The
Basics
Computer
Audio
The
Details
System
Configuration
The
Credentials
The
Development
The
Music
The 3D Audio
Experience
Headphones
vs. Speakers
The
Appendix

THE 3D AUDIO EXPERIENCE

But just imagine all of the many musical parts in the above tracks being mixed and performed on a SQ 3D sound system. I have spent some of my recent research experimenting with programming a three dimensional audio experience and when the mix is done correctly it sounds awesome. You can actually walk over and sit/stand next to the location in the room where one of the several drum parts is being played. And you hear an entirely different sound mix in that location than you would have if you walked across the room and sit/stand next to where one of the guitar parts is being played. Exactly as if you were standing in the same room. And our ears can accurately identify those sounds at their apparent sources - from any location in the room. Probably the most accurate statement is that my ears could/did.

While our ears immediately accept the existence of the elevation element and do not react to its addition as being out of the ordinary because it accurately replicates our normal audio environment, when you do eliminate the elevation element after having heard it our ears immediately perceive the loss of that audio dimension.

So the important question here is - how can you miss something you have never heard/experienced? I remember pretty much the same situation existed when quadraphonic audio was first introduced in the 1970’s. You had to personally hear and experience quadraphonic sound yourself to properly appreciate the improvements the upgrade from stereo to quadraphonic provided to your listening experience. The key words in that sentence are “improvements to your listening experience”. And now, as back then, content in the new format is absolutely necessary to demonstrate that difference/improvement and create a demand/market for 3D audio systems.

Another perspective – Even though early four channel sound was matrixed from two speakers and was noticeably different from normal stereo sound from those same two speakers, discrete four channel sound was even more noticeably different than the matrixed version by orders of magnitude. And now, while octophonic sound approximated from four speakers with no elevation element seems to be the current state of the art for so-called “octophonic sound”, discrete octophonic (3D) sound will be exponentially more different from any other sound format that has preceded it, especially those audio systems that have claimed to be “octophonic” but lack the elevation element.

While the six directions of movement - left, right, front, rear, up and down – will still be relevant for the sound programmer, in true three dimensional sound there is no default left or right or front or rear orientation as far as the listener is concerned - except as defined by the direction the listener happens to be facing. As the listener turns around (inside the sound cube/space) they are literally completely surrounded by sound - not only on the front, rear, left and right sides but also including the top and bottom - if the sound mix was done correctly. And because human ears are much more sensitive from left to right than from front to rear, by placing certain stereo sounds/effects in opposing locations in the sound cube (and changing those positions!) you can motivate the listener to at least turn their heads, if not their entire body, to be able to fully perceive and enjoy those stereo effects/phenomenon.

In fact, when I am listening while sitting in that “sweet spot” in the center of the sound cube, I cannot stop turning my head because every different direction presents a different audio mix, and sounds of interest from behind me cause me to turn my head/body to hear those sounds better. And then back again to another direction for the same reason.

Again, as when quadraphonic sound was first introduced, the listener really has to personally experience the immense difference between approximated octophonic and discrete octophonic (and how that translates to an increase in their listening enjoyment) for the listener to be able to perceive that difference even exists because there is no previous frame of reference? My preliminary research indicates to me that currently available surround sound audio systems simply cannot compete with the immersive experience provided by a properly programmed stereo quadraphonic (three dimensional) audio environment.

I immediately discovered that programming a three dimensional audio experience was both similar and different at the same time from mixing audio in either stereo or quadraphonic. Similar in that a sound source is still assigned to a set of outputs, the difference being that rather than being limited to assigning a sound source to a position between a maximum of four speakers that sound source can now be assigned to a position between a minimum of four speakers and a maximum of eight speakers. And it is the manner in which those eight speakers are configured that provides the exponential difference.

Because our two ears can assimilate a three dimensional audio environment - regardless of multiple sound sources and their positions and directions in that environment - listening to music in a three dimensional audio environment is no longer a passive experience done sitting still and facing in one direction. Now, with the multitude of sound sources surrounding the listener, the desire to hear all of them equally well literally forces the listener to repeatedly turn their head/body to better hear the three dimensional mix. So now you will want to sit in a swivel chair while listening to three dimensional music?

And once again, there are no such concepts as front, left, right or rear in a true three dimensional environment? Whereas both stereo and quadraphonic inherently impose those limitations. Stereo because there is no front or rear element. The two stereo speakers are always in front by default. And quadraphonic because the vast majority of quadraphonic audio systems are configured to enhance the home theater experience and thus are configured to enhance the viewing experience, rather than provide an immersive three-dimensional audio experience in and of itself. But, in the most basic terms, from the listener’s viewpoint, any designation of front in a three-dimensional environment pretty much depends on what direction the listener happens to be facing, for whatever reason.

Looking into the near future of three dimensional audio systems, because of the three dimensional audio accuracy inherent in a stereo quadraphonic configuration I think it is the virtual reality consumer market that holds the most immediate relevance for a discrete three dimensional audio system, rather than aim initial marketing focus at upgrading the current home surround sound market to three dimensional audio. But again, as with the debut of quadraphonic, creating content in the upgraded 3D format is a necessary element prior to the launch of any such marketing.

One of the trending directions for virtual reality consumer products is the computer gaming market. Since the beginning of the digital revolution, the gaming market has been the driving force supporting advancements in computer technology - the “early adopters” who are willing to pay the extra money needed to get the most recent upgrades. I would not think this advancement/enhancement would be any different. And, apart from the increased cost for the additional speakers and amplifiers, which can be quite significant by itself - the only requirement to upgrade to three dimensional sound is the two sound cards. Everything else can be accomplished using (free!) software.

Each of the SoundBlaster sound cards (Model SB0400) I use were purchased on eBay for less than fifty dollars each. I did that because of my limited budget and to illustrate from the very beginning that the additional audio hardware requirement is not significant, either in hardware requirements or cost.

Again looking to the future, when lasers and holograms will eliminate the need for either a video screen or video glasses, the headset will no longer be needed for either audio OR video. It will be a true three dimensional immersive environment that will rely on precise and accurate coordination and synchronization between the audio and video (the location of the sound of a fly buzzing around your head will be accurately synced to the holographic animation of that fly buzzing around your head), and the computer will share the exact same three dimensional space in its calculations for both audio and video renderings. The audio and the video will be synced based on a common origin point from which their three dimensions are calculated. The keyframe position/timing information from the animation/video will be used to position and move the sound in perfect sync. And with a fast enough, or large enough, network of computers that will be done in real-time.


The
Basics
Computer
Audio
The
Details
System
Configuration
The
Credentials
The
Development
The
Music
The 3D Audio
Experience
Headphones
vs. Speakers
The
Appendix

All Content is © Copyright 2013-2017
by Chaz Williams
All Rights Reserved