Catch the immersive audio wave

Wave field synthesis is slowly evolving in terms of technology and market potential. Tim Kridel investigates how vendors are reducing cost and complexity in a bid to break the audio technology out of its niche.

Wave field synthesis (WFS) audio technology has been around for more than a decade, but for a variety of reasons, it’s languished as a niche play in the pro AV market. A few developments over the past year suggest that WFS might be poised for wider adoption.

In June, the Fraunhofer Digital Media Technology Institute (IDMT) teamed with Shure Europe on a WFS system – branded as Atmosphea – at the Hamburg planetarium. The installation is noteworthy partly because it uses fewer loudspeakers than previous WFS deployments in order to reduce the system’s cost. High loudspeaker densities are a major reason for the price premium that’s been a barrier to WFS adoption.

The Hamburg installation also shows that venues known mainly for visuals are a potential market for WFS products.

“Despite planetarium developments focusing on visual productions, 50% of our perception is sound,” Thomas Kraupe, the planetarium’s director, told InAVate at the time.

So maybe it’s no surprise that a few months later, Barco acquired IOSONO, the Fraunhofer spinoff that spent the previous decade commercialising WFS. Rebranded as Barco Audio Technologies, the new business unit will help Barco tap a wider market by expanding its line-up of immersive products. In 2014, Barco completed its 500th Auro 11.1 installation, while films such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The Amazing Spiderman 2” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” were mixed in Auro 11.1.

“Audio is part of nearly every visual display system in which Barco products are used,” says Brian Claypool, Barco senior director of strategic business development for audio. “As such, it is our intent to integrate superior audio processing capability onto a variety of products and markets to further enhance the value of the solutions that Barco offers.”

This article goes on to explore what Sonic Emotion are doing in this space as well as looking at technologies from Genelec, Shure, d&b, L’Acoustics and Fraunhofer Digital Media Technology Institute (IDMT).

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