Orbitsound: Producing stereo from a single source
1/22/2010 by: Sean Kalinich
As we have mentioned before we were a little unimpressed with the big guys at CES. I meant Steve Ballmer told us about what Microsoft has done in 2009, recapped Windows 7 and gave a few vague announcements on things to come in 2010 [including another launch date for Alan Wake]. The same could be said for the other "buy me" guys. We saw some of what they already had out and a few peeks at things to come but no major announcements this year.
This left us looking around to see who had something cool for us to look at and write about. Well, we stumbled upon a pretty cool company by the name of orbitsound and after taking a look at their products we think we found something very cool.
The company orbitsound makes complimentary audio equipment for the iPhone/iPod [for the most part] but these differ from the usual by taking a different approach to how they process the audio information. The name orbitsound calls the technology used is airSOUND.
What is airSOUND?
Taken from orbitsound’s webpage they define airSOUND in this manner: "airSOUND is the revolutionary single point spatial technology that delivers true stereo sound from a single speaker enclosure. airSOUND delivers a true spatial stereo sound experience without the mess of having additional speakers, wires and complex configurations."
What this means is that from a single source [not multiple speakers] they can produce the same spatial effect as a traditional multi-speaker stereo array. Now this is nothing new, in fact the original theory from which this is derived was presented in 1931 by Alan Blumlein who is known as the "inventor of stereo."
Blumlein’s theory was that you can use multiple recording points to simulate the spatial effect of a stereophonic recording instead of a single recording point. This is termed M/S [middle and side] recording. In this a single omnidirectional mic is used for the “middle’ recording and a dipole [figure 8 response] mic is used to the side. The middle mic records the main sound information, while the side records the spatial information.
Reversing the Flow
Now I know you are wondering how I got to this point by using a theory for recording; well with many things you can often reverse the theory to produce the opposite effect. But then again this is also nothing new either, and simply using the opposite of Blumlein’s theory is not enough as while it does produce a stereo effect it is muddied and pretty much awful to listen to. To counter this problem the airSOUND technology uses a couple of additional pieces to the spatial puzzle. The first is the surface effect. This is best described as a natural reinforcement of acoustical waves across a linear surface. It helps to maintain the volume of the sound at longer ranges. The third is provided thanks to the wonders of modern technology and is nothing less than electronic processing of the audio content. These combined with a specific internal design for the loud speakers almost completely remove the errors that a simple reversal of M/S recording produces.
Great but what is the point?
The reason I took you on that journey through audio science is to explain why the small and singular speaker systems from orbitsound are so impressive. They use airSOUND technology to produce accurate [and loud] spatially correct audio from a single point loud speaker system.
Their latest product is the T12, this is a long “speaker bar” style product that also has its own subwoofer to account for the traditional problems in reproducing audio from smaller digital media players.
For the audiophile there is a valve [tube] amp for your audio love called the T6. The T6 is a dual triode tube amp that gives you the power and flow you would expect from a tube amplifier.
Last up is the portable T3 the T3 is a portable device that orbitsound claims allows you to take your stereo on the go.
We hope to see some actual products from orbitsound in the near future so we can tell you if these products work in practice as well as the theory suggests. Keeps your eyes out for some real testing and let us know if there are any tests you would like to see or questions you have about this product.
Audio, Audiophile, Stereo, Middle and Side, M/S, Spatial Sound, orbitsound, airSOUND, Audio technology
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