THE FUTURE OF AUDIO
By Bruce Olson & Leslie Gaston-Bird
The Audio Engineering Society ( AES ) has led the advancement of audio science and application for 75 years , and we can honestly say there ’ s been no more exciting time to be an audio professional . The breakneck pace of improvements in audio quality is accompanied by new technologies and techniques that span all aspects of audio production and reproduction .
Two of the most enticing areas of focus for many audio pros illustrate the point : immersive sound and audio applications of artificial intelligence .
Human creativity is being enhanced , not replaced , by cutting edge technologies . Machine Learning ( ML ) and Artificial Intelligence ( AI ) techniques are now offering a host of production tools that can streamline tasks ranging from rudimentary mixing to the auditioning of sound libraries .
Automation has been used for years in mixing multi-voice live speech for reproduction . The sophistication of the processes is exponentially advanced and are now being applied to mix elements like drum balancing and the positioning of a vocal in a mix , reducing the demands on the live sound engineer . Mixers aren ’ t relinquishing control of their mix to automation , but rather using it to handle repetitive chores that let them focus on getting a great sounding mix .
Game sound production is also getting a boost from AI , with the creation of such game elements as character “ grunts ” and other vocalizations ( an arguably tedious aspect of action game development ) being managed through AI processes .
AI can also create controversy . “ Deep fakes ” of video and audio — manipulating and synthesizing recordings to produce speeches that were never given and performances that never happened – is already beginning to blur the lines of reality in disturbing ways . Forensic analysis of manipulated audio will be become more challenging , more demanding , and more in demand in the age of AI , while AI will make aspects of such analysis easier and more powerful .
Immersive audio is poised to change the consumer experience , from cinematic applications to live sound productions , and even for headphone and earbud use with portable devices . Software developers and content creators are delivering an ever-increasing amount of content with virtual , immersive encoding of binaural audio . The old limitation of headphone reproduction where the center of the mix is perceived to be spatially positioned above the listeners head is no longer a barrier with the application of virtual positioning processes that also allow the spatial cues of an immersive mix to envelop the listener . Similar technologies offer an immersive experience in the home from advanced soundbar designs that might fall short of delivering the full cinematic experience but deliver impressive performance without requiring a full multichannel speaker array .
Previously , the audio industry lamented the reductions in quality that accompanied the growing number of portable audio devices for consumers . As consumers embraced convenience at the exclusion of quality , storage and streaming bandwidth limitations meant they were often delivered a reduced quality experience . Now those limitations are becoming less of an issue , and production values will be more noticeable as “ hi-res ” goes mobile , to the delight of content creators as well as pro and audiophile listeners .
Keeping abreast of all that ’ s going on in audio is formidable task and that ’ s where the AES can help . Our conventions and confer-
AES PRESIDENT BRUCE OLSON AND AES PRESIDENT-ELECT LESLIE GASTON-BIRD ACCEPTED A TECHNICAL GRAMMY IN FEBRUARY ACKNOWLEDGING THE SOCIETY ’ S CONTRIBUTIONS OF OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL SIGNIFICANCE TO THE RECORDING FIELD .
ences are where tomorrow ’ s technologies are introduced today , where the brightest minds in the business meet to share their knowledge , where the latest in audio products and their application are on display . Our local sections are where audio professionals gather with their peers to listen , learn , and connect . Join us at aes . org / join .
Bruce Olson , the 2023 President of the Audio Engineering Society , founder of Olson Sound Design , a consulting firm started in 1991 specializing in acoustical and technical systems design for Performing Arts Centers , Recording Studios , and Houses of Worship . He can be reached at Bruce . olson @ aes . org .
Leslie Gaston-Bird , President-Elect of the Audio Engineering Society , is a freelance re-recording mixer and sound editor , owner of Mix Messiah Productions , author of Women in Audio , Lecturer at City , University of London and a PhD Candidate at the University of Surrey . She can be reached at Leslie . gastonbird @ aes . org .
PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES FOR THE RECORDING ACADEMY
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