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The Fantasticality of Immersive Musical Spaces

LanceLewin

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The Fantasticality of Immersive Musical Spaces

Introduction:

As a serious Audiophile for fifty years, I have enjoyed spinning vinyl and injecting silver disks onto, and into, respectively, using my HiFi systems source components; in 2021 I decided to try digital music (e.g., downloaded soundtracks and music offered by a streaming service). My first encounter of the so-called immersive experience was during a free trial subscription on Tidal. (I then extended to the paid service for another two months before cancelling). I also researched (and shopped) for music offered via downloading digital files, including DSD options. These options were mostly sourced from recording studios (e.g., Blue Coast, 2L, and MA Recordings, for three examples).

The Discourse:
As it relates to immersive experiences in music displacing traditional stereo to a back-seat posture, well, at least for those who consider themselves audiophiles - practitioners that sit and listen to High Fidelity (HiFi) music on mostly 2-channel systems, this prospect seems far removed from any reality they live in. Here, audiophiles’ reality is juxtaposed against the fantasticality of a space that is immersed into a seeming swirling vortex of musical notes and rhythms that most certainly are perceived as “cool”, but not a representative of listening to live music, weather that be in an intimate setting at a New Orleans Jazz club or the 10th row at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The former projects sound with a mostly central focus without articulation to the location of instruments (this during a listener’s (close) proximity to non-amplified performances), the latter expanding from left to right and with depth and including pin-point location of instruments during the best performances.

I argue, floating music notes, melodies, instruments and human voices (singers) produced by software like Atmos, Sony 360 and others, present an experience outside what human experience and emotion perceive and enjoy in reality – an exciting and sometimes dizzying experience, indeed, but one that surely is not the replacement for serious 2-channel listening outside the scope of watching a movie at home or in the theater. My argument continues to point a finger to streaming services and some recording studios that market to the masses – though I understand how capitalism works – I am disappointed that music soundtracks are not better identified differentiating them with and without special effects – the lack of this type of transparency is souring, in my opinion. (A relevant issue of transparency (in the music industry) hit the headlines recently, again, pointed a finger to a particular recording company for misrepresenting their product or at least, how their vinyl records were manufactured). Not identifying music tracks that were created with effects we now associate with the immersive experience is too, far reaching in misleading people new to high fidelity music: in this sense, it is like a fine red wine injected with various artificial flavors that ultimately misleads the wine enthusiast’s palate the taste and experience of the wine is the result of a combination of grapes from old vineyards and the talent of the wine master – but in fact, it is not.

Let me stop here, take a breath and ask for comments and like-experiences. Thank you.

Best Wishes,
Lance A. Lewin – Fine Art Photographer/Instructor/Lecturer
Atlanta, Georgia
 
OP
LanceLewin

LanceLewin

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The Fantasticality of Immersive Musical Spaces (Edited 12.14.22)


Introduction:

As a serious Audiophile for fifty years, I have enjoyed spinning vinyl and injecting silver disks onto, and into, respectively, using my HiFi systems source components; in 2021 I decided to try digital music (e.g., downloaded soundtracks and music offered by a streaming service). My first encounter of the so-called immersive experience was during a free trial subscription on Tidal. (I then extended to the paid service for another two months before cancelling). I also researched (and shopped) for music offered via downloading digital files, including DSD options. These options were mostly sourced from recording studios (e.g., Blue Coast, 2L, and MA Recordings, for three examples).

The Discourse:
As it relates to immersive experiences in music displacing traditional stereo to a back-seat posture, well, at least for those who consider themselves audiophiles - practitioners that sit and listen to High Fidelity (HiFi) music on mostly 2-channel systems, this prospect seems far removed from any reality they live in. Here, audiophiles’ reality is juxtaposed against the fantasticality of a space that is immersed into a seeming swirling vortex of musical notes and rhythms that most certainly are perceived as “cool”, but not a representative of listening to live music, weather that be in an intimate setting at a New Orleans Jazz club or the 10th row at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The former projects sound with a mostly central focus without articulation to the location of instruments (this during a listener’s (close) proximity to non-amplified performances), the latter expanding from left to right and with depth and including pin-point location of instruments during the best performances.

