Understanding Audio Downmix and Surround Sound Processing, OR Wait! I've Got the Wrong Number of Speakers?

It used to be so SIMPLE, back in 1898, when Francis Barraud painted his brother's dog, Nipper, staring intently into the brass horn of a wind up phonograph and hearing, His Master's Voice!

One audio channel.  One speaker.  One dog.  And one enduring trademark!

One has to wonder how Nipper might react to today's Dolby Atmos installations for Home Theater (or any of its competitors); a technology designed to support up to 24 speakers at ear level, a special bass audio channel, and 10 ADDITIONAL "height" speakers overhead!  Would Nipper still stare in wonder?  Or would he dive under the sofa?

The answer to that question likely revolves around how INTELLIGENTLY those speakers were used!  In particular, what if the content you are playing has a different number of audio channels from the number the speakers you have installed?  This is the realm of audio Downmix and Surround Sound Processing, and that's our topic for today.

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Check Your Speaker Distances and Polarity, OR, "A Chorus of YUMS! Ran Round the Table!"

Most Home Theater setups these days will include some variant on Surround Sound speakers.  Indeed, a major factor in the enjoyment of modern movies at home is the ability to hear an "aggressive" Surround Sound mix as it was INTENDED to be heard:  With key sounds originating from specific points all around you, and with blended sounds, such as the musical score, filling the entire sound field.

In this post I'll discuss the two most common ways people screw this up, and how to avoid doing that!

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