Audyssey Labs introduces 10-channel surround


Yesterday, Audyssey Labs announced DSX, a new technology designed to add extra channels to a 5.1 or 7.1 surround-sound system. DSX, or Dynamic Surround Expansion, adds two front height-channel speakers, just as Dolby’s new Pro Logic IIz technology does, but it also adds two width speakers, each positioned 60 degrees to the side of the listener. The scheme also supports a center surround channel. The goal is greater listener envelopment and a more seamless listening experience.

You’re counting in your head, right? Yep, that’s a total of 10 speakers, plus a subwoofer. However, DSX is an a la carte proposition. According to Audyssey Labs chief science officer Tom Holman, of all the additional speakers you can add with DSX, the width speakers are the most important, because human hearing is most attuned to hearing differences in horizontal placement of sounds toward the front. You can use the height speakers instead of or in combination with the width speaker. And you can add one or two rear surround speakers in addition to the side surrounds.

Company chief technology officer Chris Kyriakakis predicted we’ll see several new DSX-equipped receivers by summer, and several more by the end of the year. Specifics about those products—such as whether or not they’ll include amps for all channels, or just line outputs for the extra channels—are as yet unavailable.

Demos of clips from Wall-E, The Dark Knight, and Audyssey’s own multichannel music recordings did indeed sound extraordinarily enveloping.  But it was hard for this reporter not to wonder how many consumers would be willing to mount so many speakers in their living room—or even in a dedicated home theater.

(And if a guy like me whose walls and ceiling are painted black to enhance the performance of his video display thinks that 10 is a lot of speakers, then it’s a lot of speakers.)

Obviously, home theater cognoscenti will compare DSX with Pro Logic IIz, the new height-channel technology from Dolby Laboratories. Obviously, DSX has more channels, and it also stresses the importance of width where Dolby stresses height. Kyriakakis commented, “Ours is an approach that comes from understanding where perceptual cues are coming from, and getting those audio cues to the right places.” Both companies say their approaches are backed by research. Further comment will have to await hands-on, in-home experience with DSX.

Brent Butterworth