The new positional audio solution is designed to create an immersive sound experience through headphones and speakers.
To coincide with the 2018 Mobile World Congress in Spain, THX has announced its latest advancement in audio tech. Dubbed the THX Spatial Audio Platform, the new end-to-end universal positional audio solution has been designed to support immersive object-based and ambisonics formats, open standards, and legacy content through mobile, PC and other electronic devices over headphones and speakers.
"THX has a rich history of ensuring high fidelity audio and visual experiences for consumers and as technology continues to evolve, so do we," said Ruben Mookerjee, Senior Vice President of Product, THX Ltd. "We look forward to working closely with Qualcomm to bring next generation entertainment experiences to life with THX Spatial Audio using MPEG-H."
The THX Spatial Audio Platform covers various elements of content creation and audio playback, including the use of the MPEG-H audio standard to offer next generation high-fidelity audio support on mobile products, PCs, and other media devices. As part of the demo at Mobile World Congress, the company has teamed up with Qualcomm to demonstrate the THX Spatial Audio Platform's ability to encode, decode, transport, and render content using MPEG-H audio to create an enhanced sense of immersion on mobile devices.
And though we're not on hand in Barcelona to hear the new demo, THX was kind enough to treat our Editor-in-Chief, Michael S. Palmer, to a BETA demo of the tech back at CES in January.
Hands-On First Impressions
Technologies like DTS:Headphone:X and Dolby Headphone have been around for a few years, and they do quite well at synthesizing a full surround experience for music, movies, and video games on just about any pair of stereo headphones. THX Spatial Audio offers a similar immersive quality for headphones, but takes everything one step further.
We had a chance to do a secret BETA-demo of THX Spatial Audio at CES 2018. The demo consisted of listening to music that was captured using binaural recording, as well as a clip from the film Gravity on three different devices -- over-the-ear headphones, an Android phone with stereo speakers, and PC laptop with stereo speakers.
Binaural recording, for those who aren't aware, is a form of stereo recording that places two microphones in such a way that the recorded audio mimics what it's like for human beings to hear live music in a room. In our music demo, switching between THX Spatial Audio and conventional stereo created a dramatic effect. With Spatial Audio engaged, it was like being IN the recording studio itself, surrounded by various instruments, an illusion that was akin to virtual reality with one's eyes closed. Testing out the same music tracks with the stereo phone or laptop, the results were less dramatic, but still quite effective in how it seemed to erase the location of each device's speakers and replacing those with a wall of clear, lifelike, stereo sound. A bit more like attending a concert than listening to a recording.
Moving on to the scene from Gravity, it's no surprise today that headphones can deliver a seamless surround-esque experience, but what really surprised me was how much this translated to the Android phone and the laptop. Effectively, using the worst speakers possible to try to enjoy a thrilling action setpiece is a not a great idea, yet with THX Spatial Audio, it sounded like Sandra Bullock's screams and Steven Price's heart-pumping score were floating out in front of the displays. It wasn't a surround experience, mind you, but the stereo panning and imagine was perfect and a bit like listing to a Dolby Atmos sound bar. (By the way, I'd love to see this tech built into sound bars.)
So, we don't really have anything to report about specific devices or content just yet, but know this: it works quite well, demonstrably so, and lives up to the THX legacy. When you start to see THX Spatial Audio as a feature on your gear, music, movies, or games, definitely check it out.