I argue, floating music notes, melodies, instruments and human voices (singers) produced by software like Atmos, Sony 360 and others, present an experience outside what human experience and emotion perceive and enjoy in reality – an exciting and sometimes dizzying experience, indeed, but one that surely is not the replacement for serious 2-channel listening outside the scope of watching a movie at home or in the theater. My argument continues to point a finger to streaming services and some recording studios that market to the masses – though I understand how capitalism works – I am disappointed that music soundtracks are not better identified differentiating them with and without special effects – the lack of this type of transparency is souring, in my opinion. (A relevant issue of transparency (in the music industry) hit the headlines recently, again, pointed a finger to a particular recording company for misrepresenting their product or at least, how their vinyl records were manufactured). Not identifying music tracks that were created with effects we now associate with the immersive experience is too, far reaching in misleading people new to high fidelity music: in this sense, it is like a fine red wine injected with various artificial flavors that ultimately misleads the wine enthusiast’s palate the taste and experience of the wine is the result of a combination of grapes from old vineyards and the talent of the wine master – but in fact, it is not.

Similarly, for those listening to soundtracks that have been engineered for an immersive experience; the chance of the listener being able to argue that the sound and experience enveloping them is a product of carefully chosen and matched components, will be hard to prove. That is, differentiating between the effects coming from the recording and the those articulated as a result of the equipment used become not so clear, indeed.

“Points to Ponder”:
Does this example lend itself to asking the question … do we need to continue to pay attention to the quality of gear we implement into a system? Are these soundtracks so dominating in their presentation that almost any type of HiFi system can offer an immersive experience?

Let me stop here, take a breath, and ask for comments and like-experiences. Thank you.

Best Wishes,
Lance A. Lewin – Fine Art Photographer/Instructor/Lecturer=
Atlanta, Georgia
 

fpitas

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If you wish to hear what the studio prepared, in some semblance of how the recording and mastering engineer heard it, your equipment matters.
 

NiagaraPete

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The Fantasticality of Immersive Musical Spaces

Introduction:

As a serious Audiophile for fifty years, I have enjoyed spinning vinyl and injecting silver disks onto, and into, respectively, using my HiFi systems source components; in 2021 I decided to try digital music (e.g., downloaded soundtracks and music offered by a streaming service). My first encounter of the so-called immersive experience was during a free trial subscription on Tidal. (I then extended to the paid service for another two months before cancelling). I also researched (and shopped) for music offered via downloading digital files, including DSD options. These options were mostly sourced from recording studios (e.g., Blue Coast, 2L, and MA Recordings, for three examples).

The Discourse:
As it relates to immersive experiences in music displacing traditional stereo to a back-seat posture, well, at least for those who consider themselves audiophiles - practitioners that sit and listen to High Fidelity (HiFi) music on mostly 2-channel systems, this prospect seems far removed from any reality they live in. Here, audiophiles’ reality is juxtaposed against the fantasticality of a space that is immersed into a seeming swirling vortex of musical notes and rhythms that most certainly are perceived as “cool”, but not a representative of listening to live music, weather that be in an intimate setting at a New Orleans Jazz club or the 10th row at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The former projects sound with a mostly central focus without articulation to the location of instruments (this during a listener’s (close) proximity to non-amplified performances), the latter expanding from left to right and with depth and including pin-point location of instruments during the best performances.

