Surround From Two Channels

Feb 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Kevin Becka

BREAKING THE BONDS OF STEREO, AND SURPRISINGLY WELL

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MORE SOLUTIONS
GenAudio offers a range of current and planned products for consumer and pro. Its AstoundSound! process boasts an unparalleled 3-D listening experience from two speakers or headphones. The downloadable Expander 3 plug-in is targeted at consumers. It runs as a background process on a PC or Mac, encoded right on the computer, creating an immersive experience for movies, gaming or music no matter the content. The plug-in offers a simple user interface that allows you to adjust basic functions according to taste.

On the pro-encoder side, GenAudio has plans for DAW plug-ins that will be “open to the public” for purchase, but the main way of getting GenAudio’s process into a production for release for CD, Blu-ray or DVD media is to have the audio encoded at the company’s studios in L.A. or another of its sanctioned locations. This process is being used for the Monster Audio CD release of the Daft Punk soundtrack from Tron, which comes with a top-grade headworn listening device.

SRS has been a leader in the field of virtual surround games for a while, offering products for home entertainment, headphones, PC, smartphones, portable devices and auto. SRS’ HD Audio Lab (HAL) plug-in promises maximum compatibility over a wide array of media players and soundcards. It lets the user select audio content, choose the speaker type (internal PC, external or headphones) and then further adjust the audio through the use of advanced controls. The company’s latest offering is TruMediaHD, which promises a cinematic listening experience over a mobile device’s built-in speaker(s) or headphones. Features include psychoacoustic 5.1 surround sound over headphones, improved tonal clarity of compressed audio, volume maximizing and leveling, and a user-adjustable graphic EQ.

QSound, one of the originators of products for surround from two channels, offers products for mobile devices, headphones, Bluetooth devices, TVs, PCs and more. Its products are available exclusively through a licensing agreement with the company, and they vary in features, depending on the delivery platform. The surround family of products comprises QSurround HD, a multichannel virtualizer designed for playback over stereo speakers; QSurround 5.1, a multichannel virtualizer that works with any multispeaker configuration; and QSurround Headphones, a multichannel virtualizer offering HRTF algorithms for headphones.

TC Electronic’s UpCon HD, for its DB4 and DB8 processors, is stereo-to-5.1 upmixing software with functions and settings suitable for broadcast programming. Promising 1 ms of latency, it’s compliant with downmix to stereo or mono. On the film side, the UnWrap HD for TC’s S6000 is an up-conversion stereo-to-5.1 processor for dialog, music and sound effects.

ON YOUR HEAD
Designed for the critical listener wanting to replicate physical speakers in a particular space while wearing headphones, Smyth Research’s Realiser A8 freestanding processor combines multiple channels of surround sound, adding the directional signatures that would be imposed on each channel by the positions of the loudspeakers. It comprises the desktop processor with controls for setup, operation, audio I/O and more. Also included is the RC-1 remote control, HTM-1 miniature mics for in-ear measurements, TU-1 wireless rechargeable head tracker for attachment to any headphones, TR-1 head-tracking reference for placement in front of the listener and Stax SR-202 headphones.

To set up the system, the listener wears the HTM-1 in-ear mics while the system produces tones in a particular audio space through its regular speaker system. A profile is then stored for that room and that listener, and the profile can be reproduced over headphones. Users can model and store different rooms for specific listeners. The TU-1 and TR-1 follow the listener’s head movement and adjust the audio so that the listener’s experience is similar to moving his/her head in the room. Profiles are user-specific, making it the priciest and least-portable headworn system available.

Targeted for armchair enjoyment of music, film, TV and computer-based entertainment, beyerdynamic’s Headzone surround headphone system comprises the HBC 1 base station and the DT 880 headphone. It is compatible with Dolby Digital, DTS or Dolby Pro Logic streams, and has drivers for use with Mac or PC. It offers user-adjustable room-modeling controls of ambience and room size from a single dial, and volume control from the headphone cable. DT 880 headphones have a hybrid semi-open design that combines the strengths of open, transparent ’phones with those of more powerful, closed models. It also features head tracking, in which integrated, ultrasonic sensors keep the acoustic image centered no matter how the listener’s head is moved.

The options are many for the producer and the consumer. HTC has begun advertising phones on TV with a Dolby Surround hook, and no doubt there’s great interest from mobile gamers. And these developments in surround playback just might stimulate the music surround market. We’ll be listening.


Kevin Becka is Mix’s technical editor.






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