The FezGuys
Wrap Your Ears Around QSound's 3D Audio
[ No. 19 - May 1998 ]

Using our secret Fez-decoder rings we decrypted an urgent missive about a small plug-in that supposedly makes Web audio "sound" better. Is it more unsolicited email spam sucking us into the latest marketing hype? Well, for once, no. We test-drove software from QSound Labs, and frankly Scarlet, we're impressed. For $25 (US), you can purchase (online at: <>) the latest in "3D" audio technology and, at the least, turn mono music into a stereophonic experience. Though they'd probably prefer we tell you about their amazing "spatialization" techniques, the most useful aspect of QSound's iQ software is the stereo conversion it does before its special spatial business.

The iQ system operates on a stereo signal, converting from mono first (as needed), and runs it through their QXpander technology. The 3D "spread" is controlled with a simple slider on the iQ control panel. Best results are acheived by connecting your computer's sound output to your stereo system, and placing your speakers in optimal listening position. If you are using a set of inexpensive computer speakers, you may not be wowed at the 3D effect, but the mono to stereo enhancement will be noticeable (and appreciated!).

A small 2 MB download (think 10 minutes' wait over a 28.8k connection), iQ is available right now for Windows95 users. The Macintosh version is in beta and may be available by the time you read this. Installation is very simple and you should spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the controls. If you have questions the included documentation is very clear.

iQ enhances just about all WAV-based audio-- that is, anything which doesn't play through directly on your PC. CD audio and MIDI will remain unchanged, but RealAudio, Shockwave Audio, AudioActive, MP3, MP2, Netshow, games, and standard Win95 system sounds will all benefit from the iQ engine. Other plugins (such as Cakewalk) are available for Win95 apps. The Win95 interface also provides a nice taskbar icon which shows whether the iQ engine is enabled. With a single-click you can access a pop-up control panel to modify the 3D spread, or put it into bypass mode.

QSound is not an unknown upstart; they've been around since 1988 and the younger generation (or at least young-at-heart) of faithful FezReaders may recognize the name from a slew of traditional arcade games.

QSound's iQ won't turn your Soundblaster into a hundred-thousand dollar sound system, but it will make the auido you listen to online (especially streaming audio) sound better. The FezGuys consider the iQ processor a worthwhile stop in our tireless pursuit of Internet audio nirvana. It doesn't hurt that QSound is endorsed by Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. For that, we forgive the perplexing use of backslashes in their URL in the included documentation. As of this writing, RealNetworks is providing a $5 (US) discount if you order iQ through their online store, <>. That's a good idea. The audio quality of RealAudio over modem speeds needs all the help it can get!

Oh, The Shows!

Internet World - March 9th-12th
(Los Angeles, CA)

We enter the enormous Los Angeles Convention Center, passing from stagnant daylight heat into cool, dry and flourescent biospheres of blinding color, full-spectrum white noise at 100+ decibels and an overwhelming press of people. People everywhere and everyone moving. Call it a ballet of sorts - a clumsy ballet, full of hog-calling carny barkers in sharp, double-breasted suits and futuristic headsets shouting phrases like: "I'm gonna show you something you NEVER seen before!" One hatchet-faced guy, preternaturally tanned and wearing, of all things, an honest-to-God straightjacket, speaks the patois of a used-car salesman, pronouncing all his soft "th" sounds as a hard "t," making "get with this" into "get wit dis." It's a living, breathing late night cable infomercial of massive proportions.

To obtain admission to this calamitous bazaar we're directed to a rat-maze of knee-high aquamarine curtains. Back and forth we wander, with thousands of others, souls in a Dante-esque purgatory of convoluted seeking. At one arbitrary point in the habitrail (we can almost smell the cedar chips) another uniformed security woman asks to see our coupon. After verifying authenticity she marks our paper with the cryptic sigil "OS" in yellow highlighter and hands it back.

We continue down the slow-moving pipeline of people, eventually directed to a monitor and keyboard, one of hundreds arranged in long lines and hovered over by hundreds of bleary-eyed people seeking admission to the convention. A personal monochrome CRT thanks us for being where we are and asks us for our basic marketing research data, prior to coughing up a convention floor access badge. The interface is anything but GUI. In fact, it's DOS, the stuff of bank-tellers, supermarket checkout lines and the endless horrid drudgery of data-entry clerks.

After confessing to everything we are thanked again and directed to a booth to pick up our badge. A seated woman with a pleasant smile calls out our names. We drape the badge around our necks and enter the arena.

