MPEG Surround: quality multi-channel audio with backwards MP3 compatibility

May 19, 2006 We’re bullish about the prospects for MPEG Surround and see it as inevitable it will be adopted by the mass market. MP3 Surround enables high-quality surround sound at bit rates comparable to those currently used to encode stereo MP3 material. It is backwards compatible to stereo MP3; a legacy MP3 device plays back MP3 Surround as high quality stereo. Most importantly, it comprises a full set of tools enabling the representation, reproduction and rendering of multi-channel audio for a broad spectrum of applications, from digital broadcasting, to mobile entertainment, to Internet music distribution. It brings true surround sound to any media system at next to no overhead in transportation and storage, and preserves consumers' investment as existing home stereo equipment can stay in use. The Fraunhoffer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS invented the MP3 and is working with Agere Systems, Coding Technologies and Philips, to demonstrate the full potential of the new Surround Sound system at AES (Audio Engineering Society) Pro Audio Expo which begins in Paris tomorrow. Wanna try for yourself? Go here to download a free evaluation version of the Fraunhofer IIS MP3 Surround player.

Combined with an underlying audio codec such as MPEG-1 Layer-2, MPEG-4 AAC or MPEG-4 HE-AAC (aka aacPlus), MPEG Surround fundamentally reduces bit rate requirements for high quality multi-channel audio compression and maintains backwards compatibility to existing stereo equipment at the same time.

In the past month, already a number of real-world demonstrations have been showcased by the developing parties, such as 5.1 surround audio for digital radio and TV via DVB-T, DAB, or HD Radio. The MPEG Surround demonstration at the AES Pro Audio Expo will be the first joint presentation by all four parties, showing the full potential of MPEG Surround across various application fields. The new MPEG Surround standard will be frozen in July this year.

"It has been the goal of MPEG to design something really outstanding in the multi-channel space, and thanks to the deep expertise of all four parties a system is available now that fits all needs and provides a remarkable performance", says Martin Dietz, CEO and President of Coding Technologies. "Asked two years ago, not many experts would have expected this enormous accomplishment, and today it's reality."

"The surround sound world has been waiting for a technical solution to smoothly integrate multi-channel and stereo audio into present and future systems," says Juergen Herre, Chief Scientist at Fraunhofer IIS. "MPEG Surround does even more than this: it easily outperforms any conventional technique with regards to features, performance, and flexibility. We are proud of our contribution to this exciting new standard."

"MPEG Surround is a great example how innovatively engineered solutions directly cater to the requirements of the market," says Leon van de Kerkhof, Program Manager Audio, of Philips Applied Technologies. "Surround sound has proven to be a huge success in packaged media, and has an even stronger potential in new entertainment services. MPEG Surround creates added value and new opportunities for all parties across the chain, from content providers, to device manufacturers, to consumers."

MPEG Surround will be demonstrated in the MPEG Surround demo room 'Asie' at AES Pro Audio Expo in Paris, May 20-23, 2006

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