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.