High End 2013 Show Report

What We Wanted to Show and Demonstrate

The demonstrated Illusonic Immersive Audio Processor is a versatile high-quality digital pre-amp, featuring in addition to the conventional audiophile common interfaces also latest HDMI 1.4a inputs and output.

Why would one want to have an audiophile pre-amp with 16 balanced analog outputs? To implement our unique immersive audio technology, which has the goal to reproduce existing music and movie sound tracks optimally over the given loudspeaker setup. With optimally we mean, enabling a sound experience like in the sweet spot, also for listeners which are not sitting in the sweet spot. Add a center loudspeaker to stereo to get a stable sound stage from everywhere. Or/and add surround loudspeakers to be immersed into the room of the music (no added reverb, but music-extracted room signal). Many setups and up to 16 loudspeakers can be used.

It is about getting great sound, for music and movies, on each seat on your sofa. Or an audiophile home cinema with great 3D immersive sound on each of its seats.

Demo Room Equipment

In the two days before the show, we prepared our demo room. We were lucky and thankful to be able to install highest quality and world-renown audio equipment:

– 6 Soulution Series 5 power amps

– Soulution Digital Player

– Dr. Feickert turntable with a Soulution pre-amp

– Focal 5.1 setup with 5 Utopia III Viva and Sub Utopia

– Vovox cabling (power, XLR, coax, loudspeaker cables)

– TAOC racks (Axiss)

mbakustik absorbers, diffusers, and curtains

The central control (“digital pre-amp”) connecting this setup was our Immersive Audio Processor, which additionally connected to an Oppo Blu ray player via HDMI 1.4a.

Fine Tuning and Calibration

The Immersive Audio Processor’s versatile calibration capabilities were used. An initial calibration setting was derived from measurements throughout the 13-chair listening area (resulting in gain trim, delay trim, modest EQs, and bass management settings).

The night before the show, Patrik Schwitter fine tuned the calibration of the system until midnight, to improve low frequency response and to remove some “shoebox” sound which remained despite of the (relatively modest) acoustic treatment. Patrik used our new Immersive Audio Processor calibration tool, which presents an up to 16 channel mixing console with gain trim, delay trim, 5 fully parametric EQs per channel, and the many bass management parameters. Using this tool, Patrik could calibrate the system as he is used to: real-time like with a real mixing console, getting immediate acoustic feedback as he moved any control. This effort paid back, we got many positive comments on the overall sound of the room and system (also for stereo!).

Impressions and Reactions

Throughout the show, we used a single sound setting. No tweaking at all. Our goal is, that one setting is good for all music. That went well, we never felt we would have to change anything.

I was a bit anxious about the prospect of having many audiophile people exposed to our 3-channel stereo (left, right, center) and 5.1 for music and movies demonstration. We have had our system exposed to music professionals, acousticians, and a few audiophile people with good feedback. But it was hard to predict what the shock of listening to an unfamiliar 3 or 5 channel presentation of stereo music would evoke in an audiophile stereo and music lover.

The majority of feedback was overwhelmingly positive. We had many listeners staying long and coming several times again – listening carefully with closed eyes. The range of reaction was from being amazed (for example laughing out loudly as we switched to reference stereo), positive, to being a bit confused but positive. We got only very few negative reactions. Of course we don’t know the thoughts of the many people that just listened without saying anything. But not many people looked distressed or not pleased.

Technology Stage Presentation

Every day, I gave a presentation entitled “High Quality Stereo Reproduction Using a Center Channel”, to explain how a center channel is generated from stereo with the goal of sounding similar to the 2-channel stereo phantom center. I wrote a short version of this presentation as a blog.