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THX, Neural To Develop Next-Gen Neural Surround

THX and Neural Audio have teamed up to market and develop the next generation of NeuralSurround technology, which encodes five discrete channels of stereo-compatible surround sound into a broadcast stereo signal.

Neural Surround decoders became available in 2006 in major suppliers’ A/V receivers, which can reproduce a 5.1-channel surround experience from Neural-encoded broadcasts of select XM Satellite Radio channels and Neural-encoded broadcasts from select terrestrial radio and TV stations. XM Satellite Radio provides original surround content on channels 76 (Fine Tuning) and 113 (POPS).

The next iteration of Neural’s technology will be THX-Neural branded and will appear first in A/V receivers from several major manufacturers, including Onkyo. Prototypes will appear for preview on at THX booth 20914 in the South Hall of the LVCC.

The two companies will work together to develop the next-generation Neural Surround “product suite” to “enable CE devices, broadcasters, video game developers and emerging content-distribution channels to deliver true, multichannel surround sound presentations using existing stereo channels,” the company said.

“We’re not giving a ton of specifics about the IP in this version of Neural Surround,” a THX spokesman said at press time, but “I can say that Neural is leveraging our knowledge and expertise in the development of surround sound technologies for A/V receivers and other devices to help make refinements to this latest version of Neural Surround.”

THX said the companies’ “two main areas of focus are improving the surround experience in both broadcast and video games.” For next-generation video game titles, THX-Neural Surround will enable the creation of discrete 7.1-channel soundtracks on platforms that currently only support 5.1 channels, the company said. “This allows sound designers to push the creative limits of their sound effects, dialogue and musical score, producing more interactive, 360-degree soundtracks that pull gamers closer to the action.”

Through suppliers of professional broadcast equipment such as Harris Corporation, the THX-Neural Surround solution will offer a way for broadcasters to encode 5.1-content during a live mix or post session, then transmit the content in two-channel format. The content is then decoded back to 5.1 by THX-Neural-enabled home AV receivers.

Said Rick Dean, THX’s technology development VP, “Unlike traditional matrix-encoded technologies, the THX-Neural solution enables sound designers and mixers to better pinpoint sound effects, ambient sound and other audio elements in the surround field, providing for more immersive entertainment experiences, which is what THX does best.”

“The THX-Neural announcement is very exciting because it brings broadcast and consumer technologies together to deliver the excitement of live events without compromise,” added Fred Aldous, FOX Sports Audio consultant and senior mixer. “I want my mix to leave the broadcast truck and hit the home consumer as I intended. Fans deserve the best.”

Neural, of Kirkland, Wash., specializes in mix/edit broadcast tools, audio codec optimization and Neural Surround.

THX said its mission is to “develop new ways to make the creation, delivery and presentation of entertainment content more efficient, more powerful and more enjoyable.” THX technology is used in commercial cinemas, post-production studios, car audio systems and home entertainment products.