Let There Be Height

Lately, the life of the sound engineer really has been looking up. Literally. Granted, Yamaha has been adding a height element to its surround sound receivers for years now, but the advent of Dolby Pro Logic II z and especially Audyssey DSX are bringing the aural z-axis to a broader market, and with more oomph at that.
Author:
Publish date:

Showing Off the Benefits of Surround Sound Height Channels

Lately, the life of the sound engineer really has been looking up. Literally. Granted, Yamaha has been adding a height element to its surround sound receivers for years now, but the advent of Dolby Pro Logic II z and especially Audyssey DSX are bringing the aural z-axis to a broader market, and with more oomph at that. And yet, these two additional channels seem to have been met with a resounding shrug from most consumers. Chances are you’ve installed a handful of PLII z- and DSX-equipped surround systems already. How many of your clients have outright asked for the additional height channels, though? Before they can say that it’s good, they need to hear that it’s good. So install those extra speakers, fire up the receiver in your showroom, turn on the Audyssey DSX processing, pop in any of these discs, and prepare your clients for a truly new dimension of sound.

Image placeholder title


In Chapter 3 of V for Vendetta, fireworks rise, whiz, sparkle, and sputter overhead, and then float over the rest of the mix in a way that they simply can’t in mere 5.1 or 7.1.

V for Vendetta (Blu-ray)
When I reviewed Yamaha’s RX-A1000 AVENTAGE receiver a few issues back, I was especially impressed with the way its Presence Speakers added a vertical element to the destruction of the Old Bailey in Chapter 3 of this anarchistic comic book romp. DSX takes the scene to new heights yet again. (I know, I know. I couldn’t resist.)

As with the action onscreen, the sound mix builds to a fevered crescendo. At first the height channels do little more than add a whip of wind overhead, while the bulk of the mix remains firmly planted in the front and center speakers. As Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture slowly rises from the streets, though, it climbs majestically into the upper channels, building a wall of sound that’s soon cut through by thunderous, wall-shattering explosions that remain anchored below, as the bombs bursting in air give proof through the night that those speakers up there are definitely doing their job. The fireworks that rise from the bombast whiz and sparkle and sputter overhead, and float over the rest of the mix in a way they simply can’t in mere 5.1 or 7.1.

Image placeholder title


Splice has a rockin’ sound mix that sounds awesome with the DSX processing turned on, and thankfully you don’t have to venture even as far as the actual beginning of the movie to enjoy it.

Splice (Blu-ray)
I have to admit, I feel a bit of shame in recommending that anyone purchase this hackneyed mash-up of Species and Bride of Frankenstein. With its ham-fisted plot and lame dialogue, it has next to nothing to offer in terms of story, and even most of the action is kinda hokey. What it does have, though, is a rockin’ sound mix that sounds awesome with the DSX processing turned on, and thankfully you don’t have to venture even as far as the actual beginning of the movie to enjoy it.

The opening credits montage is delicious abstract tour through... something. I’m not sure what. A mutant vascular system, maybe? The inner workings of some kooky genetic experiment? Who knows? Who cares? Whatever it is, it makes for a yummy caldron of sounds that envelop you from every direction–a tunnel of sonorousness replete with bubbling blobs and slithering scales that waft around your head, not merely in a gooey game of ring-around-the-rosy, but more like a dome of pulsating acoustical energy that’ll leave you feeling like you need a bath when the demo is done.

Inception (Blu-ray)
Chris Nolan’s latest mind-bending epic is also everything you could ask for from a height-channel demo: oodles of action and a heaping helping of ambiance all stuffed in an audio blender and cranked up to 11. Check out the opening scenes for some particularly raucous z-axis activity as the zombies of Ken Watanabe’s subconscious rampage around in an attempt to put an end to all the mental mucking-around going on inside his dream. (I assure you, the previous sentence will make more sense in context).

Image placeholder title


Chapter 9 in Inception features bullets zipping by from above and below, ripping through the soundfield from front to back and top to bottom, while spattering rain falls so convincingly down the front wall you’ll swear you’ll need to replace the carpet padding once it’s all over.

For my money, though, the best use of the DSX processing comes later, in Chapter 9, as Leo DiCaprio and his angsty band of dream warriors attempt to flee the dangers of one delusion for a deeper one. If that’s too obfuscatory for you to follow, consider this: there’s gunfire. Lots of gunfire. Bullets zipping by from above and below, ripping through the soundfield from front to back and top to bottom, while spattering rain falls so convincingly down the front wall you’ll swear you’ll need to replace the carpet padding once it’s all over.

Related