HD Radio and 5.1 surround sound - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 07-28-2011, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Would the all digital HD system be able to discrete5.1 surround sound. This is an application that analog FM cant do
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post #2 of 24 Old 07-29-2011, 02:20 AM
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Data's data, so I would imagine it's possible. But it's doubtful any would in that there's no 5.1 source material to speak of.

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post #3 of 24 Old 08-04-2011, 02:10 PM
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The Ibiquity docs explicitly say that the extra audio streams in the full-digital modes are intended for surround sound, not more subchannels.

As for "no 5.1 source material to speak of", actually there is quite a bit of material around. Many pop songs have 5.1 remixes for their videos (these versions can be found on the Internet.) All concerts these days are mixed to 5.1 for DVD, Blu-ray, and HDTV broadcast so there is a lot of live material. Many classical and rock albums were recorded in quad sound in the 70's and were remixed into 5.1 for SACD releases. There were also many other popular recordings that were mixed or remixed in 5.1 when it looked like the SACD format was going to take off.

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post #4 of 24 Old 08-05-2011, 02:29 AM
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What I meant was, there's not a lot of 5.1 material for commercial radio purposes. There's a lot of 5.1 material... none that any of us are going to play. The scant few pop radio remixes aren't enough to justify investments necessary to pass that on to the scant fewer people who'd have a tuner hooked up to a surround sound system. Ditto rock. Maybe the few remaining classical stations could benefit, but that's still not a very big segment.

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post #5 of 24 Old 08-08-2011, 12:00 PM
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There may be a market for 5.1 systems for car stereos in the future. Fully digital broadcasting is a long way off so who knows what will exist when that happens? It's wise for them to plan for it.

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post #6 of 24 Old 08-13-2011, 02:02 AM
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WZLX 100.7 in Boston was doing surround sound in Hybrid mode.

They had several pieces intentionally remastered for it.

I don't believe they are doing it anymore, however. I think it was just a test.

--Mike Fitzpatrick
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post #7 of 24 Old 09-22-2011, 01:38 AM
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So, this thread has tripped over what is perhaps one of the biggest errors made in HD radio: no real push for 5.1 surround. Sure, there's very little air-able material now, but had it become a firm "standard", two things would have happened that would have pushed HD radio ahead much faster and farther. First, 5.1 surround offers something that is clearly different, and perceived as "better" when compared to stereo, and was something that FM stereo could never really offer. Second, if the delivery method was standardized, the recording industry would suddenly have a market for 5.1 music that it never really had: the car. And, when you're getting your new song on the radio, would you not want it to be aired in 5.1 surround and knock peoples socks off? Especially if other songs weren't yet? I think the recording industry would have stepped up and supplied the material if they knew there was a significant audience.

I'm quite sure that digital radio in 5.1 would have offered the consumer the needed "10-fold improvement" that is normally required for rapid market penetration of a new product or service. As it is, HD radio offers very little. Same stereo programming, and in many cases, little or no audible difference (sometimes HD is worse!), and some reception improvement in severe multipath locations. That's not enough to get people to spend the money on a new radio...and get the same programming in stereo they've always had. And then there's more channels per station, which is dumb anyway because the audience is still the same size pie. You can cut it into smaller pieces, but that doesn't get you the numbers to can sell time with. In fact, it could hurt your HD1 to have HD2, etc!

Stepping off my soap box now. Just venting, because when all this was being developed I worked for a large broadcast company that was in full support of the HD Radio we have now, and I couldn't say anything then about how short-sighted an stupid it is, or I'd have been talking against my employer!
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post #8 of 24 Old 09-22-2011, 01:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

So, this thread has tripped over what is perhaps one of the biggest errors made in HD radio: no real push for 5.1 surround.

This requires bandwidth that HD stations in hybrid mode don't have. Don't expect them to pull the plug on their analog transmissions for 5.1 sound.

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post #9 of 24 Old 09-24-2011, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by scowl View Post

This requires bandwidth that HD stations in hybrid mode don't have. Don't expect them to pull the plug on their analog transmissions for 5.1 sound.

Yes, with the current system that's u fortunately true. But back when we were deciding on what digital radio was to be, there was the option to use other frequencies, a cellular-like system, etc. The NAB, no less, seemed bent on doing it "in band, on channel", thus short sightedly crippling the concept, and creating a serious marketing error. Not since the advent of FM have broadcasters been asked to make such a huge investment without a visible ROI. It wasn't until FM offered something to the consumer that was perceived as a much bigger improvement over AM: stereo. Full audio bandwidth and low noise wasn't enough to do it. Even with FM stereo it took 10 years in major markets for FM to really challenge AM. HD Radio offers a much smaller improvement than FM stereo did, costs much more, and segments the audience even further in a time when the total radio audience is shrinking, particularly in the "money" demographics, due to attractive alternatives like portable mp3 players.

Point is, 5.1 surround would have offered a bang for the buck that every listener in a car could easily hear as a clear improvement. It might have been the edge that drove HD market penetration, especially if it were a few years earlier.

Too late now, of course.
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post #10 of 24 Old 09-25-2011, 07:53 PM
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There aren't that many 5.1 mixes at least not enough to fill whole radio stations. The current pop songs you hear mixed into movies are usually not true 5.1 mixed. Usually just stereo upconverts put through DSP processors. I would love 5.1 in cars but there just isn't a real customer demand otherwise SACD or DVD-A would have done better (or we would have Blue-ray audio discs)
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post #11 of 24 Old 09-26-2011, 01:31 PM
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A majority of people watching HDTV and DVDs do not have 5.1 sound systems. They're using the two speakers that came with the television. 5.1 sound will surely become more common but it will probably take even longer than the ten years stereo took to make an impact.

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post #12 of 24 Old 09-27-2011, 07:22 AM
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Both comments are of course true. It's a cart/horse thing. Multi-channel audio on HD would have added cars to the millions of multichannel home theaters already installed and given music producers a new and much bigger market, which could be fed by 5.1 remixes of classic albums as well as new releases. In the interim, there are many re-channeling algorithms that do a respectable job of creating 5.1, Neo-6, Dolby PLII Music, to name two. Even the re-channeled stuff is a clear and obvious difference from stereo. It's the difference that sells the product. We don't have that now with stations simulcasting. Go into any store that does an HD demo where they have good reception (oh, that's a big gotcha!). Switch from FM to HD. There's absolutely no wow factor at all.

By the way, if not sure about the magnitude of improvement multichannel audio gets you, go get the 5.1 version of Dark Side Of the Moon. That alone would be cause enough for some people to buy in. Classics in Surround could have been an entire new format.
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post #13 of 24 Old 09-27-2011, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

By the way, if not sure about the magnitude of improvement multichannel audio gets you, go get the 5.1 version of Dark Side Of the Moon. That alone would be cause enough for some people to buy in. Classics in Surround could have been an entire new format.

New format? Dark Side of the Moon was available in quadraphonic sound since its original release. It wasn't enough to help quadraphonic sound as a format.

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post #14 of 24 Old 09-27-2011, 06:38 PM
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DTS Neural 5.1 format is said to be the new standard for multi-channel HD radio. I don't know of any car radio sporting that feature. My new Sony receiver has it for Sirus/XM radio (just a few stations). Not much information on this as of yet.
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post #15 of 24 Old 09-29-2011, 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by scowl View Post

New format? Dark Side of the Moon was available in quadraphonic sound since its original release. It wasn't enough to help quadraphonic sound as a format.

Quad (4 channel) and 5.1 are VERY different.

In two channel stereo, the listening positions that let you hear proper imaging exist on a center line between the two speakers. Move off center, the image, particularly sounds panned center, pop over to the speaker you are closest to. Two channel stereo works well for a listener on the center line only. That pretty much lets out listening for imaging in a car.

Quad made things worse. First, finding places for four identical speakers, each equidistant from the adjacent on, and on a perfect square or slight rectangle conflicted with every living room. And where two channel let you hear correct imaging in several positions on a center line, in quad, there was exactly one good seat, at one point, directly centered in the array. Anywhere off center, and you lost balance and perspective. Not to mention the fact that there was no real "standard" speaker layout for quad, and not even a standard delivery format. Matrixed quad (4>2>4) never really had much separation, it was a big homogenous mash of sound. Discrete was costly and limited mostly to 4 channel 8 track tapes.

5.1 solves the imaging issue by using a center speaker. Now, if something is to be panned center, it's coming from a single speaker which always images from that location regardless of where you sit. No more phantom center to deal with. And surround speakers don't depend on phantom images as much either, especially if they are used as surround ambiance. 5.1 works well in more seats than 2 channel, and way more than quad.

5.1 solves the room layout issue by standardizing on a layout. Even if it isn't exactly followed, it's less critical, and works well anyway.

5.1 solves the delivery issue by providing listeners with several discrete formats that play on a player without user involvement, and at no additional cost.

Remixing DSoTM for 5.1 is a blessing. More people can hear more of the mix, the hidden gems, the details and dimension, than ever before in stereo or quad. Yes, it's a new format, it isn't quad, it's way better. There is now real channel separation (never had that in QS or SQ). There's a hard center image. If you don't think it's different, you probably haven't heard it. And DSoTM is just one example, there are hundreds of others in existence right now. I know, I use them for demos!

Quad didn't survive because it was expensive, cumbersome, didn't work well, and a quintessential example of marketing confusion with multiple incompatible formats requiring multiple decoders or source devices. It was simply too much trouble for the benefit. 5.1 is here now, established in millions of homes, and would have been easy to place in cars, again solving the center channel image issue. Cars already have four speakers, power amps, and even a sub sometimes. It was only adding one channel in many cases. It could have popped open a whole new market for existing music...just what the music industry needed. A way to re-sell the library without the artist re-recording! And, no mp3 distribution of 5.1!

Sorry, I still say HD radio blew it.
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post #16 of 24 Old 09-29-2011, 01:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Feirstein View Post

DTS Neural 5.1 format is said to be the new standard for multi-channel HD radio. I don't know of any car radio sporting that feature. My new Sony receiver has it for Sirus/XM radio (just a few stations). Not much information on this as of yet.

To quote the DTS web site, "DTS Neural Surround is the bridge between stereo and 5.1 surround audio. Products with the DTS Neural Surround logo allow for seamless conversion between stereo and 5.1 audio through the capture, edit, management and broadcast process."

But, it's distributed on two channels, and the trans-coding process uses algorithms that must, by definition, generalize. It's not a precise encode/decode process. If you pan it "here" in post, it doesn't necessarily come out "here" after decoding. Close, but not exact. It also "recovers" 5.1 from non-encoded two channel. It's interesting, and works on some selections, but not on others. I use it frequently, but on a track-by-track basis, as it simply works well on some material, makes mush of other. If a process cannot be left "on" all the time, it will be left "off" all the time.

Discrete 5.1 still wins, hands down, no contest. IMHO, I don't call DTS Neural Surround a "standard" of any kind. It just happens to be available on some products.
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post #17 of 24 Old 09-30-2011, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

Quad (4 channel) and 5.1 are VERY different.

In two channel stereo, the listening positions that let you hear proper imaging exist on a center line between the two speakers. Move off center, the image, particularly sounds panned center, pop over to the speaker you are closest to. Two channel stereo works well for a listener on the center line only. That pretty much lets out listening for imaging in a car.

I thought stereo has been a very successful format.

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post #18 of 24 Old 10-02-2011, 01:55 AM
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I thought stereo has been a very successful format.

Yup, and not surprising when there's no practical alternative. Same was true with AM radio and black and white TV at one time. Times change.
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post #19 of 24 Old 11-01-2011, 02:24 AM
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I posted a long time ago 5.1 HD radio should be THE format for drive-in movie theatres. I was told it would never happen. Of course, most if not all movies have that format...hence, no shortage of material for 5.1 audio.

It would be the next huge step in drive-in technology compared to when they started offering FM stereo.

Well actually, the next big step for drive-in (and all theatres for that matter) will be digital projection.


Still, HD radio with 5.1 audio should be implemented at the drive-in.

