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Meetings, Donuts, and a Breakthrough in Conferencing Audio

Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone

Remembering the Productivity of Donut Meetings

Donuts used to be a sure-fire way to rally employees together for productive in-person meetings. Over Boston creams and strawberry frosted rings, teams discussed the fine points of strategy, did creative troubleshooting, and collaborated effectively.

Today, though, with distributed teams and an increasingly remote workforce, meetings tend to take place over web, video, and audio conferences. If you’re craving a Boston cream during your next meeting, you need to BYOD (bring your own donut).

Donut meeting: An
 in-person meeting with a sweet incentive to join — the promise of donuts.

Donuts aren’t the main ingredient, however, of productive meetings.

One key benefit of meeting in person is that we can clearly hear and understand what people are saying. Following and participating in the conversation is effortless.

Unfortunately, most conferencing tools deliver mediocre or poor audio. And when you can't understand what's being said, it’s harder to follow and participate in the conversation.

Unsound Meetings: The Truth About Traditional Conferencing Audio

A recent report from Wainhouse Research pinpointed the most problematic audio issues that companies experienced with their conferencing solutions.

The top audio issues include:

  • Poor audio clarity
  • Distracting background noise
  • An inability to understand overlapping talkers
Did you say "French cruller?"
No, I said "first caller."
Oh sorry! Bad audio…

Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist the hole.


Generally, optimism gets a favorable portrayal in our world. But when examining a problem (such as fixing conferencing audio), it pays to see things from all angles.

As pioneers in cinematic and home theater audio experiences, we at Dolby were optimistic that we could improve conferencing audio. But we first needed to look at why face-to-face communication worked so well and what the underlying issues were in traditional conferencing audio.

Face-to-Face Communication Versus Traditional Conferencing Audio

We started by looking at why face-to-face communication is so effective:

  • We start with perfect audio fidelity.
  • We can hear the little verbal cues that tell us when someone is waiting to speak.
  • We can always tell who’s speaking, because voices come from a particular direction.

All of this is supported by a very powerful processor — the human brain — which has evolved to effortlessly process in-person communication and filter out distractions, such as background noise.

Traditional conferencing audio, on the other hand, places the brain at a disadvantage:

  • Voices are presented at a much lower fidelity.
  • We lose critical verbal subtleties.
  • All the voices are stacked, so we often can’t tell which voice belongs to which talker.

Rather than effortlessly processing sound, our brains are forced to work overtime, struggling to identify talkers. We become fatigued, exhausted by the task of listening in such an unnatural way. As our ability to follow the conversation fades, we find ourselves growing more and more disengaged.

With this realization, we successfully pinpointed the problem with conferencing audio — it didn’t work the way that our brains do. It was time to work on a solution.


A Comparison with Mike Hollier

Mike Hollier, Vice President, Technology Incubation, Dolby, discusses the difference between meeting in person and meeting over traditional conferencing audio.

Innovation and the Origin of the Donut’s Hole

Innovation usually begins with trying to solve a problem. This was certainly true in 1847, when a young man named Hanson Gregory had a major complaint about the dough cakes emerging from his ship’s galley: The dough never cooked through. After puzzling over this problem, he came up with the solution — punch a hole in the center. Voilà, they fried through. Simple yet brilliant.

The Creation of Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone

Taking a page from Hanson Gregory’s book, we headed to the laboratories. We tested. We refined our ideas. We retested. We weren’t satisfied until we created a breakthrough audio technology poised to set a new standard for how you can expect conferencing to sound. The result was Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone.

Dolby Voice Benefits


Dolby Voice delivers lifelike clarity and nuance while suppressing background noise.


It solves for overlapping conversation and minimizes sound delays, eliminating awkward exchanges.


With each speaker’s voice presented from a distinct location, it’s easier to follow the conversation.


Dolby Voice has powered billions of global minutes through leading video, web, and audio conferencing services.

Dolby Conference Phone Benefits

Superior Sound Quality

The Dolby Conference Phone delivers great clarity and nuance, even in challenging environments.

Dynamic Sound Leveling

Audio intelligence in the phone boosts the sound of participants’ speech and suppresses unwanted noise.

Full-Room Voice Capture

The phone picks up all voices — including those that are soft or distant.

Voice Placement

Advanced technology presents each speaker’s voice from a distinct location, so it’s easier to follow the conversation.*

Intuitive Touch-Screen Control

Its touch-screen control makes it easy to start, join, and manage meetings.

Multi-Mode Device

The Dolby Conference Phone provides audio for conferencing services and IP phone calls, and easy touch-screen meeting access.

Steamlined Management

Intelligent hardware design, easy-to-use interfaces, and automated deployment tools simplify IT tasks.


The Dolby Conference Phone Demo

Hear the stunning quality of the Dolby Conference Phone.

Optimizing Meeting Room Acoustics

Recent research suggests there are up to 65 million meeting rooms worldwide.2 All meeting rooms share the purpose of enabling people to meet, collaborate, and communicate effectively. One thing that can get in the way of that purpose is poor room acoustics.

While video solutions have advanced in recent years to accommodate all types of meeting rooms, audio has lagged behind. Even with the best video tools, if rooms can’t deliver great audio — or weren't designed to host conferences in the first place — communication and productivity suffer. So in addition to great video conferencing tools, meeting rooms need technology that can effectively capture and transmit room audio. And that’s what Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone deliver.

2 Wainhouse Research, “XXX”, YEAR.

Comparing Task Efficiency in Communications

With Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone, we knew we had drastically improved the conferencing audio experience. But what would this mean in terms of increasing productivity? We decided to test it. We conducted a study to compare how quickly people could complete tasks when instructions were delivered three ways: face-to-face, over traditional conferencing audio systems, and over Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone.

The study found that tasks taking 60 seconds to complete in face-to-face settings required more than twice that time — 134 seconds — on traditional conferencing systems. With Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone, however, the same task required only 80 seconds — a 25 percent improvement over traditional conferencing systems.



The Mimeo Case Study

Global business-to-business services company Mimeo uses the Dolby Conference Phone and Highfive video conferencing to improve collaboration, realize cost savings, and increase productivity for employees and suppliers in more than 140 countries across the globe.

A Menu of Options: Conferencing Solutions for Your Unique Needs

When you walk into a donut shop, you’ve got options. You can choose the donut you like most and stick with what works best. As we worked on Dolby Voice and the Dolby Conference Phone, we thought, “Why should conferencing be different? Your company is unique. You should have a conferencing solution that works for you.”

So we found great partners and created a menu of conferencing choices for you.

Meetings need to happen. Audio issues don’t. Find the option that works best for you and discover how Dolby Voice, the Dolby Conference Phone, and our partners can help your teams engage and increase their productivity.


Dolby Voice Video Conferencing Partners


Dolby Voice Audio and Web Conferencing Partners

WestBT MeetMeiMeet