In two separate, simultaneous press releases, sister companies Denon and Marantz announced an upgrade to the Auro 3D immersive audio format for several AVRs and a pre/pro. This $200 download expands the selection of current (2015) Auro 3D-compatible devices the companies offer to three each for Denon and Marantz.
Marantz offers the upgrade
to Auro 3D—effective immediately—on its SR7010 AVR and AV7702mkII pre/pro. Similarly, Denon's Auro 3D update is now available to purchase and download for its AVR-X4200W and the AVR-X6200W AVRs. Once activated and installed, the Auro 3D update will allow these AVRs and pre/pros to render immersive audio to either a 9.1-channel or 10.1-channel speaker system (except for the Denon AVR-X4200W which can only handle 9.1 channels)
Auro 3D is the original 3D immersive audio format and was created by the iconoclastic Wilfried Van Baelen, the CEO of Auro Technologies. It differs from Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in several ways, one being that Auro 3D demands a very specific speaker layout that's not necessarily fully compatible with its competitors. For example, the "Voice of God" channel, which is located directly above the audience, is unique to Auro 3D.
You may wonder why you should consider a third immersive audio format when Atmos and DTS X are already included with these AVRs and pre/pros at no extra charge, especially when Dolby Atmos has a clear lead in terms of movie releases. One potential reason is the Auro-Matic upmixing engine, which offers a way to experience existing music and movies with enhanced 3D audio effects. I sampled Auro-Matic at CE 2016, and the result was very impressive.
I happen to (currently) have a Marantz SR7010 in for review. Thanks to this upgrade, I should be able to perform a thorough comparison between the three competing immersive audio formats and their respective upmixers, so stay tuned for that!