Apple looking to simplify home theater surround sound configuration

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple has shown interest in making it easier to properly configure surround sound to get the best possible audio out of a variety of home theater setups.

The details were revealed this week in a patent application discovered by AppleInsider entitled "Multi-Channel Sound Panner." The filing was made with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March of this year, and is a divisional application of a filing first made in 2007.

The proposed invention describes a software sound "panner" that can support an arbitrary number of input channels and changes to configurations. In this manner, Apple's system could support all kinds of surround sound configurations and provide users with the best possible sound presentation.

There are a great deal of variables when setting up a surround sound system, including the number of speakers, the placement of those speakers, where the user is located relative to the speakers, and the size and shape of the room where the home theater is set up.

Sound systems are traditionally arranged with five speakers and a subwoofer, otherwise known as 5.1. But modern content and receivers can support more complex speaker arrangements that offer improved surround sound capabilities if users so choose.

A sound panner allows the user to manipulate source audio of content and improve the quality of its surround sound. But conventional sound panners can be complex and time consuming, presenting users with too many options and requiring them to set up one speaker at a time.

Patent 1


"Given the number of variables that affect the sound manipulation, and the interplay between the variables, it is difficult to visually convey information to the operator in a way that is most helpful to manipulate the sound to create the desired sound," the filing reads.

Apple's solution is a panner that would allow users to manipulate a source audio signal as it applies to all speakers in the surround sound setup at once.

This system would allow the user to "view how the manipulated source signal will be heard by a listener at a reference point in a sound space." In this manner, content could be designed to more quickly get the best possible performance out of any home theater setup.

The filing describes Apple's sound panner as a system that "seamlessly handles changes in the number of input channels." In this way, content could be easily encoded for five, seven or some other number of sound channels.

"Also, the panner supports changes to the number and positions of speakers in the output space," the patent application reads.

The description of Apple's sound panner software includes a "puck" in its interface that the user drags around to change the sound output. In this manner, a user is given visual feedback to better understand how the sound is being manipulated.

This "puck" would represent the point at which the sound of all the channels in a user's home theater setup would appear to originate from the perspective of a listener in the middle of the sound space.

"For example, if the five channels represented a gunshot, then the operator could make the gunshot appear to originate from a particular point by moving the puck... to that point," the filing states.

Patent 2


The proposed invention is credited to Aaron Eppolito, a software engineer at Apple. Its publication by the USPTO this week is particularly interesting as rumors of a full-fledged television set from Apple continue to persist.

While much has been made of the potential screen and software of an anticipated Apple television, nothing has been said about the sound capabilities of such a device. Most current HDTVs feature weak built-in speakers that do not offer high-quality sound, requiring users to purchase external speakers and systems that provide improved audio.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,225member
    Display tech. Headphones. Surround sound.

    Yawn. Leave it to accessory makers, Apple.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    cory bauercory bauer Posts: 1,286member


    If Apple does come to market with an HDTV, I'd love to see them tackle the surround sound system at the same time; it'd be really interesting to see what they'd do to help simplify that process. Plus, it'd be nice for them to acknowledge that a good movie experience requires surround sound and dedicated speakers, instead of pretending like the laptop speakers stuck in the back of the television are anything but worthless.

  • Reply 3 of 27
    gatortpkgatortpk Posts: 33member
    I welcome this, because rarely does one have the right equipment or right number of speakers when setting up their system when using parts purchased over years. (Unless one purchased their system all at once, they likely won't have an optimal system) Also, it would be nice to have truly a one remote controls all without the annoying CEC (Consumer Electronics Control; Sony calls it Bravia, Samsung calls it Anynet+, SimpLink by LG, Viera Link by Panasonic, etc.) clutter not doing what you want it to do, or making remote changes you didn't expect or want! I don't like my Blu-ray Player changing my TV input source for me (usually to the one I'm not using).

    I do wish that Apple doesn't have only a touch screen remote either, they need a tactile remote with actual buttons as well as other input sources such as gestures and voice (Siri).

    I understand this is just talking about a Sound Panner, but I'm sure that's all included.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,671member
    The description of Apple's sound panner software includes a "puck" in its interface that the user drags around to change the sound output.

    Hmm, the puck comes back¿

    @gatortpk: I agree with the annoyance of auto changing stuff like your Blue Ray player, and therefore ripped my DVD's and put them on my MacMini HDD which sits underneath the TV. Still have to switch, but at least I control the Mini from iOS. Which 'strangely enough' is easier than I thought it would be.

