Article Overview

Surround Sound Mixing Consoles

Multichannel audio is the name for a variety of techniques for expanding and enriching the sound of audio playback by recording additional sound channels that can be reproduced on additional speakers. Surround sound refers to the application of multichannel audio to channels "surrounding" the audience (generally some combination of left surround, right surround, and back surround) as opposed to "screen channels" (center, [front] left, and [front] right).

Surround sound was implemented in 1940

One of the first documented uses of surround sound (by Bill Garity) was implemented in 1940 for Disney's classic animation, Fantasia. Dubbed 'Fantasound' it consisted of three audio channels which were diffused (panned – initially live by an engineer) around the cinema over up to 54 speakers, which was achieved through the use of the sum and the difference of the phase of sound.Surround sound technology is used in both, cinema and "home theater" systems, games consoles and PC's (for example, Battle Gear 4 Tuned from TAITO used 5.1 channel surround sound system), and a growing number of other applications. Consumer surround sound formats include sound on videocassettes, Video DVDs, Blu-rays and HDTV broadcasts encoded as Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital, or DTS. Other formats include the competing DVD-Audio (DVD-A) and Super Audio CD (SACD) formats; and MP3 Surround. Theatrical film 5.1 surround formats include Dolby Digital, DTS, THS and Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS).

Creating surround sound

Surround sound can be created using several methods. The simplest method involves using one of many surround sound recording microphone techniques and/or mixing in surround for playback on an audio system which uses several speakers placed around the listener to play audio coming from different directions. A second approach is to process the audio using psychoacoustic sound localization methods to simulate a 2-D sound field using headphones. A third approach, based on Huygens' principle, attempts to reconstruct the recorded soundfield wavefronts within the listening space and so might be regarded as a form of "audio hologram". One form, wave field synthesis (WFS), produces a soundfield which has an even error field over the whole area. Ambisonics is another form based on Huygens' principle. Ambisonics provides an exact reconstruction at a central point, and a less accurate reconstruction as you move away from this point. There is a significant amount of both free and commercial software available for Ambisonics.


Mapping Channels to speakers

In most cases, surround sound systems have relied on the mapping of each source channel to its own loudspeaker. Matrix systems recover the number and content of the source channels and apply them to their respective loudspeakers. With discrete surround, the transmission medium allows for (at least) the same number of channels that the source and destination utilize. However, one-to-one channel to speaker mapping is not the only way of transmitting surround information. The transmitted signal may encode the information defining the original soundfield to a greater or lesser extent; this is rendered at the replay end by a decoder which generates the number of loudspeaker feeds required to suit the number of speakers available for replay and their configuration. This "replay device independent" encoding is analogous to the process of encoding and decoding an Adobe PostScript file, where the file describes the page and is rendered according to the resolution of the output device. Audio rendering is used in Ambisonics and WFS systems.

Bass management

Surround replay systems may make use of bass management, the fundamental principle of which is that bass content in the incoming signal, irrespective of channel, should be directed only to loudspeakers capable of handling it, whether the latter are the main system loudspeakers or one or more special low-frequency speakers called subwoofers.There is a notation difference before and after the bass management system. Before the bass management system there is a Low Frequency Effects (LFE) channel. After the bass management system there is a subwoofer signal. A common misunderstanding is the belief that the LFE channel is the "subwoofer channel". The bass management system may direct bass to one or more subwoofers (if present) from any channel, not just from the LFE channel. Also, if there is no subwoofer speaker present then the bass management system can direct the LFE channel to one or more of the main speakers.


Low Frequency Effects (LFE) Channel

The Low Frequency Effects channel, or LFE, is a source of some confusion in surround sound. The LFE channel was originally developed to carry extremely low "sub-bass" cinematic sound effects (e.g., the loud rumble of thunder or explosions) on their own channel. When loud sub-bass effects are on a different channel, this allows theaters to control the volume of the sub-bass effects, so that it suits the size of their sound reproduction system and the acoustic environment of their cinema. Independent control of the sub-bass effects also reduced the problem of intermodulation distortion in analog movie sound reproduction. In the original movie theater implementation, the LFE was a separate channel fed to one or more subwoofers. However, home replay systems may not have a separate bass speaker (subwoofer) that is able to handle the sub-bass effects. As a result, modern home surround decoders and systems often include a bass management system that allows bass on any channel (main or LFE) to be fed only to the loudspeakers that can handle low-frequency signals.

