What's the advantage of Ambisonics?

Dear Forum Friends

I discussed Ambisonics with some colleagues and I personally fail to see the awesomeness of recording in this format with special microphones.

Everything you record is baked into a static image. It’s like merging a complex sound ambience and effects into a mono file. Or merging a Photoshop file with many layers into a TIF. Once baked, it’s in there and you cannot edit it properly anymore. You cannot pull out and edit one sound, it’s all together. It’s OK if you have a 360 camera recording and match the sound to this recording. But when you need to do standard tasks, adding dialog, dialog editing, sound effects, constructing ambiances, you’re back to placing mono sounds into a 360 sound design stage that you need to pan correctly and have sound effects follow on-screen actors. If you have CG, you need to construct everything anyway.

I see the benefit of outputting in this format, as you need a vehicle to transport your sound. Here, too, doesn’t Dolby Atmos feature a better system where sounds are like objects and not baked into a static 5.1 image, but they stay separate and can be panned freely in a room. You could have 10 or 100 speakers and it would resolve where a sound is playing from and how loudly, on its own. Ambisonics might be free of licenses? Is that why it’s attractive? So as a transport format Ambisonics might be useful, but for recording?

Also, Ambisonics, as far as I know, is a format from the 60s and 70s. Is there a reason it had no breakthrough (until now, maybe) ?

Maybe somebody has better insight. I’d like to understand.

IMO as a 360 degree surround format ambisonics seems to be a convenient solution for audio for Virtual Reality. And, as you say, it’s free of licenses. I notice Steinberg’s integration of ambisonics for VR is being announced for this year’s GDC. See:

As also discussed in the other thread on this here:

I’m imagining this asked differently in the 1960s by someone who’s only worked in mono: “I discussed stereo with some colleagues and I personally fail to see the awesomeness of recording in this format with special microphones.”

Sorry Chris, but there’s reams of info online now, do some homework and get your feet wet. Ambisonics is not a “format” like Dolby Atmos, do a search for spherical harmonics and start there.

Great for VR or ambience recording (use the same recording to get a full surround recording in quad or 7.1 or whatever, or make a stereo pair with cardioid or a mono channel in hypercardioid in post, also your mic is one physical block thing instead of a large array of several mics).

You’re right DTSR. But I already did some digging and found that this topic seems to be mostly tackled in a scientific way. I’m not interested in formulas, how sound is encoded. But this is mostly what I find when looking for Ambisonics. Who invented it, formulas, science stuff. I spent some time looking for info. At some point, I have to do some work, too. So I was interested in the real world usage and experience you made, the soft information, in a short discussion. I’m not that lazy :slight_smile:

very good ‘soft’ primer on the Waves site: https://www.waves.com/ambisonics-explained-guide-for-sound-engineers

in short, one mic, allowing for virtually any mic pattern, and which produces an image that can be mono/stereo/MS/quad/5.1/cube/sphere etc. etc. the image can also be processed in various ways while you mix, i.e. tilt, roll, rotate, focus. Using so-called hybrid mixing techniques you can combine multiple image types to build a complex sound stage. Also, ambisonics can be manipulated ‘live,’ where your project stays open, i.e. not ‘baked,’ so you encode/decode in real-time to whatever array has been specified.

I fail to see how this isn’t ‘awesome’ relative to working with mono/stereo/[insert brand name] surround formats. :wink: