Auro 3D Downmix Bankrupt, While Keeping Height Channels In Place

Auro Technologies, the company that brought us the Auro 3D Surround Format, filed for bankruptcy with a view to resolving its insolvency. While it can be difficult to find a silver lining in this situation, Auro founder and CEO Wilfried Van Baelen says the filing is not Auro’s curtain call. Instead, Van Baelen says his bankruptcy is just a precautionary measure on a longer road to recovery. The good news, Auro Technologies has been retained in full by Van Baelen and has not yet sold any patents or laid off its workforce.

The announcement was made last Friday from Auro Technologies’ headquarters at Galaxy Studios in the small community of Mol in Antwerp, Belgium. None of the other Galaxy Studios-related businesses should be affected by Auro Technologies’ filing. In a recent interview, Van Baelen said the measure was necessary after months of negotiations when a particular deal for one investor fell through. Apparently the almost interested party was unprepared for the current stalled sales environment created by current market conditions. Auro 3D’s problems were caused by the one-two punch that started with the global pandemic and then evolved into the flea crisis due to breakdowns in the semiconductor supply chain. Auro Technologies depends on royalties from the use of its technology in AV receivers. Auro’s story is a familiar to Audioholics, as the AV receiver market sits just inside the sweet spot that puts it among those hard hit by the semiconductor manufacturing downturn. AV receiver makers have seen production declines over the past two years, while production costs have risen dramatically. These are the same conditions that lead to Onkyo sells its audiovisual business to Klipsch’s parent company.

The untimely shutdowns due to the pandemic and the chip crisis have hurt Auro Technologies in additional but less obvious ways, by stalling projected growth in new ventures. According to German-language website Heise.de, Auro may have been set to bring its 3D audio technology to streaming services and soundbars. Prior to the troubles that began in 2021, the company had already developed products ready for integration into the incredibly popular soundbar segment and was just finishing applications that would have brought Auro 3D to high-resolution streaming platforms. But 2021 has put those sales plans on hold. It now looks like these expansions won’t result in significant sales for the company until 2023 or even later. Auro 3D can control the voice of godbut was powerless against a act of god. It was the messy situation that led to Auro’s tap-out. But we’ll soon see if Van Baelen can bring the “L” back to training camp, to come back stronger.

If anyone can bring an audio tech company back from the brink, it might be the Van Baelen brothers. Auro Technologies is no ordinary tech startup. It is part of an ecosystem of businesses based at Galaxy Studios in a remote vacation town in Mol, Belgium. Wilfied Van Baelen says his insolvency and corresponding bankruptcy is a challenge to restructure the business and… “Give new impetus to marketing and sales.” Which, apparently, is exactly what he needs to bring back at least one wandering investor.

Auro Technologies is just one company Galaxy Studios, the site of a major European audio conglomerate started by Wilfried and Guy Van Baelen and is still located on the site where Wilfried developed the Auro 3D surround format in 2005. In 2010 , Van Baelen and his partners formed Auro Technologies as a separate company, maybe just for one occasion like they do now. The Belgian studio is a veritable hive of separate film production companies, from Mollywood providing the financing, Zilvermeer Productions making the films and of course Galaxy Studio itself recording and mixing the soundtracks.

After creating an independent Auro Technologies in 2010, the Auro 3D format hit the world in 2011 when it was taken over for the entertainment division of a major European digital projection company, Barco. Barco is one of Europe’s leading cinema projector companies and Auro 3D provides immersive cinema surround sound.

Auro 3D Technologies files for bankruptcy; Game over?

Gene, Don, and Matt discuss the hurdles Auro still has to overcome to lead to this situation. Can an audio codec survive simple mixing without producing native content? We consider this to be highly unlikely.

