Audio-Technica Talks Microphones in the Immersive Age
The imminence of the object-based–audio era has not escaped notice at Audio-Technica. Neither, for that matter, has the fact that sports-media content is changing radically, with more of it moving to streaming and, in the process, often to earbuds as the final audio-monitoring method for consumers. What’s not changing is the fact that these new multi-object soundscapes will continue to be built largely using mono and stereo microphones.
“Playback formats are definitely changing,” says Michael Edwards, VP, product and market development, A-T, “but the role of the microphone is still to capture the moment.”
A-T has periodically considered entering the market for multichannel dedicated surround-sound microphone but has continued to favor its broadcast stalwarts: shotgun mics like the BP4073 and BP4071 mono and the BP4027 and BP4029 stereo.
“What we’ve seen is that most of the surround beds are still built using either closely or widely spaced microphones, depending on the engineers’ tastes,” says Edwards. “Stereo microphones have become the primary tool for building surround sound, with mono microphones used for specific effects to fill in. As we move into the next generation of broadcast audio for sports, the creation of the surround bed will become ever more complex.”
As important, adds Chris Nighman, product manager, wired products, whether an A1 or A2 prefers to create a stereo image using either an X-Y or a mid-side element configuration, mono compatibility will remain a critical necessity well into the object-based future. “That’s something that broadcast can never lose sight of, even on mobile platforms,” he stresses.
Both executives emphasize that, while consumer playback configurations ranging between 11 and 22 channels (or objects — the terminology remains in flux) will offer listeners new ways to access sports on television while presenting field technicians with new and interesting challenges, most viewers won’t feel compelled to access these new formats. Whatever format they do listen through, however, they will have had their expectations for sound quality set high, simply because broadcast sound has been so good for so long.
“And that’s always going to start with the sound source: the microphone,” says Edwards.
In fact, he adds, how audio is captured at the elemental level could influence the overall experience for consumers. For instance, the audio for an announcer located on a sideline or near the field of play may not be completely free of ambient sound, which would affect whether a consumer turns off the announcer object. Or the ambient audio around a second announcer speaking another language could be a mismatch with the rest of an event’s background sound