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Monday, September 26, 2022

How L-Acoustics brings the sweet sound of spatial audio to the masses

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For most of our lives, stereo has been the primary way to reproduce the music we consume. Immersive audio systems like surround sound have been around for decades, but immersive audio content is rare outside of TV and film.

But perhaps that’s not surprising: to reproduce and above all to create immersive audio content is very inconvenient.

Fortunately, things are starting to change. Immersive audio is finally becoming accessible to the mainstream thanks to big name manufacturers like Apple building spatial audio directly into their headphones. Even setting up spatial audio speaker systems has become a cinch thanks to wireless speaker manufacturers like Sonos adopting the format.

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The spatial audio trend shows no signs of slowing down, but widespread adoption requires a smaller learning curve (and lower prices) for creators.

French audio company L-Acoustics hopes to make that happen with L-ISA Studio, an application and plug-in for mixing immersive audio on both speakers and headphones. L-ISA Studio is even free for creators who make music for headphones (a full license costs €29 per month or €290 per year), making it an accessible option for creators getting started with spatial audio.

I spoke to Guillaume Le Nost, Managing Director at L-Acoustics, about why making spatial audio mainstream is so important. After all, L-Acoustics wasn’t always aimed at everyday creators. The company’s background is primarily in live audio, creating the software and hardware for concert halls and other auditory experiences. But after decades of making professional speakers and working in stereo, the company realized it was time to change course.

“Now we are reaching a stage where anyone can provide good quality loudspeakers and this knowledge has spread across the industry,” says Le Nost. “It’s no longer about the quality of the speakers, it’s more about the system approach.”

Simple two-channel systems have survived in home listening rooms and small halls because the distances are not great. But when you’re talking about a huge concert stage where the left and right speaker arrays can be more than 35 meters apart, there can be a separation between what the speaker is and what you see on stage, according to Le Nost.

L-ISA Studio