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Background and test: Everything you need to know about Auro 3D

There is another audio format apart from Dolby Atmos and DTS: X that is ; Auro 3D. In this article we explain Everything you need to know about Auro 3D.
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Dolby Atmos and DTS: X are new audio formats that we encounter on more and more receivers, sound bars and other home cinema devices. However, there is another audio format that we slowly but surely encounter more and more; Auro 3D. In this article we explain Everything you need to know about Auro 3D.

What is Auro 3D?

To explain Auro 3D, we start with the more famous Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. Traditional surround setups and formats assume a 5.1-channel or 7.1-channel floor placement of speakers. Here we see a center speaker, two front speakers, two surround speakers and a subwoofer. In a 7.1-channel setup, you use two surround speakers and two surround back speakers. This is one layer with speakers, at the height of the ear. This provides a great surround experience in terms of depth and width, but something is missing in height. After all, what happens above the viewer / listener when an airplane flies over or when it rains? With the arrival of Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, an extra layer is added to this, above the speakers of the 5.1-channel or 7.1-channel setup.

This extra layer with height / top speakers has to provide effects from above and provides a higher sound field. So you are, as it were, surrounded by 360 degrees of sound. This is not only the case at times when something really takes place in height, such as an airplane flying over, but also to create a complete sound image. Because although our ears (and our brains) are mainly focused on perceiving sound right in front of us (and also a bit behind), for example reflections from a ceiling are important to give us a place in a room.

Background and test: Everything you need to know about Auro 3D

Auro 3D works in the same way, but an optimal set-up assumes three layers; the layer at ear level, the ‘height’ layer and the so-called ‘voice of god’ above the listening position. With these three layers, where above the speakers of the 5.1 setup are angled downward speakers, a convincing 360 degree sound must be reproduced so that you imagine yourself even better in the action / environment.

Loudspeaker setups for Auro 3D

Auro 3D basically assumes a 5.1-channel setup at ear height and above that the height and top layer. Auro 3D maintains four setups as optimal, setups that are recommended;

9.x setup

  • A 5-channel setup at ear height (Center, front left, front right, surround left and surround right)
  • Height speakers above the front left and front right
  • Height speakers above the surround left and surround right
  • One or more subwoofers

Background and test: Everything you need to know about Auro 3D

10.x setup

  • A 5-channel setup at ear height (Center, front left, front right, surround left and surround right)
  • Height speakers above the front left and front right
  • Height speakers above the surround left and surround right
  • A top speaker (voice of god) above the listening position
  • One or more subwoofers

Background and test: Everything you need to know about Auro 3D

11.x lineup

  • A 5-channel setup at ear height (Center, front left, front right, surround left and surround right)
  • Height speakers above the front left and front right
  • Height speakers above the surround left and surround right
  • A top speaker (voice of god) above the listening position
  • A height speaker above the center speaker
  • One or more subwoofers

Background and test: Everything you need to know about Auro 3D

Or (for a 7.1 setup)

  • A 7-channel setup at ear height (Center, front left, front right, surround left, surround right, surround back left, surround back right)
  • Height speakers above the front left and front right
  • Height speakers above the surround left and surround right
  • One or more subwoofers

13.x arrangement (with 7.1 arrangement below)

  • A 7-channel setup at ear height (Center, front left, front right, surround left and surround right)
  • Height speakers above the front left and front right
  • Height speakers above the surround left and surround right
  • A top speaker (voice of god) above the listening position
  • A height speaker above the center speaker
  • One or more subwoofers

Background and test: Everything you need to know about Auro 3D

Auro 3D versus Dolby Atmos

Auro 3D is a very interesting technique on paper, but the big problem is that there is very little content available with an Auro 3D soundtrack. We also had to search a lot and only came across a handful of films and a little more music. However, movies with Dolby Atmos soundtracks are increasingly appearing.

The availability of content does not have to be a problem, but Auro 3D requires a slightly different speaker placement than Dolby Atmos (and DTS: X). For Dolby Atmos, it is optimal if the speakers hang in the top position, so right against the ceiling and not directly above the front / surround speakers. With Auro 3D it is recommended to hang the speakers in the second layer, the so-called height speakers, exactly above the surround and front speakers (and in larger setups the center) and point them slightly diagonally downwards towards the listening position. For optimal reproduction, the voice of god channel is also recommended above the listening position.

Combining Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D in one setup is possible but not optimal. It then becomes a compromise for both, or optimal for one and less optimal for the other. There are people who put up both an Atmos and an Auro 3D setup, but that is not the case for most. In our situation it just happens to be the compromise; the home cinema is located in the attic, with a sloping ceiling. As a result, the top speakers for Atmos are placed diagonally above the front speakers and surround speakers. A voice of god channel and a height channel for the center speaker are missing. So for Dolby Atmos we use a 7.1.4-channel setup, for Auro 3D we use the 9.1-channel setup.

Incidentally, Auro 3D has made an extensive manual with all set-up options and optimal positions of the speakers, if you want to delve further into it.

The receiver

Now that you have chosen one of the speaker layouts above, it is the turn of the receiver. The receiver must namely support Auro 3D; he must be able to recognize the signal, decode it and direct it towards the speakers. At the moment there are not many (affordable) receivers that can handle Auro 3D. Denon and Marantz are two of the few parties that offer the possibility to provide different receivers with an upgrade that adds Auro 3D. But, you have to pay for that upgrade. At Denon, for example, the AVR-X7200W, the AVR-X6300H, AVR-X6200W, AVR-X5200W and the AVR-X4300H can decode the original Auro 3D mix and play with an Auro 10.1 channel configuration (including voice or god channel). The AVR-X4100W and AVR-X4200W can support an Auro 9.