Surround sound specifications

The descriptions of surround sound specifications below distinguish between the number of discrete channels encoded in the original signal and the number of channels reproduced for playback. The number of channels reproduced for playback can be changed by using matrix decoding. A distinction is also made between the number of channels reproduced for playback and the number of speakers used to reproduce (each channel may refer to a group of speakers).


5.1 Channel Surround (3-2 Stereo, analog matrixed: Dolby Pro Logic II)

Extracts five audio channels from either a specially encoded two-channel or a stereo source:Two channels for speakers at the front—left (L) and right (R). One channel for speaker at the center—center (C). Two channels for surround speakers at the rear—surround left (LS) and surround right (RS). One low-frequency effects channel (LFE). Describes the Dolby Pro Logic II matrixed surround system. Source media is often gaming systems including Playstation 2, GameCube and Wii games branded with "Pro Logic II" logo. 5.1 surround sound may also be referred to as 3-2 stereo. This defines the configuration that has been standardized for numerous surround sound applications. The term 3-2 refers to 3 front speakers and 2 rear speakers. Placement: 5.1 speaker layouts should conform to the ITU-R BS.775 standard, despite the myth that music and video content require different placements. The ITU standard states that the left and right speakers are located at ±30˚, while the rear speakers should be positioned approximately ±110˚. There is speculation that rear loudspeakers at ±150˚ provide “more exciting surround effects”.

5.1 Channel Surround (3-2 Stereo, digital discrete: Dolby Digital, DTS, SDDS)

Delivers five discrete audio channels and 1 LFE channel from a 6 channel source:Two channels for speakers at the front—left (L) and right (R). One channel for speaker at the center—center (C). Two channels for surround speakers at the rear—surround left (LS) and surround right (RS). One low-frequency effects channel (LFE). Describes the Dolby Digital, Digital Theater System (DTS), and Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS) systems. Source media, usually DVD and Blu-ray or satellite/digital cable is often branded with "Dolby Digital" and/or DTS logos. DTS uses a higher sampling rate than Dolby Digital, so DTS can achieve higher fidelity. 5.1 surround sound may also be referred to as 3-2 stereo. This defines the configuration that has been standardized for numerous surround sound applications. The term 3-2 refers to 3 front speakers and 2 rear speakers. Placement: 5.1 speaker layouts should conform to the ITU-R BS.775 standard, despite the myth that music and video content require different placements. The ITU standard states that the left and right speakers are located at ±30˚, while the rear speakers should be positioned approximately ±110˚. There is speculation that rear loudspeakers at ±150˚ provide “more exciting surround effects”.


7.1 Channel Surround (digital discrete: Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD)

Delivers seven audio channels and one LFE channel from an 8 channel source:Two channels for speakers at the front—left (L) and right (R). One channel for speaker at the center—center (C). Two channels for surround speakers at the sides—left surround (LS) and right surround (RS). Two channels for surround speakers at the rear—left back (LB) and right back (RB). One low-frequency effects channel (LFE). Describes the Dolby Digital Plus discrete Surround system. Source media, usually Blu-ray is often branded with "Dolby Digital Plus" and/or "DTS-HD" logos. Layout variation for 7.1 widescreen cinema format: Four channels for speakers at the front—left (L), Center-left (CL), right (R) and Center-Right (CR). One channel for speaker at the center—center (C). Two channels for surround speakers at the rear—surround left (LS) and surround right (RS). One low-frequency effects channel (LFE). This variation is not a format primarily intended for consumer applications, but for large cinema auditoria where the screen width is such that the additional channels are needed to cover all angles between the loudspeakers satisfactorily for all seats in the auditorium.Placement: The front speakers should be placed at the edges of the screen, toed in to face the central listening location, and the tweeters should be ear height. The center speaker should be placed behind the screen (when using projection) or over or under a TV, and as close to ear height as possible. Side channel speakers should be placed on side walls, to the left and right of the listening position, equidistant from the front speakers and the rear speakers. Rear channel speakers should be placed on side walls, slightly behind the listening position, and should have a normal high-quality monopolar construction.

