Ambisonics, Audio
and Broadcasting

Latest Articles:

Audio and Ambisonics

Broadcasting History


The original reason for setting up this site was as a response to a number of requests for my early articles on Ambisonics. It has now grown to include my more recent articles on the subject and more general pieces on the whole subject of digital audio and, most recently, a series on British television history.

This section includes the main articles that people usually ask for -- the original guide to Ambisonic Mixing published in Studio Sound in 1983 and the extensive overview/primer article Whatever Happened to Ambisonics? published in AudioMedia in November 1991.

I will add other material as time and availability permits (if you have good-quality copies of any of my old pieces, please let me know: I no longer have all of them). I have configured each article as a single document so that they can be downloaded more easily. The down-side of this: they take a bit longer to load - but not too long, I hope.

Special thank-yous for photocopies to Dave Wilkerson at Right Coast Recording, Lancaster, PA, for Ambisonic Mixing; Jeff Silberman of SurroundWorks, Mill Valley, CA, for Ambisonics - A New Age?, and Eero Aro for Ambisonic for Audio Visual, without whom these pieces wouldn't be here.

Copyright subsists on my articles. Feel free to download, print, and circulate these articles for private study as long as they include full attributions and remain unedited. To use these articles commercially, you must ask me (I'll most likely say yes).

About the Articles

We are very pleased to have been given permission by Nimbus Records to make available a DTS-WAV (DTS-CD) excerpt from one of their recent recordings, decoded from B-Format in the same way as our other experiments. Download the first three minutes of Elgar's Cello Concerto in DTS-WAV or DTS format.

Getting Ambisonics Around. An article detailing the off-line production of G-Format material from B-Format and 2-ch UHJ sources and issuing it on DTS-CDs. April 2006 (PDF, 953K). Sample decodes are also available.

Obituary – Mark Decker. Eero Aro remembers a pioneer of Ambisonic broadcast drama. Reprinted by permission.

Alternatives to 5.1 Originally commissioned for John Sunier's Audiophile Audition and published in October 2003, this short article is Richard Elen's answer to the resolution:
"Resolved: That the speaker-based 5.1-Channel ITU Standard is fine for movie surround sound but inappropriate for SSfM [Surround Sound for Music].
A better alternative would be ________"
(October 2003)

All Bass Is Covered - A Dictatorial Approach to Bass Management -- Part One of this article appeared in the Oct/Nov 2002 issue of Surround Professional magazine, with Part Two in the following issue. "Bass Management is a subject that even the best music engineers don’t always seem to know a whole lot about, and is easily misunderstood – or simply missed. Richard Elen decided it was about time to lay down the law and take a fundamental, controversial and pragmatic approach to the subject – one that he hopes will annoy music engineers enough for them to think about what how their monitoring is set up – whether they are new to surround or have been doing it for years. In the first part of this two-part article, he looks where bass comes from in a 5.1 system – and where it goes."

Ambisonics: The Surround Alternative (PDF), December 2001.

Photo © SMR Group/Philip Brandes 2001

On Friday, December 7, 2001, Richard Elen (above, right) and Thomas Chen (left) gave presentations on Ambisonics at the Surround 2001 conference in Beverly Hills. Although we had to get a lot into a short time, the general response was excellent. Two papers are available which cover the Ambisonic material presented at the Conference - and in rather more detail than was possible in the allotted time. You can download Richard's paper, Ambisonics - the surround alternative and the paper by Thomas Chen, Surround Sound Beyond 5.1. Both are in Acrobat PDF format.

You can also read Thomas Chen's presentation notes on Working in B+ Format (HTML), and download Richard's PowerPoint presentation, Ambisonics - The Surround Alternative (.pps file, 1.5MB) used as the basis for his lecture.

For more on Thomas Chen's Ambisonic software for the Creamware system, click here.

Click here to read SMR Home Theater magazine's coverage of the event.

The following are part of a continuing series of articles written for The Audio Revolution, the best of the on-line consumer audio titles. They are intended to be short (under 2000 words, and generally much shorter) overviews of different aspects of the digital audio and surround-sound fields.

Digital Interface for DVD-Audio/Video - January 2002

DVD-A vs SACD - August 2001

DVD Watermarking - August 2000

Super Audio CD Moves Forward - August 2000

High Quality Audio Discs - August 2000

An Introduction to 5.1 - August 2000

High Resolution Audio - Beyond the Pale? -- this appeared in the October 1999 issues of AudioMedia, both US and international editions. It discusses the latest techniques and developments in high-resolution audio recording (DVD-A, 96/192 kHz sampling, DSD etc), and whether or not they make sense. "With new high-resolution standards and formats available, Richard Elen revisits the hows and whys, the benefits and the cost of these technologies."