I argue, floating music notes, melodies, instruments and human voices (singers) produced by software like Atmos, Sony 360 and others, present an experience outside what human experience and emotion perceive and enjoy in reality – an exciting and sometimes dizzying experience, indeed, but one that surely is not the replacement for serious 2-channel listening outside the scope of watching a movie at home or in the theater. My argument continues to point a finger to streaming services and some recording studios that market to the masses – though I understand how capitalism works – I am disappointed that music soundtracks are not better identified differentiating them with and without special effects – the lack of this type of transparency is souring, in my opinion. (A relevant issue of transparency (in the music industry) hit the headlines recently, again, pointed a finger to a particular recording company for misrepresenting their product or at least, how their vinyl records were manufactured). Not identifying music tracks that were created with effects we now associate with the immersive experience is too, far reaching in misleading people new to high fidelity music: in this sense, it is like a fine red wine injected with various artificial flavors that ultimately misleads the wine enthusiast’s palate the taste and experience of the wine is the result of a combination of grapes from old vineyards and the talent of the wine master – but in fact, it is not.

Let me stop here, take a breath and ask for comments and like-experiences. Thank you.

Best Wishes,
Lance A. Lewin – Fine Art Photographer/Instructor/Lecturer
Atlanta, Georgia
Question. What immersive hardware were you using?
 

Tim Link

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The natural world has sounds swirling and surrounding us from all directions. A typical concert will have most the sound coming from ahead of you. If you're singing in church, it comes from all around. I think there's nothing wrong or unnatural about music that surrounds us. A somewhat related effect is having sound that all seems to come from ahead, but with a sense of actually being in the sonic venue of the recording, and that sense of venue seems to surround and envelope us. I've experienced this with just two speakers in a well acoustically treated space, with plenty of diffusive elements breaking up all the wall surfaces.
My experience is that immersion is possible with multi-channel recordings even if the playback gear is mediocre and room acoustics not all that good. That doesn't mean there still aren't improvements to be had with better equipment in terms of tone, dynamics, and overall realism. I'm reminded of an early report of what it was like to play an aviation game using VR headsets and a full motion simulator but limited to low resolution graphics. The reviewer said it felt like you really were in a fake airplane, flying around in a fake world.
 
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DVDdoug

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A typical concert will have most the sound coming from ahead of you. If you're singing in church, it comes from all around.
True! But in a concert hall or music hall I'm not so sure that most of the sound comes from the front. It comes from the front first and our brains tell us that's where it's originating but there is a lot of sound coming from all around.

The acoustics of a large space (with good acoustics) are one of the things that makes live music better than recordings. I've had my speakers a couple of "dance halls" a couple of times and they sound MUCH better than at home.

The same amount of reverb from a pair of speakers in your living room doesn't "sound natural" and if you've ever recorded a live performance from your seating position you've probably noticed that there is "too much" reverb and "room sound" in the recording.

Natural reverb in a small room with hard surfaces doesn't sound good either. But I do use the Dolby "soundfield" settings on my home theater system to get some delayed reverb from the rear speakers.

And I have lots of (rock) concert DVDs with surround. I wouldn't say the sound is "realistic" but I enjoy it and I'll always choose the surround track when there is a choice.

...And many years ago when somebldy told me that that Dolby Digital surround was lossy was when I realized that lossy compression wasn't so bad after all! Before that, I think I had only heard low-quality, low-bitrate MP3s.
 

Tim Link

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You are definitely correct. Most of the sound does not come from in front, but originates from the front. I've never tried setting up a decent speaker system in a dance hall but I can imagine that would sound better. I've heard some home speaker systems in rooms that were too big and the bass seemed to get lost in those spaces. Everything gets lost if the large space is also overdamped.

One of the thoughts I've had about delaying the reflections in a small room is to completely deaden a room and then use an array of speakers to produce artificial reflections. I think the wrong approach is to use the sound from the recording directly as the source for the reflection speakers. The problem there is that only the recording creates the effect but your own voice and sounds you make don't, so there's an unnatural deadness that makes the space uncomfortable to be in. I think a better way to do it might be to have all the reflection speakers have their own microphone, so they record and then playback anything that hits them with a delay. That would mean they would be playing into each other so the reverb would wind down naturally and be roughly the same regardless of the source of the sound. A complication is that the speaker's microphone has to not record sound made by it's own speaker. So when a reflection speaker played it would have to send an inverse sound canceling signal to it's own microphone.