For 149 euros you can equip these receivers with Auro 3D. The installation is very simple; you register your receiver via the manufacturer’s website, make the payment and ensure that your receiver is connected to the internet. Then you add the Auro 3D upgrade via the menu of the receiver. We have the AVR-X6300H and can therefore provide a maximum 10.1-channel Auro playback. Since we don’t have a voice or god channel, it is a 9.1-channel display with a 5.1-channel setup for the bottom layer and a 4-channel setup for the top layer.

By the way, you not only get the option to display Auro 3D material. Just like DTS: X and Dolby Atmos, Auro 3D offers a so-called upmix function. Independently of the input, the Auro 3D processor can create a 3D experience thanks to Auro Matic. This up-mixing algorithm converts existing content to an Auro 3D format. Auro 3D recognizes Mono, Stereo and 5.1 Surround signals and transforms them into audio that controls all Auro height speakers.

The content

As mentioned, the range of music and films with an Auro 3D soundtrack is still quite limited. A simple search on large websites such as Amazon and Bol.com yields few results. We have collected at least some content for the test;

  • Tiësto: Elements of Life (music, Blu-ray)
  • Mouth of Light 3: Days of Eternity (music, Blu-ray)
  • Red Tails (film, Blu-ray)
  • George McCrae: Love (music, Blu-ray)
  • Brussels Jazz Orchestra (music, Blu-ray)
  • Ozark Henry (music, Blu-ray)
  • Auro 3D 2014 demo disc (demo content, Blu-ray)

The test: how does it sound?

First of all, it is important to mention that we use a setup that is designed for Dolby Atmos, but is a nice compromise to enjoy both Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D. The reproduction is certainly not optimal – for example, the voice of god channel is missing – but it does give a nice impression of the quality of Auro 3D.

If you use a receiver from Marantz or Denon, it is also good to know that you have to create a different speaker configuration for Auro 3D. Where with Dolby Atmos you set the height channels as top channels, you have to configure an 11.1-channel setup with height channels for Auro 3D. You can create both and switch manually when you switch between content with Dolby Atmos and content with Auro 3D. Due to the support of up to 10.1-channel Auro 3D, a 7.1 setup for the bottom layer cannot be used. In this test we therefore use 5.1-channel low and 4.0-channel high.

 Auro 3D

We started with the Auro 3D demo disc, as it should allow us to see the maximum effect. There are numerous film clips, music tracks and test sounds on this disc to give your Auro 3D setup and speakers a good test. And that first impression was very good. There are a number of promotional videos that naturally emphasize the surround effect a bit more, but Auro 3D also shows in a simple way with various videos how the second layer (in our case the top layer) lives and dynamics of a piece of music or film. can add. For example, a fragment is available with which you are placed in the middle of the city and the sound is heard one time with a second layer and the other time without a second layer. The second layer provides much more life, more subtle details and especially a much higher and deeper sound field. The claim that you feel even better in the action is substantiated here.

In another demo video, you are on a forest path and a tractor hits you from afar. We do not see him because the image is static, but the birdsong, the sounds of the forest and the tractor approaching ever closer make it all come to life. It comes across so detailed and realistic that as soon as the tractor drives by, you look back to see if it isn’t actually passing by. The combination of the top and bottom layer gives you the idea that the environment you are in is alive, and not limited by the space in which you find yourself at that moment.

We have also put the Pure Audio Blu-ray discs of Tiësto, George McCrae and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra through an extensive listening test. The experience is generally the same for the three completely different styles; because of the extra layer you get a higher and deeper sound field, a sound field where you are in the middle, sometimes more and sometimes less. Especially with the music of Tiësto, it is not so much that the artist is playing in front of you, but more of an experience of music around you. Emerging effects from the height channels, a deep and tight bass and clear sounds from the surround speakers. Auro 3D provides a total picture with more life and dynamics, and with which you are surrounded by instruments, effects and sounds. It is a spectacle of instruments and with your eyes closed you imagine yourself in the world of the artist. With the music of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, we felt more like sitting in a concert hall. Most of the instruments seem to be in front of you, but a number of instruments sound through in the second layer and surround speakers, giving you the idea that it is the acoustics of the concert hall. You are slightly less consciously surrounded with effects and sounds, which certainly benefits the listening experience for this music style. It is more of a natural reproduction with a slightly increased acoustics of a beautiful concert hall. You are slightly less consciously surrounded with effects and sounds, which certainly benefits the listening experience for this music style. It is more of a natural reproduction with a slightly increased acoustics of a beautiful concert hall. You are slightly less consciously surrounded with effects and sounds, which certainly benefits the listening experience for this music style. It is more of a natural reproduction with a slightly increased acoustics of a beautiful concert hall.

The only film with Auro 3D soundtrack is Red Tails, an impressive film with the perfect content for the ultimate surround experience; planes and fights in the sky. The surround experience here is comparable to that of Dolby Atmos, with no noticeable differences in our surround setup. That does not alter the fact that the experience is very good; with a wide and deep sound field, convincing surround effects, seamless transitions between the speakers, tight and deep bass, clear subtle details and a perfect placement of audio objects in the room. The movie experience is optimal and you imagine yourself in the middle of the action.

Conclusion

We cannot draw a real conclusion, but with our setup – a compromise for Atmos and Auro 3D – and the limited range of content, Auro 3D does convince us. Especially the demo videos and music with Auro 3D offer an impressive added value, a value that will only increase when the setup is optimized for Auro 3D. Whether you should do that is of course the big question because the offer is really minimal and for the time being we do not see a large increase with well-known films or artists. A compromise between Auro 3D and Atmos in terms of speaker setup seems to be the best solution for those who would like to get started with Auro 3D.

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