Movies must be OAR, sports and movies must also have 5.1 audio, No EE or NO SALE!
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post #20 of 24 Old 11-01-2011, 03:37 AM
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Yea, that would be great. But so far, the cheapest low-power HD radio transmitter is still about $40,000, assuming a transmitter manufacturer would even sell one to a drive-in without a broadcast license. Never going to happen at that price anyway, especially when the FM stereo transmitters drive-ins use are between $100 and $500.

Then you've got the annual royalty payment to the HD radio developers, and the little issue that no HD receiver can do 5.1.

Yes, the technology would work in theory, just not in practice.

I doubt digital projection will make it to many drive-ins. From what I've read, they are scraping the economic bottom now, and even with studio-subsidized digital projection, it's still an expense that may exceed a year's net times two. Film is cheap to run, the projectors last forever, and need minimal maintenance. A 1940's Super Simplex with sound head sells for just over $1000, and looks as good as a brand new machine. Add another few hundred for a big drive-in sized carbon arc lamp house and power supply and a couple of lenses, another few thousand for a used platter system and you're ready to sell tickets for an equipment investment under $5000. Those would be the same tickets you'd sell with a digital projector, no more, no less.
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post #21 of 24 Old 11-19-2011, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

I doubt digital projection will make it to many drive-ins.

From what I've read, about half of the drive-ins will be able to afford digital projection.

The thing is, analog or digital, radio receivers should be designed to decode surround audio.

Are there not DVD players/tuners in cars, vans etc set up to play DD 5.1 audio? If so, those tuners should have the option to decode surround audio if someone ran into audio using that format.

Movies must be OAR, sports and movies must also have 5.1 audio, No EE or NO SALE!
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post #22 of 24 Old 11-20-2011, 01:26 AM
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From what I've read, about half of the drive-ins will be able to afford digital projection.

I'd be interested to see that reference. I find it hard to accept because for a great many drive-ins, their business season is less than half the year, and because of daylight, less than 1/3 of the showings of a normal theater during that season. Hard to see how their economics would support a digital projector. Especially since that projector would be one of the most expensive in the industry, having to light up a screen that could easily be 100' wide with at least some ambient light on it. Theaters will 40' screens in dark rooms are designed for 16 foot lamberts, and that's big enough task for digital projectors. 100' and what is certainly in need of more like 50fl of light is highly demanding of a digital projector, which makes it very expensive.
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Originally Posted by Thebarnman View Post

The thing is, analog or digital, radio receivers should be designed to decode surround audio.

Are there not DVD players/tuners in cars, vans etc set up to play DD 5.1 audio? If so, those tuners should have the option to decode surround audio if someone ran into audio using that format.

Well, I fully agree with the "should" part, but the reality is very different. Most vehicles do not have DVD players or even HD radios. Very very few have any proper 5.1 decoding of any kind. So, if you ran a drive in, would you depend on your patrons having 5.1 capability of any kind in the car? Neither would I. If even 20% of my patrons couldn't hear my audio, I'd be in big trouble. No, I'm afraid drive-ins are stuck with FM Stereo for now, and that along is rough going. Ever heard a 5.1 theatrical track downmixed to stereo? Yuck!

But all this is academic. It's not important for a drive-in to provide a fully theatrical experience. That's not what drive-ins have ever been about. It's the big screen, out-doors, seen from your own vehicle with a degree of privacy for those occasions when the drive-in may not even be about watching the film at all. In truth, all this digital projection and HD Radio surround stuff is relatively unimportant to drive-in ticket sales. I stand by my seemingly pessimistic view that there will be no HD Radio or surround audio in drive-ins, no digital projection either until the cost of a projector that big and bright (remember, it's not a small screen, and it's fighting ambient light!) drops to $20k or so. That won't be any time soon. It's one place where xenon lamp houses, or even carbon arcs, and film still wins.

To pull this back on topic, HD Radio and 5.1 Surround, it's not likely to happen at all, not in cars, homes or drive-ins. Simple reason is, you'd have to shut of analog to get enough digital bandwidth with the current system. Not in drive-ins because, as I said before, cost of the transmitter with no visible ROI (same issue radio stations have!).
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Will surround sound radio be common by the year 3000?
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post #24 of 24 Old 05-01-2014, 03:45 PM
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The first question is "Will fully digital radio be common by then?"

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