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How Airsound is changing multi-room audio

19 October 2017

With multi-room speaker systems on the rise, it's time we talk about how the ONE P70W and Airsound technology have raised the bar for sound quality.

In recent years, multi-room music distribution has exploded. That’s not surprising given the advantages in convenience and quality that it brings. Since the advent of smartphone technology, good Wi-Fi and unlimited streaming services, multi-room audio has become accessible in homes that don’t have a high-tech media distribution system. Twenty years ago the only viable solution for multi-room sound systems would be to physically run cabling around a home, and use an expensive ‘hub’ of some sort to pipe different media to different locations. Subsequently, wireless multi-room systems appeared but often needed specialist equipment, or expensive subscriptions….

And now? You just need power, good broadband/Wi-Fi, a touchscreen device, and your favourite playlist. It’s that simple. So to us, the evidence is clear: the age of accessible multi-room has arrived.

So who needs a multi-room speaker system?

A multi-room speaker is always ready to play. This means that music is accessible at a moment’s notice, at any time. How much more will you enjoy listening to playlists, your favourite radio shows, or discover new music if the hassle of connecting devices or stopping what you are doing on your phone is removed?

Music can enhance our daily routine, and multi-room makes a big difference to how much we enjoy streamed media. For those who want to be able to play music throughout their home, when and where they want it, multi-room systems are the way forwards today. Speakers should be designed with style in mind, being space efficient and attractive to have in the home, making us want to use them more.

If you enjoy radio or music, and feel that you would enjoy it more if it were ‘on tap’, multi-room is for you.

Another good reason to use Wi-Fi (over, for example, Bluetooth) means that if you receive a phone call, or leave the room, or start an app with audio e.g., your home speakers are going to play on uninterrupted. This is because once you start them playing they stream audio directly from the source - leaving your phone with less to do, freeing your phone and you, saving battery etc.

Airsound

It’s likely you’ve heard us talk about Airsound before. We do talk about it a lot. That said, it’s possible you don’t know what it is. We are proud of the audio that our speakers produce. But when it comes to multi-room speaker systems, we’re confident we’ve got something special with how Airsound works with multi-room audio. This is why...

The pitfall of stereo sound

When listening to audio, one of the most important aspects of an enjoyable listening experience is stereo balance. With a traditional stereo sound setup with 2 speakers, the location of the listener becomes very important. As the diagram below shows... too close to either the left or right channel ruins the stereo effect:

  • Bad stereo balance, because the closer speaker overpowers the more distant one.
  • Frequency cancellation and distortion caused by time delays from sound reaching a listener's ears at different times.

Stereo like this only works properly when the listener is in the right place. This is commonly referred to as the ‘sweet spot’.

You’re probably starting to see the issue here; you can’t have an entire audience/party standing between two speakers. It’s just not really possible no matter how hard you try, or how willing everyone in the listening area is to bunch up. Some speakers have left and right channels in one box. In this case, the stereo effect is limited to start with.

With stereo systems being the go-to industry standard for a long time, the ‘sweet spot’ issue is something that music aficionados and sound technicians have learned to live with, putting up with the disadvantages.

Just as an aside: next time you're at a concert, look at where the sound engineer is with their equipment. Odds are they're around two thirds back, dead centre between the left and right speaker arrays.

Adding in multi-room makes the situation worse. As you move around your listening space, from room to room, left and right channels will overpower each other as you move closer to one speaker and further from another.

In the diagram above, you can see clearly that traditional stereo technology means that although the audio may be in sync, there are precious few places where the sound is complete or correct.

Getting around the sweet spot

Orbitsound’s approach to providing a balanced and distortion-free listening experience yielded Airsound. Not to toot our own horn, but it’s a fundamentally different technological approach to the sweet spot challenge. Developed by audio electronics designer and producer Ted Fletcher, Airsound is a physical audio process that converts a conventional stereo signal (Left and Right) to something quite different, overcoming the basic limitations of 2+ speaker stereo; working with front and side-firing speakers that are driven with ‘Main’ and ‘Spatial’ signals, working together to create a sweet spot-less and true stereo soundfield.

Airsound works no matter where you are. The upshot of this is that each speaker produces a seamless stereo soundfield that co-exists with other Airsound speakers, even when they are in the same room. Listeners can be anywhere, moving around, without experiencing any jarring image shifts or changes in the sound quality.

So how does Airsound help in multiroom situations, or in situations where more than one speaker is connected in the same space? Essentially, the side speakers increase the amount of diffusion, enveloping the room in sound. The sound coming from these side speakers does not fight or interact with itself, in the same way that sound from a number of stereo speakers would, leaving you feeling immersed in the experience.

You can read about how Airsound works here

For our home though, we can see below how this looks in real life:

The ONE P70W is a superbly rounded multi-room Airsound speaker solution. It’s a single box option that integrates a powerful subwoofer to deliver a full and proper bass response and a full stereo sound. It’s a sound system that works anywhere; not just the lounge or living room. We’re excited to show it off, so please check out the ONE P70W - the first of many Orbitsound Wi-Fi enabled products.

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