    Good thing AI changed the URL:
    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/07/05/apple_looking_to_simply_setup_of_home_theater_surround_sound.html
    to:
    http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/151101/apple-looking-to-simplify-setup-of-home-theater-surround-sound
  • Reply 5 of 27
    logandiggeslogandigges Posts: 399member


    Nice, a REAL ?TV and seperate speakers, just for me. Remember the old Apple Pro Speakers, they were little orbs. they don't work now because they used special software drivers to work and it is only on older Macs.

  • Reply 6 of 27
    zebedeezebedee Posts: 1member


    How is this any different from the automatic surround setup systems already supplied by a variety of companies built into their 5.1 amplifiers?


     


    From: http://raindefence.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-set-up-and-calibrate-your-home-cinema-or-theater-surround-sound-system


     


    "Most receivers nowadays have an auto setup system which will calibrate for you. Different manufacturers have different systems, Denon, Onkyo and Marantz receivers have Audyssey, Yamaha have YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer) and Pioneer have MCACC (Multi Channel Acoustic Calibration). There is also another AV manufacturer called Anthem, who use something called ARC, which stands for Anthem Room Correction. All of these systems attempt to do the same thing though which is set up your system for you, although the consensus tends to be that ARC is the best, followed by Audyssey, with the others behind that. This is a matter of opinion and is the sort of thing AV geeks argue about, but that seems to be the way most people in the AV world think as far as I can tell."


     


    Looks the same only substitute the word "mic" for "puck" and we're done.

  • Reply 7 of 27
    gustavgustav Posts: 826member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by logandigges View Post


    Nice, a REAL ?TV and seperate speakers, just for me. Remember the old Apple Pro Speakers, they were little orbs. they don't work now because they used special software drivers to work and it is only on older Macs.



    No, they didn't require software drivers at all. They don't work now because they weren't powered speakers. You needed an amplifier. The G4 iMac and G4 PowerMacs had 20W stereo amplifiers built in to power the speakers. These speakers were made by Harman Kardon.

  • Reply 8 of 27
    rob55rob55 Posts: 1,282member


    After reading the patent application, specifically the 2nd paragraph of the Background under the description section, I believe the author of the article has misinterpreted what the patent application is for. Specifically, this passage is particularly relevant:


     


    "Thus, an audio engineer may wish to alter the mapping of the input channels to sound space speakers, which is where a sound panner is very helpful."


     


    I believe this patent is for a more advanced surround panner for the mixing of audio in a surround sound space, not on the user end as the article would have you believe, but on the production end.


     


    Going one step further, this may be a patent for the multi-channel surround editing feature that will be added to FCP-X in the an upcoming version.

     

  • Reply 9 of 27
    senjazsenjaz Posts: 26member
    Yeah my Marantz amp/decoder comes with a mic that you just position near where you will sit and it works out the best settings for the speakers. This is nothing new.
  • Reply 10 of 27


    hmmmm......something almost identical to this appeared in the now defunct audio editing application Soundtrack Pro, that was part of the Final Cut Studio.


     


    Screen Shot 2012-07-05 at 17.07.26.png

  • Reply 11 of 27
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Display tech. Headphones. Surround sound.
    Yawn. Leave it to accessory makers, Apple.

    Apple ignores audiophiles, people whine.

    Apple tries to make setting up an audiophile-quality system as easy as anything else it has done with tech, people whine.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post





    Apple ignores audiophiles, people whine.

    Apple tries to make setting up an audiophile-quality system as easy as anything else it has done with tech, people whine.


     


    Let me correct that for you. 


     


    Apple ignores audiophiles, audiophiles whine.

    Apple tries to make setting up an audiophile-quality system as easy as anything else it has done with tech, audiophiles whine.


     


     


    Audiophiles are just whiners.  Like many self-described "experts" they are a picky lot with many delusions. They don't like people pulling back the curtain. 

  • Reply 13 of 27
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    gazoobee wrote: »
    Let me correct that for you. 

    Yeah, that's probably right. ????
    Audiophiles are just whiners.  Like many self-described "experts" they are a picky lot with many delusions. They don't like people pulling back the curtain. 

    Hey, I can hear with the best of them! :lol: I just don't feel the need to spend $10,000 on a system for music. I'd be quite happy with something far cheaper as long as I feel the music's right coming out of it. And I don't know the terms or anything, but to me that just means no tinniness, no flatness, and no massive throbbing bass.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    applesauce007applesauce007 Posts: 1,672member


    This stuff would complement Loewe's equipment very nicely.


     


    http://www.loewe.tv


     


    I think Apple is partnering (with option to buy) with both Loewe and Tomtom.  It just makes sense.


     


    Time will tell.

  • Reply 15 of 27
    rob55rob55 Posts: 1,282member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post


     


    I think Apple is partnering (with option to buy) with both Loewe and Tomtom.  It just makes sense.


     



     


    I thought that rumor was debunked.