22.2 Channel Surround

22.2 is the surround sound component of Ultra High Definition Video (Super Hi-vision TV with 4320 scanning lines), and has been developed by NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories. As its name suggests, it uses 24 speakers. These are arranged in three layers: A middle layer of ten speakers, an upper layer of nine speakers, and a lower layer of three speakers and two sub-woofers. The system was demonstrated at Expo 2005, Aichi, Japan, the NAB 2006 and 2007 in Las Vegas, and at IBC 2006 and 2007 in Amsterdam.


Calrec Sigma

Sound gives pictures an emotional dimension that movement alone can’t convey. Now HDimages with 5.1 surround sound add a new dimension to broadcast picture quality – and a new challenge for audio-mixing technology.Based in the North of England, Calrec is the major supplier of broadcast audio mixing consoles to the UK broadcast sector and is a major exporter to markets in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim. With the most comprehensive range of broadcast-specific mixing consoles available, Calrec has been a manufacturer of high quality audio products to the broadcast marketplace since 1964. Throughout this period Calrec has focused specifically on the needs of the customers and worked closely with them to develop solutions to their problems. As the industry has moved away from custom products to more generic designs, Calrec has consistently pushed forward technology barriers to provide comprehensive facilities which meet complex requirements within standard specifications. This consistent focus on one sector of the marketplace has resulted in a deep understanding of the ergonomic and system specifications required for modern broadcast production. The audio needs of live production and on-air broadcast operations are continually evolving. Now, with the enthusiastic take-up of new, larger, widescreen and high definition TV displays by consumers worldwide, the role played by sound will become even more critical. This growing “home theater” audience is unlikely to be satisfied by anything less than the best quality video and audio content. Demand for multi-channel surround sound production is increasing. Popular television programming is now being originated in high definition with 5.1 surround audio. Even where HD programming has not yet become commonplace, content owners routinely want to produce high definition versions of their sports, music and live events, with 5.1 audio to match, so as to guarantee extended shelf-life and future income. Whatever the scale of your operation, from national network to playout station, the need to process multi-channel audio will soon be unavoidable. The question is: how can you equip yourself with the increased audio mixing capacity required in the most practical and cost-efficient way? Sigma with Bluefin High Density Signal Processing (HDSP) technology provides the innovative solution. This all digital audio console designed for live production and on-air use, provides 320 channel processing paths on a single DSP card, with full EQ and dynamics to all channels. This equates to 52 x full 5.1 channels. In addition, the system provides a significant amount of audio delay to cope with the increasing AV synchronization problems, resulting from mixed formatHD/SD production, for example. Bluefin signal processing provides 432 mono elements of up to 2.73 seconds of audio delay, which can be inserted exactly where the operator needs it. The revolutionary design of Sigma with Bluefin provides phenomenal processing capacity in a very compact physical footprint.


Euphonix System 5B

Euphonix is a leading manufacturer of large format digital audio mixing consoles, integrated digital audio workstation control surfaces, and peripherals for live broadcast, TV & film audio post-production, and music production applications. Euphonix consoles and controllers offer uncompromised design and full integrated networked control of external workstations on both the Mac and PC platforms. The Euphonix product line includes the System 5 digital console, Max Air digital on-air production console, the new S5 Fusion HDTV audio post console, System 5-MC integrated DAW controller, MC media application controller, and a host of analog and digital converters and the StudioHub 768x768 digital audio router. The innovative EuCon protocol enables the System 5, S5 Fusion, System 5-MC and the MC products to directly integrate with Digital Audio Workstations. Euphonix maintains direct sales and service facilities as well as a large distribution network around the world. Founded in 1988 in Silicon Valley, this year Euphonix celebrates 20 years of success and innovation in the professional audio industry. With over 200 installations of large format broadcast consoles Euphonix has established itself as one of the world leaders in digital controlled audio mixing systems and also has a well earned reputation for after sales support. System 5-B, Euphonix’s flagship broadcast digital mixing system is more affordable with a new generation mixer software pack­age and hardware updates. The new 2004 model supports up to 96 channels using a single DSP mixer core - up from 72 channels – and includes 24 mix buses, 24 group/clean feeds, and 16 IFB/aux sends. The new System 5-B also includes a dedicated mix-minus bus with N-1 mix-minus outputs with talkback from each channel. This configuration matches that of the Euphonix Max Air making the two Systems more operationally compatible. Much like any audio console the System 5-B’s surface includes channel strips and a center section for master facilities. The surface is modular making it easy to add extra channel strips at any time. Connections to the rack are CAT5 Ethernet so place­ment is not restricted by complex cabling. No audio flows through the control surface as the audio electronics are housed remotely. At the top of each channel is a dedicated flat screen display showing routing, high resolution metering and other useful in­formation such as EQ and dynamics curves and source names. Every one of the 96 channels on the System 5-B has exactly the same features which greatly simplifies routing and opera­tion and gives the same processing power to sources, effects returns, and audio subgroups. SnapShot Recall of all console parameters is included. EQ, dynamics, panning and routing can all be done from the channel strips. In the center is the optional CM402 module with 8 assignable faders and an expanded set of channel controls which allows any source to be adjusted from the center of the console.



