Pink Floyd in Sennheiser Ambeo 3D is the most immersive 3D audio you’ll ever hear

posted on Thursday, 14th September 2017 by Steve May

3D Audio  Exhibition  High Res Audio 

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If you want to experience Pink Floyd in Sennheiser Ambeo 3D, head over to the V&A. The hugely successful exhibition, Their Mortal Remains, has had its run at the Victoria and Albert museum extended to October 15. Which means there’s still time (provided you don’t fritter it away on a dull day) to experience the most immersive example of 3D audio Inside CI has ever heard.

The exhibition follows the story of Pink Floyd through from the early days playing at London’s UFO Club, to its worldwide success. Everything that could be here, is: the iconic sleeve art, the early recording hardware, promo clips and interviews. It's a fabulous trip for the Pink Floyd faithful.

The show climaxes with a live performance of Comfortably Numb, remixed in Sennheiser Ambeo 3D, and it’s remarkable. The immersive audio mix was created at Abbey Road studios, from an original recording made at the 2005 Live 8 concert held at Hyde Park, the last time David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright played onstage with former member Roger Waters.

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It was remixed by Floyd’s recording engineer Andy Jackson, senior engineer Simon Rhodes and Golden Globe-nominated composer and producer Simon Franglen.

“This extraordinary Sennheiser system allows us to work in every direction, forward, backwards, up, down, left, right…it’s a fantastic opportunity to mix this song in this format,” says Jackson.

Visitors to the V&A hear the track in a custom built auditorium, using the same sound system at Abbey Road. “You feel like the band is in the room with you,” adds Jackson. “We have to give visitors something they can’t hear any other way. Otherwise they could just buy a disc. “

Sennheiser’s Ambeo 3D technology is rather different from Dolby Atmos and other immersive audio formats. “We have three levels of height,” explains Rhodes. “Unlike Dolby Atmos, where you have two or four speakers upstairs, here we have a second level that we can put anything into. You can move things vertically. It’s a discrete image rather than a virtual one, it has solidity. We can give a drum kit height – the kicks are on the floor and the cymbals are higher.”

The treatment is fitting says Rhodes. “Surround is in Pink Floyd’s DNA. They tried to master The Dark Side of the Moon in four channel, the original disc cut was quadraphonic. Now we have the technology to take it further. Having done 5.1 mixes for years, I came to this with preconceptions about what we could achieve. With 5.1 you have the perimeter of a circle you can work with, but you can’t get inside that. With Ambeo 3D you get to use the entire volume of space.”

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The listening experience is more realistic explains Franglen: “In 5.1 or 7.1 mixes, the sound is generally in front of you, with a bit round the back. At the exhibition, there are four screens all around, so the point is to actually be inside the music. When you have all these extra sound dimensions you can walk around, focus on instruments and vocals.”
Abbey Road is, of course, the studio where the band recorded a number of albums including The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of their debut album.

Dr Andreas Sennheiser describes 3D audio as “the new frontier of sound excellence, set to transform the listening experience for users.”

Of course, as impressive as it is, Sennheiser Ambeo 3D remains an experimental technology at present, one used for special events and technology demos. But if you want to hear just how extraordinary immersive audio can sound, it needs to be experienced.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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