or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Inventor of THX sound system hired to run Apple audio - report
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Inventor of THX sound system hired to run Apple audio - report

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
Apple has reportedly hired Tomlinson Holman, inventor of the Lucasfilm THX high-fidelity audio system, to be its new audio chief.

Leo Laporte of the TWiT Netcast Network wrote on his official Twitter account on Monday that Holman is joining Apple to "run audio." The post, highlighted by GigaOm, described Apple's hire as a "major upgrade."

In addition to creating the THX sound certification for Lucasfilm, Holman was also behind the world's first 10.2 surround sound system. He is currently a film sound professor at the University of Southern California.

Apple has not confirmed the alleged hiring of Holman, and what projects he will play a role in at the secretive company are not yet known. In addition to experience designing loudspeakers and amplifiers, he has also won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in motion pictures.

Holman's hiring could also play a role in hardware development, ranging from the headphones that ship with all iPods and iPhones, to integrated speakers on devices like the iPhone, iPad or Apple's line of MacBook computers. He could also play a part in the software Apple writes for media playback on devices ranging from iPods and iPhones, to Macs, the Apple TV.



In February, it was alleged that Apple is looking to offer higher quality music on its iTunes Music Store. The company is said to be in negotiations with studios to offer tracks in a 24-bit high-fidelity format, which would be higher quality than the 16 bit currently available on iTunes or with a compact disc.

Many Macs and some PCs already support 24-bit sound, and the iTunes media player software supports 24-bit files. Audio tracks are also recorded in 24 bits by artists in the studio, but they are downgraded to 16 bits when they are pressed to CD or made available to iTunes.
post #2 of 67
m000000!
post #3 of 67
Awesome. Been looking foreward to better audio solutions from Apple.

I'm running a Logitech Squeezebox and love it. I've heard Sonos is good, too. I think Apple dropped the ball in not entering that market -- meaning, something with a halfway decent DAC for stereo and home theater use.

EDIT:
Come to think of it......given the quality of music the almighty Steve listens to and uses for his product launches.....I can see why good audio performance hasn't been a priority!
post #4 of 67
This is what I like about Apple. They know what they're doing. They know who to get. And they don't gloat or boast about it as much that we have to find this kind detail through rumor sites.
post #5 of 67
24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.
post #6 of 67
THX is all about a pleasant listening experience at the theater or certifying hardware actually does what it is supposed to do. Whether or not this means better audio in apple products remains to be seen. Their ipods don't suffer hardware quality issues; it's all in their poor eq's. Change the eq and the sound turns to crap.

10.2 surround? I stopped caring at 5.1.
post #7 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.

You never know, maybe that will be the lead feature of the next gen iPod
post #8 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.

You don't hire Tomlinson Holman to enable "marketing gimmickry." He's a supremely talented hardware/software/audio guy, one of the best in the business. Honestly, they couldn't have gotten a more seminal talent if they had hired Ray Dolby himself.

I'm excited by this news-- audio quality doesn't seem to have been a high priority with Apple as of late, having defaulted to "good enough" for their various portable devices. A big upgrade across the board on that count, from iTunes encodes to iPod ear buds to the speakers and amplification in the iphones, iPad and laptops would be most welcome.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
post #9 of 67
If this is true, it's a big step. I know this guy, and he's brilliant. For those who think that THX is not such a big deal, you're wrong. It's one of the biggest of big deals. It's focussed on theater and home theater sound, and it's not intended for the purpose of pure music reproduction, though the standards set there will work well, if you have THX certified equipment, and you set it up properly.

But he's not just "Mr. THX". His knowledge of music and audio reproduction goes well beyond that. I hope this rumor is true.
post #10 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by xsu View Post

You never know, maybe that will be the lead feature of the next gen iPod

They could always surprise us I guess. But I just don't think they are giving as much attention to iPods in the area of audio ironically enough. 24 bit files + their current fidelity = zero gain. CD quality is 16 bit, think about how much high end equipment you need to hear a difference between that and SACD. In an iPod? I can't see it making any difference apart from a marketing point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

You don't hire Tomlinson Holman to enable "marketing gimmickry." He's a supremely talented hardware/software/audio guy, one of the best in the business.

