Dirac, a Swedish company that licenses out its audio-processing tech to big-name brands like BMW, Volvo, Xiaomi, and OnePlus, is today unveiling a new feature for mobile devices that it’s calling Dirac Bass. Aimed for use in smartphones and tiny portable speakers, Dirac Bass gets around the physical limitations of those small devices with a deft trick of psychoacoustics. Instead of trying to reproduce the deepest bass notes with micro-speakers that simply can’t operate at such frequencies, Dirac has designed a system that plays “a combination of artificially generated overtones that are several octaves higher,” which fools the human mind into perceiving deep bass.
Dirac claims that Dirac Bass will make frequencies as low as 30Hz audible from a phone’s speakers. Not just audible, mind you — I know from my own testing that some smartphones are already capable of playing a 30Hz test tone — but more transparent and natural as well. With smartphone display bezels all but disappearing over the past couple of years, the space for good speakers has grown ever more scant, so any new technology that squeezes out even slightly better performance is to be welcomed.
The full debut of Dirac Bass is set for CES 2019 in Las Vegas next month, though it might be a while before we learn of devices that support it. Smartphones and small portable speakers are the ones explicitly mentioned in the announcement, but tablets and potentially laptops will also be good candidates to benefit. Dirac says that Dirac Bass will work exclusively in conjunction with Dirac Panorama Sound or Dirac Power Sound on supported devices, so you’ll basically be looking for a device that’s fully outfitted with Dirac technologies. The OnePlus 6T already has Dirac Power Sound, though Dirac tells me Dirac Bass is most likely to be made available on new models rather than backported to older ones like the 6T.