‘high’ associated with an addictive drug. Increasing the video quality did not achieve the same results or reactions."
So why should you care?
Frankly, my dear HDD Reader, you're probably already an audio enthusiast. You probably already know how a wonderful surround sound mix can turn an ordinary Blu-ray into the one you can't wait to show your friends. I'm also guessing many of our readers aren't particularly big fans of watching mobile content away from the home cinema. But here's where this DTS-sponsored study catches my eye:
When you ramp up from 480p to 1080p on your tablet, you need a dataplan-sucking 77 percent more bandwidth, but neurologically speaking, you're only enjoying the content about two percent more (again, we're talking on a hand held tablet, not your plasma or projector). For only a 15% increase in bandwidth, you can use an audio application like DTS Headphone:X and enjoy your content -- music, movies, and games -- by upwards of 66 percent.
Imagine yourself on the never-ending transcontinental flight, the train ride into work every morning, the extended family dinner with that one drunk uncle who never shuts up… In these situations, you can't bust out the Blu-ray 3D, nor can you fire up your Xbox One or PS4 to immerse yourself in discrete multi-channel sound.
But, assuming more content is encoded in the format and the app(s) improve, you can fire up a DTS Headphone:X to hear upwards of 11.1 surround sound from the headphones you already own. I would think, for casual movie and viewing, and even more so for the mobile gaming communities, the benefits are clear. I guess you could say the study is both surprising, in the sense that they were able to quantify the experience so clearly, but also not surprising at all because who doesn't love high-quality audio over digitally compressed garbage. DTS, you're preaching to the choir here, my friends.
We constantly talk about how "sound is at least half the experience." Well, thanks to DTS and Neuro-Insight, we can revise this for small-screened mobile applications: Sound Matters… more than video.