Which isn't what I said, I was talking about 24-bit audio files.
post #11 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by frugality View Post

Awesome. Been looking foreward to better audio solutions from Apple.

I'm running a Logitech Squeezebox and love it. I've heard Sonos is good, too. I think Apple dropped the ball in not entering that market -- meaning, something with a halfway decent DAC for stereo and home theater use.

EDIT:
Come to think of it......given the quality of music the almighty Steve listens to and uses for his product launches.....I can see why good audio performance hasn't been a priority!

You don't know much about it, do you?
post #12 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

THX is all about a pleasant listening experience at the theater or certifying hardware actually does what it is supposed to do. Whether or not this means better audio in apple products remains to be seen. Their ipods don't suffer hardware quality issues; it's all in their poor eq's. Change the eq and the sound turns to crap.

10.2 surround? I stopped caring at 5.1.

But THX is enabled by a great deal of top notch engineering, equalization and system quality control. To ask if this will lead better audio in Apple products is a tad moronic, with all due respect.

Did you expect the man to arrive at Apple and go "Oh, wait, iPods? I only know how to do surround sound in theaters, sorry, I guess I'll quit."
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
post #13 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.

I can't wait for FLAC to die, which it will. The problem with FLAC, like other containers for music and video, such as OGG, is that they're patent encumbered. Some day, they will be sued out of existence. This is why companies such as Apple and Microsoft can't use them, and must come up with their own standards. Companies that aren't primary suppliers of software such as Apple and Microsoft don't have this problem. Basically, they don't care if FLAC goes away. But Apple and MS embed this software deep into their own OS and playback software and, in Apple's case, hardware. If FLAC went away, it would be a major problem.

The industry is working on a standard for this, but if and when it will come about, I don't know.
post #14 of 67
Not sure what all the fuss is about. Apple's audio quality on their mobile devices is just fine. It's better than the 8-track we had in our car when I was a kid, it's better than the cassette Walkmans I owned in the 80s. I guess I'm just not an audiophile like so many folks these days. I love music, but honestly, I just don't care if your subwoofer cost $700 and was made by some Swiss company with an unpronounceable name. Some of my favorite bands recorded some great music on the lowest of lo-fi equipment - so how are you going to improve that? And more importantly, would you even want to?
post #15 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

But THX is enabled by a great deal of top notch engineering, equalization and system quality control. To ask if this will lead better audio in Apple products is a tad moronic, with all due respect.

Did you expect the man to arrive at Apple and go "Oh, wait, iPods? I only know how to do surround sound in theaters, sorry, I guess I'll quit."

Can you show me THX equipment that is sold directly from them?

Again, the problem with sound quality isn't so much the hardware; it's their software.

Currently those who care about sound quality in a music device get a Cowon anyhow.
post #16 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Can you show me THX equipment that is sold directly from them?

Again, the problem with sound quality isn't so much the hardware; it's their software.

Currently those who care about sound quality in a music device get a Cowon anyhow.

That's a joke.
post #17 of 67
Audio for the (real) Apple TV. It'll have one speaker that miraculously pumps out 10.2 surround and full lows, mids, and highs. The frequency response will be 12 - 23,000kHz, 0.003% THD, and use class A amplifiers. The speakers measures 2.5" in diameter.
post #18 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

I can't wait for FLAC to die, which it will. The problem with FLAC, like other containers for music and video, such as OGG, is that they're patent encumbered. Some day, they will be sued out of existence. This is why companies such as Apple and Microsoft can't use them, and must come up with their own standards. Companies that aren't primary suppliers of software such as Apple and Microsoft don't have this problem. Basically, they don't care if FLAC goes away. But Apple and MS embed this software deep into their own OS and playback software and, in Apple's case, hardware. If FLAC went away, it would be a major problem.

The industry is working on a standard for this, but if and when it will come about, I don't know.

