Two-Speaker Surround Sound?

An intriguing loudspeaker technology which generates believable surround effects from only two small enclosures will be arriving at stores later this year, according to a February 24 announcement from Nirotek America Corporation.

Prototypes of the system, jointly developed by MartinLogan of Lawrence, KS and Japan's Mechanical Research Corporation, were demonstrated at the Specialty Audio exhibit at the Alexis Park complex during the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show. Both Jon Iverson and I were impressed at the system's ability to create a wide, deep soundfield using only one small speaker enclosure for the front channels and a similar one for the rear. A compact powered subwoofer on the floor handled the low frequencies. Through clever use of digital signal processing and careful placement of drivers in their enclosures, the system's designers were able to generate big-speaker performance from two small boxes.

As all consumer electronics salespeople are aware, consumers' biggest objection to multichannel sound isn't the performance, but the array of loudspeakers needed to create it. Nirotek estimates that fewer than 10% of multichannel-capable DVD players are actually used for multichannel playback; almost all are used in two-channel mode. Niroson products "will establish new standards for increasingly popular theater-in-a-box systems" and "dramatically expand the possibilities for installing home theater," the announcement stated. (The "Niroson" and "Nirotek" appellations are derived from Niro Nakamichi, scion of the Nakamichi family and principal partner in Mechanical Research Corp.)

We reported at the time that "Niroson Cinema" technology, as it is now known, offered great promise for entertainment systems in small rooms. Nirotek also expects it to win a segment of the mobile sound market. The technology is now being licensed for production; the first Niroson systems will reach the US market sometime during the fourth quarter of 2002. The official licensing agency is Nirotek USA, based in Lawndale, CA.