About this project
The only 3D headphone system that works. You simply cannot tell the difference between the real and the virtual loudspeakers. This means that the Realiser can precisely emulate what you would hear sitting in the sweet-spot of a $100,000 home theatre, with it’s expensive sound treatment, powerful amplifiers and loudspeakers, over just regular stereo headphones. In fact the A16’s core 3D sound technology is so accurate, professional film studios and broadcasters, around the world, use Realisers every day for their editing, post production, screening and QA operations.
The A16 is the culmination of years of research and development spent refining the Smyth Virtual Surround (SVS) 3D sound processing technology that drives the Realiser A16. Our first product, the Realiser A8, was launched in 2009 and quickly became the professional reference for 3D sound virtualisation - it remains the gold standard to this day. Now, with the development of the Realiser A16, we aim to bring this exciting technology to your home.
There are other 3D headphone systems in the market today but none come close to what the Realiser A16 delivers. Built right into the Realiser system is the ability for you, the listener, to personalise a sound room to your ears and to your headphones. You can measure your own, or a neighbour's, loudspeaker system and then recreate this over headphones. Or you can go to a high quality studio and measure that sound room, take the data home and precisely recreate that studio over your headphones. Or you can connect to our Realiser Exchange website and download a range of high quality sound rooms to use in your Realiser. Even downloadable sound rooms can be personalised using a technology just recently developed by Smyth Research.
These powerful personalisation features, which are not found in any other 3D headphone product, explain why the Realiser works and why it will deliver, for you, the same fantastic performance professionals have been enjoying for years.
This is what Jude Mansilla, Head-fi's editor and founder, has to say about the Realiser while announcing the CANJAM London 2016 line up.
Mark Waldrep PhD, founder of AIX studios and Real HD Audio, discusses the new Realiser A16.
@Jobbing - Thank you Smyth Research for an amazing listening experience with Realiser A16, Sennheiser HD800 and Mitchell & Johnson MJ2. You have been very kind, patient and informative, can't wait for the A16' success. The music industry should be recording the Smyth way for us to get this amazing experience in our home daily
@nc8000 - A true revelation
@Jerseyboy - Fantastic to hear new technology in action, the Smyth Realiser A16 is going to be a must have - already supported its Kickstarter scheme....thank goodness for the rack mounted design version....!!
@KeithG - Really amazed by the Smyth Research Realiser A16 - I had a slot booked to audition the system this afternoon. It was all explained but I'm still thinking there must have been some pixies in the Sennheiser cans I was listening to, with sounds clearly coming from the centre speaker, left and right front, side, rear and up above! It's a brilliant bit of kit that really works - I can see it transforming movie nights at home.
@Jawed - I spent a lot of time with Smyth Research, starting with a booking for a dem slot of the Realiser A16 that I only made this morning. Boy am I glad I found out about this technology. I've been dreaming of this kind of thing for well over 30 years and it turns out to be far better than I could have dared to hope for. It doesn't simply sound like the real thing. It is the real thing: the sounds entering my ear canal from the headphones are the same as those produced by the speakers.
@Smokey636 - The biggest eye opener was the Smyth Research Realiser A16 surround processor. Left the demo with my mind blown..! (Again a really good bunch of guys)
@teacher1000 - I thoroughly enjoyed the Smyth Realiser A16, and so did my wife. Thanks to Stephen, Mike and Steve, who were down-to-earth, informative and modest about their amazing product. I'm really looking forward to full-surround over headphones for watching movies.
@ThELiZ - Smyth Realiser A16 - Easily the most impressive experience at the show. I was genuinely shocked at what these guys were able to do. The recreation of 3D sound (Dolby Atmos in this case) was spellbinding. I could not tell the difference between the speaker system and the headphones. It's like magic! If you are into cinema, these are a must. I could never get away with having a Dolby Atmos speaker setup in the house. With the Realiser A16, I don't need to worry. This thing did such a great job of convincing me I was listening to 12 speaker setup system, that I will never ever need 12 speakers in my house. I just need this! Seriously, the one time that the phrase 'game changer' is warranted, is for this thing. All other 'game changers' pale in comparison and are just different flavours of existing technology. This is innovation.
@AndrewH13 - Actually like the retro looks. It did seem amazing. When I think of the money spent over the years on speakers, and have no chance now of more than 5.1, this could be a bargain for home cinema use. Was told of ways round not having 11 channel speakers in situ for the once off emulation. Now most stereo listening has gone to iem/headphones, I could quite easily watch films with my wife without any speakers in the room. Big bonus of Realiser 16, two outputs with individual volume. Great design I will keep tabs on.