Lawo mc²66

Lawo is a specialist in developing, designing and manufacturing mixing consoles and matrix systems for radio and TV broadcasters as well as the live domain. High quality standards and innovative technology are supported by thirty-seven years of experience in the field of professional audio technology. Lawo develops and manufactures digital audio mixing consoles for radio, broadcast, production and live applications including the required software. Lawo also manufactures matrix systems and audio networks, carries out project engineering and acts as a main contractor for radio OB Vans. The services include user training and maintenance. This high level of expertise results in an all-around support service for Lawo customers. Throughout its history, the company has always kept learning and looking ahead, making it a pioneer in digitizing radio and TV. In constant communication with its clients, Lawo is optimizing the products’ ergonomics, functionality and design.When in demand of power, speed and flexibility, the Lawo mc² 66 console is the convincing answer. The latest generation Lawo consoles excel, not only by having the largest audio matrix and most powerful DSP core, but also by virtue of an ergonomic philosophy that provides clear, consistent operation and guarantees maximum functionality and efficiency, whatever the job. The customers operation benefits from a very professional tool tailored to specific requirements; a tool that gives customers the freedom to concentrate on what matters most: the best sound. 512 DSP channels, 144 summing buses and 8192 x 8192 crosspoints send a clear message on their own. However, the impressive powerhouse that is the mc² 66 goes even further than these raw pecifications. Highest quality signal processing in particular gives the mc² 66 the power and precision that customers expect from a professional tool, and there are many other outstanding features. For example, in every channel, all the audio sections deliver the highest quality – from the superb limiter to noiseless delay changes – and all available, all of the time. The mc² 66 guarantees to be always that bit faster. Lawo’s recently developed operating philosophy, ‘Assign at Destination’, allows customers to set the controls the way they want them – with speed and confidence, even at critical moments. This ability is a hallmark of the mc²66: total control, all the time, in any situation. With the mc² 66 the sound engineers are always in command of all their console’s resources. They can change the channel section parameters during runtime without losing their production data; they can adapt the DSP power at any time, so it is optimised for the current production; it is even possible to achieve fast switching of the main bus outputs between mono, stereo or surround as well as the on-air integration of a mic board in the stage box – at any time.

