SlashGear meets Ludacris and Monster's Noel Lee: HD Surround Interview

SlashGear had the opportunity to sit down with rapper Ludacris and Monster Music owner Noel Lee at CES today, to discuss the artist's new Theater of the Mind album which has been remixed in surround sound.  While Monster may be better known for their Cable hardware division, responsible for the Dr.Dre Beats and Beats tour headphones, the company also has an Superdisc audio arm putting out music DVDs in full surround sound.  Company founder Noel Lee is responsible for High Definition Surround, a set of recording, mixing and reproduction techniques to accurately recreate the sound field of an original performance in high definition for 5.1 surround sound.  Check out the full interview after the cut.

Why did you choose Monster Music for this?

Ludacris: I've worked with them before, we've got a long history. They're at the forefront of their game, and so am I – it was a natural partnership. And as soon as I heard the High Definition Surround (HDS) demo they sent over, I was like "whoa, this is what I want for my album!" It was an opportunity to make history, the first rap record to be released in HDS, and I always want to be pushing into new things.

Monster have obviously worked with Dr.Dre on a range of headphones. Do you have any hardware plans?

L: Yeah, we've got lots of plans, but nothing we can announce now. I'd like all of my albums to be produced in HDS from now on. We've thrown the gauntlet down and other people have to compete.

How difficult was it to remaster?

L: [Noel Lee] actually did all of the remastering

Noel Lee: It was very difficult! In the studio we isolate every individual voice, every individual instrument, and we can place them anywhere around the sound stage. Not just from a speaker in the corner, or from the center speaker, but we can position different parts between speakers, in the middle of the room, anywhere.

When they sent over Ludacris' record, I was overwhelmed by how complex it was. It took us a long time to separate out all of the pieces, but then the quality of the end result you heard for yourself.

How involved were you in that remastering process?

L: I listened to each track as it was worked on, and I was blown away by the work they'd done.

The music industry is under siege at the moment from piracy and illegal downloads. Do you see this DVD and HDS as something that could change that?

L: Yes, this is definitely something more attractive than what you can find to download.

N: We see this as a way to rejuvenate the music industry and give them back an optical, physical product they can sell. About offering something new to consumers that they don't necessarily get online.

What's next?

N: The DVD is first, and then there'll be a Blu-ray version with higher quality high-definition audio and video.

Because it's DVD, is there extra content on there?

L: Oh yeah, it has lots of video, all sorts of extra content.

You ran a competition to go along with the launch; what was that about?

N: We asked people to submit videos to go along with the HDS DVD, trying to connect with the fan community and encourage interest. We've been overwhelmed by the response. The results will be announced today [January 7th].

We had a chance to listen to some of the new Theater of the Mind album with Ludacris and Eric, and it's certainly a different experience to a standard stereo album.  Different settings allow you to sit in different places in a virtual auditorium: from the midst of the audience, to the front row, to right in among the musicians, selectable by the audio soundtrack control.  It's a far more immersive way of listening to music, though we're not sure it'll be enough to turn the tide of internet piracy; after all, with the increase in bandwidth for home broadband connections, downloading an illegally ripped DVD doesn't take all that much longer than a CD.