@krismusic - Next up The Smyth Realiser. TBH I didn't expect much of this but it rocked me back on my heels! Forget sitting listening for bat squeaks! This is technology worth paying for. Simply incredible. I lowered the headphones several times to listen to the speakers. Virtually no difference! I've signed up to the Kickstarter. Can't wait for next May! After that I'm afraid I abandoned my search for an amp for my 600's. The Realiser is where my electronics budget is going.
The Realiser A16 brings immersive movie sound to your home, in spectacular fashion, by recreating the virtual acoustics and loudspeakers of cinemas and studios over your headphones. Experience your movies in the best seat in the movie house, and at the intended sound level, without disturbing your neighbours. With dual listener modes, independent head tracking, and decoding for the latest immersive Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D cinematic formats built in, the Realiser A16 brings watching movies in the home to a new level. Other features of the A16, ideal for avid movie watchers, include the tactile output to drive a shaker for sub-sonic reinforcement, and a Direct Bass function that allows the listener to route the LFE channel direct to their ears for extra impact.
- Advanced, highly accurate acoustic virtualisation
- Listen to 16 virtual loudspeakers
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D
- Connects to DVD, Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray, PS4, XBOX, PC/Mac, Set-top, TV
- Designed for two listeners
Immersive 5.1ch, 7.1ch, 7.1.4ch sound for PS4, XBOX ONE and PC video games, the Realiser A16 is the essential gamer gear. Frighteningly realistic game sound, superb spatialisation, precise head tracking and very low latency all combine to make the A16 an ideal companion in those tricky situations. Supporting both HDMI, USB and optical, the Realiser A16 connects directly to video game consoles and PCs, and has dedicated support for on-line game chat and microphone signals.
- Ultra low-latency (3ms)
- Inputs game audio over HDMI, USB, Optical and multichannel analog
- Decodes Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D and all legacy formats
- Connects directly to PS4, XBOX ONE and PCs
- Advanced low-latency head tracking
- Supports console on-line chat
The Realiser A16's low latency and long reverberation make it ideal for interactive simulation in real auditoriums, arenas and stadia. Put on headphones and practice on a virtual stage in a real concert hall. Connect A16s together and have your entire band on the same stage. A revolution for those singers and musicians who wish to hear themselves, or their bands, practice, in a real auditorium but in the comfort of their own home. The A16 even incorporates in-ear monitoring modes to allow performers to hear both IEM feeds and the concert PA, just like a real gig.
- Ultra low-latency (3ms)
- Measurements made in real concert halls
- Hall reverberation time up to 2.75s
- Dedicated guitar and microphone inputs
- 16 auxiliary inputs and outputs
- Second headphone output for zero delay in-ear monitoring
- Connect multiple A16s together for band collaboration
With its precise emulation of studios, auditoriums and dubbing stages, the Realiser A16 is an ideal monitoring tool when creating new immersive audio sound tracks for movies, games or music.
- Personalisation results in precise replication of dubbing stages and control rooms
- Creates up to 16 loudspeakers
- Any speaker format, e.g. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D, Ambisonics and legacy
- 16 digital PCM audio inputs (24-bit 96kHz) via USB
- ASIO drivers for OSX and Windows
- 16 single-ended analog audio inputs
- 8 digital PCM audio inputs (24-bit 192kHz) via HDMI
The most powerful feature of the A16 processor. No other 3D audio processor offers this. Personalisation allows the virtual sound room to sound identical to the real room.
- Professional grade accuracy
- Built in measurement routines and hardware
- Measure any loudspeaker format
- Low-latency high-speed head tracking
- Personalised headphone equalisation
The SVS technology that drives the Realiser A16 3D sound processing was developed specifically to allow owners to conveniently capture personalised sound room measurements. These measurements are undertaken by inserting the supplied binaural microphones in each ear canal, and then sitting in the sound room sweet spot while test sweeps are played from each of the loudspeakers. The entire process takes only a few minutes and the resulting measurement data is used to create, what we call, a personalised room impulse response (PRIR) file. This PRIR file exactly describes how each loudspeaker sounds to you when sitting in the sweet-spot and, when it is loaded into the SVS processor, it allows the A16 to reproduce the very same loudspeaker sound using only your headphones. We describe loudspeakers generated over headphones as virtual loudspeakers since they are not real but just an illusion, albeit a highly accurate one. Throughout our discussion of the A16 we refer to PRIR files as virtual sound rooms since PRIR files are really just a collection of virtual loudspeakers playing in a virtual room.
