Beosound Theatre: Spatial control

#89 in a series of articles about the technology behind Bang & Olufsen

There are many cases where the number of input channels in the audio signal does not match the number of loudspeakers in your configuration. For example, you may have two loudspeakers, but the input signal is from a multichannel source such as a 7.1-channel stream or a 7.1.4-channel Blu-ray. In this case, the audio must be ‘downmixed’ to your two loudspeakers if you are to hear all components of the audio signal. Conversely, you may have a full surround sound system with 7 main loudspeakers and a subwoofer (a 7.1-channel system) and you would like to re-distribute the two channels from a CD to all of your loudspeakers. In this example, the signal must be ‘upmixed’ to all loudspeakers.

Bang & Olufsen’s True Image is a processor that accomplishes both of these tasks dynamically, downmixing or upmixing any incoming signal so that all components and aspects of the original recording are played using all of your loudspeakers.

Of course, using the True Image processor means that signals in the original recording are re-distributed. For example, in an upmixing situation, portions in the original Left Front signal from the source will be sent to a number of loudspeakers in your system instead of just one left front loudspeaker. If you wish to have a direct connection between input and output channels, then the Processing should be set to ‘Direct’, thus disabling the True Image processing.

Note that, in Direct mode, there may be instances where some input or output channels will not be audible. For example, if you have two loudspeakers but a multichannel input, only two of the input channels will be audible. These channels are dependent on the speaker roles selected for the two loudspeakers. (For example, if your loudspeakers’ roles are Left Front and Right Front, then only the Left Front and Right Front channels from the multichannel source will be heard.)

Similarly, in Direct mode, if you have a multichannel configuration but a two-channel stereo input, then only the loudspeakers assigned to have the Left Front and Right Front speaker roles will produce the sound; all other loudspeakers will be silent.

If True Image is selected and if the number of input channels and their channel assignments matches the speaker roles, and if all Spatial Control sliders are set to the middle position, then the True Image processing is bypassed. For example, if you have a 5.1 loudspeaker system with 5 main loudspeakers (Left Front, Right Front, Centre Front, Left Surround, and Right Surround) and a subwoofer, and the Spatial Control sliders are in the middle positions, then a 5.1 audio signal (from a DVD, for example) will pass through unaffected.

However, if the input is changed to a 2.0 source (i.e. a CD or an Internet radio stream) then the True Image processor will upmix the signal to the 5.1 outputs.

In the case where you wish to have the benefits of downmixing without the spatial expansion provided by upmixing, you can choose to use the Downmix setting in this menu. For example, if you have a 5.1-channel loudspeaker configuration and you wish to downmix 6.1- and 7.1-channel sources (thus ensuring that you are able to hear all input channels) but that two-channel stereo sources are played through only two loudspeakers, then this option should be selected. Note that, in Downmix mode, there are two exceptions where upmixing may be applied to the signal. The first of these is when you have a 2.0-channel loudspeaker configuration and a 1-channel monophonic input. In this case, the centre front signal will be distributed to the Left Front and Right Front loudspeakers. The second case is when you have a 6.1 input and a 7.1 loudspeaker configuration. In this case, the Centre Back signal will be distributed to the Left Back and Right Back loudspeakers.

The Beosound Theatre includes four advanced controls (Surround, Height, Stage Width and Envelopment, described below) that can be used to customise the spatial attributes of the output when the True Image processor is enabled.


The Surround setting allows you to determine the relative levels of the sound stage (in the front) and the surround information from the True Image processor.

Changes in the Surround setting only have an effect on the signal when the Processing is set to True Image.


This setting determines the level of the signals sent to all loudspeakers in your configuration with a ‘height’ Speaker Role. It will have no effect on other loudspeakers in your system.

If the setting is set to minimum, then no signal will be sent to the ‘height’ loudspeakers.

Changes in the Height setting only have an effect on the signal when the Processing is set to True Image.

Stage Width

The Stage Width setting can be used to determine the width of the front images in the sound stage. At a minimum setting, the images will collapse to the centre of the frontal image. At a maximum setting, images will be pushed to the sides of the front sound stage. This allows you to control the perceived width of the band or music ensemble without affecting the information in the surround and back loudspeakers.

If you have three front loudspeakers (Left Front, Right Front and Centre Front), the setting of the Stage Width can be customised according to your typical listening position. If you normally sit in the ‘sweet spot’, at roughly the same distance from all three loudspeakers, then you should increase the Stage Width setting somewhat, since it is unnecessary to use the centre front loudspeaker to help to pull phantom images towards the centre of the sound stage. The further to either side of the sweet spot that you are seated, the more reducing the Stage Width value will improve the centre image location.

Changes in the Stage Width setting only have an effect on the signal when the Processing is set to True Image.


The Envelopment setting allows you to set the desired amount of perceived width or spaciousness from your surround and back loudspeakers. At its minimum setting, the surround information will appear to collapse to a centre back phantom location. At its maximum setting, the surround information will appear to be very wide.

Changes in this setting have no effect on the front loudspeaker channels and only have an effect on the signal when the Processing is set to True Image.

One last point…

One really important thing to know about the True Image processor is that, if the input signal’s configuration matches the output, AND the 4 sliders described above are in the middle positions, then True Image does nothing. In other words, in this specific case, it’s the same as ‘Direct’ mode.

However, if there is a mis-match between the input and the output channel configuration (for example, 2.0 in and 5.1 out, or 7.1.4 in and 5.1.2 out) then True Image will do something: either upmixing or downmixing. Also, if the input configuration matches the output configuration (e.g. 5.x in and 5.x out) but you’ve adjusted any of the sliders, then True Image will also do something…