I'm sure this has all been done.
 

robwpdx

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Live large rock concert sound system designer Dave Rat just had a rant about focused on a small listener sweet spot vs open air listening. It goes to my many comments as live listening in the concert hall as the reference.


ATMOS mixing is at an early stage and many music mixing engineers are discussing it. Apple and Dolby are driving spatial audio/ATMOS into vehicle sound systems. ATMOS, of course is used for film sound because they can afford it and want to save conventional movie theaters.
 

Anton S

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Multichannel playback will eventually supplant stereo as the preferred format for the best listening experience. Audio luminaries, such as Floyd Toole, Kal Rubinson, and even Andrew Quint, have for years been expounding the advantages of multichannel music listening over 2-channel or 2.1 with respect to providing a convincing sonic presentation.

There is still considerable resistance from most "audiophiles" to making the jump, and there are many pseudo-intellectual arguments against multi-channel, just as there were against stereo before it eventually replaced monaural as the listening format of choice, but the fact remains that any properly configured multi-channel system can - even with upmixed stereo content - provide a sense of realism that is beyond the capabilities of even the highest quality stereo rig.

For me, a good multi-channel presentation doesn't diffuse the center image, blur instrument placement, or wrap the performance around me. It not only enhances the center image and instrument placement, it also enables manipulation of the perceived acoustic space in ways that stereo simply can't and adds 3-dimensionality to the instruments.

Anyone still clinging to a stereo mindset is invited take a stereo recording from his/her collection that flatters his (or her) system, and listen to it upmixed on a decent multichannel system with eyes closed and mind open. No direct A/B comparison required, because the difference is readily apparent to even the untrained ear. Admittedly not at all a scientific approach, but that is unnecessary. The psychoacoustic EXPERIENCE is dramatically improved, which enhances the sense of realism. And native multichannel is even better. No debate required.
 

cinemakinoeye

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I have a theory: just like the introduction of stereo led to some ridiculous mixing that led to some really unlistenable mixes, we are seeing the same thing with “immersive formats.” A carefully planned and executed immersive recording and playback can bring the excitement of a live performance to headphone listening. Imagine turning your head to face the back of the concert hall and hearing the shift in perspective as if you were there. I’ve had that experience with some Ambisonics test recordings I’ve made of a friend’s band practicing and playing it back with Ambisonics to binaural conversion with head tracking headphones. It’s interesting, but at the end if the day I feel it’s mostly a solution to a problem that does not really exist, perhaps immersive audio will go the way of quadraphonic, but I am not ready to give up on it. I think there is potential there, especially if there is a critical mass of compatible devices. Immersive playback headphones/earbuds with head tracking capability are increasing in numbers. I am curious and experimenting with the medium at the moment. There is something intriguing about experiencing the live concert or speaker listening experience while wearing headphones from a head tracking perspective.
 

Anton S

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I have a theory: just like the introduction of stereo led to some ridiculous mixing that led to some really unlistenable mixes, we are seeing the same thing with “immersive formats.” A carefully planned and executed immersive recording and playback can bring the excitement of a live performance to headphone listening. Imagine turning your head to face the back of the concert hall and hearing the shift in perspective as if you were there. I’ve had that experience with some Ambisonics test recordings I’ve made of a friend’s band practicing and playing it back with Ambisonics to binaural conversion with head tracking headphones. It’s interesting, but at the end if the day I feel it’s mostly a solution to a problem that does not really exist, perhaps immersive audio will go the way of quadraphonic, but I am not ready to give up on it. I think there is potential there, especially if there is a critical mass of compatible devices. Immersive playback headphones/earbuds with head tracking capability are increasing in numbers. I am curious and experimenting with the medium at the moment. There is something intriguing about experiencing the live concert or speaker listening experience while wearing headphones from a head tracking perspective.
The the overall balance on most commercial multi-channel recordings is deplorable. Very reminiscent of the old quadraphonic demo tracks. Trains chugging around the room, etc. They won't win over many 2-channel aficionados. Similar missteps were committed with early stereo recordings in the early '60's. The nasty ping-pong effects were laughable. Most studios never seem to learn from those past mistakes, and history continues to repeat itself.

