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Beyond Stereo

To more closely approach "being at the concert," you need five or more speakers and multichannel DVD-A, SACD, or DTS-CD - same as for movie DVDs. But speaker placements and microphone techniques are evolving toward sonic "reality." See Robin Miller's article DTS music for home theater, technical papers (pdf) for Audio Engineering Society and Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers. These pages explore and demystify recording and playing surround sound in studio, home theater, car, or PC.

   
Why Surround in 4.1/5.1/6.1/7.1?

Two-speaker stereo suffers poor "imaging" caused by each ear hearing sound not only from its own speaker, but also "crosstalk" from the speaker intended for the other ear. Think of watching a 3D movie without glasses - each eye sees both images, destroying the illusion. Also, ambience and sounds that should be around and behind are confined instead to 60 in front - only 1/6 of the total panorama. What's better? And what about all the OTHER sound of being at a concert that is all around and behind you?.

    Surround 5.1 is positioned to replace stereo in the home, as it has in the cinema. Record-breaking sales of DVD players and movies with multichannel sound bode well for 5.1's popular acceptance. Broadening the reproduction soundscape to the entire 360 horizontal plane gives much pleasure by enveloping the listener with natural sound. However for music, typically re-releases from multi-miked sessions, there is potential for greater satisfaction. Comparison with a superior technology would measure how acceptable the 5.1 compromise is.
   
Enter Panor-ambiophonics. Turning stereo "inside-out" using two closely-spaced speaker pairs front and back and 4-channel recordings, "PanAmbio" is twin Ambiophonic systems (visit ambiophonics.org for more). For a single listener, PanAmbio is superior to 5.1 in accurate 360 localization, spatial impression, and envelopment - a benchmark of excellence and an alternative for high-quality listening in studio, home theater, car, or amusement ride. With PanAmbio, acoustics, both recording and playback, are critical because subtleties can be discerned. PanAmbio's capabilities are also useful for monitoring for stereo and 5.1 surround production.

 

  For a quick RealAudio "AM radio-quality" demonstration (or download .wma file for higher quality using Windows Media Player) of how Ambio (front only) expands the stereo stage to 120, sit back (typically 5ft or 1.5m; for a laptop 3ft or 1m) so your PC speakers are 20 apart and you are centered between them. Streaming fidelity will be what you'd expect for dial-up data rate, but accurate localization AND spaciousness will be six times wider than your speakers! With a second pair of speakers in back, accurate 360 PanAmbio reproduction would encircle you. Pro evaluation DTS-CDs below have full fidelity from 24bit masters - including significant energy at 15Hz to exercise subwoofers.

 

 
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Trademarks are those of their owners. 2002~03 Robin Miller