One of the things I have noticed when I purchase or rent DVDs is that most of the focus is on the picture quality. How well does the screen on your HDTV recreate the theater experience. The thing is, when I go to the theater to see a movie, it is rarely the screen which leaves me on the edge of my seat. It is the sounds. The music, the effects. I mean, really. Think about the movie Jurassic Park for a minute. Was it the rippling water that gave you the thrill of an approaching T-Rex, are was it the thunderous sounds his footsteps made. So, while the screen is important, I have long been waiting to find a company which could truly recreate that theater quality sound.
Enter GenAudio, who claims to have found a solution with their AstoundSurround technology. Using only your existing speakers (it does require a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system,) it can recreate that four dimensional quality of sound and music, which you have previously only been able to enjoy in the theater. Now, I read all of the materials which GenAudio sent me. And they spent a lot of time talking about moving individual sounds in real time in a complete spherical environment, and 4D sound localization cue technology. HUH??? Honestly, I am not an audio engineer, and most of this was completely lost on me. But their summary seemed to make a lot of sense to me:
Technically, all current audio technologies are defined as Mono, Stereo and Surround Sound. The scientific
community refers to these spatial dimensions and the dimension of time as space-time coordinates, otherwise referred to as a fourth dimensional coordinate.
Or maybe it was the visualization they included to go along with it:
That image of planes coming at you from all directions is exactly the way I envision this technology sounding.
Anyway, enough technical talk. You want to know how this works, and so do I. They have worked this 4D technology into a few CDs, but that was not really what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know how this technology would work to recreate the movie theater experience in my home. Fortunately, they have already released one video with the GenAudio AstoundSurround, and the folks at GenAudio were nice enough to send over the Hellboy II DVD for me to watch and listen.
As luck would have it, I am visiting my parents, who just finished building a new media room in their house. So, along with the latest in speaker technology, I am all set to see (or hear) exactly what AstoundSurround has to offer.
The first thing I found after I popped in the DVD, was that Hellboy II was not a particularly good movie. But that is neither here nor there. AstoundSurround advertises itself as immersing you in a 360 degree field of sound. And I would love to tell you that that was my experience. But the truth is that while the sounds did seem a bit crisper than normal, and the surround sound felt a little more active than I might have expected, I really did not feel as though I had been immersed in a field of sound.
In addition to enhancing the discs themselves, you can also download the GenAudio AstoundStereo Expander, which creates an audio experience analogous to Surround Sound, using only 2-channel audio (stereo) found on your computer. You can download the software at($39.95 with a 30 day free trial). I tested this out as well, and found that it did make much more of a difference than the AstoundSurround variation. In this case, when I played music through the software on my computer, the sounds did appear to come from behind and around me. So, perhaps this is where GenAudio is destined to find its niche, by simulating the surround sound experience on systems which are not designed to do so.
I have to admit that I was pretty pleased to find a company willing to give the same care and attention to movie audio as the video elements. Although my experience was not all I was hoping it would be, I could hear enough to see the promise in the future of this technology. Like I said, I am looking forward to seeing where GenAudio takes both their AstoundSurround and AstoundStereo technologies.