There are multiple hangar-sized rooms, each packed to the far corners with display booths dressed in breeding plumage that would obscure the most frantic mating display of the baboon or cockatoo. After wandering around for ten minutes we're sucked into a connecting corridor, a conduit from this apparently medium-sized room, into an absolutely enormous stadium-sized space vibrating within the measurable energy spectrum; all the way from humming gamma-ray down to the deep sonic footprint of plate tectonics.

Everywhere we look something is screaming for attention. An old businessman crouches in a metal chair. He studies a piece of paper in his lap, lank grey hair falling over one eye, legs tightly crossed. Above him multi-colored lights whirl. Around him chemical fog drifts slowly onto his shoulders. Loud, electronic dance-club music pounds. The attack of technical theatrics doesn't seem to faze him. He continues to turn pages, oblivius to the onslaught. Suddenly the high black curtains close, obscuring his poignant pose.

Whew! Actually, from a business standpoint, Internet World is a very useful event. It's easy to get in (just bring your business card) and there's lots of little freebies. Except for the conspicuous absence of Apple Computer, all the major players and most of the less well-known organizations are present. This show is recommended for those with a need for up-to-the-minute Internet-related information. The founding fathers of the technology and infrastucture, the huge multi-nationals, everyone with a stake in the creation of this culture-molding community is represented. The size of the event mirrors the global nature of the game.

SXSW Interactive - March 15th-17th
(Austin, TX)

Thousands of experienced multimedia professionals, information-hungry artists and the merely curious gathered in sunny southern Texas at the SXSW Interactive Festival over St. Patrick's day. This event, held simultaneously with the SXSW Independent Film Convention, is an offshoot of the much celebrated SXSW Music Convention created sixteen years ago by the publishers of the celebrated independent weekly newsmagazine The Austin Chronicle.

Though by the standard of conventions like Internet World this was not a Huge Industry Event; SXSW Interactive represented local and national elements of the Internet Multimedia community and boasted a very useful element: various panel and educational seminars, featuring hundreds of respected and successful pioneers in New Media.

Apple, Sprint and Macromedia represented some of the bigger names in the industry while many smaller (but no less important) participants with whimsical names like Team Smarty Pants, Human Code and Tequila Mockingbird added welcome local color and compelling evidence that the New Media community is thriving in the Lone Star State. Prominant figures of the Internet culture were also present, including award-winning author Bruce Sterling (a local resident), Thomas Dolby Robertson (Headspace, Inc.) and, curiously, representatives of Whole Foods Market and National Geographic Magazine. All discussed at length the nature and character of their widely-divergent Internet presence.

One of the more interesting demonstrations, at the Knitting Factory (N.Y., N.Y.) booth, was a live audio and video connection with their venue in Manhattan featuring a piano player onstage, available to play requests. It was authentic interactivity, in real time, via an ISDN connection. It worked great.

The much ballyhooed Mac vs. PC discussion failed to generate any heat. The welcomed focus of the multimedia professional appears to thankfully be resting correctly on content. Manufactured debates about the veracity of one technology over anoother seem to fall by the wayside in the face of compelling multimedia production. It ain't how you do it kids, it's what you got goin' on!

While New Media "festivals" continue to spring up all over the country, most, like the Austin-based SXSW, are focused primarily on regional community. If you have any interest in the interaction between the arts and the Internet in a given geographical area there's no better way to get connected.


In The Fezguys column #17 ("Letters, etc...") we incorrectly listed the URL for Headspace, Inc., as The correct URL should be: <>. The FezGuys apologize for any confusion.

Letters To The FezGuys

Hi there! As my server doesn't offer a streamed-lined service, I tried to download real audio's Realtime Streaming protocol from their site but the shareware is not available for Mac, anybody been in this situation [who] has a solution? Thanks very much. -Daniel (

Dear Daniel, RealTime Streaming Protocol (RTSP) is RealNetworks' proposed protocol for standardizing how media is streamed on the Internet. Most likely, what you're looking for is the RealNetworks player, which you can download at <>. You'll choose between their free player or the $30 (US) PlayerPlus-- the free one should be fine for nearly everyone. If your local ISP doesn't offer access to a RealAudio server, take a look at our sidebar in "Geek Thy Neighbor" (column 6, April '97, on our website) which details using HTTP streaming to deliver RealAudio through a standard web server. If you are, in fact, looking for RTSP documentation and source code samples (Windows and Unix only), you can find that at <>. Unfortunately, Macintosh examples are not immediately available. Contact <> for more information.

We do the hokey pokey when you get involved in the online community. Visit us at: <>.



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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