David Kennedy Associates 2832 Vista Mariana Carlsbad, CA 92009 US

Immersive Sound COVERAGE

Traditional stereo sound


Traditional sound reinforcement with left/right audio will mean for large proportions of the audience they do not enjoy the benefit of true stereo image. Graphic by Martin.

Immersive Sound Technology


With several speakers across the stage,  the audience is covered better.  As a result the ‘sweet spot’ becomes a ‘sweet area’ and walking the room the image is consistent.

Immersive SOUND Technology

Not all immersive systems are created equal



James King of Martin Audio: End-users should beware of phrases such as ‘360-degree sound’ or systems that purport to be immersive but in fact rely on old channel-based technologies. This is the exactly where Sound Adventures comes into its own. Our use of object-based audio means we are not limited by speaker position – we can place audio where we want the audience to experience it. This is a critical feature for live industries. All of this is entirely free of any audible artefacts such as comb filtering. Of course, the more the speakers deployed, the higher the granularity and more precise and object can be depicted. Channel-based surround audio has drawbacks in that the quality of playback strongly depends on the speaker arrangement during production; it’s not possible to provide a fuller, richer sound if you expand or reduce your playback system, and offers little adjustment by end user. In order to experience the production in the same way as imagined during the creation process you need to have the same speaker layout. Otherwise you lose the relationship between the channels (speakers) and have to remix everything again. The SARA II Premium Rendering Engine from ASA (Astro Spatial Audio), which is at the heart of Sound Adventures, utilizes true object-based audio providing full control over position, level, acoustic characteristics and distance, thereby delivering scalability – a production can be transferred between entirely different venues with completely different loudspeaker configurations and yet retain the same performance simply by entering the X, Y, Z coordinates of the speaker layout. Even with what we may think of as a traditional ‘stereo’ set-up for a concert, for example, our object-based approach can create a far wider and more enveloping stereo field than with a traditional set-up. It’s also possible to achieve 3D, immersive sound with far fewer speakers than in the past, with ASA, we have achieved great results with a simple 5.1 system.

Immersive categories

Firstly,  A-type, Analog I/O type of specialized immersive DSPs are bundled – by a designer/integrator that is expert in immersive systems design and installation – with 3rd. party components. Outboard’s TiMax DSP originated processing of dynamic delay-matrix localization and immersive audio with object-based spatial audio. It has yet to be announced if Dolby Labs will expand beyond Atmos for cinemas and clubs, with a live-sound control & DSP variant.

Secondly, B-type (branded) immersive solutions were covered last month; these immersive live-sound systems are essentially single-source (turnkey) solutions, including everything from the immersive processor to the routers, amplifiers, and loudspeakers. They provide pre-tested and specialized components, software and tech-support, with the inherent cost premium and product choice limitations (much like how Apple tests mac. apps. for stability on their computers). Branded-turnkey systems are currently available from d&b audiotechnik and L-Acoustics, with Meyer Sound working to adapt their live-theatre surround system for concert sound use.

The C-type are partnered immersive solutions that are from strategic partnerships – built between key hardware and software manufacturers – to collaborate on a packaged solution that the manufacturing partnership supports – typically through specially trained dealers. Such specialized immersive processor manufacturers include Astro Spatial and Flux SPAT apps; partnered with Alcons, Clair, EAW, Martin Audio, among other amplifiers and loudspeakers.

D-type are DIY immersive systems with a 3rd. party, or “roll your own” DAW (digital audio workstation), with possible savings, along with many component and software (plug-in) options, and all the associated risks mentioned above. DIY immersive systems can be built from a variety of hardware (see sidebar for DAW/PC hardware requirements) and software combinations. For software sources see P-type and the quote from Dr. Caulkins to follow.

E-type: Electronic-Acoustic Systems simulate classical concert halls, for instance acoustic/hall simulation systems (with acoustic gain & reverb.) are available from: E-coustic Systems, Meyer Sound and SIAP.

F-type: FX-surround sound systems are for play-back back in cinemas, clubs and live-theatre, such surround sound components, software, and systems are available from: Dolby, Envelop, Figure 53, Meyer & Outboard.

I-type: In-Ear immersive DSP from Klang Technologies can be added to a live-sound stage monitoring system.

M-type: Mixing consoles that control 3rd. party immersive DSP are currently available from: Avid, DiGiCo and LAWO. This integration is currently offered with Avid S6L Live Sound console via plugins or using generic OSC commands with mixing console offering OSC control, such as the Digico SD series. The power of OSC means that any third-party system with this capability can potentially be part of the immersive audio control. The Yamaha Rivage with L-Acoustics L-ISA DeskLink will be available spring '20.
N-type: Network switches (with redundancy) for live-sound and media systems are available from Luminex and other generic sources.

P-type: Post production software programs for immersive play-back include: Ambisonics, Dolby Atmos, Envelop, Flux SPAT, Ina GRM, and many more. Avid Pro Tools is a leader in DAW hardware and software for recording post production. For more on software programs for immersive sound see the following quotes and Sidebar articles.

S-type: Small-format immersive systems (post control/source) for presentation system or theme park play-back are available from ImmerGo (compact speakers with amplifier and digital network input).

T-type: Talent tracking systems by BlackTrax, Stagetracker, and Zactrack, can automatically track stage sources.