Your HRTF allows you to hear sounds correctly
Your ability to locate (or localise) the direction and distance of sound sources, such as loudspeakers, is highly dependent on the shape of your head and ears. This shape is unique to you, like your fingerprints, and is referred to in research as the head related transfer function (HRTF). Your shape is very important because if you were to listen to sounds using someone else’s head or ear shape you would almost definitely experience some difficulty in localising sounds. Certain positions would be wrong, and also the whole tonality of the sound. The reason is that the hearing perception within your brain is conditioned to expect sound to be filtered using your unique ear and head shape (HRTF), not someone else’s.
PRIRs contain your HRTF data
To create a highly realistic illusion of loudspeakers using just headphones, it is therefore necessary that the loudspeaker sound have already been filtered by your HRTF, before being sent to the headphones. Since your PRIR files are measured at your ear canals, your HRTF data is inherently contained within the PRIR loudspeaker measurement data, ie they have been personalised to you. This is why the loudspeakers generated using the Realiser A16 are so convincing – they were filtered by your HRTF. No other 3D headphone system allows you to insert your own PRIR data into their filtering engine. When you are forced to listen to 3D sound generated by statistically averaged HRTF data, it cannot sound correct over headphones.
Dramatically expands the capability of the Realiser A16 processor. While the A16 comes pre-installed with virtual movie theatres and studios, new virtual sound rooms can be downloaded and personalised from our Realiser Exchange website.
- On-line storage of your own virtual sound room library
- Purchase virtual sound rooms of commercial studios and mixing rooms
- Exchange (or sell) your own measured sound rooms with other members
- On-line DSP tools to personalise and customise virtual sound rooms
Central to the new Realiser Exchange is the members account with sufficient storage to hold 200 PRIR/BRIR files. Members will be able to upload files from their Realiser for backup, for enhancement processing, or for selling on the store, and also download files from this account whether these files be their own, from the library, or purchased. More information on the Realiser Exchange is available here.
"For the first time in my life, headphone listening was not only convincing but enjoyable. The Realiser A8 provided the same balance and sound staging as my main system.” – Kalman Rubinson, stereophile
The A16 can be operated in three different ways.
1) Using the front panel controls the listener can alter the volume, select one of four virtual room presets, and sequentially solo the virtual loudspeakers in that preset. These are the only controls really needed for day-to-day usage.
2) Using the supplied IR remote the user can control the volume, select presets, and can also control every single internal operation of the A16. This includes making PRIR measurements, reading and writing PRIR files via the micro SD card interface, and general preset configuration.
3) Via a web browser, by connecting the A16 to a home network and accessing the A16 internal web server, using a browser running on your computer, tablet or phone. Like the remote control, a web browser can control every aspect of the A16. In addition it is also possible to upload and download PRIR and firmware files via the network connection.
This screen shot shows an example of the general playback user interface for dual listeners. The normal audio controls are set along the bottom of the frame while menu navigation appears down the left side frame. Sliders are dual function in that the slider track also serves as a volume level meter for that signal. In the pane itself, the virtual loudspeaker layout of the preset is rendered in 3D.
The browser user interface consists of a range of control panels for configuring the system. More information is available here.
The Realiser A16 is designed to operate in 4 distinct listening modes depending on your desired application.
- Movie modes permit up to two users in 48kHz mode or one user in the higher 96kHz mode
- Music modes have many of the movie modes but also some long reverberation modes and a 192kHz listening mode.
- Game modes are single user, low latency and include extra settings to facilitate on-line chat and player microphone routing and processing.
- Live modes are specific to the needs of musicians and singers supporting guitar and microphone inputs as well as in-ear monitoring.
Where the owner wishes to recreate their own stereo hi-fi or home theatre system (or perhaps that of a friend) over their headphones, then it is necessary to undertake a personalisation, or PRIR, measurement of that sound system. There are a number of methods available to the user.
- Measure a sound system using the supplied DVD/Blu-ray test disc
- Measure a sound system using digital test signals output by the A16 over HDMI
- Measure a sound system using analog test signals output by the A16
The Realiser supports a number of other PRIR measurement modes, including, for example, the ability to create a PRIR by using just a single loudspeaker and moving it to the different position and repeating the measurement. Details of this and other procedures, as well as the headphone equalisation methodology, can be found here.
There are two designs available, one shaped as a headphone stand (headstand), and one as a traditional 2U box enclosure. The internal electronics and functionality are identical in both designs.The production version of the headstand enclosure comprises an extruded powder-coated aluminium shell with injection moulded front and back panels. The production headstand will use a bigger LCD display than the prototype unit that appears in the photos and its profile is a little lower. Weighing in at just under 3kg the headstand will be a very solid platform for any headphone.
