Recently, Steve Guttenberg, our resident audio guru, took a listen to the first AV receiver to offer Dolby Pro Logic IIz. And he wasn't impressed.
Pro Logic IIz is the latest surround format from Dolby Labs. This one utilizes "height speakers" placed above the left and right front-channel speakers. The configuration Guttenberg tested utilized a 7.1 configuration (a standard 5.1 setup, plus 2 height speakers), but Pro Logic IIz is designed to support 9.1 as well (7.1 plus 2). That will presumably be supported in future
According to Dolby's Web site, the advantages of Pro Logic IIz are as follows:
With Dolby Pro Logic IIz, rain in a movie now seems to be actually falling on the listener's roof, concert videos bring a more intense sense of being at the performance, and orchestral works deliver more palpable depth, power, and connection.
In games, the added dimension increases the realism and immerses players more deeply than ever in the action.
Because it processes only nondirectional sounds for the height channels, Dolby Pro Logic IIz maintains the integrity of the source mix and the effects are always appropriate to the material. The added dimension complements the sound from the rear-surround speakers, adding spaciousness while honoring the original intent of the content creator.
Alas, Guttenberg could barely hear a difference when Dolby Pro Logic IIz was engaged: "The height speakers didn't make a discernible difference. I couldn't hear them at all, so I increased the height speaker volume by 3 decibels. Still no difference."
Needless to say, Dolby and Onkyo (the maker of the TX-SR607, which is the first IIz-compatible hardware) weren't too happy with that evaluation. So, we told them we'd give it a second chance, with more ears in the room.
For Round Two, Steve Guttenberg (again), Executive Editor David Carnoy, Senior Associate Editor Matthew Moskovciak, and I crowded into the CNET audio room.… Read more