There are exceptions, though. Many of the AIX recordings offer excellent "audience" perspectives of their presentations, but also offer the ability to switch to a "stage" perspective for those who want to be surrounded by the band (not my cup of tea). The AIX recordings are all very high quality. The musicians are recorded playing together all at once, rather than individually, and there is no post-production processing. Very clean. However, the variety is somewhat limited, so I use them primarily for evaluating changes to my system.

Fortunately, my processor has excellent onboard up-mixers, and most of the time I'd rather listen to an up-mixed presentation of my favorite stereo releases than anything else.
 

Anton D

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The the overall balance on most commercial multi-channel recordings is deplorable. Very reminiscent of the old quadraphonic demo tracks. Trains chugging around the room, etc. They won't win over many 2-channel aficionados. Similar missteps were committed with early stereo recordings in the early '60's. The nasty ping-pong effects were laughable. Most studios never seem to learn from those past mistakes, and history continues to repeat itself.

There are exceptions, though. Many of the AIX recordings offer excellent "audience" perspectives of their presentations, but also offer the ability to switch to a "stage" perspective for those who want to be surrounded by the band (not my cup of tea). The AIX recordings are all very high quality. The musicians are recorded playing together all at once, rather than individually, and there is no post-production processing. Very clean. However, the variety is somewhat limited, so I use them primarily for evaluating changes to my system.

Fortunately, my processor has excellent onboard up-mixers, and most of the time I'd rather listen to an up-mixed presentation of my favorite stereo releases than anything else.
If you have time to fuss, and have settings that would be unique to each 'album,' the old Yamaha DSP-1 seems to have been able to do much of what we hear now, only with more set-up adjustment work on our part.

They are dirt cheap.

Owner's manual....


I'd love to see what you could accomplish!
 

RDoc

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In Toole's book he mentions in several places that listeners very quickly get used to a room and somehow ignore a lot of room effects that on paper should be hugely detrimental.
I wonder if that also works the other way. That is, if we're used to how a room affects sound and then hear sound from a music system that does a different set of effects we have trouble with the "sound stage". If I'm listening to a jazz quartet over the system in our living room, is the experience lessened because it doesn't sound like it would if the musicians were actually in that room? Our familiarity with the effects the room we're in has on sound may be a problem if the audio system is trying to make believe we're in a jazz club or Symphony Hall.
Perhaps we need to go to true sound holograms that emit the sound of the instruments or performers without the performance hall effects and let the room we're in do the spacial effects.
 

Anton S

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If you have time to fuss, and have settings that would be unique to each 'album,' the old Yamaha DSP-1 seems to have been able to do much of what we hear now, only with more set-up adjustment work on our part.

They are dirt cheap.

Owner's manual....


I'd love to see what you could accomplish!
I worked for a Yamaha dealer back when the DSP-1 was released. It was a huge technical advancement at the time. However, I wasn't thrilled with its sound quality, because it imparted somewhat brittle, slightly metallic overtones to the content that were slightly reminiscent of the sound produced by a spring reverb. But I loved its ability to manipulate the perceived acoustic space.
 

CINERAMAX

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In the realm of acoustics, what may be perceived as fantasticality finds its roots in the concept of EGOCENTRIC LISTENING, a deeply ingrained human proclivity encoded within our DNA, extending its tendrils back to the era of Neanderthals. Spanning millennia, this predisposition has been intrinsically associated with the supernatural and the divine. I contend that the quad ping pong perspective represents the veritable paradigm of auditory engagement.

Contrary to this ancient and intuitive mode of auditory perception, the modern Carnegie Hall experience can be described as an instance of ALLEGORIC SOUNDFIELDS. This particular soundscape, which I vehemently oppose and deem as illegitimate, stands as an embodiment of a transgression committed by the Catholic Church against humanity. It is a manifestation of the church's shift from intimate domestic spaces to grand Cathedrals.