The 2U box is still in design but will comprise a single 6mm machined, powder-coated and silk-sceened aluminium front panel, attached to a simple folded sheet metal box, made of aluminium or mild steel - weight around 3kg. Optional rack-mount ears are also available.
The electronic design is summarised below. More details can be found here.
The Realiser A16 uses an accurate 200Hz low-latency head-tracking unit to de-rotate the virtual loudspeakers in the presence of listener head movement. The A16 head tracker has been significantly improved over the previous A8 generation. First, its core is built around a 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis accelerometer (known as an Inertial Measurement Unit or IMU) giving it the ability to simultaneously track heading, pitch and roll. Second, it incorporates both a 3-axis magnetic stabilisation circuit as well as a single-axis optical stabilisation circuit for the purpose of cancelling drift inherent in the IMU core. With this new design listeners have the option of using the head tracker in three different modes. More information is available here.
- IMU only mode gives 360 degree tracking on both axes and can work independently of the set-top unit.
- IMU+Magnetic mode gives 360 degree tracking on both axes, but benefits from lower drift. It can also work independently of the set-top.
- IMU+Optical mode gives 360 degree tracking on both axes, but with zero drift and excellent repeatability. This mode requires the use of the set-top.
We are hoping to raise £100,000 with our campaign. The money will be spent on production tooling, pre-production builds, regulatory testing, sourcing of components, production assembly and final test.
Supporters from inside the European Union
Smyth Research Ltd is UK company and therefore all sales to non-commercial recipients within the EU must be charged UK VAT (20%) at the time of payment. A recent EU advisory states that crowd funded pledges which are a significant proportion of the market value of the reward are to be considered as payment for the reward. As such we are compelled to collect VAT on pledges from EU supporters. Since Kickstarter has no systems in place to charge VAT we have put the VAT element into the EU and UK shipping charges. All EU supporters will receive delivery of their Realiser A16 without further charge.
Supporters from outside the European Union
Realiser A16 systems will be shipped bearing a declared customs value equal to your pledge. Supporters may be charged import duty by their local customs and there may be a small administration fee payable to the delivery courier for import processing. These charges are the responsibility of the supporter.
Realiser A16 headstand or 2U enclosure design
The pledge amount for the headstand or 2U versions of the Realiser A16 is the same. We will contact you after the campaign has successfully completed to obtain your preference.
If you would like a second SVS head tracker
To include a second SVS head tracking unit please pledge an additional £50 (US$65, EU€60 or equivalent in your local currency).
If you would like rack-mount ears for the 2U enclosure
To include rack-mount ears for the 2U version please pledge an additional £30 (US$40, EU€38 or equivalent in your local currency).
Any Realiser A16 system delivered as a reward under this campaign will be covered by our worldwide 12 month warranty covering parts and labour, but not shipping.
Risks and challenges
The Realiser A16 is still in development and certain functionality may change or be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. However the design will allow owners to upgrade the A16 using firmware downloads and we will do our best to include any delayed features in these updates. The specification shown herein is accurate to the best of our knowledge but again this may change. The Realiser A16 engineering design is at the prototype stage, and moving it to production will incur risks. We will use off-shore manufacturing partners to:
1. Make and assemble all the PCBs
2. Make the extruded aluminium and 2U metal enclosures
3. Make all injection moulded plastic parts
4. Assemble and functionally test the hardware
Problems in any of these will cause delays in manufacturing the final product, and hence delay shipping to customers. In mitigation, we have successfully worked with all of our manufacturing partners on previous projects, and we will personally supervise key stages of the manufacturing at each site. Also, the manufacturer of key components of the design - the HDMI i/o board and codec decoding module, are manufactured in the USA by Momentum Data Systems, and we have an excellent working relationship with this company.
Our product must meet FCC, CE and other regulatory standards before shipping. Fundamental modifications may be required to the design of the circuits and PCBs, or certain electronic parts be added, replaced or removed from the design, to achieve compliance. At best this would cause delays in shipping; at worst it may require a complete re-design of the processor.
We are licensing audio decoding and processing algorithms directly from Dolby, DTS, Auro Technologies and Illusonics, and each licensing agreement or contract has different requirements that must be fulfilled before we are allowed to include their technology in our product. At the moment we have evaluation licences from Dolby, DTS and Illusonics, and these must be converted or upgraded to the full manufacturer's license before we ship any products. While we do not expect any significant problems, if any of these companies decide not to license their technology to us, we will not be able to include it in the final product. Also, prior to shipping, each of these companies must test our product to confirm that their technology has been implemented correctly, and this evaluation may also cause delays in shipping. Again we do not expect this testing to be problematic since the codec board we purchase from Momentum Data Systems will come with code already pre-certified by Dolby, DTS and Auro Technologies.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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