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Auro-3D, the new surround?

15 September 2015

Loudspeakers, Amplifier, Players, FLAC SURROUND, DSD SURROUND, Naxos, PENTATONE, Channel Classics

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Right now there are several new trends in surround sound. Auro-3D is one of them and it is said to be the next thing in surround audio. Its inventor, Wilfried Van Baelen, owner of the Galaxy Studios, wanted to create an immersive sound system that would be able to deliver a truly 3D sound experience.

After several years of experimenting he came up with an extra horizontal layer that can be added to a 5.1 setup. This second layer consists of minimum four speakers. They are placed on a 30 degree angle, two at the front and two at the rear. Adding this extra layer means that the sound can be placed not only horizontally, but also vertically. Elevator scenes for example can be pretty frightening in Auro-3D. But even in the musical context this extra layer can contribute to a more natural listening experience. Think of an organ that is placed behind and above the orchestra. In a standard 5.1 setup you wouldn’t hear that the organ is positioned several meters above the orchestra but in Auro-3D you can! But it’s not only the placement of the instruments, also the reflections of the ceiling contribute to a more natural listening experience.

However, this is just the smallest Auro-3D setup made up of ‘just’ nine speakers and a subwoofer. The Auro-3D protocol can contain a third layer, the so called ‘Voice of God’-channel. A small speaker has to be placed right atop the listeners' heads meaning there are actually three horizontal layers! So the horizontal and vertical placing of music sources can be very precise. But there are even bigger Auro-3D systems possible. The 3D AuroTorium Dubbing Stage in the Galaxy studios is equipped with a 22.1 Auro-3D system containing a 59-loudspeaker monitoring system. For the real world the Auro 9.1 & 10.1 systems will be the most popular systems.

Is Auro-3D a step forward?

Having more speakers doesn’t actually mean a better sound. The provided audio has to be carefully mixed and placed around all the speakers. But there are a lot of advantages. By adding more speakers, the available space for all the instruments increases. Instead of just two (stereo) or five (surround) speakers, there is an extra dimension available for engineers to place all the music sources. Since every instrument or audio source has more space it can have a larger dynamic range. Compression and limiting are not needed much anymore, providing an even more natural listening experience. All audio can be exposed in its most natural way. This immersive - or virtual - sound experience really adds something to the 3D-screens that are available these days.

The future

Right now there are around 550 Auro-3D audio systems worldwide, mostly in theatres and cinemas. The Auro-3D library is growing and growing and it won’t take long till classical music is available in this format. Our partner and worldwide leading high resolution recording studio Polyhymnia, have already set up an Auro-3D system, with Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus speakers. B&W Nautilus 800s are used for left & right, 802s for center and the rears and 805s for the second horizontal layer. The first listening sessions were a unique experience. Now, music can be played the way it’s supposed to sound! Surround matures.

Remko van der Weerd
Join me in the primephonic community

Discussion

Veronica Neo posted 2 years ago

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Veronica Neo posted 2 years ago

I have had the privilege of attending a demo session at Polyhymnia's new Auro audio set-up and I was totally blown away by the expansive and consuming sound projection. Looking forward to more articles like such and by any chance, will there be another Circle of Experts session in The Netherlands?

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posted 2 years ago

Indeed very impressive the first demo! Great sounds

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Jevon van Dijk posted 2 years ago

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Jevon van Dijk posted 2 years ago

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Don McIntosh posted 2 years ago

I really enjoy Remko's articles. Keep them coming. I wonder how Auro-3D compares with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X.

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Jim Fletcher posted 9 months ago

Are there any tracks to download?

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Prof. Robert Jewell posted 4 months ago

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Prof. Robert Jewell posted 4 months ago

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Prof. Robert Jewell posted 4 months ago

It does not sound to me (please pardon the bad pun) that the system described would be able to give an adequate rendition — or experience — of the concert hall mentioned when the music indicated that the organist was to include in his part, the use of the 32 foot stopped pipe. ;-)

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posted 2 months ago

"Having more speakers doesn’t actually mean a better sound"
excellent!

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