A “fully immersive” radio experience is the promise of surround sound broadcasts now heard on the Atlanta Braves Radio Network — baseball’s largest, with 150 affiliates.
Audio technology company DTS Inc. said it’s working with Dickey Broadcasting Co., Cumulus Media and the Braves Radio Network to deliver game broadcasts with DTS Neural Surround Sound technology. Dickey Broadcasting owns WCNN(AM), home of the Atlanta Braves.
This represents a success beyond the public radio realm for DTS, whose technology has been used by American Public Media and “JazzSet.” The company says some 900 stations in the U.S. now air DTS Neural Surround Sound in one form or another.
The announcement was made by Jon Kirchner, CEO of DTS, and Gary Kline, VP of engineering at IT for Cumulus Media. Kirchner emphasized the “special aural experience” and rich history of baseball on the radio. Kline says the move to surround “enables us to increase the quality and envelopment of the game for all of our listeners, so they feel like they’re sitting in the grandstands.”
The gear is built by DaySequerra, which licenses it from DTS, and integrated at Turner Stadium with the radio network’s mobile package.
The setup enables the audio team to distribute 5.1 surround sound over a stereo transmission path. “Using the stereo format at the highest resolution possible, DTS Neural Surround Sound enables the Braves’ broadcast production team to preserve the integrity of the surround mix for a superior listening experience,” the companies stated.
“For the sports enthusiast, every play will be transformed with clearly defined vocals and effects, and crisp high and low frequencies that create a more immersive sound experience.”
Kline said any Braves FM affiliate with a satellite receiver wired in stereo can take advantage of it.
“We encode the surround on the normal two-channel stereo signal and feed that to the bird,” Kline told RW. “The Braves satellite feed is stereo and always has been since Dickey Broadcasting began running the network. We added surround encoding to the stereo flagship and network affiliate feeds this season. Our first official surround broadcast was the first pre-season home game, April 29. We also did some beta testing in March at spring training down in Orlando. For those tests we used WSJZ(FM) in Melbourne as our test receive station. Those tests were to determine microphone placement, console bus wiring, decode quality, etc.”
RW asked Kline who will benefit among the listening audience. He said any FM stereo radio will take advantage of the stereo encoding, and that the games “sound great” thanks to the existing audio chain. However, “When you have a radio which can decode surround, as more and more home stereos and vehicles are coming equipped to do, then you can take full advantage of the imaging. HD Radio brings you even closer to the action with a clean digital reproduction of the sound.”
The surround can be heard on both analog and HD Radios. Kline said the sound in digital, though, “is amazing. Especially when the popcorn guy is in the stands.”