Ambisonic’s strength is also its weakness.

Its 2015. Ambisonics isn’t mainstream, but there is significant market awareness. Jane and Bob want some of the action, and so they decide to set themselves up with an Ambisonic listening rig.

They walk into an audio hardware store and announce their intentions to the sales rep.

Jane: “Hi, we’d like to get setup at home with a surround sound system that can play Ambisonics”

rep: “Ok, great, we have everything you need here, so what exactly are you after?”.

Bob: “Well, we’ve heard that Ambisonics is the best surround experience, and we love our music, so we’d like to get set up”.

rep: “Ok, so what kind of speaker set-up are you after?”

Jane: “Something so we can listen to Ambisonics”

rep: “Ok, Ambisonics can be played back over practically any speaker array.”

Bob: “What’s a speaker array?”

rep: “Oh, sorry, you can use as many speakers as you like. Generally, the more speakers the better.”

Bob: “Ah, I see, so what’s the ideal number of speakers so we get the most out of Ambisonics?”

rep: “Well, you could have a 5.1 style set-up, or you could go a bit extra and have a hexagonal array. If you’d like to experience height then you might consider a cube array. You could also go for a cube on its side type of array, then you can have 2 rows of 6 speakers, and generally any vaguely symmetrical array is valid.”

Jane: “Ahhh, Ok”

Jane: “so… what’s recommended?”

rep: “Well, it depends really. What kind of room you are in, and how much money you have, but above all, which AV receiver you are going to use… not all AV receivers decode to all those different speaker arrays. You see, that’s the great thing about Ambisonics, it can be played back to any speaker array”.

Bob: “That’s great that Ambisonics can be played back to any speaker array… but that doesn’t help me choose which array”.

etc. etc.

My point being that choice is often an inhibitor to technology uptake because it adds complexity and introduces the need to make decisions. Making a decision is work, and if you dont know much about what you are making a decision about, its hard work.

So it is my belief that Ambisonics needs to define a set of recommended speaker layouts. This will make it easier not only for consumers to make choices, but also for maufacturers to make decoders.

Above all, I believe that there should be 1 overriding recommendation. A recommendation that can be sold to consumers who have no means, no mechanisms, by which to make a decision about what kind of speaker array / AC receiver combo to choose. Maybe that recommendation should be a cube layout … just so that height is a factor.

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2 Responses to Ambisonic’s strength is also its weakness.

  1. Michael Chapman says:

    If one reads TBL’s “Weaving the Web” two things become clear
    — HTML was not as ‘good’ as some of his previous experiùental systems. It was though its simplicity that led to its fairly wide adoption …
    — Most of the book is not about ‘the inventive leap’, but about the struggle to get ‘the product’ accepted.

    We (Etienne and I) have previously discussed whether G-format downloads might not be a good idea. The arguments for that are much the same: Something simple that can gain wide acceptance (with obvious technical sacrifices).


    1) The big plus that ambisonics has over other systems is height. It is a unique selling feature. (If 10.2 ever comes along, it will not be unique, but will leave pantophony looking non-competitive.)

    2) The ‘mine is bigger than yours’ argument is a strong one: Look at cameras, not sold on quality but on number of pixels.
    The ‘spouse does not like cabling to the back of the room’ hurdle was (kindly) killed for us by 5.1.

    3) Second Order pantophony is better than 5.1. Argguably 5.1 may be better (for the crucial ‘soundstage’) than First Order.
    There is a strong argument for going for Second Order (or at least ‘fh’).
    -there aint much second order material out there (… yet),
    -speaker positioning becomes far less easy (in practical terms of doors/windows/the dog’s bed.
    So: NEEDS CONSIDERING: a pity to ditch this line, but maybe an unfortunate cost.

    It all seems to point to CUBOIDAL, if not CUBE.

    (But Id love to read others’ takes on this!)


  2. Michael Chapman says:

    Trivial, but a downloadable A4/PDF file sheet for each piece, would (I feel) be a big plus.

    (Obviously this ought (eventually) to go in the sound file as metadata …. once we get a nice file format).


    (If you want help writing a script to generate these, do say.)

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