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AES Sound Field Control Conference 2016 Breaks New Ground

Recent event explored innovations in active management of audio within an acoustical environment

By PSW Staff July 29, 2016

Phil Coleman demonstrates the Surrey Sound Sphere at the recent AES Sound Field Control conference. The sphere, a geodesic metal structure supporting 72 Genelec loudspeakers, is individually controlled by software via MOTU sound cards.

More than 90 delegates gathered in mid-June at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK for the second international conference on Sound Field Control presented by the Audio Engineering Society (AES), where new ground was broken in the understanding of the active management of audio delivered within an acoustical environment. 

Over 30 papers were presented on topics ranging from sound zones through higher order ambisonics, mode matching and psychoacoustics, to sound field control theories, microphone arrays and array transducers.

At the conference, which was chaired by Filippo Maria Fazi and Philip Jackson, delegates had the opportunity to experience demonstrations of sound field control technology, including personal sound zones, 3D audio capture, adaptive object-based stereo reproduction, and more.

Bruce Drinkwater’s invited talk on ultrasonic levitation proved a tour of a new technology that enables small objects to be lifted using ultrasonic “tractor beams,” something that a few years ago would have seemed like science fiction. He brought along a small demonstrator of the technology that could hold little balls in midair. 

Keynote Philip Nelson is professor of acoustics in the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton, and a leader of research council activity in the UK. His focus on the history of sound field control illuminated the connections between the active control of sound and contemporary approaches to sound reproduction within the consistent framework provided by multichannel digital signal processing and the physical behavior of linearly superposed sound fields. 

The day two keynote speaker was Gary Elko, president of mh acoustics. With Jens Meyer, Elko developed the Eigenmike, a spherical microphone array that decomposes the sound field into a compact set of orthogonal spherical harmonic signals. The Eigenmike is now gaining commercial interest in the field of immersive audio. In his keynote address, Elko offered delegates a comprehensive review of differential microphone array technology.

Further, Steven van de Par reviewed the effects of reverberation on auditory perception, concluding with a description of a system for reproducing the most perceptually important parameters of direct and reflected sound in a room that already has its own reverberation. 

Themes of the conference, arising out of workshop discussions and informal interactions, coalesced around the different forms and meanings of the broad term “sound field control,” and how it both includes, but is broader than, spatial audio. Delegates were interested in how to design systems to engineer an intended user experience, one that possibly follows people around as they move, and adapts to their circumstances, as well as being useful for multiple listeners. There was discussion of navigable sound fields that can only be experienced by exploring them, which connects to the growing importance of virtual reality. 

Conference sponsors include Comhear, mh acoustics, Harman and Hyundai. And as a benefit of membership, AES members can download the conference proceedings here.

Audio Engineering Society (AES)

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