Ever sat on a bus, completely immersed in your headphones, with music taking over your senses? It’s an experience, being consumed by music so much the world disappears. Envelop is a project from San Francisco that aims to make music 3D using a 28 speaker system. Rather than using the speakers to blast music at the listener, the system is aimed to give a musical experience that transcend stereo.
Stereo is music done in 2D. Surround sound has existed for many years, but it’s rare for an artist to take advantage of the extra speakers to create a soundscape. Envelop plans to be a sound platform that gives the listener the ability to experience music in a way unlike other systems.
It is designed for electronic music and DJ sets, being used with Ableton software with Amb4Live and Flocker. These addons help the artist to mix their sounds in a sphere of sound. For a music fan, this would be a novel experience. For a DJ or producer, it could be something to help make them a masterpiece. The changes in the sound sphere will be as easy to do as changing the pitch or tempo. With a system that’s easy to use, the challenge will be in how to create using the system.
At the start, the system will only be available in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco. The developers of the system want to create a club that spreads across the world using the Envelop system. The club space for Envelop will also give a visual performance with the sound sphere, an area for studio production, educational and collaborative sessions and research and development into the connections of our mind and body with sound and light.
This product is in development, and based on Ambisonics. Currently Ambisonics has been used in academic settings, but Envelop hopes to bring in it into the public space. A digital map is made of the sounds using coordinates x, y and z over locations such as left or right. The Ambisonics and Envelop are open-source softwares, so developers will be able to create and manipulate apps to use with the system.
Something like this could end up in people’s homes as an entertainment room. Or in schools to educate children in abstract or artistic thinking. Going off into a world of fantasy, perhaps this is the start of a new way of creating audio and visual entertainment. What happens with this system will be in the hands of artists, but the potential is there if they have the ideas.