I attended the California Institute of the Arts – Music Composition program in the late 80s after studying with Mel Powell and Morton Subotnick among others. One of my closest friends — also an electronic music geek and audio engineer (we collaborated on the sound design for numerous Contemporary Music Festivals and the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival concerts) — has remained a friend after 30 plus years and has just retired from directing the UC San Diego Music Technology program. Peter is very smart in the world of music and technology and also a very fine composer (I heard an immersive composition from 24 loudspeakers in his lab that was gorgeous!). We’ve managed to get together at audio conventions and other events over the years and recently shared some time at the Los Angeles AES Convention. As a result, he invited me to come to San Diego to consult with his partners in a new audio venture, experience some new demos, and check out his lab at the Qualcomm IT building.
Mona and I headed to San Diego this past Friday. I spent the morning at the company headquarters in La Jolla and was introduced to the CEO, the chairman of their board, and a few members of the technical team. What Peter and a UCSD graduate student developed at the university and have now licensed to his new venture is basically a sound bar made up of 12 small drivers with a separate low frequency driver. When a listener sits about 3-4 feet in front of the speaker array, the sound experience is fully immersive — the same as a binaural recording delivered through headphones — without the need for headphones! It reminded my of the BACCH SP (Stereo Purifier) processor that Edgar Choueiri of Princeton University has developed and is marketing — for $55k. You can read the initial article by clicking here.
It works! The sound image produced from the right type of program material (especially binaural content) using the MyBeam™ technology is very impressive. It is equal to — or IMHO exceeds — the quality of sound experience produced by the BACCH SP process and costs about 90% less! This is product that is ideal for gamers who sit for hour in front of their workstations. The linear array cleverly produces multiple beams of discrete channel information — separate left and right signals — that are targeted to the listener’s ear with a minimum of crosstalk. Unlike headphones, the sound “objects” appear to be floating in space around the exterior of your head — just like they do in real life. It’s not perfect and the degree of perceived localization is dependent on the spatialization quotient of the source material. Obviously, binaural recordings are the best. Peter played a track from one of David Chesky’s binaural discs, which was both creepy and amazing. David’s voice was in the space where he recorded the demo.
My own background in binaural sound is quite extensive. My doctoral dissertation was on the technology as applied to a musique concrète composition I wrote in 1986. The commercial applications for “beam forming” are numerous. Imagine the immersive music/sound possibilities for automotive audio reproduction, for special venue programming, audiophile room modeling, and personal audio delivery. The demos that I heard were sonically far more compelling than any imagined fidelity increase attributed to reducing “time smearing” or realigning data words with a clock regenerator. We’re on the dawn of a new era in experiential and immersive audio delivery. I’m about ready to move from high-resolution audio to “multidimensional personal audio” (MPA for short — hmmm, maybe there’s a new venture in my future). Stay tuned.
If you’re interested in finding out more about this revolutionary technology, please email me privately.