While not the first surround sound rig to add a height channel, this next frontier in surround technology was already in the air in 2011 when it was launched in Barco cinemas. But it beat Dolby Atmos in theaters by about a year. As Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Auro 3D has extended 5.1/7.1 surround sound to a height channel for 9.1, 11.1 and more by adding what Auro calls “Voice of God” height channels to the mix. Auro 3D’s home setup is notorious for being a little more restrictive in the number and placement of its height channel speakers. But, Auro’s claimed differentiator is that its mixes for movies and live music performances that use its own overhead microphones are able to reproduce the soundscapes recorded in your living rooms or man caves better than Dolby Atmos or DTS. :X. We find this claim dubious based on extensive demonstration experiences of all three systems over the past 7-8 years.

Spiderman HomecomingThe company’s insolvency could not have come at a more inopportune time for Auro Technologies, as the format’s popularity in Europe was just beginning to translate to the North American market. Auro 3D has already appeared in AV receivers from Denon and Marantz (Sound United) and has just been added to the latest generation of Yamaha receivers. Auro 3D has suffered from a lack of software, especially in North America to allow Denon, Marantz and Yamaha owners to really hear what the format can do. Movies released in Auro 3D on Blu-ray Disc were hard to come by for red-blooded American home theater fans and those few movies weren’t even in 4K. But maybe that was about to change. Auro signed a deal with Sony Pictures that promised the release of ten films to include the Auro 3D soundtracks in 2016. Unfortunately for Auro and the North American market, Sony released discs with the Auro 3D tracks outside of the American market who could only hear a Dolby Atmos surround sound track. This led to a gray market of North American demand for the new alternate surround mix of the Spiderman Homecoming movie. Some German online Blu-ray retailers received a sudden wave of orders from the United States, as the German version included an English soundtrack with Auro 3D surround.

When will studios learn? Consumers want the freedom to choose formats, without being hampered by exclusive offers!

Comparison of upmixers: AuroMatic vs DSU and DTS Neural X

Comparison of upmixersAnother shining light for Auro 3D is its upmixer, AuroMatic. Its ability to upsample any multi-channel mix has garnered favorable reviews from listeners who find it superior to the Dolby Atmos mixer and DTS Neural:X. Our own extensive listening tests found the AuroMatic upmixer to be preferable to the DTS Neural X alternative, but we generally preferred the Dolby Surround Upmixer with “center spread” enabled (for 2CH sources) as it did a job superior extraction of de-correlated audio from musical sources. Also on some acoustic programs, we preferred AuroMatic to the DSU because it focused the soundstage better towards the front and center of the room.

It’s unfortunate that for now at least, the only way for most of us to benefit from hardware that includes Auro 3D is through its upmixer. In our opinion, a surround format cannot survive only upmixing. Native content should be readily available on optical disc or streaming, or preferably both. Competition is good, especially in a market with high added value such as audio-video. After spending our hard-earned cash on a surround sound system, naturally we all want the freedom to choose between a variety of surround mixes so we can decide for ourselves which one we want to hear. With DTS:X declining in popularity on new movie releases, Blu-ray discs and streaming services, we would all benefit from Dolby feeling a bit of a competitive heat. We should all want to see Auro 3D make a comeback in battle form to bring the competition back into the surround mixes we enjoy at home or in the theater.

Do you think Auro 3D has a future and do you currently have it in your home cinema? Please share your comments in the related thread below.

AcuDefTechGuy posts on Jun 17, 2022 3:34 PM

More importantly – hopefully Gene will address this tonight – will they completely remove Auro3D from the next generation AVR/AVP?

AcuDefTechGuy posts on Jun 17, 2022 3:32 PM

everettT, message: 1561909, member: 78951
Well here’s my license fee.

Does that mean all AVR/AVP with Auro3D will cost $50 less?

everettT posts on Jun 17, 2022 2:57 PM

gene, extension: 1561907, member: 4348
This is nonsense about lossy mixing.

We’re doing a livestream tonight on the bankruptcy of Auro 3D.

hOBcFhiEnQ0

Well here’s my license fee.

embarrassed posts on Jun 17, 2022 2:49 PM

This is nonsense about lossy mixing.

We’re doing a livestream tonight on the bankruptcy of Auro 3D.

hOBcFhiEnQ0

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