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    The Computer Audiophile

    World's First Lossless High Resolution Immersive Streaming Service

     

     

    Audio: Listen to this article.

     

     

     


    In the early days of computer audio and local high resolution files, all streaming platforms offered lossy MP3 quality music. Remember that? It seems like forever ago. Now, we have lossless high resolution streaming from several services and we consider this standard. It's funny how quickly we raise our standards and accept nothing less than that which wasn't even available a little while ago. 

     

    On May 17, 2021 Apple launched Dolby Atmos spatial audio on its Apple Music streaming service, opening the flood gates of immersive music. Following shortly after were Amazon Music and Tidal, the later also supporting Sony 360 Reality Audio. All immersive streaming to date has been lossy, with 99% using the Dolby Digital Plus format for Atmos. In addition to lossy immersive streaming, the labels on the cutting edge offer lossless high resolution immersive downloads for those seeking ownership and the best quality. 

     

    This all seems very familiar because we've already been down this road and we know how it goes. Start with lossy streaming, offer better quality downloads for purchase, move to lossless streaming, then on to high resolution streaming. This progression didn't take long for immersive audio. On Friday May 19, 2023 I received the world's first demonstration of the world's first lossless high resolution immersive streaming service, and it was glorious. 

     

    Enjoying lossless high resolution immersive audio currently means either ripping the music from a Blu-ray Disc or purchasing an album for download. Standard stuff for those of us who ripped our CD collections and purchased stereo albums from HDtracks, NativeDSD, Pro Studio Masters, etc... One issue with this is that most immersive albums have yet to be released for purchase. There is a large vault of lossless high resolution immersive content waiting to be heard. An immersive streaming service could open the lossless flood gates, just as Apple did for lossy Atmos in 2021. 

     

    The lossless high resolution immersive streaming demonstration took place at MSM Studios in Munich. Jon Reichbach and Stefan Bock were on hand to go over everything they've been working on for the last year, and to give the demo in Stefan's studio. At a high level, the service worked by selecting an audio endpoint device from within the app on a tablet, then selecting an album for playback. If you've ever used Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, or Chromecast, it's identical in terms of how the audio device is selected and how music flows to the device. 

     

    auro-3d-vector-logo-1000x667-1.jpgDigging in a little deeper, Jon and Stefan gave me more details than I can possibly write about in a single article. Their openness about the design and implementation of lossless high resolution immersive streaming was very refreshing for a geek like me. One of the demonstrations I heard was done using a 24/96 12 channel (7.1.4) album encoded as Auro 3D. There was an app running on an Nvidia Shield (connected to a Trinnov processor) that received commands from the tablet app and communicated directly with the AWS cloud. The Nvidia Shield appeared in the tablet app as an audio output device, that once selected handled all heavy lifting. Unlike AirPlay, the audio doesn't route through the tablet as that is only used for command and control. 

     

    The sound quality and user experience were as expected from a lossless high resolution immersive streaming service, fantastic! However, we all need to keep in mind that this was a proof of concept demonstration, with some work to be done before going live. Speaking of going live, the company expects to be ready by the Fall of 2023 and has been working with some familiar partners. In addition to the Nvidia/trinnov demo, I also used the app with a ******** processor housing *************** **** running the audio endpoint software. This worked identically to the previous demo in that I selected the processor from the tablet app, and all audio went straight from the cloud to the processor. 

     

    Note: As this went to press, I hadn't received the go-ahead to print the names of the devices above, so I used asterisks for now. These are well known companies with global distribution. I will work on publishing the names ASAP.

     


    Nitty Gritty Details

     

    app-logo-dark.pngThe streaming platform is called Artist Connection. It exists already and is used by labels, venues, and engineers in the music business. It's a proven platform that is being expanded into immersive streaming and downloads, including 4K video streaming. It's the first service to offer Auro 3D and Dolby's TrueHD. In addition to immersive content like Atmos music, pretty much any content such as multichannel 5.1, 7.1, and quad can be offered. The platform doesn't discriminate. 