  • Reply 16 of 27
    cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


     


    Let me correct that for you. 


     


    Apple ignores audiophiles, audiophiles whine.

    Apple tries to make setting up an audiophile-quality system as easy as anything else it has done with tech, audiophiles whine.


     


     


    Audiophiles are just whiners.  Like many self-described "experts" they are a picky lot with many delusions. They don't like people pulling back the curtain. 



     


    Entirely true.


     


    However, audiophiles are also a great source of used, bargain-priced quality audio equipment because while they whine, audiophiles are also buying the latest and greatest whatever-it-is and selling their perfectly good whatever-it-was because it no longer "sonically matches" their newest acquisitions.


     


    Moreover, used audiophile equipment is usually in much better condition than regular used A/V gear from Joe Consumer since audiophiles baby their gear. "Used" audiophile gear often means "like new."


     


    I encourage audiophiles to keep whining. If they got content and stopped whining, the spigot of audiophile equipment bargains would be shut off, and we can't let that happen, now could we?


     


    image

  • Reply 17 of 27
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,225member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post





    Apple ignores audiophiles, people whine.

    Apple tries to make setting up an audiophile-quality system as easy as anything else it has done with tech, people whine.


    I wasn't whining: I was signaling boredom with the topic. That's what 'yawn' means.

  • Reply 18 of 27
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    I wasn't whining: I was signaling boredom with the topic. That's what 'yawn' means.

    Oh, I know. Just saying that when it comes to tech, Apple can't seem to please anyone.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,584member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rob55 View Post


    After reading the patent application, specifically the 2nd paragraph of the Background under the description section, I believe the author of the article has misinterpreted what the patent application is for. Specifically, this passage is particularly relevant:


     


    "Thus, an audio engineer may wish to alter the mapping of the input channels to sound space speakers, which is where a sound panner is very helpful."


     


    I believe this patent is for a more advanced surround panner for the mixing of audio in a surround sound space, not on the user end as the article would have you believe, but on the production end.


     


    Going one step further, this may be a patent for the multi-channel surround editing feature that will be added to FCP-X in the an upcoming version.

     



    This is what Dolby Atmos is about.   In addition to standard mixing to a channel (Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, Right Surround, Left Rear Surround, Right Rear Surround, Subwoofer), where a channel, especially the surround channels, may comprise multiple sets of speakers, Atmos permits mixing to an object model where the mixer places a sound object in space and the playback system determines the appropriate speaker to send the signal to, depending upon the configuration of the theatre.   When fully implemented, each speaker, not just each channel, is wired to a different amplifier channel so that sounds mixed in the object model can be sent by the system to a specific speaker.    For the object model, the system also includes overhead speakers, front side surrounds and surround subwoofers.   


     


    The first film mixed in this format is "Brave", but it's only being shown in Atmos in about 15 U.S. theatres.  


     


    Obviously, if this is at the mixing level, that's totally different than simplifying the setup of a home audio system.   I do think the user interfaces of most multichannel A/V receivers are incredibly bad, but they actually do a pretty good job of setting up the system.  They generally recognize what speakers are connect to which channels, test whether they're wired properly in-phase and then set levels and EQ.    If setup with HDMI control (although getting this configured properly can be confusing), a lot of the system switching is automatic.  For example, when  I turn on my TV, it will automatically turn on my reciever.   If the receiver is on and I sent iTunes to the receiver via AirPlay, the receiver will automatically switch inputs and play it.    If I turn on the Blu-ray player, the receiver will switch to the BD input which will in turn switch the TV to the Home Theatre input.     But everything else about the controls on the receiver is a mess.   I'm very surprised that the receivers, especially the high end ones, haven't moved to a bit-mapped display.     I can imagine the equivalent of the iPhone display as part of the receiver panel instead of the pre-defined panels they have today.

  • Reply 20 of 27
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,584member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


     


    Let me correct that for you. 


     


    Apple ignores audiophiles, audiophiles whine.

    Apple tries to make setting up an audiophile-quality system as easy as anything else it has done with tech, audiophiles whine.


     


     


    Audiophiles are just whiners.  Like many self-described "experts" they are a picky lot with many delusions. They don't like people pulling back the curtain. 



    I think it's just the opposite.    A company like Apple, in an attempt to simplify the experience, HIDES what's behind the curtain and doesn't let you control what's been hidden.   That might be fine for most users, but not for those who are concerned with ultimate picture and audio quality.    I do think the user interfaces of virtually all home theatre receivers (and some TVs) is a disaster and Apple can probably use its expertise to make this a far better experience.    But if, for example, the new Apple TV set is real and it doesn't contain ISF controls or if you couldn't connect it via HDMI to a receiver, no high-end user would ever consider buying it.     

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