It is imperative to note that soundfields of this nature did not precede the era of Constantine the Great, for he bears responsibility for ushering in an era characterized by a bland front stage inundated with reflections and the incessant backdrop of coughing individuals. I posit that we should instead embrace the ethereal and otherworldly allure of ego-centric soundfields.

For those interested in delving further into the captivating world of archeoacoustics and the ancient spaces of acoustics, I recommend exploring the book "Archeoacoustics: Understanding Sound in the Past" as it provides invaluable insights into the captivating intersection of sound, history, and human perception.
 

Anton S

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In the realm of acoustics, what may be perceived as fantasticality finds its roots in the concept of EGOCENTRIC LISTENING, a deeply ingrained human proclivity encoded within our DNA, extending its tendrils back to the era of Neanderthals. Spanning millennia, this predisposition has been intrinsically associated with the supernatural and the divine. I contend that the quad ping pong perspective represents the veritable paradigm of auditory engagement.

Contrary to this ancient and intuitive mode of auditory perception, the modern Carnegie Hall experience can be described as an instance of ALLEGORIC SOUNDFIELDS. This particular soundscape, which I vehemently oppose and deem as illegitimate, stands as an embodiment of a transgression committed by the Catholic Church against humanity. It is a manifestation of the church's shift from intimate domestic spaces to grand Cathedrals.

It is imperative to note that soundfields of this nature did not precede the era of Constantine the Great, for he bears responsibility for ushering in an era characterized by a bland front stage inundated with reflections and the incessant backdrop of coughing individuals. I posit that we should instead embrace the ethereal and otherworldly allure of ego-centric soundfields.

For those interested in delving further into the captivating world of archeoacoustics and the ancient spaces of acoustics, I recommend exploring the book "Archeoacoustics: Understanding Sound in the Past" as it provides invaluable insights into the captivating intersection of sound, history, and human perception.
What a MARVELOUS concentration of pseudointellectual drivel!!!
 

DVDdoug

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When I worked for a Yamaha dealer back when the DSP-1 was released... slightly reminiscent of the sound produced by a spring reverb.

In the 1970s I built a delay/reverb with a Bucket Brigade chip. It's sampled-analog with discrete "digital" timing/samples but the amplitude is analog. Similar to how a class-D amplifier works, but at a slower sample rate because of the limited number of "buckets".

When I used feedback for a reverb effect it sounded surprisingly like a spring reverb! Maybe even more "springy" than a spring reverb! It was never really "high fidelity"... More of a novelty. (I did have rear speakers and a DIY matrix decoder.)

Around the same era, I saw plans for an analog delay that was a coil of plastic tubing with a speaker at one end and microphone at the other. I was going to build that but I never did.
 

CINERAMAX

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What a MARVE
I disagree, I have not engaged with 2-channel audio setups except in cars since the 1970s. Concert music, in my view, lacks the enveloping qualities that we subconsciously crave in surround sound experiences. I am a strong advocate for immersive music, and if you delve into the field of Archaeoacoustics, you will discover that humans often prefer studio-mixed surround and atmos recordings, which offer an egocentric perspective, over live performance recordings. Recent discoveries related to Stonehenge have further supported this notion.
 
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Anton S

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I disagree, I have not engaged with 2-channel audio setups except in cars since the 1970s. Concert music, in my view, lacks the enveloping qualities that we subconsciously crave in surround sound experiences. I am a strong advocate for immersive music, and if you delve into the field of Archaeoacoustics, you will discover that humans often prefer studio-mixed surround and atmos recordings, which offer an egocentric perspective, over live performance recordings. Recent discoveries related to Stonehenge have further supported this notion.
Apparently, the term "immersive audio" conveys different meanings to different people. You seem to want to be in the middle of the performance. I want to be able to close my eyes and be in audience at the venue.
 
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