Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

AES Seminar: Dave Malham – ‘Ambisonics: The Once and Future System?’


Ambisonics has been around as a system since the early 1970s, although its basics in some ways date back to Alan Blumlein’s work on stereo and Harry F. Olson’s development of directional microphones at the start of the 1930s.

Tarred with the same brush as the Quadraphonics debacle of the 1970s, it was kept alive by a small band of enthusiasts who realised the much greater capabilities inherent in the system. This continued to be the case until the advent of low cost digital technology towards the end of the 20th Century meant that it became, at last, accessible to many more people. In the past decade far more papers have been published on Ambisonics and Ambisonics-related subjects than in the whole of the preceding three decades. Does this mean it has finally triumphed?


Dave Malham is Experimental Officer in the Music Research Centre at the University of York. With Richard Orton, also from the Department of Music and Ross Kirk, from the Department of Electronics, he was one of the “Gang of Three” who developed the concept of Music Technology as an academic discipline in the early 1980’s. At the same time, he was responsible for the hardware design and low level software for the Composer’s Desktop Project, the first system to provide economic access to Computer Music tools via a personal computer. The system also formed the core of the Audio Design “SoundMaestro” digital audio editing suite.

In the 1990’s he was the designer of the Focusrite Blue245 20 bit and the Audio design PB4+ 24bit stereo audio ADC’s. More recently he was responsible for the microcontrollers, sensors and RF link technologies for the RIMM project, the hardware for Craig Vear’s “Singing, Ringing Buoy” project and much of the hardware design for the audio sculpture “The Morning Line”. He has written VST plugins for Ambisonic processing, the “MRC Stereometer”, a K-system metering system plugin and, with Matt Paradis, the “ambilib” Ambisonic processing library for PD and Max/MSP He teaches digital audio, signal preservation, sound spatialisation and recording techniques on the Music Technology MA course at York. He has engineered 18 records and has edited several others. His current research includes sound spatialization technologies, an interest since the start of his career (in 1970!) and its applications in musical composition as well as the development of sensing devices for musical performance. He has a patent, WO02085068, for the Ambisonic Sound Object Format.

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