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As evidenced by yesterday’s article about further DTS:X firmware rollouts, there’s no doubt that immersive sound is the present and future darling of home theater audio. It’s happening, folks…and it’s happening fast. The road to market for two companies (Dolby and DTS) has been relatively smooth simply because DTS-HD MA and TrueHD have monopolized the Blu-ray audio space for years. They’re names that we know and are associate with spectacular audio, making it that much easier for both companies to market their versions of object-based immersive sound. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for newness – a third player, if you will – and Europe’s Auro Technologies (Auro-3D) is giving us just that.




My first opportunity to hear a true Auro-3D demo happened at CEDIA 2015 and my ears were absolutely smitten by the experience. The sound I heard was unshackled with an airy atmospheric presentation that appeared to be completely decoupled from the demo room’s 12-channel speaker system. While I concede that my brief Auro run-in featured a specialized (likely optimized) demo track, it was more than enough to prove that the company’s channel-based immersive audio technology works and can sound phenomenal.

The biggest issue for Auro in the North American market has been gaining traction. The company has made decent worldwide inroads on the commercial cinema side of the equation (with notable titles including: The Croods, Turbo, Elysium, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Lucy, and Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1), but its home penetration in the United States has been limited. Auro has told me that their home theater market presence in Europe and Asia is quite strong, which explains their survival and continued push to create new products.



GalaxisAudio's Mensa Processor (available now).


Recently, Auro Technologies’ Home Entertainment and Luxury Audio Product Division arrived at ISE in Amsterdam with two new product lines in tow. Dubbed GalaxisAudio and StormAudio, these new product lines have been created as a platform to deliver the company’s incredible Auro-3D experience to home theater enthusiasts. Auro says the GalaxisAudio product line is intended to provide high-end audio solutions with an emphasis on ‘luxury design,” while StormAudio is meant for home theater and multi-room distribution with a focus on audio quality, ease of integration, and reliability.

GalaxisAudio is launching with four product lines that include two standalone sound processors, an integrated AV amplifier, and two power amplifiers. The processing sections of this gear offer decoding of Atmos, Auro-3D, DTS Neo:X and both TrueHD and DTS-HD MA support for up to 16 channels of audio. Buyers will have to pay an add-on fee for access to Atmos, DTS:X, and upgraded HDMI hardware. One of the more interesting products is the Taurus 14 power amplifier, which offers a whopping 14 channels of Class D amplification (200W/8ohm). Pricing for GalaxisAudio gear definitely falls in the high-end category (sound processors range from $14,000 to $24,000 and amplifiers are between $8,000 and $10,000).



StormAudio's SSP 16-3D Processor (available April 2016).


StormAudio offers pricing that lands only a few thousand less than that of GalaxisAudio ($14,000 to $23,000 for processors, $7,000-$9,000 for amplifiers). The biggest StormAudio power amplifier features 14 channels of Class D power (200W/8ohm), while the SSP 16-3D processor supports 16 fully configurable audio channels along with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compatibility. Unlike the GalaxisAudio gear, StormAudio ships its processors with support for Atmos and Auro-3D along with other common codecs.

Both GalaxisAudio and StormAudio offer a separate add-on DIRAC Live kit for use with their top of the line processors (Mensa and SSP 16-3D) for an additional charge of $2,000 (available through dealers only).


Product rollout for the two new lines of equipment is staggered over the next several months, as follows:

StormAudio
SSP 16-3D Processor: $23,000 (April 2016)
SSP 13-3D Processor: $14,000 (April 2016)
PA 8.200 Amplifier: $7,000 (May 2016)
PA 14.200 Amplifier: $9,000 (May 2016)

GalaxisAudio
Mensa Processor: $24,000 (Available Now)
Crux Processor: $14,000 (Now)
Mensa Atmos + DTS:X hardware and software upgrade: $5,000 (Now)
Crux Atmos hardware and software upgrade: TBD (TBD)
HDMI hardware and software upgrade: $800 (Now)
Taurus 8 Amplifier: $8,000 (May, 2016)
Taurus 14 Amplifier: $14,000 (May 2016)

For more information visit galaxisaudio.com and stormaudio.com on the web.


Image Credits: Auro Technologies
 

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I love Auro 3D. I took the exact matching bookshelf speakers for my bed channels and mounted as specified, flipped on the Auromatic upmixer on my Marantz 7702 processor and am enjoying movies, concerts, and basically everything like never before. If you are wondering about the various immersive formats I would simply suggest to use the format that allows you to use the best speaker for your height channels. I like to run my height channels full range, crossing over at 60 hz. When a helicopter flys over you FEEL it. I am sure those traditional ceiling speakers and Atmos enabled speakers are fine for rain drops and leafs blowing around. The Auro layout makes it easy to use full range book shelfs as height channels and the upmixer is fantastic.
 

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I love Auro 3D. I took the exact matching bookshelf speakers for my bed channels and mounted as specified, flipped on the Auromatic upmixer on my Marantz 7702 processor and am enjoying movies, concerts, and basically everything like never before. If you are wondering about the various immersive formats I would simply suggest to use the format that allows you to use the best speaker for your height channels. I like to run my height channels full range, crossing over at 60 hz. When a helicopter flys over you FEEL it. I am sure those traditional ceiling speakers and Atmos enabled speakers are fine for rain drops and leafs blowing around. The Auro layout makes it easy to use full range book shelfs as height channels and the upmixer is fantastic.

Wouldn't disagree... do you have in-ceiling Atmos speakers? I'd be curious to hear a direct comparison of Atmos material played on a 7.1.4 system vs upmixed by Auro on an 11-channel Auro-3D set-up...
 

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Wouldn't disagree... do you have in-ceiling Atmos speakers? I'd be curious to hear a direct comparison of Atmos material played on a 7.1.4 system vs upmixed by Auro on an 11-channel Auro-3D set-up...
I have 4 Paradigm Reference 20 book shelf speakers I use for front and rear height channels set to large in my speaker setup and crossed over at 60 hz. The speakers are mounted on tall 80 inch stands I can move around and compare both Auro and Atmos placements.I think native Atmos content sounds great using the Auro front and rear height channels layout as well as the Atmos top and rear positions.
As for upmixers it is no contest, I prefer Auro 3D for movies and music.
To my ear the speakers you use for height channels are much more important than the codec you choose. Choose a speaker that most closely matches your bed channels. I find listening to concerts much more enjoyable using immersive audio. Music just doesn't sound right coming from directly above your head using Atmos upmixing. Using Auro it feels like you ae in the concert hall. For movies it depends. Sometimes rain drops sound better coming directly over head but flyovers sound much better panning in the Auro layout. Auro does use one overhead speaker so you can still get the directly overhead effect if you choose to include it. I would get the best fullest range speaker you can for height channels and then choose a format based on the content you like. I like streaming services such as Amazon Qello, Broadway HD and Concert Vault for live music performances and Atmos upmixing is not very pleasant to my ear. I even prefer Audysey DSX and the older DTS-Neo-X compared to DSU for music. As for movies I think both Atmos and Auro are fine with an edge to Auro for upmixing abd an edge to Atmos for native content. Between the both of these formats I don't really feel the need for DTS-X yet.

You can see my complete system listed on my profile.
 
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