“The World’s Most Advance Audio Speakers”: The Rise of Spacial Audio

Sabine van Nistelrooij

Spatial audio is on the rise in recent years. In 2022, Apple reported that 80% of its Apple Music subscribers listened to music in spacial audio – a premium feature the tech giant launched in 2021. Earlier this year, Netflix introduced spatial audio to 700 titles for its premium subscribers.

Spacial Audio even became available in cars via a partnership with automotive giant Mercedes-Benz and Dolby Atmos. SONOS just launched its own spacial audio sound system, too.

What is spacial audio?

Spacial Audio is an audio technology that creates a three-dimensional sound experience by incorporating direction, distance, and other acoustic properties into the audio output. This type of audio is designed to replicate the natural way that sound behaves in real-world environments, creating a more immersive and realistic experience for listeners.

A spatial audio sound system typically consists of multiple speakers positioned around a listening area to create a surround-sound effect. The speakers are often placed at different heights and angles to create a more immersive and realistic sound field.

Spacial audio and electronic music

For the past couple of years, 4DSOUND – an Amsterdam-based studio – has been one of the most fascinating companies in this space working with electronic music.

In 2018, they conceived the Symphonic Sound System (2018) in collaboration with Red Bull Music Academy. They built one of the largest spatial sound systems in the world, where musicians Oneohtrix Point Never and Jlin presented ambitious works using 4DSOUND software, re-contextualising their signature sound design into vast sonic worlds. Last year, they hosted Aural Spaces, a 3-day spatial music event produced in collaboration with FIBER Festival at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, showcasing commissions by Grand River, Thomas Ankersmit, Croatian Amor, and Rakhi Singh.

4DSOUND's spatial sound instruments can project sound holograms in a listening area, enabling artists to play the space as an instrument. "Our intention is to provide captivating listening experiences where sounds can range from realistic environments to incredibly surreal electronic manipulations and everything in-between," says Poul Holleman, 4DSOUND's director. 

Where can you experience spacial audio in a live setting?

In April, London will get its first taste of 4DSOUND, the cutting-edge spatial audio sound system created by innovative audio engineers.

The Amsterdam-based studio is currently debuting the world's most advanced spatial audio sound system in the UK capital with a month of programming at Stone Nest from 21 April until 20 May 2023 in collaboration with 33-33. 

The experience features performances by Kali Malone, Max Cooper and Llyr, Oren Ambarchi, Grand River, Andrea Belfi, and NikNak.

Additionally, a Diffusion event series showcasing exclusive compositions written from the sound system by artists such as Suzanne Ciani, Zoë McPherson, Thomas Ankersmit, and Bendik Giske is included in the event.

The studio calls the music performed at the event "sonic sculptures" and invites the audience to move around, seeking different perspectives to gain a better understanding of the piece. By doing so, everyone can feel connected to one another as they enjoy spatial listening.