Ray Dolby, 1933–2013

Photo: Dolby Laboratories

We are saddened to learn of the passing of inventor and audio entrepreneur Ray Dolby. Other sites have published full obituaries; I'd like simply to offer my memory of interviewing Ray back in the spring of 1977 for the English magazine Hi-Fi News, when Dolby Laboratories were trying to get the BBC interested in using Dolby noise reduction in FM broadcasting. Despite my being a neophyte audio writer, I was treated with courtesy and respect by a man who had forgotten more about audio engineering than I knew.

It was Ray Dolby's invention of Dolby-A noise reduction that made the explosion in multitrack recording of rock music in the early 1970s possible. I vividly remember engineer Jerry Boys playing me all 24 tracks of the studio's new MCI tape recorder, which used 2" tape. Nothing had been recorded and all was quiet. Then Jerry turned off the Dolby-A noise reduction and we were overwhelmed with tape hiss!

dalethorn's picture

The name Dolby is bigger than big in audio - I seem to remember even movie theaters advertise Dolby processing in their movie credits. For me the beginning was the Advent 200 and 201 tape decks, with Dolby B (I think). The combination of Dolby NR and chromium tape (later metal oxide tape) made cassettes a hi-fi media. Sadly, most of the record co's distributed commercial recordings for cassette using very inferior cassettes that jammed, or squealed themselves to death when the non-impregnated silicone wore off of the tape.

One would-be competitor (DBX) arose in the 1970's with after-the-fact NR that got a terrific plug from an audio article describing a demo with "Total silence, then the most incredibly loud and impactful bass drum thwack" (quote approximate). But Dolby was already well established and that was that.

nunhgrader's picture

So sad for the end of an incredible person's fruitful life - RIP Mr. Dolby.

stereomag's picture

Mr. Dolby may have passed away, however the company he started is alive and well, headquartered in San Francisco.