“Real” Surround vs. Fake Surround
by Bernard Fox
There is a lot of controversy today about how surround sound should be done. Besides the format war of SACD, vs. DVD – A, vs. DVD video, vs. Etc., and besides the 5.1, 5.0, 6.1 number of speakers confusion, and not considering the precise arrangement of those speakers, there exists a controversy as to how to produce surround sound in the first place.
Some argue that all historic recordings must be remixed from the multitrack to be “real” surround sound. (Here the word “real” should probably be replaced by the word “Discrete” to be accurate.) If your aim in a remix is to place all the individual tracks in specific locations around the room then I guess you will have to go back to the multitracks. And as a multitrack music mixer, far be it for me to cancel tens of thousands of hours of studio and remix engineer’s time. Its certainly fun to have a whole new pallet of track position possibilities, putting aside the problem that very few will actually sit in that exact spot where the listener can hear what was intended. I can appreciate that for new recordings, conceived originally in surround sound, mixing may the way get what was conceived.
But for known, established, music, what makes anyone think that remixing is any more “real” than any other method to achieve surround sound. What is “real” anyway? What does “real” mean? “Real” is that emotion that is in the original. “Real” is that “button” that gets pressed in our soul, when we hear a great piece of music. “Real” is that most delicate essence of the music. It exists again when we hear it again, in our ears, in our hearts, almost without concern for how it sounds “exactly” at that moment. A great piece of music, a song, an opera, a beat, all seem to prevail over the car and street noise, office din, restaurant clatter, broken woofers, blown tweeters and every other sound or lack thereof. It’s almost as if the sound doesn’t matter. Yet it does matter, very much. If I didn’t hear that music in the first place I never could have liked it at all. 35 years ago Richie Havens said to me “The music is in between the notes”. I think he’s right. The emotion, (the music), is that thing you feel whether you hear it clearly or not. It lives in the spaces. It is the organization of sounds that sets you up for the next incoming emotional sound. So just like “Shave and a hair cut, Two ____”, sets you up for the next incoming “Bit’s”, so does any good mix. You have to have it. You can’t live with out those “Two Bits”. So does any good mix. A good mix sets you up, delivering sound after sound filled with the expectation of the next incoming “Bits”. It was hard to get the emotionality into the music. Now that our established music, our hits, have that delicate thing in the music, it becomes obviously noticeable if we lose that “thing”.
We must not lose that emotional thing. We must preserve it at all cost.
So why is a remix not “real” surround? It is the discrete tracks mixed into surround sound. It is not that “real thing” in surround sound. If you remix you are going to change the original. Is that bad? Even if the original is changed a little, it is not that original mix. It is not the “real” mix. It is not that original mix that pressed our emotional button. It is not that “real” thing. Any other mix will be different from the original. The original emotion, drive, desire to succeed, love of the project, drove the original Artist, Producer, Engineer. Any deviation from that group, from that moment in time, from that collection of equipment, makes the mix different. And although I applaud DTS’s attempt to hire many of the original participants whenever possible, the remixes will be different and probably a diminishment from the original.
So how do we get that “real” thing into surround sound? How do we get “real” surround sound.
First, don’t change the original. Keep it safe. Preserve its feeling. The most delicate thing is also the most valuable thing. It was the hardest to get. Don’t let it go. That’s why we all got into music in the first place.
Second, Get the highest quality bit depth and samples per second available.
Third, Make your distribution copies from the best original you can get. If your hit is recorded in mono on analogue tape go back to that original for the best transfer you can get. We at SONATURE are proud to say we do all our transfers from the best original we can acquire. We also use the most appropriate playback machines rented from the Museum Of Sound Recording.
Forth, Convert to surround sound using the SONATURE process. With SONATURE you maintain the exact original. The stereo or mono original is preserved, untouched on the front left and front right channels, in the highest digital quality available. If you want to hear the original again, simply turn off the other channels. It doesn’t matter the format SONATURE is compatible with all formats.
Fifth, Create the surround sounds using the patented SONATURE process. NO artificial delays are added. No fake delays are heard. SONATURE is not fake surround sound or different remixed sound. SONATURE is simply the sound in your head spread out to the speakers.