If that is the case, why not sue all the people who currently use ogg/vorbis like

Epic
Activision
Wikipedia
Blizzard
Sandisk
Google (who is already being looked at with webm)

and others who currently use FLAC in 24 bit to sell music.

Vorbis is already BSD and has been around for 10+ years, and even predates aac in the early development stages, back all they way to 1993.

The reason why at this point Apple won't use it is just because they are apple. Microsoft never touched it because it didn't make WMA look good.
post #19 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

That's a joke.

Put up or shut up.
post #20 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Can you show me THX equipment that is sold directly from them?

Again, the problem with sound quality isn't so much the hardware; it's their software.

Currently those who care about sound quality in a music device get a Cowon anyhow.

Right, so they hired Holman just for the hell of it? Apple can't sort out where the shortcomings in audio quality are? Holman doesn't know software?

THX certification is on any number of consumer audio and video devices, it's not just "equipment" but rather a set of standards and specs (including, yes, software). If Holman does nothing but apply THX type standards to Apple's audio efforts there will be a huge increase in quality across the board.

I'm not even sure what you think you're arguing. Holman is a sound engineer, and a very good one. His hiring means that Apple intends for him to work improving sound. Again, he's not going to just stand their scratching his head because Apple isn't making cinema sound systems.

Just as a point of interest, "THX" derives from "Tom Holman Crossover", that being the crossover he originally designed for Lucas to enable better theater sound.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
post #21 of 67
THX is a certification process, not a hardware filter or some other enhancing mechanism. THX certifies the models that builders of amps design, the certificate being that the model is certified to reproduce audio at a certain studio reference from the source (CD, DVD, whatever) through the preamp and amp to the speakers. Just flipping a switch that might say "THX" won't create studio sound from crap.

It would be interesting to see a future iPod billed as "THX Certified."

Also, maybe future high-performance Macs might produce the THX chord when turned on. Awesome!
post #22 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Right, so they hired Holman just for the hell of it? Apple can't sort out where the shortcomings in audio quality are? Holman doesn't know software?

THX certification is on any number of consumer audio and video devices, it's not just "equipment" but rather a set of standards and specs (including, yes, software). If Holman does nothing but apply THX type standards to Apple's audio efforts there will be a huge increase in quality across the board.

I'm not even sure what you think you're arguing. Holman is a sound engineer, and a very good one. His hiring means that Apple intends for him to work improving sound. Again, he's not going to just stand their scratching his head because Apple isn't making cinema sound systems.

Just as a point of interest, "THX" derives from "Tom Holman Crossover", that being the crossover he originally designed for Lucas to enable better theater sound.

Dude, not every post here is a rhetorical question. Yeah, I actually asked for information. Or do we need an emoticon for that? Sheesh.

In any case, the "deficiencies" that ipods have are irrelevant to 99% of the population. I am willing to see what comes of it, but audio quality up until now hasn't been anything apple cared about.
post #23 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Just as a point of interest, "THX" derives from "Tom Holman Crossover", that being the crossover he originally designed for Lucas to enable better theater sound.

I didn't know that. Another bit of trivia learned today for when Alex Trebek invites me to play Jeopardy.
post #24 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Dude, not every post here is a rhetorical question. Yeah, I actually asked for information. Or do we need an emoticon for that? Sheesh.

In any case, the "deficiencies" that ipods have are irrelevant to 99% of the population. I am willing to see what comes of it, but audio quality up until now hasn't been anything apple cared about.

Which I agree with and why I'm excited by this hire-- it suggests that Apple intents to take sound more seriously.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
post #25 of 67
When competition zigs, Apple zags. While others are trying to figure out how to compete in touch screen interface space, Apple has left the building and goes back to audio where it all started with the iPod and ITMS. God, I'm glad I'm not the CEO of one of Apple's competitors. Must be supremely frustrating.
A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
Reply
A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
Reply
post #26 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecphorizer View Post

I didn't know that. Another bit of trivia learned today for when Alex Trebek invites me to play Jeopardy.

The "X" in THX stands for eXperiment, not for a crossover.
post #27 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

I am willing to see what comes of it, but audio quality up until now hasn't been anything apple cared about.

