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WGUC Tests SRS, Neural Surround Sound

WGUC Tests SRS, Neural Surround Sound

Non-commercial classical WGUC(FM) in Cincinnati is testing two types of surround systems for radio broadcast use: Circle Surround from SRS Labs and the Audio Spatial Environment Engine from Neural Audio.
The station tested using SRS technology the past two weekends and plans to test using the Neural technology over the next two.
WGUC is the second station to make headlines recently by its exploration of surround for radio, along with KUVO(FM) in Denver.
CE Don Danko said the staff at the station’s Corbett Studio recording and production facility has been recording the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Opera and more local groups in surround sound for two years. They position multiple microphones in Cincinnati’s Music Hall and, after slight editing to eliminate such things as coughs or long pauses between movements, they downmix the audio with a surround sound mixer to a hard drive.
That audio then can be processed through the surround encoder and burned to a CD. This produces a CD that can be broadcast on both analog FM and HD Radio.
“If a listener doesn’t have compatible surround sound equipment they will continue to hear the superb sounding stereo mix, but if they have the surround capabilities the end result will be an unbelievable listening experience,” he said.
The systems of SRS Circle Surround and Neural Audio produce 5.1 discrete surround sound technology.
“We’re trying to capitalize on our localism,” said Danko. “These are local recordings of the symphony or the opera. There are not a lot of studios that specialize in recording classical music. We are well-versed in recording, mixing, editing and mastering classical music.”
The station went IBOC in July 2003 and uses Harris equipment. It’s sending out RDS text messages to receivers on its analog stream and is gearing up to do the same with program-associated data from the digital stream.
As for the surround tests, Danko says he’s strictly in a beta-testing stage using equipment on loan from the companies, such as the Harris NeuStar 5225 5.1 mix/edit tool. His station is not on a strict timetable to make a decision as to whether to incorporate surround into its audio and has not publicized its surround tests either on-air to listeners nor to local press.
“We want to make the right decision, not just for the audio quality, but for the listeners. If I want to implement this now, it’s going to have to be readily available and benefit listeners immediately.”