CD Surround Sound

Will surround sound rejuvenate the music industry? That's the position many record label execs took when adding the capability to DVD-Audio and SACD years ago. But while they wait for the high-rez formats to catch on, SRS Labs has decided to add multichannel audio to the conventional compact disc.

SRS recently announced that Lava Records' artist Uncle Kracker has chosen the company's Circle Surround (CS) multichannel encoding technology for a disc that will be released this week called Seventy Two & Sunny. According to SRS, CS provides the capability to encode up to 6.1 channels of audio for transmission or storage over standard two-channel carriers such as CD and stereo broadcasts.

"CDs encoded with the patented Circle Surround technology can be played back on any regular CD player," says SRS, "unlike competing technologies that specifically require DVD-Audio or other special playback equipment." The company says the process is compatible with all types of CD players and A/V receivers or preamps and with all playback environments, including mono, stereo, and other matrix surround systems. SRS adds, "One Circle Surround mix satisfies all playback environments."

For listeners with a two-channel stereo system or who are using headphones, CS delivers "enhanced stereo," explains SRS. "For those home theater installations or automotive systems with a 5.1 surround-sound system, Circle Surround-encoded CDs are decoded into full surround sound, with the output quality subject to the limitations of the specific decoder."

The company suggests that for the optimum surround playback from the format, a Circle Surround II-equipped receiver or preamp be used. SRS says that CS decoders are included in products from Marantz, Kenwood, Theta Digital, and Accuphase, as well as the software DVD player from Orion Studios.

When the material is broadcast over television or radio, compressed for distribution online, or stored digitally on standard media such as CDs, DVD-Rs, or personal music juke boxes, SRS says, it still retains the surround-sound information. "This means radio stations that broadcast songs from Seventy Two & Sunny will in fact be broadcasting the music in surround sound without having to use any additional equipment or special processing."

Lava Records' Andrew Karp adds, "The ability to offer 5.1 surround sound on regular CDs gives us a powerful competitive advantage and allows us to offer far more value to our customers. Working with the Circle Surround format is simple and cost effective, and since it is completely compatible with any surround-sound receiver, we look forward to working with it again for future releases."