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Fraunhofer Shows Low-Bandwidth MPEG Surround at CES

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LAS VEGAS—Visitors to CES and the Detroit Auto Show can sample 5.1 surround sound streamed at only 64 kbps bandwidth. That’s because those are the two locations where Fraunhofer is publicly debuting its MPEG Surround audio codec.

Surround sound audio typically takes 160- to 400 kbps for a stream, notes a Fraunhofer representative, but with MPEG Surround the requirement is far less. That gives content providers the ability to stream to new locations, such as cars using a 3G connection.

“If you can save on bandwidth for the transmission, that makes the service more stable,” says Jan Nordmann, Fraunhofer USA's director of market and business development, audio and multimedia.

For the CES crowd, Fraunhofer is showing MPEG Surround on a test player created by Aupeo, a German Internet radio provider. Visitors to the company’s booth can hear a rich audio experience streamed live at low bandwidth.

Fraunhofer has also worked with Panasonic Automotive to create a test car streaming MPEG Surround, currently on display in Detroit. At both shows, Fraunhofer is hoping to attract manufacturing partners that will build the codec into future devices. Before MPEG Surround can take off with consumers, they’ll need something to play it on.

Audio giant Fraunhofer is based mainly in Germany, where it runs 60 institutes, each dedicated to studying a different research topic. Most of the publicly-funded nonprofit’s $2 billion annual budget is spent on research.

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