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High Quality Multichannel Audio Coding: Trends and Challenges

After the introduction of the CD format, consumers' expectations have risen, demanding new standards of audio quality that correspond to the equivalent of signal-to-noise ratios and dynamic ranges above 80 dB and signal spectral content above 15 kHz. While the CD format specifies only two channels, multichannel audio is providing the end users with a more involved experience and is becoming increasingly appealing to music producers. Standardization bodies, including SMPTE, EBU, ITU-R, ISO/IEC, MPEG and DVD Forum, have embraced the so-called 5.1 multichannel format. The current development in DVD-Audio includes multichannel audio along with increased audio sample resolution (24 bit) and sampling rates (88.2, 96, 192 kHz). In spite of a steady increase in storage media capacity and transmission bandwidth, high-quality multichannel audio creates a challenge for traditional and new delivery media. This paper provides an overview of multichannel audio coding. The emerging DVD-Audio standard is also discussed. Applications and new directions in multichannel music are examined as well.

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