Getting Started with Spatial Audio

Mirek Stiles, Abbey Road's Head of Audio Products sets about answering one of the most important and commonly asked questions in the field of SpatialAudio… 'Where do I start?' 

When people ask me “how do I get involved with Spatial Audio” my advice is to download the Facebook 360 software and just get stuck in. It’s free, and is provided in both AXX and VST formats. You’ll need a DAW capable of handling 16 wide channels, as the FB software is 3rd Order Ambisonics – Pro Tools, Reaper and Neuendo can do this. The software lets you pan audio sources all around your head via headphones and it does a pretty good job at it.

To get started you need to focus on two plugins, the FB360 Spatialiser, which is effectively a pan pot and the FB360 Control plugin, which is your headphone monitor output.

FB360 Spatialiser – you can insert this plugin over any mono, stereo, ambisonic, Four, Five, Six or Seven channel multi track. You then need to buss the output of any track that contains this plugin to the input of an Aux/Master track that contains the FB360 Control. The Spatialiser plugin will change the source track width to the destination track width (in this case 16 channels for 3rd Order Ambisnocs). For example, if you place the plugin over a mono track you’ll notice the track changes from mono to 16 channels wide – it might seem a little odd at first but you’ll soon get used to it. The actual panner is laid out as if you are above looking down on top of someone's head.

The user interface for the FB360 Spatialiser

 

FB360 Control – you can only insert this plugin over a 16 channel wide track (Aux or Master – depending on how your DAW works). The plugin is basically converting the 3rd Order Ambisonics to a binaural headphone mix, so you can hear what you are doing. You’ll notice as you insert the plugin the 16 wide track will change to a stereo track (kind of the reverse of what happens when you inserted the Spatialiser plugin).

You can now start panning stuff around your head. Just grab any mono source (like a vocal for example) and have a play placing it anywhere you want at any distance you want – it’s pretty cool. You can even upload your work to Facebook in glorious 360 sound and impress your friends.

You can find more info here. I recommend have a scan through this as it lays down the basics. It might all seems a little messy at first but you need to just dive in the deep end – it will start to make sense eventually, I promise.

Now go create something amazing – we are counting on you.