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Fraunhofer researchers develop revolutionary new sound system

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 02 February, 2003  (Company News)
'This innovative system clearly improves cinematic sound quality. The difference in quality is even more significant than the step taken from mono to stereo', comments Prof. Karlheinz Brandenburg, head of the AEMT. The new sound system generates extremely realistic audio sound within the confines of any space or room. '
'This listening experience is based on the wave-field-synthesis principle developed at the Technical University Delft in the Netherlands. Unlike with existing sound technologies such as 5.1 Surround Sound, WFS allows new recording processes to be used. The new process developed by the Fraunhofer researchers not only records the sound, but also the acoustic characteristics of the surrounding space as well as information regarding the spatial arrangement of the acoustic source. The real advantage is that it's possible to reproduce a more natural, spatial sound over a wide area of the theater. 'Regardless of where the viewer is seated, he always hears voices and sounds effects coming from the right direction and correct distance', says developer Sandra Brix.

Even films recorded using conventional methods demonstrated marked improvements in sound quality. For recordings that are produced in 5.1 Surround Sound, the optimal sound is not restricted to a small area of the theater, or what is known as the 'sweet spot'. The technology was recently installed in a cinema, where an elaborate computer system and nearly 200 speakers distributed throughout the theater provide impressive sound. Every film is an enjoyable listening experience, whether one sits in the first row, outside left, in the middle of the cinema, or all the way to the right of the very last row. 'This is the first movie theater in the world to use a sound system based on the wave-field-synthesis technology', emphasizes Brix.

The technology can bring outstanding sound to any seat, not only at the cinema but also in the private home. Researchers are already at work developing the home stereo system of the future that will transform the living room into a concert hall with optimal acoustics. Because of the technical complexity and high costs associated with the technology, interest in WFS is still limited primarily to professional applications. But anyone interested in experiencing this unique listening pleasure can visit the Fraunhofer exhibition booth in Hall 11 at the CeBIT where researchers will be presenting the system.
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