Seems now they do.

Up until the iPhone they didn't care anything about personal communications devices.
A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
Reply
A.k.a. AppleHead on other forums.
Reply
post #28 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Seems now they do.

Up until the iPhone they didn't care anything about personal communications devices.

They care about making useful electronics for the masses. It was only a matter of time.

Those same masses think 128kbps mp3s are cd quality too, and most can't tell the diff btw SD and HD either.
post #29 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

If that is the case, why not sue all the people who currently use ogg/vorbis like

Epic
Activision
Wikipedia
Blizzard
Sandisk
Google (who is already being looked at with webm)

and others who currently use FLAC in 24 bit to sell music.

Vorbis is already BSD and has been around for 10+ years, and even predates aac in the early development stages, back all they way to 1993.

The reason why at this point Apple won't use it is just because they are apple. Microsoft never touched it because it didn't make WMA look good.

Because, as you know, sometimes these lawsuits take a decade or more to come to fruition. Not a single one of these companies wouldn't give up FLAC if it came down to it. In fact, the owners of a couple of the patents that are in dispute, are working on a possible new standard, which will likely use their patents, among others in a consortium, the way we see with H.264, and others. It's possible they are waiting to see what happens in negotiations.

One of the biggest sellers of online 24 bit music is Chesky. I spoke to David a couple of months ago, and he stated that he was concerned about this, but for now, it seems ok. He would prefer to license Apple's Lossless Compression software if Apple would do that. He's spoken to them, and he thinks that there is just a glimmer that it may happen at some point, but that we shouldn't hold our breaths.

If Apple does indeed go to 24/96 downloads, they may use it themselves. If so, then all the music companies will be using it as well. Chesky might sell their catalog over iTunes as well.

This is what we spoke about. Just saying.
post #30 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaiser777 View Post

The "X" in THX stands for eXperiment, not for a crossover.

From an interview with Holman:

Quote:
People have been asking the question for years: what does THX stand for? And this is was exactly Jim Kessler's marketing intent: keep 'em asking question after question, and they're taking about you!" [...] "It's gotta sound cool, high-tech, and I wanted a way to credit Tom Holman, the inventor," said Kessler. Doodling around, "I just wrote the initials for Tom Holman Crossover on my desk one day."

To be fair, I've heard several versions of the THX provenance myself, including that it means nothing at all and the "Tom Holman" was retconned from THX1138. The Lucas people seem to take some perverse delight in changing it up (I guess ala the "keep 'em guessing" strategy above).

But the story does seem to have settled on crossover, something I've heard from people at Skywalker Ranch.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
post #31 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Put up or shut up.

You don't know what you're talking about, and you bring things into the post that have nothing to do with anything. What does apple not producing THX equipment have to do with anything? Nothing! So why did you bring it up?

And your opinion about Cowan, is just that, your opinion. I don't have to put anything up. You do, as it's YOUR assertion.
post #32 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

From an interview with Holman:



To be fair, I've heard several versions of the THX provenance myself, including that it means nothing at all and the "Tom Holman" was retconned from THX1138. The Lucas people seem to take some perverse delight in changing it up (I guess ala the "keep 'em guessing" strategy above).

But the story does seem to have settled on crossover, something I've heard from people at Skywalker Ranch.

Interesting. I've seen both definitions for what the X stands for so the "keep 'em guessing" strategy does indeed apply.
post #33 of 67
Give us multichannel 7.1 digital audio mixes while we are at it!

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply
post #34 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

You don't know what you're talking about, and you bring things into the post that have nothing to do with anything. What does apple not producing THX equipment have to do with anything? Nothing! So why did you bring it up?

Perhaps if you can read better, I said THX doesn't sell any hardware, unless stated otherwise which already it has. The guy in question can improve stuff, but you don't hear THX improving Denon's hardware, right?

Quote:
And your opinion about Cowan, is just that, your opinion. I don't have to put anything up. You do, as it's YOUR assertion.

