PARIS Consumer electronics giant Thomson SA said Thursday (Dec. 2) that the MP3 compressed digital audio format has been extended with the creation of a multi-channel variant intended to offer "surround sound" capability.
Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, the inventor of the MP3 format, together with Thomson, Fraunhofer's exclusive licensing representative for their MP3 patents and software, and Agere Systems Inc. are launching MP3 Surround jointly.
The technology would enable 5 plus 1 (5.1) channel sound for application with web-based music distribution, broadcasting systems, PC-related audiovisual or gaming applications, consumer electronics and automotive systems, Thomson said.
Bit rates for encoding MP3 Surround are comparable to those currently used to encode stereo MP3 material, resulting in files half the size of other common compressed surround formats, Thomson added. The new format offers backward compatibility to any existing MP3 software and hardware devices.
The web site http://www.mp3surround-format.com provided free MP3 Surround evaluation software including an encoder, demo samples, when this story was first posted.
Fraunhofer IIS developed MP3 Surround in collaboration with Agere Systems using a psychoacoustic technique called binaural cue coding.
"As surround sound is increasingly gaining importance in the marketplace, we are confident that MP3 Surround will attract the attention of music production professionals and consumers alike," said Juergen Herre, chief executive scientist at Fraunhofer IIS, in a statement issued by Thomson.
The evaluation period of the MP3 Surround encoder is set to expire on December 31, 2005, while the Fraunhofer IIS player has no time limit should remain fully functional, Thomson said.