MP3 specification gets new surround-sound features

Fraunhofer and Thomson have announced two new enhancements to MP3 Surround software.

The inventors of MP3 are taking portable music listening one step further with the introduction of two surround sound enhancements.

Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) and France's Thomson SA have added two new elements to MP3 Surround demonstration software: MP3 SX (MP3 Stereo eXtended), which enhances MP3 stereo files for multichannel playback; and Ensonido, which provides portable MP3 Surround sound using stereo headphones, the companies announced Tuesday.

Demo software containing both enhancements can be downloaded for free at: http://www.all4mp3.com.

MP3 Surround, which was developed in 2004 by Fraunhofer IIS in collaboration with Agere Systems and is licensed by Thomson, enables high-quality surround sound at bit rates comparable to those currently used to encode stereo MP3 material.

The MP3 XS enhancement supports a transition from stereo to surround sound, enabling listening to two-channel content in surround, the companies said.

Ensonido enhances the listening experience through stereo headphones. The technology is based on an acoustic model that simulates the natural transmission of multichannel sound from loudspeakers to the human ear.

Additional information about MP3 Surround is available at: http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/amm/download/mp3surround/index.html.

More information about Ensonido is available at: http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/amm/techinf/ensonido/index.html.

MP3 is a format for storing digital audio, using a type of audio compression that reduces the file size with little reduction in audio quality.

Research on compression of music files was conducted in the 1980s by a team of scientists working under Karlheinz Brandenburg at Fraunhofer IIS. Brandenburg's development, the MPEG-1 Layer 3 algorithm, was first shortened to MPEG Layer 3 and later to MP3.

Thomson will demonstrate the MP3 Surround enhancements at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which begins Thursday in Las Vegas.

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