     

    AC Connect is the name of the technology that enables devices to appear on one's network in the tablet application, for selection as the audio output device. AC Connect is the immersive equivalent to Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, and Chromecast. 

     

    The AC Connect software must be running on the audio endpoint, just as it would with the other services offering similar capabilities. To this end, *************** will offer AC Connect as part of its Software Development Kit (SDK) this summer, enabling hardware manufacturers who use these cards to select AC Connect as option. For those unfamiliar with ***************, its hardware is in tons of high end audio devices used around the world every day. 

     

    Jon Reichbach said he expects to offer iOS, Android, and Android TV applications. Why no tvOS for Apple TV? Because Apple TV doesn't support lossless immersive audio, only lossy Dolby Digital Plus. 

     

    What about immersive content? The bottom line with any service is its ability to deliver the content people want to hear. This is where Artist Connection is a little different from the traditional streaming services we already use. Because Artist Connection is a platform for many things, it will be offered to labels in at least two ways. One, labels can release content for streaming and/or download as part of the label's own "Studio" area for which consumers pay to get access to only the specific label's content. Two, labels can opt into the aggregate service containing more than one Studio, similar to how streaming services work today. Labels are free to set a custom price for streaming their content and downloads. 

     


    My Hesitation, But There's A Bright Side

     

    dolby-truehd.jpgI absolutely love what what Jon and Stefan are putting together in the immersive streaming platform called Artist Connection. It takes traditional streaming and not only adds lossless high resolution immersive audio, it offers many other features for artists and labels to make money. However, I have one hesitation with the service as it's currently demonstrated. Artist Connection currently requires use of an HDMI device and hardware decoder for Auro 3D and TrueHD Atmos. That will be totally fine for many listeners, but not ideal for me. 

     

    I prefer to use 65,000 tap state of the art room correction that isn't possible in a processor. I don't route my two channel HiFi through a processor and I don't plan to route my immersive HiFi through a processor. I use Merging Technologies hardware for everything up to 12 channel DXD, just like the engineers who record, mix, and master immersive audio. Fortunately a few high end companies are as interested as I am in immersive audio, and I look forward to hearing these products as well. 

     

    The bright side is that I was able to test a lossless high resolution immersive stream in my own listening room this afternoon, to my MacBook Pro, and it worked perfectly. Decoding will require me to subscribe to the Auro 3D decoder for $20 per month to decode Auro content. Based on personal experience, Auro has yet to show interest in licensing its decoder to the hundreds of thousands of music server consumers running macOS, Windows, or Linux though. Consumers who don't make money off the Auro decoder tools, like professionals do, should be able to license a reasonably priced version of this decoder just to play Auro music. That's my take any way. 

     

    Playing Dolby TrueHD Atmos to my Mac will be a different ball of wax. The Dolby decoder works with file based playback, unlike the Auro decoder that can be streamed through. For now, purchasing and downloading Dolby TrueHD Atmos albums is best. I have some ideas in mind to decode this stream on my Mac, while using and paying for official Dolby software. I'm not into hacking a solution. Dolby deserves to be paid for its work. 

     

    One workaround for me to stream Artist Connection TrueHD audio into my system is fairly straight forward. I just need to purchase an HDMI to AES67/Ravenna converter that will accept audio from an Nvidia Shield and send it to my MacBook Pro. There are other solutions coming in this area, but I'd prefer to skip the step entirely. 

     


    Wrap Up

     

    If the details sound a bit "different" to you, don't worry. It took me a bit to understand the concept because it's different from the traditional model. In addition, the proof of concept just happened a week ago. There are many details to work out as the team interfaces with global partners and garners feedback from everyone involved, from artists to labels to consumers. 

