Surround sound recording and listening


Created on 03.02.

Updated 03.31.

Author: Andrey Kireev.

I would like to devote my article to Yuri Aleksandrovich Voznesensky and Gennady Kuzmich Klimenko to the authors of the book “Quadrophony” published in 1979.

In the early 90s, as a young man in the field of electronics and sound, I got hold of this book, and gave birth to youthful ideas in me, which for many years I had to postpone gathering dust on the shelf for the time being.

For in those distant years, I understood that the implementation of such ideas was beyond my strength, and even more so, I could not afford it. Years passed, technologies changed and developed, and the youthful dream always remains a dream, albeit long abandoned on a dusty shelf. Now, a quarter of a century later, I decided to revive the once abandoned youthful idea, to make something tangible out of my fairy tale. For now I can realize what then was beyond my power and beyond my means.

Surround sound and its development

Since the invention of the phonoautograph by Edouard Léon Scott de Martinville in 1857, civilization enjoyed monophonic recordings on gramophone records for many years, until the 1930s, when the first stereo recording on a wax disc was born at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Now we not only heard the music, but also felt the effect of presence.

Years passed and stereo switched from gramophone records to magnetic tapes, and with the advent of digital technology, stereo successfully switched to CD. And the last breakthrough in sound reproduction known to many came with the birth of DVDs and home theaters, and over the years of development of sound reproduction, we have moved from mono and stereo to surround sound.

Over the years, sound reproduction has gone in the direction of increasing channels, dividing sound into LF, MF, HF and the creation of multi-band acoustic stereo systems, as well as the creation of subwoofers as a separate class, and the usual 2.0 was reborn into 2.1.

And with the advent of DVD, another increase in sound reproduction channels was required, and 5.1 appeared, which developed further in 7.1 and further in 10.2, 16.2, 22.2.

So where are we going? Where are we developing? What will happen next? 30.6? 100.10? 1000.500? XXXX.XXX?

Let’s stop and think

Many theorists and practitioners associate the perception of sounds by humans with the theory described by the “binaural effect”, by analogy with binocular vision, since we have two eyes and two ears. And we can do sound localization and have spatial perception.

All developments known as Dolby Stereo, Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby TrueHD and so on, as well as developments of other equally famous companies Dolby Laboratories, are based on this theory.

But there is one paradox that none of the supporters of the binaural theory thinks about, and it is from the field of geometry.

How to create a volumetric figure based on two points in space? It’s impossible.

Based on two points, you can create only a segment or a line, but you cannot create either a plane, much less a volumetric shape.

Based on three or more points, you can create the simplest shape and plane, and the simplest volumetric shape can only be created based on at least four or more points. This is undeniable as 2×2 = 4. That is why I fundamentally disagree with binaural theory, since it is not able to explain by means of two points of perception what a person actually hears and perceives.

I am not a physician or a physiologist, I cannot explain how our perception of sounds actually works. And even those who think they know all about it are wrong.

I will try to explain my point of view primitively and on the fingers, through an experiment on myself, which anyone can repeat. To do this, we need any place filled with different sounds, in the city or outdoors, in an industrial zone or office, it is completely indifferent. And now I suggest you just relax, close your eyes and just listen, remaining motionless.

For a few minutes to listen to everything and everything that happens around, all the noises and sounds. Try to listen to all the surrounding sounds without doing anything and determine where they are coming from. Without opening your eyes, turn to one side, then the other, shuffle your feet. Without changing the position of your head, raise your hands and snap your fingers, left, right, at different levels and in front of you. Try to mentally identify which sound is coming from. It didn’t work the first time, try again.

Anyone who does not suffer from serious hearing problems is able to determine in three-dimensional space the sources of sound and their position in this very three-dimensional space. Anyone can determine the direction of the sound source not only to the left or to the right, but also from the front or back, from above or from below.

Nature made us so, our perception of sounds works perfectly in three-dimensional space and binaural theory is not able to explain this through two points and phase shifts. We perceive sounds with more than two points, otherwise, we could not determine the direction of sound in three-dimensional space.

Now look at the sound reproduction systems we are familiar with.

All these systems are not surround sound systems, because they are planes, and all sound effects are possible here only within the plane, no matter how many playback channels we add. All that the whole world and you considered surround sound is a deception, a special effect and nothing more. And in order to create a real surround sound reproduction system, we must go beyond the plane to a real surround space.

And here we see that to create the simplest volumetric figure of a tetrahedron, we need at least 4 vertices, for a pyramid 5, for a cube 8. That is, in order to create a minimal surround sound reproduction system, we need at least a 4-channel recording and playback system , and the most correct solution would be a cube or parallelepiped with 8 vertices, since it is such a figure that fits perfectly into the space of rooms and premises. So to get real 3D sound, we need an 8-channel recording and playback system and 8 speakers located in the corners of the room.

In the dashing 90s, the implementation of such a system was simply not achievable for me. Then there were no multichannel systems available, with the exception of studio multitrack systems of which, a simple rural guy could not even dream of. That is why I had to put my idea of ​​surround sound recording on the shelf collecting dust.

Rebirth from dust

Years later, when many already have computers, 5.1 home theater systems. Everybody thinks it’s cool surround sound, and it all gives me a grin. All recent years I have been looking and wondering, so many years have passed, and no one has come to this simple geometric solution. Then a quarter of a century ago, I had good enough reasons to put my idea on the shelf collecting dust. Now in the days of the computer boom, I found an opportunity to carry my idea to the end.

The first thing I encountered was that until now all phonograms are recorded in studios in normal stereo mode, and everything else is just special effects and nothing more. So for …