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BBC developing '3D radio' technology

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The BBC are reportedly developing a new '3D radio' sound for its stations.

Researchers at BBC R&D have been looking into acoustics that can make the listener feel like they are actually at concerts by making the sound come from all directions, including above and below them.

The BBC's sound effects department would be able to further increase the quality of their output, by making sounds seem like they are rising or falling around the listener.

Engineers say that the technology will allow listeners to receive the 3D effects from their existing equipment, without the need to buy new products.

Frank Melchior, lead technologist for audio with BBC R&D, told The Telegraph: "We want to deliver a new experience to the audience that gives them more immersion and involvement in the content.

"We also have to make sure we are flexible enough in the delivery of this content. It has to sound okay on headphones as well as on speakers."

Concert audience
BBC Radio 4 had previously fooled listeners by asking them to hold their hands in front of their faces to hear the effect of 3D radio on April Fools' Day last year.

However, a research paper from BBC R&D reveals that 3D audio could actually exist, by tricking a listener's brain into hearing sounds from below and above them, as well as the usual stereo sounds.

Engineers have already tried out the new system with pre-records of the Last Night of the Proms, an Elbow concert and a radio play of the Wizard of Oz.

Anthony Churnside, co-author of the BBC R&D research paper, said: "There are a number of ways to create 3D sound. There are psychoacoustic tricks that can make you perceive sound from above and below.

"With the Wizard of Oz we concentrated on a couple of scenes including the tornado when it takes the house away. Suddenly we had mooing cows thrown up into the air, and the wind could be all around you. With 3D sound you have every direction to play with so you can be really quite creative.

"For an orchestra or a live event, the majority of the sounds come from the stage in front of you, but the sense of immersion comes from the sound bouncing off the roof and the walls."

He added: "The final solution will probably be a hybrid of the technologies so that we can record, produce, broadcast and listen to the audio in the most flexible way."

The new techniques could also help improve the sound quality of future 3D television broadcasting.

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