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Tech News (more headlines) 03-15-2004

High-Quality Multi-Channel Listening With MP3 Surround

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Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS presents the brand new MP3 Surround technology as a CeBIT premiere. A next generation of MP3, the MP3 Surround technology, provides a multi-channel listening experience with minimum effort and maximum compatibility.

MP3 Surround allows the reproduction of high-quality multichannel sound at bit rates comparable to those currently used to encode stereo MP3 material. Most importantly, the new format offers complete backward compatibility to existing MP3 software and devices: MP3 Surround bit streams are played back as high-quality stereo sound on all current MP3 players. When decoded by MP3 Surround decoders, however, the new format produces full 5.1 channel surround sound! These astounding features are realized by a revolutionary technical approach based on the MP3 standard: MP3 Surround technology encodes multichannel sound by transmitting a stereo audio signal that carries a compatible stereo down mix of the multi-channel material. In addition, a small amount of side information is transmitted characterizing the spatial distribution and attributes of the multi-channel sound image. MP3 Surround was developed by Fraunhofer IIS in collaboration with Agere Systems (www.agere.com).

"Enjoying personal multi-channel audio has been on the wish list of the MP3 user community for quite some time. This is exactly what MP3 Surround has to offer – and it does so at astoundingly low bit rates", says Jürgen Herre, Chief Executive Scientist of the Audio & Multimedia departments of Fraunhofer IIS, Erlangen.

By means of the new technology, the user can play back both stereo or surround music from the same MP3 Surround files. This allows for a wide range of MP3 Surround applications within e.g. broadcasting systems or web-based music distribution. Currently for example, a number of commercial music download services offer their music in MP3 stereo. Such services can be seamlessly extended to provide multi-channel MP3, and yet they remain compatible with stereo equipment. The same applies to Internet radios that will be able to stream multi-channel content with nearly the same effort as for stereo broadcasting. Beyond any doubt, this means another milestone in the ongoing success of MP3.

First MP3 Surround software solutions are expected to be available by mid 2004.

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