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How L-Acoustics brings the sweet sound of spatial audio to the masses

For most of our lives, stereo has been the primary way of rendering the music we consume. Immersive audio systems like surround sound have been around for decades, but immersive audio content has been rare outside of TV and film.

But perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising: reproducing and, especially, creating immersive audio content is awfully inconvenient.

Luckily, things are starting to change. Immersive audio is finally becoming accessible to the mainstream thanks to big-name manufacturers like Apple building spatial audio right into their headphones. Even setting up spatial audio speaker systems has become a cinch thanks to wireless speaker manufacturers like Sonos adopting the format.

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The spatial audio trend shows no signs of slowing down, but widespread adoption will require a smaller learning curve (and lower prices) for creators.

French audio company L-Acoustics is hoping to make just that come true with L-ISA Studio, an application and plug-in for mixing immersive audio on speakers and headphones alike. In fact, L-ISA Studio is free for creators making music for headphones (a full license costs €29 a month or €290 per year), making it an accessible option for creators getting started in spatial audio.

I spoke with Guillaume Le Nost, Managing Director at L-Acoustics, about why making spatial audio mainstream is so important. L-Acoustics wasn’t always focused on everyday creators, after all. The company’s background is primarily in live audio, creating the software and hardware for concert venues and other auditory experiences. But after decades of making professional speakers and operating in stereo, the company realized it was time to switch things up.

“Now we’re reaching a stage where everyone can provide good quality loudspeakers and this knowledge has spread in the industry,” says Le Nost. “It’s not about the quality of the speakers anymore, it’s more about the system approach.”

Simple two-channel systems have held up in home listening spaces and small venues because the distances involved aren’t huge. But when you’re talking about a massive concert stage where left and right speaker arrays can be more than 35 meters apart, there can be a disconnect between what the speaker is and what you see on stage, according to Le Nost.

L-ISA Studio