Spatial audio utilizing 5.1 surround sound and newer developments such as object oriented audio has become well established in cinema and home theaters. The expansion of this into live musical performance is quite limited. This work explores the benefits of surround sound for contemporary music performance. A 20-channel Wavefield synthesis system was compared to a high quality stereo sound reinforcement system under identical experimental conditions. An original composition was used to avoid familiarity with program material and to encourage focus on spatial considerations. Data drawn from audiences at both performances is used to quantify the perceptual differences for the average audience and to draw conclusions as to the usefulness of using a system of this type in an “average” contemporary live music performance.
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