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The University of Southampton

Researchers star at International Year of Sound launch

Published: 6 February 2020
33-speaker cylindrical array
ISVR researchers have created a cylindrical speaker array which can create ‘private’ listening zones

A unique multi-zone loudspeaker system, developed by acoustic engineers at the University of Southampton, has had a starring role during the opening ceremony for the International Year of Sound 2020 in Paris.

The ceremony, hosted by the International Commission for Acoustics at the Sorbonne Grand Amphitheatre, launches a series of events and activities that will run throughout 2020 around the world.

Postgraduate researchers Daniel Wallace, Vlad Paul and Willfried Gallian from Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research demonstrated two units – a line speaker array and a 33-speaker cylindrical array, both with the ability to create ‘private’ listening zones.


The team in Southampton has collaborated with artist/researcher Kevin Walker from the Royal College of Art who produced a unique soundscape for the array featuring field recordings and synthesised sounds to blend his artistic vision with the capabilities of the loudspeaker system. At the Sorbonne, attendees at the ceremony were also able to walk around the speaker to hear content in four languages, dependent upon where they were in relation to the speaker.

“Rather than a normal speaker which fills the room with sound, this speaker array can send sound in different directions so as you walk around it you get different sounds sent out in different locations,” Daniel explained. 

“I’m particularly interested in ‘private’ audio in public spaces so, for example, in the case of hearing impairments, if someone is watching TV and they haven’t got as good hearing as the next person, you can send some more sound to them so everyone enjoys the experience, he continued.

“And we can go further if, say, people speak different languages or prefer to listen in a different language,” Daniel concluded. “We can send those different soundtracks to different seats on the sofa, for example, and everyone can enjoy hearing in their own language.”

“It was great to meet acoustics experts from all over the world at the opening ceremony. Some were very familiar with the technology we were showing, but hadn’t heard such a convincing demonstration before. Other visitors were more familiar with different areas of acoustics, taking what they knew about directional microphones, musical instruments and Sonar systems to interpret what we were showing. The purpose of the International Year of Sound is to highlight the importance of sound in all aspects of life on earth, and even these brief interactions showed the interconnection between different branches of acoustics research”.


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