CES 2018 – Fraunhofer & Sennheiser

One of the great things about actually going to CES, is that you get a chance to explore a little; and sometimes experience new and interesting things before they make it to market. The MPEG-H demo at the Fraunhofer booth was a perfect example of this.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, MPEG-H is a modern object based audio CODEC. Which allows the audio to be encoded in a way that provides significantly more flexibility, compared to a traditional channel based, for the playback system to optimize the end user experience. Currently MPEG-H is primarily deployed in the South Korean broadcast market, but Fraunhofer anticipates the potential for it to be used in a much broader context; including over-the-top (OTT). Unfortunately, they were not willing to comment on when :).

Had I just learned about this, that would have been neat, but I don’t think it would have met the doing-a-writeup bar – which is where the demos come in. The first one, was with a reference soundbar created (as these things are) to show off the potential of some of MPEG-H’s features. In this case dynamic metadata and virtualization, which enables producers to define separate “tracks” in the audio mix for things like “pit crew” or “no announcers”. This concept isn’t new, but because of the metadata driven nature of MPEG-H each audio frame can be tagged to align it with one or more “tracks”. The second demo was equally impressive, but arrived via a most impressive 13-driver soundbar (is that even the right term for a device like this?) from Sennheiser. Which really showed off the 3D positional capability of MPEG-H. Now this soundbar is only a prototype, but it should be the kind that actually comes to market after some polishing, word was “in time for holiday buyers”.