ERLANGEN, GERMANY—At the CES Show in January 2015, research institution and codec developer, Fraunhofer IIS, rolled out its latest version of Cingo, a software solution addressing several of the challenges associated with mobile device sound reproduction. Cingo is designed to not only improve the audio quality of these devices, but it can also virtualize channel-based surround and object-based immersive formats for reproduction on headphones and built-in speakers.

Cingo now supports height channels, says Amir Iljazovic, product manager, professional encoding and mobile platform applications, at Fraunhofer IIS. “Sources can not only be placed in the horizontal plane but also elevated, which allows for more advanced loudspeaker configurations like 9.1 or 11.1, or higher. But it also allows placing of audio objects anywhere in the virtual space around the listener.”

When DVD-Audio and SACD were slugging it out 15 years ago to see which would be the dominant disc-based 5.1-channel audio playback format, large-scale adoption by automakers was seen as critical to their ultimate success. With the number of mobile phones more or less equal to the number of people in the world, handheld devices now represent a more ubiquitous platform that could help drive the wider adoption of next-generation audio formats.

One of the advantages of the new object-based immersive audio formats is the ability to faithfully reproduce content on any speaker configuration, not just the one on which it was created. With mobile devices and headphones now so commonplace, there is potentially a very large global market for the delivery of immersive content virtualized for reproduction over two channels.

Cingo has applications beyond mobile phones, too. “It’s also useful with head-tracking, if you have a device like a virtual reality head-mounted display,” says Iljazovic.

There is a relative paucity of immersive content available for playback on mobile devices currently, although that is likely to change soon enough. “Where we might immediately make use of audio objects is within games,” he suggests. “In the game world, we’ve had objects for quite a while now, particularly sounds that are triggered during gameplay and positioned in the virtual space around the listener. We can have a flexible number of objects that can be rendered or processed with Cingo technology.”

Fraunhofer IIS