The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 40 Old 01-28-15, 03:58 PM Thread Starter
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The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

Dolby Atmos took the 3D Immersive Sound universe by storm in the second half of 2014, grabbing headlines and appearing confidently comfortable as a legitimate commercial and Home Theater game-changer. But Dolby isn’t the only show in town. Two other companies have irons in the fire: Auro Technologies and DTS. Today's article is a quick look at the tech behind Immersive Sound and the companies looking to challenge Dolby.



Dolby is one of three companies pushing Immersive Sound.


What’s in the Sound?
One method of creating 3D Immersive Sound is based on the principle of audio objects. Because speakers are deployed in a 3D space (front, rear, sides, and overhead), audio engineers are provided an open canvas to pinpoint specific sounds. Take, for example, the sound of a jet roaring overhead. That sound can exist as an independent audio object completely unshackled from previous fixed channel restrictions, and audio engineers can take advantage of a 3D soundstage to make the jet’s sound move and flow in a more realistic manner.

Additionally, descriptive metadata captures the intended spatial location of specific sounds. Playback systems can use this metadata to properly reproduce sounds in theaters with varying speaker arrays and in our Home Theater environments.

A second method of creating Immersive Sound is purely channel based, akin to our favorite HD formats (DTS-HD MA and TrueHD). Channel configurations include a lower horizontal plane, a mid-level height orientation, and overhead deployments. The resulting use of these speakers allows for “auditory coherence” that tricks the brain into sensing realism.

First Out of the Gate
Dolby Atmos is the most recognizable 3D Sound format, but it isn’t the first. Auro Technologies and its Auro 3D codec first arrived on the scene several years ago. Like Atmos, it has been deployed in theaters (notably fewer theaters, especially in the U.S.) and is limitedly available on consumer gear. Unlike Atmos, Auro doesn’t function on the principle of audio objects, but rather the second method of Immersive Sound described above.



Auro 3D is a channel based 3D Sound technology.


Dozens of films have been coded in Auro 3D, including Penguins of Madagascar, John Wick, Lucy, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One. Significantly fewer titles, however, are currently available on Blu-ray (those available are not notable films). Currently, home users interested in Auro 3D can purchase one of three Auro Technologies AV processors in addition to select Marantz and Denon receivers.

New Kid on the Block
It almost pains me to make any reference to “that” 80’s boy-band, but stick with me folks. The latest entrant into the Immersive Audio business is none other than Dolby’s biggest competitor, DTS. Thus far, details concerning the company’s DTS-X codec have been skimpy (at best) and were just released in the waning days of last December. What we do know is that DTS-X is an object based platform. We also know that DTS believes DTS-X will be the direct successor to their extraordinarily popular DTS-HD Master Audio codec. To date, the company says that nearly 90-percent of the AVR market has agreed to support DTS-X in 2015, including big names such as Anthem, Denon, Integra, Krell, Marantz, McIntosh, Onkyo, Outlaw Audio, Pioneer, and Yamaha.



DTS-X will undoubtedly challenge Dolby Atmos in the U.S. market.


DTS says the official launch of DTS-X will occur in March, so stay tuned for additional information in just a few short months.

What Next?
If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience 3D Immersive Sound, do it. It’s quite a convincing experience and supporting codecs are likely here to stay. The list of Atmos enabled films currently in U.S. theaters is impressive, including blockbusters such as American Sniper and Taken 3. Also, finding an Atmos enabled theater shouldn’t be too difficult (Dolby says that more than 900 screens have been or are scheduled to be equipped with Atmos worldwide). Not forgetting Auro 3D, that's also a commercially plausible option. Alternatively, check around for demo rooms at your local area AV retailers.

Unfortunately, Atmos enable Blu-ray discs are still relatively sparse; only four (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Expendables 3, Step Up All In, Transformers: Age of Extinction) were released last year. But, with a growing list of equipment options and Atmos films in-theater, it’s safe to assume that more are on their way. The real question becomes: When to buy new gear? With the recent announcement of DTS-X, it’s probably wise to wait until March to answer that question. At that time, details concerning the new codec’s deployment (firmware updates versus the necessity of new equipment) will become much clearer.


Image Credits: Dolby, Auro Technologies, DTS
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post #2 of 40 Old 01-28-15, 08:54 PM
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

I love all this technology... but I am not sure what this all means at this point. Its a lot like "4K" and "4G" for the average consumer.

In fact the ITU states : International Telecommunications Union-requirements for 4G standards, requirements for 4G service at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).

So, no one is actually using 4G. No one can really benefit right now from 4K and forget about Atmos, DTSX, Auro whatever because for 90% of general homes in America they are using sound bars, tiny little "HTIB" 5.1 channel surround systems with 8 inch 100 watts subwoofers (and that is being generous.)

