Dolby wants to boost the audio quality of your laptop’s video calls

Two of Lenovo’s upcoming laptops will be the first to feature Dolby Voice, an audio technology that’s aimed at making it easier to hear people during conference calls. The feature combines elements like background noise reduction and dynamic leveling to make meetings sound “clearer, more natural, and feel less fatiguing,” Dolby says. Lenovo’s upcoming ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 and X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptops will both include the technology, but Dolby declined to say which other laptops it might come to in the future.

Dolby Voice isn’t exactly a brand-new piece of technology. Dolby has previously used similar underlying tech for its Dolby Conference Phone and Dolby Voice Room, which were both business-focused conferencing solutions. The difference is that now it’ll be available directly in a pair of laptops without needing separate Dolby hardware.

The technology includes a couple of different features that work together with your speakers and microphones to make call audio easier to hear. “Full room pick up and dynamic leveling” adjust a call’s audio to make it easier to hear people who are quieter or farther away from the microphone. Voice also includes noise reduction to eliminate echo and background noise. Finally, Dolby says Voice makes speech easier to hear when there are multiple people talking on the same call thanks to a “voice separation” feature.

The technology works on both incoming and outgoing audio, so you should sound clearer to the people you’re talking with, and you’ll also hear a benefit. Dolby Voice’s features can be controlled via the Dolby Access app.

Your combination of hardware and software will determine which of these features can be used. Dolby says full room pick up, dynamic leveling, and noise reduction all work “out of the box” with the two laptops, regardless of which software is being used. External 3.5mm microphones plugged into a laptop can also benefit from noise suppression and dynamic leveling. However, the requirements for the voice separation feature are a little higher, and the feature will only work when using the laptop’s built-in microphones with select services including Zoom.

Since many people have been staying at home over the past year, there’s been a surge of interest in using software to improve the quality of audio during calls. Some chat services like Discord and Google Meet have built background noise reduction tech directly into their services, while Nvidia’s Broadcast software works across different chat apps, so long as you have the right (Nvidia) hardware.

Dolby Voice could combine the best parts of the two approaches. Its features aren’t necessarily confined to any one chat service, nor does it require a ray tracing-capable graphics card. We should know how well it performs when Lenovo’s two compatible laptops launch in February.