Solid State Logic C100

From groundbreaking audio consoles to innovative video production systems, Solid State Logic has evolved to become the world’s leading manufacturer of analogue and digital audio consoles and provider of creative tools for film, audio, video and broadcast professionals. With more than 3000 SSL-equipped studios and facilities operational today, the excellence of SSL consoles is universally recognized for unrivalled sonic quality, superb ergonomics, outstanding automation and an international support infrastructure second to none. Founded in 1969, SSL has since expanded to its present 15 acre science park in Oxfordshire, England. SSL's unrivalled resources, including R&D, manufacturing, training, service and product support, operate in a unique high technology, customer oriented environment. Long-form video and major TV productions benefit from the unique qualities of SSL products the world over. Leading national and international broadcasters have similarly embraced the company's innovative technology to streamline operations and ensure high quality output. The client list reads like a who's who in Radio and Television. It includes BBC UK, NHK Japan, ABC USA, Fox USA, NBC USA, CBS USA, NDR Germany, Swedish Television, RAI Italy and NOB Netherlands. The C100 is the ultimate digital audio console for on-air broadcast and live-to-tape applications. It delivers a flexible and cost effective solution that can be compact or can be scaled to meet even the most demanding multi studio requirements. It offers unrivalled SSL ergonomics with a state of the art interface that is highly configurable and delivers exceptional audio fidelity. C100 delivers robust & redundant operation that is essential in critical studio and mobile broadcast environments. Strict program budgets demand maximum value from any capital investment. The versatile and scalable nature of the C100 provides true cost-efficiency with each console tailored to meet production and budgetary needs. One simple chassis design can be expanded, with console surface, DSP and I/O all scalable. Anything from a 16 channel strip system to multi bay consoles with up to 128 channel strips can be configured with a compact footprint that is ideal for trucks. Remote I/O systems are possible via the dedicated C-SB Stage Box or entire multi studio & multi control room systems can be created with the MORSE modular resource sharing engine option (featured at the back of this brochure). Future requirements can then be accommodated through the system’s clear expansion path, guaranteeing a long and productive working life. The C100 provides simultaneous 5.1, stereo and mono signal paths from source through to destination, with streamlined routing and control capability making set-up and manipulation of multiple 5.1 mixes an intuitive and straightforward process. The advantages of both assignable and dedicated control philosophies are blended on the C100’s control surface, with definable Free controls and the dedicated Master Channel and Fader Strip.

Stagetec Aurus

The Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup is a dynamic consortium of three enterprises. Together, in their respective fields of development and manufacture, project engineering and distribution, they are pan-European market leaders in audio, video, and intercom technology. Combining forces in a business group generates a highly effective synergy. The Mediagroup can offer a broad range of dovetailed products and services perfectly complementing each other – from a simple cost-effective announcement system for a school or a sound-reinforcement installation in a church, all the way to the design, construction and project management of extensive multi-disciplinary solutions for broadcasters, theatres, stadiums, and multi-purpose venues. The Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup is providing individual solutions from a one-stop-shop. The novel digital mixing-console architecture introduced by the young and innovative Stagetec team in 1994 has since significantly influenced the design of current digital desks and not only in appearance. After the amazing success of the CANTUS system, Stagetec now introduces a top mixing console completely designed from scratch: AURUS – the Direct-Access Console AURUS continues the concept of consistent separation of console and I/O matrix, which allows for setting up distributed and efficient audio networks; but at the same time, this separation is supplemented by a unique control concept, instant access to all key parameters. This is a novelty in the digital world! Instant access is made possible by the implementation of dual encoders. Each dual encoder enables two parameters to be adjusted in the space usually occupied by a single control and also provides an additional button. As the digital console with the analogue user interface, AURUS is the perfect solution for live use, sound reinforcement, and especially for mobile use. The control sets composed of dual encoders and (also dual) LED arc indicators or digital displays ensure intuitive, quick, and clear control. The unusually large number of controls – at least for a digital console – provide instant access to the desired audio channels. Depending on the configuration, up to 96 channel strips and 300 audio channels are available. Optimum access to all controls and perfect legibility of all displays and indicators offers a high degree of user-friendliness whilst keeping the training period short. AURUS is fully integrated with the NEXUS router. Therefore AURUS has direct access to all the desirable NEXUS features such as outstanding converters, diversity of digital formats and the extensive application opportunities afforded by a digital audio network. If all this isn’t enough, multiple AURUS consoles can coexist within a single NEXUS network. System components are interconnected using fibre-optic cables that transfer all control and audio data including talkback and monitoring signals for the consoles.

