Stereo, 5.1 and Immersive Recordings
I can’t find the FaceBook post right now, but Morten Lynberg and his Norway-based 2L record label continue to push their Auro3D 9.1 productions. The post described three different types of music production: stereo, 5.1 surround and “immersive” surround. Perhaps mono should also be included in this list. The use of the word immersive to describe his productions is what caught my attention because I use the word all of the time to describe my 5.1 “stage” perspective mixes.
Whenever I do a demo, I start with the straight stereo mix and then move to the 5.1 “audience” POV before finishing with the “immersive”, put “you on the stage” mix. I personally prefer the most aggressive mixes because there lots of space for the instruments and the sound comes at you from all directions…like you’re actually in the band. However, Morten takes things to another level…literally.
He uses a large microphone tree to place the main microphones in a proper 7.1 configuration and augments that set with 4 more microphones elevated about 6 feet higher. These are the “height channels” that are mixed using Auro3D to additional speakers in a 9.1 set up. I had the chance to experience a couple of 2L’s amazing 9.1 Auro3D recordings at the recent CES 2015 show. They certainly offered a very compelling “immersive surround music experience” that transported me to the actual space where the recording session was held. And the height channels did enhance the sense of total immersion…but it wasn’t dramatically more than what I experience with my own tracks.
Just how many channels does it take to recreate a live music event? Apparently, the more channels the better. Dolby Atmos and Auro3D are competing to put more and more speakers into postproduction mix stages AND spread their technologies out to the theater chains. It’s expensive but I like the experience. However, we don’t go to specialized venues to hear prerecorded music…we do that at home, on the go, or in our automobiles. I’ve got a 5.1 surround system in my 2005 Acura TL and I love listening to my 5.1 DVD-Audio titles. It feels pretty “immersive” to me.
Surround music mixes…especially aggressive ones…are more enjoyable than stereo. I just can’t fathom how anyone would choose stereo over a great surround mix but I recognize that people do. However, the Auro3D mixes that 2L is doing use the additional speakers to further recreate a real space while I use multiple stereo pairs of microphones to enhance the music. It’s hard enough to get people to move from stereo to 5.1. I shudder to think how many home theaters have a 9.1 AUro3D setup in them.
When surround music becomes the norm for music delivery…and it will at some point…difference producers and engineers will use the additional speakers in a variety of ways. Of course, there’s room for any approach that enhances the music listening experience. I certainly enjoy 2L’s records but my own approach is more intimate and perhaps less real. If you haven’t heard anything from 2L, I highly recommend checking out some of their surround tracks.
7 thoughts on “Stereo, 5.1 and Immersive Recordings”
I concur with surround recordings sounding better than stereo and I did have a 5.1 Tannoy monitor setup for this. But waiting for over 10 years for a selection of suitable recordings I enjoy. I’d given up late last year and sold this setup returning to stereo and upping the quality of this setup. Largely my surround system was redundant and unused. Perhaps I may return sometime in the future.
Is this where I re-post my post of a few days ago, that proposes 8 levels of high res audio, HRA1-8 etc? heh heh. I could even add a 9th for mono, just for you Mark 🙂
HRA1 = 7 discrete (no upmixing) horizontal channels minimum, plus native height/Atmos mixing, plus minimum 24/96 bitrate throughout, lossless audio
HRA2 = 5 horizontal discrete (no upmixing), no height, minimum 24/96 throughout, lossless
HRA3 = 2 horizontal, no height, minimum 24/96 throughout, lossless
HRA4 = CD standard stereo, DDD
HRA5 = Any analog at any stage
HRA6 = Anything that would have qualified above but does not comply with R128 of BS1770
HRA7 = Lossy compression, complies with R128 of BS1770
HRA8 = Lossy, not R128
HRA9 = Mono!
Then a ‘+’ after each of the above if provenance is guaranteed i.e. from the original mic feed to the downloaded file, it meets the designated minimum resolution and documents the actual resolutions used in each step.
Not very serious at the industry level, of course, but fun for the hobby consumer to think about where his ‘treasures’ fit on the hierarchy.
Since you mentioned height, are you aware of any music productions utilizing Atmos? Isn’t it the obvious candidate to be the carrier for such 3D audio — due to its marketability?
To all reading this, 2L’s Souvenir I and II on Blu ray will do the trick.
“When surround music becomes the norm for music delivery…and it will at some point…”
Mark, Although I love the sound of a good surround recording I’m not sure I agree with you on that point.
I’ve been actively involved in surround sound since the early 70’s. I had a 4 channel Dolby matrix system with SQ and QS decoding in it’s earliest days, and have either been involved or aware of just about everything that’s came since. In the end all the different approaches have failed mainly due to general public dis-interest, up to and including the DVD-A’s and SACD’s
In today’s world, a lot of the general public have 5.1 or better home theater systems with the built in ability to just pop in a surround mastered Blu-Ray to achieve HD multi channel music playback of fantastic quality. But sadly I still have yet to see either a major marketing promotion of the system to the general public, or any large demand for the media that is already available outside of a small niche group of audiophiles interested in the surround music experience.
It’s never been easier for Joe Average to avail himself of the best there’s ever been in the “emersive” surround experience, I guess only time will tell if your right Mark, and that enough people will take advantage of today’s opportunities or whether it once will once again die on the vine do to dis-interest.
My experience with 40 years of surround sound does not bode well for it’s future but I do hope for it’s success. 🙁
Sal, it may well be wishful thinking on my part. But with the advent of digital processing in Smartphones etc…I see virtualized surround happening more and more. The unfortunate part is that the labels and artists aren’t creating surround mixes of their projects.
We need to create and in a big hurry before CDs die, a dual layer Blu-Ray/CD, to replace the dead SACD and price it about the same as a CD. Obsolete the CD and make the dual layer product the one and only std. We’ve learned the hard lessons of format wars too many times. When Joe Average learns how good his CD sounds when he pops it in his 5.1 BluRay HT we may slowly start a revolution in surround music. The key here is convenient in both media and equipment.
I have a a couple of stereo downloads from 2L both in 24/192. I also have one of their MC blu-rays. While the music frankly doesn’t thrill me for the most part on the blu-ray, it is the Winter Solstice release, the surround presentation sounds superb.