Recently, a new approach in low bitrate coding of stereo and multi-channel audio has emerged: Spatial audio coding permits an efficient representation of multi-channel audio signals by transmitting a downmix signal along with some compact spatial side information describing the most salient properties of the multi-channel sound image. Besides its impressive efficiency allowing multi-channel sound at total bitrates of only 64kbit/s and lower, the approach is also backward compatible to existing transmission systems and thus accommodates a smooth transition towards multichannel audio in the consumer market. The paper gives an overview of the basic concepts and the options provided by spatial audio coding technology. It reports about some recent performance data, first commercial applications and related activities within the ISO/MPEG standardization group.
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