So, first off, you accuse me of knowing nothing, then make a complete ass of yourself by claiming that it's only my opinion that Cowon makes great sounding audio equipment?

You are such a hypocrite. You couldn't be bothered to first google Cowon and see they've been making iAudio products before the ipod came out, and that their reputation for great sounding PMPs is well known. You couldn't read sites like anythingbutipod that actually test products that picky audiophiles buy either.

Just goes to show everyone, you know so little. Please, shut up before I own you further.
post #35 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Perhaps if you can read better, I said THX doesn't sell any hardware, unless stated otherwise which already it has. The guy in question can improve stuff, but you don't hear THX improving Denon's hardware, right?

Well then, your reading abilities aren't all that great, because he never said they did produce hardware. But they do a great deal of R&R in the area, and license the standards, as well as chack equipment. Your reply certainly did look as though you were referring to Apple.


Quote:
So, first off, you accuse me of knowing nothing, then make a complete ass of yourself by claiming that it's only my opinion that Cowon makes great sounding audio equipment?

You are such a hypocrite. You couldn't be bothered to first google Cowon and see they've been making iAudio products before the ipod came out, and that their reputation for great sounding PMPs is well known. You couldn't read sites like anythingbutipod that actually test products that picky audiophiles buy either.

Just goes to show everyone, you know so little. Please, shut up before I own you further.

Oh, please! What you don't understand about audio would overflow a landfill. If you did know anything about this, you would know that most all of the biggest names in audio, including high end audio make docks for Apple's products to interface with their, and other's equipment.

This has nothing to do with Cowon themselves, i know who they are, just your assertion as to how people who care about high quality sound buy their devices as opposed to Apple's. That's patently untrue. It's just your opinion. You know nothing about "picky audiophiles", because WE don't read that site. I guess you do. After you've designed as much professional audio equipment as I have, come back and argue with me. Until then, go away.
post #36 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.

It would never be FLAC, but Apple Lossless.
post #37 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by tipoo View Post

24 bit won't make MP3 or other lossy formats magically (ha) sound better, unless its also lossless (preferably FLAC, but probably never gonna happen). And also, I doubt comparatively low fidelity devices like iPods will be able to take advantage of the expanded range of 24 bit. Will mostly be marketing gimickery, IMO.

While you are talking about "gimickery," you might want to include the idea that the average human can tell the difference between high quality AAC files and lossless.

The idea that you need lossless because people can "tell the difference" is just nonsense. It's been disproven over and over again. Only one person in a thousand can tell the difference between 256k MP3's and lossless. When you are talking AAC and over 256k, the number drops to essentially zero.
post #38 of 67
Sounds to me like he was hired for the Apple TV. By that I mean, a real TV and not just the box. Either that or Apple is coming up with better speaker systems for their computers or for the living room.
post #39 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Just as a point of interest, "THX" derives from "Tom Holman Crossover", that being the crossover he originally designed for Lucas to enable better theater sound.

Hmm, I'm not so sure about that. Lucas' first movie, "THX 1138" came out in 1971, which is well before the debut of THX in 1983. I always assumed that was the derivation. Of course, since Tom Holman shares his first two initials with THX, that might have been why it was reused. It could also be a sort of backronym that was applied later.

Additionally, I remember hearing that "THX 1138" was the license plate number of the car George Lucas was in when he got into a near fatal crash when he was fairly young. Of course, that could just be a rumor as well.
post #40 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by One Fine Line View Post

Hmm, I'm not so sure about that. Lucas' first movie, "THX 1138" came out in 1971, which is well before the debut of THX in 1983. I always assumed that was the derivation. Of course, since Tom Holman shares his first two initials with THX, that might have been why it was reused. It could also be a sort of backronym that was applied later.

Additionally, I remember hearing that "THX 1138" was the license plate number of the car George Lucas was in when he got into a near fatal crash when he was fairly young. Of course, that could just be a rumor as well.

Check the interview I linked to above-- the coincidence of Tom Holman's initials tying in with THX 1138, Lucas' first feature, was why they went that way.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Discussion
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Inventor of THX sound system hired to run Apple audio - report