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The idea behind spatialised sound is simple enough in itself : it basically boils down to using an array of speakers (usually) larger than two in order to achieve enhanced audio realism. Even though stereo still works well enough in many cases, it hardly provides for a life-like audio experience. At the most it will enable you to position the sound sources on the line between your 2 playback speakers; and most of the intended live stage effect will be lost whenever the listener turns his/her head. Despite these obvious limitations stereo systems are still widely in use in clubs and other live venues. Why is that?

Geared to the needs of the movie and home entertainment industry, current surround sound technologies are inherently biased towards a frontal experience. Indeed, the front soundstage carries the brunt of the audio, and rear and side sources are rarely assigned any major role at the time of the mixing. Such a sound incidence bias – albeit restrictive – might be acceptable for a theater show or a music concert as performed in a traditional venue (ie in an auditorium with rows of seats aligned to face the stage), but what about clubs, pubs and other non-standardised venues? And while we’re at it: what about allowing performers and event hosts more leeway in arranging the audience and setting up the stage?

5.1 Speakers configuration

Strict standardization of the speaker set-up is yet another corollary to the audiovisual bias of spatialised sound. Thus the widespread 5.1 system according to which 5 speakers are placed on a circle with the user at its center, the main speaker directly facing him/her, and 4 side speakers at ±30° and ±110° respectively (a 6th speaker dedicated to bass frequencies, which aren’t meant to participate in the sound spatialization effect, can be freely placed). And thus we estimate that due to obvious room limitations as well as to a lack of proper understanding of the 5.1 speaker setup requirements, around 75% of the domestic 5.1 implementations aren’t actually 5.1 compliant, and that in many instances lateral emissions tend to degrade rather than enhance audio experience. And even for professional live performance venues the rigidity of the standard can quickly turn the implementation of a 5.1 setup into “mission impossible”, the only way out being to bar the emergency exit with one of the speakers while balancing yet another one on the lap of Her Ladyship the Ambassador.

To help you bypass the rigidity of these existing standards, WAF is now offering its own original alternative surround sound solution especially geared towards the requirements of live performance and clubbing.

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