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3D sound development brings the 'concert hall' to your car

10 June 2015

Researchers have developed new audio software that they claim creates a natural, three-dimensional sound similar to that experienced in a concert hall.

From left: Harald Popp, Oliver Hellmuth and Jan Plogsties, the developers of Cingo and Symphoria (photo: Dirk Mahler/Fraunhofer)

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS has developed intelligent algorithms, which they've dubbed 'Cingo' and 'Symphoria', that produce a natural and immersive 3D audio experience when listening to audio material on a mobile device or in a car.

Cingo and Symphoria compensate for hardware weaknesses while simultaneously reproducing the musician’s intended sound image with the a high degree of precision.

“In a concert hall, the music doesn’t just come directly from the stage," says Symphoria project manager Oliver Hellmuth. "We also hear the sound that bounces off the walls and ceiling. It’s the overall combination that gives us the impression of three-dimensional sound,”  Cingo and Symphoria analyse which elements of a recording are direct sound and which are reflected sound. They then join them together to create a natural three-dimensional sound-scape.

The key to creating an optimum listening experience using Cingo on mobile devices and Symphoria in vehicles is to get engineers and sound technicians working together. “The engineers know how to develop the tool, and the sound technicians know how to make the best use of it,” says Jan Plogsties, project manager for Cingo.

Sound technicians at Fraunhofer IIS were involved in making adjustments to the sound reproduction at an early stage in tandem with the technical analysis. Since no audio benchmark is available to judge the quality of these kinds of audio algorithms, the experts’ subjective opinions were crucial to their development.

The sound has to be tailored to the particular speakers of each individual device. “When a manufacturer chooses to implement our software, we configure the sound separately for each model. It’s a tuning process – and that’s why we need the expertise of our sound technicians,” says Hellmuth.

Google has included Cingo in all its Nexus devices, and Samsung launched the software as part of its virtual reality glasses. Audi is using Symphoria to create 3D and surround-sound effects in its TT, Q7 and R8 models.

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