I want atmos, and 4K and real 4G but all of this is just some crazy marketing right now in order to sell boxes and gadgets.

I am in the other 10% so I am glad that these things are being developed... I am just stunned by all these "developments" in such a short period of time... something is not right.
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post #3 of 40 Old 01-29-15, 01:40 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

There has certainly been a rush of change in the last 6 months. If anything, the additional pixels found in UHD displays are just an afterthought and practically meaningless in the whole scheme of things. The real meat of the matter are the picture improvements we'll see with HDR, etc. It just so happens that the technology (and delivery abilities) to unlock these doors is just beginning to surface...that's where the push is coming from.

Immersive Audio codecs fall into a similar realm. As you pointed out, practically speaking, Immersive Audio is more important to the general public in commercial applications. In the home environment, its true utility will most likely be in mid-range and high-end gear, where folks like HTS members are looking for every bell and whistle imaginable.
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post #4 of 40 Old 01-29-15, 02:56 PM
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

Many seem to label each new AV technology as a gimmick designed to sell new hardware or release new versions of movies or music in new formats. Companies market better performance and new features to sell boxes, so to speak, but isn't that the whole point of their business? That happens in every industry. If their vision is to achieve the most realistic entertainment experience (whether in the cinema or the home) then why should they not continue to be innovative, and then give consumers the opportunity to experience the newly developed technologies? If Dolby, DTS, Audyssey, Denon, Sony, Samsung, etc, all just said, "well we think this is good enough, no need to make it any better" or "eh, only a few people would use this new feature so let's not even bother with it" they would probably go out of business and the industry would become stagnant. (plus, AV nuts would have nothing to argue about!!)

Sure, HDMI 2.0, 4K UHD, 3D, HDR, HFR, Dolby Atmos all combined are way overkill for the average consumer, but they all make a measurable difference in the way we experience content. I have no interest in 3D, for example, but I think the idea and technology are really cool. The development of 3D has probably had some positive impacts on video processing and displays in general, and it doesn't prevent me from watching 2D content the way I always have.

[I'm not trying to pick on you fchris, and I totally agree with your thoughts regarding 4G]
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post #5 of 40 Old 01-29-15, 03:07 PM
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Very well said! I think the auto industry is similar in this way. It's about evolution.
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post #6 of 40 Old 01-29-15, 03:11 PM
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

Quote:
willis7469 wrote: View Post
Very well said! I think the auto industry is similar in this way. It's about evolution.
Yes, the other hobby I don't have enough money for...
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post #7 of 40 Old 01-29-15, 05:58 PM
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

These new immersive sound delivery formats are awesome. One problem I see any one new to this hobby will surely be totally lost on where to begin. Being relatively new to this hobby myself, sites like HTS are invaluable. Now with multiple sound formats, where to begin. Maybe easy down the road, but probably not cheap to purchase an AVR. to decode 10 formats. But what about the very real and substantive cost of multi coded media to play on these ever increasingly complicated AVRs. My x3100 has a 282 pg manual. Format wars may do a lot to sell products like HTIB just for the ease of purchase and use.
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post #8 of 40 Old 01-29-15, 08:46 PM
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Blainetsuds wrote: View Post
These new immersive sound delivery formats are awesome. One problem I see any one new to this hobby will surely be totally lost on where to begin. Being relatively new to this hobby myself, sites like HTS are invaluable. Now with multiple sound formats, where to begin. Maybe easy down the road, but probably not cheap to purchase an AVR. to decode 10 formats. But what about the very real and substantive cost of multi coded media to play on these ever increasingly complicated AVRs. My x3100 has a 282 pg manual. Format wars may do a lot to sell products like HTIB just for the ease of purchase and use.
Great points. Anyone coming in with the assumption that the only two options are stereo and surround is in for a big surprise. It's the feeling I got when I started shopping for a nicer camera a year or two back. I was totally clueless about what features I'd want and need. All of these advancements can potentially turn the process of choosing a receiver or TV into a nightmare for the average consumer.
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post #9 of 40 Old 02-01-15, 06:32 AM
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

Find an Atmos theater near you: http://www.dolby.com/us/en/find-a-movie-theatre.html

PS - There was not a single one to be found in/around Philly (the #4 DMA)
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post #10 of 40 Old 02-01-15, 07:49 PM
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Re: The Immersive Sound War is Just Getting Started

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willis7469 wrote: View Post
Very well said! I think the auto industry is similar in this way. It's about evolution.
I was driving to the grocery store today.... in my 1997 Jeep Cherokee )with only the front 2 speakers working) listening to the local AM station " Kim Komando Show". A caller in Michigan was talking about how he still uses dial up. Kim was kind of in shock where he could be using a cable modem or DSL. Not sure why this gentleman just gave up at the dial up modem but I guess we all will give up at some point on keeping up!!
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