DVD, Surround and Ambisonics -- An unpublished October 1998 article which not only covers the audio possibilities of DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, but also addresses such questions as speaker placement, bass management, height information, MLP, and the DVD-A 1.0 specification and what it means, as well as providing an Ambisonic perspective on these developments. A more recent article based upon this one, containing updated DVD-A information, but without most of the Ambisonic content and sections on bass management, etc, appeared in the April edition of AudioMedia. This article, DVD Audio Reality, is available as a PDF (480K),

Ambisonics for the New Millennium -- this August 1998 article details the principles of G-Format (the transmission of 5.1-decoded Ambisonic speaker feeds) as a means of supplying Ambisonics to 5.1 surround listeners without the need for a decoder at home. It discusses the principles and implementation of G-Format as well as its development past and future, and contains enough background information to serve as a stand-alone introduction to Ambisonics in a 5.1 environment. It is not currently scheduled for publication (offers welcome).

Raising the Standards v1 -- This article (included here as a 254K PDF) was published in the July 1998 edition of AudioMedia UK and it isn't about Ambisonics - however due to the interest in the topic of Super Audio CD and DSD versus DVD-Audio and PCM, here is my piece about it. The original is already a little out of date, so Raising the Standards v2 (Web version) published in the October issue of AudioMedia US updates it. It isn't as much fun, but it includes late-breaking news and is significantly shorter.

Ambisonics in the Age of DVD -- This March 1998 article is a highly extended (and thus far more detailed) version of the article of the same name that appeared in the April 1998 US and May 1998 UK issues of AudioMedia magazine. It covers the pitfalls of quad more effectively than the 1991 AudioMedia article, although in other senses the 1991 article is more detailed on the historical front. Its primary purpose is to examine the place of Ambisonics in the context of the Digital Versatile Disk (DVD). It includes a page of footnotes and a separate sidebar on my proposal for "G+2" an Ambisonic delivery system for DVD that needs no decoder, no special flags and works with any DVD player of any vintage: in the published article this is covered in the text. The published version is about 3,000 words: this one is more like 10,000, so please be patient! If you don't receive AudioMedia (you should!), here is the article as published in the April 1998 US edition, as an Acrobat PDF file.

Ambisonics for Recording and Broadcast -- Republication of Nigel Branwell's article on Ambisonics from the December 1983 edition of Recording Engineer/Producer magazine. This article is being republished here with the kind permission of Nigel's family, in memory of a contributor to Ambisonics who will be sadly missed.

Transcoding "Quad" Recordings to Ambisonics -- A short article in response to a question on the SurSound list. It describes a number of techniques designed to bring new life to old "quad" recordings by converting them to UHJ or B-Format.

Ambisonics for Audio-Visual -- This article appeared in the November/December 1983 edition of Broadcast Sound magazine. It covers the use of Ambisonics in A/V presentations and includes instructions on how to set up and using Ambisonic mixing equipment. The inclusion of this article was made possible thanks to Eero Aro.

Ambisonics -- BBC Soundfield Experience -- This was probably my first major article on Ambisonics, written for Studio Sound's October 1979 issue. The BBC's early experience of the Soundfield mic in stereo and in ambisonic surround, and their recording philosophy, still provides interesting reading.

Ambisonics: Questions and Answers -- An early example of an 'Ambisonics FAQ', this article appeared in the October 1982 issue of Studio Sound. It is included largely for historical reasons (some of the content has dated somewhat) but it's still useful.

Undeserved Bad Rap for Ambisonics -- This article is a rebuttal of Daniel Sweeney's biased and factually inaccurate discussion of Ambisonics in his March 1997 Home Theater magazine article, A New Kind of Channel Surfing. This was sent to the Editor for hopeful consideration for a future article. Needless to say, they didn't run it.

Whatever Happened to Ambisonics? -- originally appeared in AudioMedia Magazine in November 1991. It provides a detailed overview of the history of Ambisonics, the techniques and equipment, and the state of play in 1991. Additional notes indicate more recent developments. With specially-redrawn illustrations, and the addition of an extensive feedback section including a discussion with Wendy Carlos. (aussi disponible en français, traduit par François Gouget)

Ambisonic Mixing - an introduction -- originally published in Studio Sound, September 1983, this article describes a practical evaluation of the prototype Audio & Design Ambisonic Mastering System, including setup instructions and some starting points for the use of the equipment to create UHJ mixes. Includes re-drawn illustrations.

Ambisonics - A New Age? was originally published in the April 1986 issue of the now long-defunct British recording magazine Sound Engineer and Producer. It covers the recording of New Age percussionist Frank Perry with a combination Soundfield/Mastering Package system. The digital gear is a bit old, but the recording technique is interesting, and the album is still available!

Michael Gerzon - Obituary -- This article appeared in AudioMedia and Mix Magazine following Michael's sad passing in early May 1996.

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