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"As if musicians were sitting around you" - For whom 3D audio is worthwhile

The listening impression of live music can hardly be replaced.

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"As if musicians were sitting around you" - For whom 3D audio is worthwhile

The listening impression of live music can hardly be replaced. Or does it? At least that's what a technology called immersive audio streaming promises. 3D audio or spatial audio are other terms that are largely used interchangeably.

3D audio is like surround sound's big brother. However, while surround systems such as 5.1 or 7.1 have the number of speakers in their name, 3D audio is not tied to a specific number of speakers.

Rather, it is about sound objects that are placed or moved freely in space, always adapted to the available loudspeakers. And while 3D audio was originally developed for film, the concept is said to work for music as well.

What does that bring? "More spatiality, more depth, you can perceive the instruments in a more differentiated way," says the Munich-based 3D audio producer Martin Rieger. "You have the feeling that the musicians are sitting around you." At home, this can work with a single soundbar or WiFi speaker, as long as they are 3D-compatible.

This also applies to headphones. You also have to pay attention to the 3D compatibility of the player. Older smartphones or tablets may not be able to handle 3D audio formats.

Two formats have become established for streaming 3D music: Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos Music. "The former is based on a codec developed by the Fraunhofer Institute," explains Rieger.

In addition, in combination with Sony's "Headphones Connect" app, it is possible to further increase the immersive listening experience through personalization. The individual ear shape is taken into account.

Dolby Atmos, on the other hand, comes from the cinema and home cinema sector. "It was probably only a matter of time before the music market was tackled," says Rieger. Sony and Dolby would work with various major labels to be able to offer new albums, but also older music for streaming in 3D format.

But not all music lovers are convinced of 3D audio. "This is just another attempt to sell something new to technology-loving people without a clear perspective," says Wolfgang Saul, owner of a hi-fi studio in Oberhausen. 3D audio is "a great thing in terms of the idea", but not necessary for the perfect sound.

Saul is an advocate of two-channel music reproduction. His credo: "Stereophony shows us the three-dimensional world in a natural way."

Martin Rieger, who works intensively with this technology, also limits with regard to music: "There are many titles that sound better in stereo than in 3D." Not every genre goes so well with 3D audio such as jazz or classical music, according to the expert. However, various pop or electro exceptions confirmed the rule.

This probably also includes "Kraftwerk 3D", produced by Tom Ammermann, who is considered an immersive audio pioneer. "It was also my inspiration to produce the album in 3D, at first they only thought about 7.1," says Ammermann in "Sound

Another trend in music streaming concerns quality. On the one hand it is about Hi-Res, an abbreviated notation for High Resolution, which describes high-resolution music data that should go beyond CD quality. On the other hand, it is about the fact that this data is lossless (lossless) compressed.

If you also want to get 3D or Hi-Res from the music streaming services, you usually have to pay between 15 and 20 euros a month for a corresponding subscription instead of the usual around ten euros. In return, the providers promise recordings up to studio quality.

However, lossless sound quality is not necessarily something for the general public, but says Martin Rieger: “With a high MP3 quality, you are already very close to lossless audio. In a blind test, the vast majority would not even be able to tell the difference.”

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