Studer Vista 8

The Swiss based company Studer is one of the leaders worldwide for professional audio. Founded by Willi Studer in 1948, over the years the company and its brand name Studer became synonymous for broadcasting and recording equipment. Today Studer is able to offer solutions for nearly every application in the field of Professional Audio. Studer products are invented and manufactured in Regensdorf / Switzerland. The product range includes equipment and systems for TV / Radio Broadcast, Recording and Production Studios, or 19" components for system applications. For over 50 years, Studer’s commitment to continuous investment in research and development has maintained its position as a world leader in both analog and digital technology. This has resulted in the award of more than 20 technology patents but more importantly, it gives Studer the engineering and design skills to turn these technologies into innovative and often unique products that our customers want to use. The constant evolution of ergonomic user-interface technologies, combined with leading edge digital signal processing, has resulted in the most efficient and groundbreaking innovation, namely the “Vista” series of digital mixing desks. By focussing on the human aspects of operation, a product has been created that is not only intuitive, efficient and reliable but also a pleasure to use. By introducing the revolutionary Vistonics® user-interface technology, Studer has set new standards in digital mixing console operation. Unparalleled in ergonomics and ease of operation it combines intuitiveness by graphical representation of complex parameters via colored symbols together with localized control where the parameters are actually displayed. This patented and award winning technology in conjunction with thorough market research has led to a range of unique products – the Vista Series of digital mixing systems. These tools give sound engi­neers the freedom to turn their creativity in masterpieces or keep calm in hectic live situations. More than that, getting familiar with and finally mastering the high technology of a modern digital mixing console becomes easy and is also fun.The Studer Vista 8 is a digital mixing system for live, production and broadcasting applications that reaches out far beyond the limitations of existing designs. The Vista 8 also provides the globally acclaimed Vistonics user-interface in the control section for unmatched output metering and control, plus a host of other groundbreaking features. The Studer Vista 8 is quite simply easier to operate than any analog or digital console and a joy to work with. Within minutes, engineers quickly find their way round the numerous exciting features. Operation of the console is unmatched in intuitiveness and simplicity. Operators in live events and production can work with complete confidence since the user-interface reduces the risk of human error to an absolute minimum.

Yamaha DM2000

Yamaha began over one hundred years ago when a young entrepreneur named Torakusu Yamaha set out to craft a high-quality reed organ. Before long, the company he founded had not only gone on to manufacture Japan's first piano, it had also gained recognition abroad: In 1904, a Yamaha piano and organ were awarded an Honorary Grand Prize at the St. Louis World's Fair. From these auspicious beginnings, Yamaha grew to become one of the best-loved manufacturers of musical instruments in the world. And as it grew, the company capitalized on a unique heritage of artisanship and technological know-how to diversify into an astoundingly wide range of products and services. Today, Yamaha is a leader in businesses ranging from musical instruments and audio & video products to information technology products, new media services, home furnishings, auto components, specialty metals, music education and resort facilities. When the acclaimed Yamaha DM2000 console appeared on the production scene, it proved that true 24-bit/96-kHz performance, DAW integration, and surround production facilities were what the industry had been waiting for. Meanwhile Yamaha’s top-of-the-line DM2000 Digital Production Console is already well established as a standard in the professional audio production field. It has become the first choice of discerning audio professionals worldwide because of its unsurpassed audio quality, superior versatility, outstanding reliability, and advanced surround monitoring capabilities that made it one of the first digital consoles in the world to win THX pm3™ approval. The new DM2000VCM is the DM2000 Version 2 plus a formidable array of state-of-the-art processing technologies that provide all-new production power. You now have extraordinary recreations of classic compression and EQ units from the 70’s, simulations of several legendary analog open-reel tape decks, a complete suite of unmatched REV-X reverb effects, a surround post-production package that is second to none, and even a selection of vintage stomp boxes to spice up your mixes. And all of this is right at your fingertips, with no need to patch in external processors. The technology that has made all of this possible is some of the most advanced in the world, and the sound is simply superb. In short, one of the world’s most popular digital production consoles just got a lot more powerful. Automation and Scene Memory recall capability are essential elements of modern digital mixing consoles. With the DM2000, Yamaha takes these functions to an even higher level of precision and ease-of-use. Whileproviding full automation of virtually all console parameters, DM2000 features smooth and quiet touch-sensitive, 100mm motorized faders that make writing and updating automated mixes faster and more intuitive than ever. And all automation data is recorded at 1/4-frame accuracy to ensure excellent precision. Global Fade Time and Global Recall Safe are in addition to independent fade time and recall safe settings for each scene, you can set global fade time and recall safe settings that applyto all scenes. This ability can dramatically reduce setup time when you will be using multiple scenes with the same settings.