     

    At a high level, it's a granular streaming service enabling consumers to stream or download lossless high resolution immersive music from the labels they love. It'll hopefully be ready to rock by Fall 2023. For now, let's give the team some time to iron out the details. They've been very gracious with their time to this point, and will be happy to answer questions about other topics I glossed over or left out. Let me know what you want to know, and I'll get the answers, straight from the horse's mouth. 


    Follow the rest of our immersive audio coverage here - https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/immersive/

     

     




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    I cannot wait to hear more details.  I'm hoping my Lyngdorf processor and Zidoo Z9X are on the radar.  :)

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    Just now, ted_b said:

    I cannot wait to hear more details.  I'm hoping my Lyngdorf processor and Zidoo Z9X are on the radar.  :)

    I think you'll be happy :~)

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    Let’s see. If I can stream it into the Mac, then I can output through Roon and HQPlayer for 5.1.2 Atmos. You see that as doable with what the demonstration indicated?  JCR 

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    Just now, jrobbins50 said:

    Let’s see. If I can stream it into the Mac, then I can output through Roon and HQPlayer for 5.1.2 Atmos. You see that as doable with what the demonstration indicated?  JCR 

    How will you get it into Roon?

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    3 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    How will you get it into Roon?

    MacBook —> USB out —> miniDSP UDIO-8 —> XLR 8ch out —> Lynx AES16e sound card (in CAPS20 server).  I don’t get output from there in Roon. What am I thinking?  My path goes straight to HQP once reaching the CAPS20 server and album/track selection is controlled by the Apple Remote app, with volume controlled by the HQPDcontrol4 app.  Not ready for the consumer masses. No Roon. But maybe lossless streaming will work the same?


    Will the new lossless streaming require the Dolby Reference Player to select and decode the user’s Dolby Atmos speaker format (5.1.2, 7.1.4, etc.), as the Mac only decodes lossy DD+ Atmos?  JCR 

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    Interesting times, no doubt. My Anthem does not support Auro 3D so I will stick with TrueHD Atmos. I find the Atmos platform to be more versatile than Auro when used to its full potential. In demos, I preferred the Atmos even if it is “only” 24/48. 

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    57 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

    Interesting times, no doubt. My Anthem does not support Auro 3D so I will stick with TrueHD Atmos. I find the Atmos platform to be more versatile than Auro when used to its full potential. In demos, I preferred the Atmos even if it is “only” 24/48. 

    I wish the industry would just go with Atmos. It’s what the major labels have selected. It’s a single sample rate, which makes life easy. One decoder is simpler.  It’s object based, etc….

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    Yay... My Smyth Realiser can decode Auro-3D!

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    18 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I wish the industry would just go with Atmos. It’s what the major labels have selected. It’s a single sample rate, which makes life easy. One decoder is simpler.  It’s object based, etc….

    I don't agree with only one option for immersive sound. I personally prefer Auro much more and I am very happy that Auro did not go away. Dolby has in my view too great a market dominance and has already tried with unwelcome methods to push the competitors out of the market. I also prefer a possibility similar to your installation. That there is no streaming decoder from Dolby in lossless quality. It is important despite all the technology this is easy to use for my partner.

     

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    While I fully understand the wish for less clutter in the immersive codec ring, I am a huge Auro-3D fan...so I can't get behind Atmos being the monopoly.  A little (very little unfortunately, especially in the States) competition is good for the market.  Sony 360 can go away, though.  :)

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    I believe Steve, see video, and in my opinion: it is just another new way to sell music again to empty our pockets. We have been here in the past, but stereo will survive again (and again)!

     

     

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    12 minutes ago, jos said:

    I believe Steve, see video, and in my opinion: it is just another new way to sell music again to empty our pockets. We have been here in the past, but stereo will survive again (and again)!

     

     

    With all due respect, that guy has no idea what he’s talking about. Clueless. 
     

    Do you think HDTV and 4K were just another way to sell movies again and empty your pockets?

     

    Atmos offers something we’ve never had before for music playback, and it’s incredible. 

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    48 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    With all due respect, that guy has no idea what he’s talking about. Clueless. 
     

