Surround Sound: Invented in Indiana – Jan. 10, 2017

An Evening with Peter Scheiber

When:  Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 7:30 PM

Where:  Jacobs School of Music, Musical Arts Center (MAC), Room 438

               101 N. Jordan Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405

Did you ever wonder who, where, or when “surround sound” was developed?  Join us for this very special opportunity to hear a detailed history of surround sound with AES Life Fellow Peter Scheiber.  Here’s a preview:


Peter Scheiber was named a Fellow of the AES in 1972, but demonstrated an interest in audio and music from his early years in school.  When he was only fifteen, his ever-evolving home audio system included an extra overhead speaker, which derived its signal from a reverberation chamber he had constructed in his basement using a crystal microphone and loudspeaker.

As an undergraduate at Oberlin College, Peter switched from a planned major in physics to a major in music; during two summers, he studied bassoon on scholarship at the Boston Symphony’s Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.

Bitten by the “Toscanini bug,” he went to Chicago in 1957 at age 22 to study with Leonard Sharrow, principal bassoon of the Chicago Symphony, and former principal of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini.  Following a year as principal bassoon in the Ottawa Philharmonic, Peter moved to the Dallas symphony, where he remained for six years.  After a two-year stint as senior lab technician in instrumentation at Texas Instruments, which reconfirmed that music was indeed his first love, he began graduate studies at the Indiana University School of Music, where he built and filed for patents on “four-channel” matrix encoders and “logic” decoders.

In 1972, Electro-Voice and CBS were licensed for their respective “quadraphonic” systems under this technology.  In 1973, in his hotel suite at the AES Convention in Los Angeles, Peter demonstrated his own decoder for SQ-encoded program, using cancellation logic in four independent frequency bands, instead of the single-band, gain-riding technique then being implemented by CBS.

About a year later, at an informal “shoot-out” held at CBS Laboratories in Stamford, CT, the attendees, who included SQ engineering-team leader Dan Gravereaux, and Larry Keyes, chief quadraphonic mixer for CBS Records, declared Peter’s new single-band decoder, which used attack-sensing, continuously-variable-speed logic, to be superior in positional stability and sound quality to CBS’s own, never-marketed cancellation decoder, the “paramatrix.”  In 1977, a CBS-sponsored demonstration of the Scheiber SQ-optimized prototype “360° Spatial Decoder” moved Leonard Feldman to write, in Rolling Stone, separation was absolute and complete (you could even stand outside the area of the four loudspeakers and still distinguish easily among the sounds coming from the different speakers).  Nor was there any sense of ‘pumping’ or ‘breathing’ so common to earlier full-logic decoders.

In late 1983, Peter was approached by Jim Fosgate, who was looking for an alternative to the “T.A.T.E.” directional enhancement chips used in his logic decoders, at that time optimized for CBS’s “SQ” matrix.  Peter provided Jim with a new decoder circuit, and, through 1989, made numerous trips to Utah for design sessions and related technology transfer.

Features of the circuit included a “Panorama” mode providing surround reproduction of two-channel music program, years later to be implemented under the same Scheiber-coined name in Pro Logic IITM.  The first commercial result was the 1985-86 Fosgate Model 3601 “360º Space Matrix,” named after the 1977 Scheiber “360° Spatial Decoder.”  The 3601 was probably the first  home-use logic decoder for Dolby Surround.

Also in 1983, Peter licensed Dolby Labs to use his matrix/logic technology in motion picture soundtracks and theaters.  The following year, Peter granted to Dolby a sublicensing right for non-logic, basic-matrix, consumer decoders (the only kind they were interested in at that time).   In 1986, the consumer-use right was amended to add logic, and in 1987, Pro LogicTM was introduced.

In 1988, Scheiber and Fosgate signed a new agreement with a “Co-operation” provision under which the parties would co-operate toward realization of Scheiber’s designs for a Dolby-compatible matrix system with improved logic.  In 1990, Fosgate left the relationship with Scheiber.  In 2000-01, Dolby introduced Pro Logic IITM, which it has described as a dramatically improved, updated matrix surround system, based on the principles used to develop the original Pro Logic decoding back in the 1980s, and featuring “Panorama” surround reproduction of two-channel music program.

In 2003, Dolby, Fosgate and Scheiber shared an Emmy Award for Development of Surround Sound for Television.  The May, 2004 issue of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, reporting that event, noted that Scheiber’s continuously-variable-speed logic and stereo surrounds were later reintroduced in Pro Logic II.