item2 Musikalische Interpretation: Aufnahmen, Forschung & Beratung item2
item2 Musikalische Interpretation: Aufnahmen, Forschung & Beratung item2

3D Audio


A. Status quo

The audio world is about to make the transition from stereo and surround to 3-dimensional recording and playback.

In the cinema world, processes such as Dolby Atmos and dts:X have established themselves to a certain extent - however, 3D spatiality in the corresponding films usually only takes place during individual passages and in a strongly effect related manner.

3D spatial music reproduction, however, plays only a marginal role in the audio market. Methods such as Auro 3D and Dolby Atmos, as well as similar methods using the MPEG-H audio standard in the version propagated by Fraunhofer IIS, are apparently not very robust even at the recording stage: successful recordings can only be found in certain music styles and when certain spatial environments are used.

The reproduction in the home audio situation is particularly problematic: it requires an elaborate and precise loudspeaker installation in rooms with suitable geometry, for which the possibilities and acceptance are lacking in a broader circle of music lovers. Even with an installation that meets the specifications, the perceived spatiality usually leaves a lot to be desired, it could be described as "pseudo-diffusivity".

The problem of 3D spatial headphone reproduction remains unsolved:

a. So-called binaural recordings address this reproduction situation, but so far they have almost always been dummy head recordings, which only have a very weak spatial effect,

b. Attempts to simulate loudspeaker reproduction of multi-channel processes via headphones prove to be aesthetically unsatisfactory to a large extent.

In summary: channel-based 3D audio processes (Dolby Atmos, dts:X, Auro 3D, Sony 360) are likely to be on their way to a dead end, and there is no satisfying solution for 3D spatial headphone listening either.


B. Ambisonics and HOA

The "soundfield" technology Ambisonics could offer a way out. With it, the individual audio channels are not assigned to one direction or instrument, but are part of a holistic 3-dimensional sound field. In its original version (today called 1st order Ambisonics) it was developed in the 1970s in Great Britain, but failed commercially in the 1980s and 1990s due to its low spatial resolution, which is unsuitable for professional purposes.

Since about the year 2000, Ambisonics has been further developed, initially in academic circles, towards higher spatial resolution: HOA (Higher Order Ambisonics). The level of spatial resolution depends on the HOA order used, which is also the decisive factor for the processing workload and the required transmission and storage capacity. Meanwhile there are a number of professional tools for audio processing in 3rd order, and already in 2022 recordings and mixes in 5th order could be possible.

However, HOA seems to be unsuitable for music recordings so far, because the listener may not get a satisfying feeling of spatiality. At least the effects work well, similar to the above mentioned channel-based methods in cinema.


C. Enveloping3D

In this confusing and somewhat muddled situation, has invented and developed unexpected solutions (several methods and HOA-algorithms) based on the use of hitherto unknown indirect sound perception mechanisms. These enable a completely new kind of 3D audio that is expected to enter previously unknown sonic dimensions. Enveloping3D also provides a disruptively superior 3D audio solution for future technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), and further applications are expected.

Some of the Enveloping3D methods, as well as the algorithms, are already available as early prototypes, while others of the methods are still at an earlier stage of development.


D. The Effect

The effect on the listener of Enveloping3D-processed 3D audio is similar to the effect of the room acoustics in a good concert hall and, in the course of ongoing development, will probably be even more intense in the future than is possible with excellent natural room acoustics. It also succeeds in resolving a contradiction that is even more prominent with 3D audio than with simple stereo: the listener is used to being (virtually) relatively close to the action (i.e. the instruments as sound sources) - but with 3D audio he rightly expects the spatial experience of a concert hall at the same time, which is only possible with a considerable (virtual) distance to the action, the prerequisite for the unfolding of the spatial information. As is well known, the front rows of seats in a concert hall are not suitable for experiencing the overall sound experience.

Initial experience with recordings processed using the Enveloping3D techniques shows that the listening experience for pop music also benefits from this kind of spatiality to an enormous and not necessarily expected extent, and that properly implemented 3D audio is likely to lead to a "Renaissance of Listening" and a whole new kind of listening culture.


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Enveloping3D Algorithms


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