The Belgian sound specialist Auro Technologies has filed for bankruptcy as a precaution. This was announced this Friday morning. Auro Technologies is internationally known for its “Auro 3D” sound format, which competes with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The Galaxy Studios, from which Auro Technologies was spun off at the time, are not directly affected by the insolvency, as this is an independent company.
In an interview with c’t, the founder and CEO of the Belgian company, Wilfried van Baelen, explained that the step had become necessary after a deal with a new investor recently fell through after several months of negotiations. The interested parties dropped out after it turned out that the increase in sales they were asking for could not be achieved under the current market conditions.
According to van Baelen, the corona pandemic and the subsequent (and still ongoing) lack of chips were a trigger for the crisis. Auro Technologies receives royalties for using its technology in AV receivers. Consequently, the fact that the receiver manufacturers have had a sharp drop in production for a good two years and have therefore only delivered very small quantities has a negative effect on the company. At the same time, production costs, among other things, rose sharply, which is reflected in the products in significant price increases.
In the “9.1” expansion stage, Auro-3D expands the lower 5.1 level by four height channels.
(Image: Auro Technologies)
Streaming and soundbar technologies developed before the start of the corona pandemic could not be brought to market as planned due to the lockdowns and disruptions to supply chains. The completed developments for the product area of soundbars and for the application of high-resolution streaming transmissions are currently not a source of income and will not be visible on the market until 2023 at the earliest.
According to the company founder, he now sees the insolvency as an opportunity and a challenge to restructure the company and bring new impetus to marketing and sales. Auro Technologies is to be retained as a whole – including its employees; selling individual patents is not an option.
Fight against Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
Like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Auro-3D expands the lower 5.1 or 7.1 level with height channels that are reproduced via special speakers. In contrast to the competing formats, however, Auro-3D works completely channel-based and not with audio objects that contain the audio information for the height channels. Auro advertises that when recording with height microphones (e.g. concert recordings), Auro-3D can reproduce the acoustics of the captured room better in the living room than Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However, the format is more restrictive in comparison when it comes to the number and placement of the height speakers.
Auro-3D was launched on the market before Dolby Atmos, but was only supported by Denon and Marantz for a long time on the part of AV receiver manufacturers. Only with the current generation of devices did Yamaha get into the Auro-3D boat. Decoders for Dolby Atmos and later DTS:X, on the other hand, were in the receivers of all major manufacturers right from the start.
The German company Turbine Medien had recently campaigned for Auro-3D and brought some titles with corresponding remixes onto the market.
(Image: Turbine Media)
While a number of music titles were released in Auro-3D, the selection of films on UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray remained fairly meager. At the end of September 2016, Auro signed a contract with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) for the release of ten films with Auro 3D sound. However, the Belgian company got very little out of this deal: SPHE only released the discs outside of the USA, the US versions continued to offer Dolby Atmos sound as an optimum. Meanwhile, SPHE has completely turned away from Auro-3D, other Hollywood studios are not interested in the format.
More recently, Auro-3D has mainly won customers with its supplied upmixer “AuroMatic”, which adds height channels to existing multi-channel mixes. Dolby Atmos and DTS with the “Dolby Surround Upmixer” or “DTS Neural:X” also offer the corresponding algorithms, but the AuroMatic often emerged as the winner in comparative tests.
Last but not least, Dolby Atmos’ triumph is due to the fact that, unlike Auro-3D, the format offers a variant for video and audio streaming services and can also be played back via soundbars. As mentioned above, Auro Technologies has also developed solutions in recent years, but has not yet been able to establish them on the market. (nij)
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