New York, NY–At last week’s CeBIT technology showcase in Hannover, Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute unveiled MP3 Surround, a new compression scheme promising 5.1 sound at bit rates comparable to those of stereo MP3 files.
By adding more data into the MP3 encoding stream through a unique matrix technique, Fraunhofer, in concert with Agere Systems, created the system for surround sound reproduction. According to Fraunhofer, the new technology will be backward compatible with current MP3 devices, but will only offer the multichannel mode when decoded by new MP3 Surround products.
Despite the issue of sound quality “loss” during CD to MP3 conversion, digital music hardware and software are gaining ground while CD sales slip. New, more efficient codecs like MP3 Surround could help DVD content move into the realm of on-demand digital downloads as well.
While not focusing exclusively on the MP3 format, Dolby Pro-Logic II has been addressing bandwidth surround sound concerns since its debut in the late ’90s. The matrixing technology processes two-channel movie and music content into five playback channels by unlocking the directional cues that occur naturally in stereo content.
“Surround capability enables MP3 to compete with codecs like Windows Media for inclusion in the next generation of consumer electronics products–from portable music devices to home or car media receivers and HD-DVD players,” stated Terence P. Keegan, managing editor of Medialine, a magazine serving the digital media industry.
Fraunhofer expects the first MP3 Surround software solutions to be available this summer.