    Do you think HDTV and 4K were just another way to sell movies again and empty your pockets?

     

    Atmos offers something we’ve never had before for music playback, and it’s incredible. 

    No, I don’t think so, just like new improved DAC’s the picture (and stereo sound quality) can be improved. But for Music 🎵 playback we really don’t need to change stereo. For some movies I agree that surround sound can add something to the experience. I guess Steve is pretty clear in his video, or not? And I totally agree!

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    1 minute ago, jos said:

    No, I don’t think so, just like new improved DAC’s the picture (and stereo sound quality) can be improved. But for Music 🎵 playback we really don’t need to change stereo. For some movies I agree that surround sound can add something to the experience.

    Then you have never heard a recording or even a live broadcast with immersive sound with the corresponding loudspeaker setup. This is simply not achievable with stereo. Today in the professional sector there is even the possibility to transfer yourself acoustically live into a room. I had the opportunity to attend a live broadcast of WOWOW Japan in Auro-3d technology. It is quite impressive when the concert hall with live orchestra in Tokyo is audible in your home. Whether this is primarily reproduced with Atmos or Auro-3d is of secondary relevance.

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    9 minutes ago, Me2 said:

    Then you have never heard a recording or even a live broadcast with immersive sound with the corresponding loudspeaker setup. This is simply not achievable with stereo. Today in the professional sector there is even the possibility to transfer yourself acoustically live into a room. I had the opportunity to attend a live broadcast of WOWOW Japan in Auro-3d technology. It is quite impressive when the concert hall with live orchestra in Tokyo is audible in your home. Whether this is primarily reproduced with Atmos or Auro-3d is of secondary relevance.

    Oh yes, it can be impressive and I never heard it. That’s true, so I should not judge too quickly, but we have had all kind of surround sound systems, but non of them succeeded. Perhaps this one, but I have my doubts. And Steve is not a fan too.

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    14 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Succeeded at what?

    A worldwide acceptance and implementation, like stereo.

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    2 minutes ago, jos said:

    A worldwide acceptance and implementation, like stereo.

    That’s a totally different thing from when you said:

     

    50 minutes ago, jos said:

    But for Music 🎵 playback we really don’t need to change stereo

     


     

     

    Market acceptance/implementation vs what the product delivers are two different things. With Atmos we already have both. 
     

    A single Atmos file goes from two to sixteen channels. This makes the installed base of playback equipment in the billions. Sure some people will never accept anything other than vinyl. That’s ok. 
     

    There’s no equivalent way to playback any music recording that’s more accurate to the source. Period. Do you think the real wall reverberations from Disney Hall, played out of front stereo speakers and bounced off the rear wall of your listening room are more accurate of a depiction of the real event than the rear wall reverb coming from the rear wall of a listening room? 
     

     

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    2 hours ago, jos said:

    I believe Steve, see video, and in my opinion: it is just another new way to sell music again to empty our pockets. We have been here in the past, but stereo will survive again (and again)!

     



    Steve says one (and only one) thing I can agree with, and (in my words): there have been way too many surround and atmos mixes that simply are crap and makes no sense at all.
    I can subscribe with that.

    However, there are so many insanely awesome recordings out there, and now finally the numbers have started sky rocketing with the advent of atmos streaming.
    Streaming is taking immersive where spinning disks and downloads couldn't. 
    It was just too much work and too many hits and misses and high costs.

    It amazes me how much street cred Steve is given, as he was clearly never an audiophile.
    He just likes speakers with personality. Nothing wrong with that choice in it self, just not audiophile.

    Now, if somebody would just strap Steve to a chair, and play some of Morten Lindbergs immersive recordings through a true audiophile system. Then he might wake up from his 1970's time loop. 😃

     

     

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    1 hour ago, DigiPete said:

    there have been way too many surround and atmos mixes that simply are crap and makes no sense at all.
    I can subscribe with that.


    You can say the same for stereo, high res, vinyl, etc… 

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