The Audio Format Evolution
Stereo playback as we know it for more than half a century uses two loudspeakers placed in an equilateral triangle in front of the listening position. With the listener exacly sitting in the so called sweet spot, this setup can reproduce a frontal localization, e.g. of an ensemble on stage or the band in front of us. To a certain extent it is possible to perceive depth and distance in good recordings as long as we find ourselves in a pretty neutral playback environment regarding it's acoustics and stay exactly in the sweet spot area.
Surround sound was the next milestone in audio technology introducing additional speakers around the listener. For example 5.1 surround with an additional center speaker and two speakers behind the listener affords an acoustic envelopment that already comes a lot closer to a natural impression of timbres and space.
Finally, immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D, etc. add the still missing height information to music recordings. The full reproduction of sound in all spatial dimensions becomes possible with the addition of surround and height channels. The result is not only a much more natural listening experience, but also a significaltly increased size of the listening area.
Listening to immersive music content with an array of front, surround and height speakers provides of course the most enveloping and authentic experience. However, there are quite a few other ways to enjoy immersive records acommodating a number of different playback situations:
For mobile listening immersive audio can also be consumed using headphones. With so called binaural audio technology a virtual representation of the three dimensional recording is rendered. The result can be played back using common mobile devices like smartphones.
Another way of consuming immersive content are modern TV soundbars. Taking advantage of reflective surfaces in your listening room and with the help of complex audio processing these devices are to a certain degree able to deliver an enveloping sound experience. Some models add a few satellite speakers around the listeners for further improvement of the enveloping sound field.
Finally immersive sound is also getting more and more attention in car audio: today's sound systems in cars involve many speakers all around the listning area in the cockpit making it an ideal environment for three dimensional music playback.
We will soon talk in further detail about different scenarios for the immersive listening experience at home. Stay tuned for upcoming articles by signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page. Take care!