Soundgarden's Superunknown goes 'super surround sound'

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Does anyone listening to music on their iOS and Android device really care about better-than-MP3 sound quality? I mean really, really, let’s-just-buy-one-of-those-uber-high-fidelity-Neil-Young-Pono-music-players care?

Soundgarden and its label,  Universal Music Enterprises, certainly hope so. The two have joined up with DTS to release a DTS Headphone:X (HP) mix of Soundgarden’s Superunknown album, which originally came out two decades ago.

Featuring the Grammy-winning song “Spoonman,” the HPX “Super Deluxe” version of Superunknown employs a special app for Android and iOS that plays the album’s 16 tracks in 11.1 virtual surround sound±you could call it “super surround sound”—on regular old earbuds and headphones. A free try-before-you-buy demo is available for your listening pleasure; be sure to listen using headphones.

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Launch the demo of the HPX Super Deluxe version of Superunknown, and you'll get a run-through of how DTS Headphone:X delivers an enhanced surround-sound experience.

“Bands have been releasing albums in surround sound for years now, but no technology has been able to provide fans with a true feeling of what it was like to be in the studio with the band,” said producer/engineer Adam Kasper, who produced Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside, Live on I-5, and King Animal albums.  “The experience Soundgarden’s fans will hear over headphones is identical to how I heard the mix in the studio when producing the surround sound version.”

According to DTS, the app-based music player is supposed to “externalize and expand sound,” so that earbud/headset wearers experience the audio coming from virtual loudspeakers in a true 3D space, rather than as two individual channels bleating inside their ears. Superunknown is the first rock album released in the HPX format.

Compared to Neil Young’s Pono high-fidelity standalone music player, HPX makes it possible to use existing iOS and Android devices to play better quality sound. If HPX works as advertised and gets backing from major labels—ensuring that songs and albums are released in this format as well as the mass-market, lower quality MP3 format—it could be a software-based alternative to the $400 music player that’s due to start shipping this October.

The catch: The Soundgarden DHX Superunknown 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition app will only be available to people who buy the 20th anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of the Superunknown album starting Tuesday. To cash in on the 20th anniversary release, Soundgarden is joining with Nine Inch Nails for a short North American tour that starts July 19 in Las Vegas and ends August 25 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

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