The 4D Soundsystem: Max Cooper Interview

We had a chance to interview producer Max Cooper, who in 2012 was voted as one of the top Live Performers in Resident Advisor’s annual poll. When he showed up to DJTT HQ, he excitedly shared the details on a project he worked on dubbed the “4D Soundsystem” – a new immersive sound environment that allows producers to create music that moves throughout the physical space. Watch our interview and hear examples for yourself in today’s feature.


When you start to talk to Max, it becomes clear just how excited he is about everything that he’s working on – from his own audio productions to massive collaboration projects like the 4D sound system. Having come from a scientific background (he holds a Ph.D. in computational biology), Max’s attention to detail must prove invaluable when needing to rethink how live performances work – which is exactly what the 4D system required.

Created by a team in the Netherlands (4D Sound Group and Bloomfield Systems), the 4D Soundsystem is a grid of 48 omni-directional speakers that are installed around a room to allow the performer to physically move sound around the space. The speakers are set up to use a technique to use an advanced concept called “contiguous phantom imaging”, allowing sound to travel vertically and horizontally in any direction in the space – all with a custom Max4Live patch and Ableton session (and a iOS Lemur template) to control the performance.


In the video you get to hear a few seconds of performances that Max was kind enough to let us repost a few of his binual recordings from the event – recorded with two microphones to simulate three dimensional sound – so wear headphones! We’ve also made a few GIFs to remind you of the type of motion in each track. Listen to the audio and try to hear how sounds move throughout the space (these recordings obviously do not quite give the full effect).

Gravity Well

Agoria – Panta Rei (Max Cooper Remix)

Learn more about Max Cooper on his official website.

4d soundsystemBloomfield Systemsinteractive artmax coopermotionproducerssoundsound installation
Comments (44)
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  • chris

    have some tune for a test-drive

    • chris

      btw: this time is very strange. Most people are paranoid. they use only a half brain 😉
      there is much work to do, for things to going better.
      in fact: greening the deserts, stops the chaos.

  • LightingGeek

    Looks so cool. I wish in the near future I can build my own 4D system.

  • James Craven

    Hi My Names is Jimmy Craven I have been a DJ for the Past 33 years I have used the stage name as DJ RAVEN since then not realizing that in the 1990s you would have RAVENS i used to build my own equipment as the Prices were so expensive in the Republic of Ireland I am an electronic Assembly Tech: by triad studied Data Networking C.I.S.C.O. have many skills in Electronic and Electrical apart from been a Professional DJ since 1980 I have seen a lot of Changes in the DJ industry equipment getting better however more costly so I taught about this a lot what could be done. I Now sell Disco Equipment on my Warehouse Webstore on line Shop I feature an European Product that I would like to interduce to you called JBsystems I love this website the Technical information and the displays are fabulous never the Less lets talk Disco if you want to see these Products JBsystems just go to my Website or to one of our New websites that is only in the making it dosent matter whhich you go to too see JBststems

  • calkutta

    i saw this 4-d room atta trade sound show in Amsterdam in 1998…while cool feeling bass and sounds move about the room…it didnt by any means make the track better or the experience of listening better unless one was on strong psycho-active drugs….strange to see it again now is all…still brilliant work,but i would apply this to perhaps gaming or headphone technology before a dance floor.IMO-
    Free Agent J-Kutta

    • Dan White

      If you saw it in 1998, it’s not the same thing by any means.

  • Futureglue Musik

    I think this is way too complex for on the fly DJing. However I can see a scaled down app version of this where you can use your phone’s gyroscope to physically pan the sound of one of your decks around the room. I’d love to do that.

    Also 16 speakers: yeah amazing, but in a club that would have to be greatly reduced. More room for dancing less room for banging into the speakers…

  • costiwooms

    i would like to have one lesson and teach me, for example how a pioneer mixer?

    • Gunter

      Right on man. You tell the world.

  • KIMchi kush

    looks dope. hope he comes to cali

  • DJ_ForcedHand

    This isn’t a new concept (it’s been around for at least 20 years, check out NASA’s Convolvotron project for helping air-traffic controllers with Spatialized sound). While it does seem interesting and very whiz-bang, the fact of the matter is these installed systems will remain very limited and are very unlikely to be in use in clubs for three reasons; 1) The price of this system is immensely greater than that of an existing sound system with not much of a perceptual difference. 2) Tracks are currently not sold in piece-meal form. Without this level of control, the 4D mix is useless. 3) Using a system like this will require some knowledge of arranging music parts which requires the musician to pay attention to the mechanics of the music much more than the crowd.

    So essentially, even if things changed today to help the future DJ do this, you’d still have to wait years for the artists to catch up, and just a bit longer for DJs to master this new style and become good at it.

    We’re looking at 5-7 years minimum from now.

    • Barry

      I reread the article, and it doesn’t really claim that this is the future of dance clubs. That being said, if someone turned this idea into a club and Max Cooper was resident DJ I would spend a huge amount of time in there. It should have beautiful subdued lighting, ridiculous comfortable chairs, an over-educated and sociable bartender and hooka.

    • David De Garie-Lamanque

      this is not about clubbing! Like Cooper said in the video, it’s really more of an art installation and it seems like a very entertaining on at that! i would love to hear some techy dnb flying around the room on that system… 🙂

      • DJ_ForcedHand

        I want to add one more thing about “speaker placement and people.” If a person gets between you and the speaker, the perceived sound is much lower (this is the problem with Bass over the evening because people act like giant sound absorbers). This is a nice idea, but it’s impractical because of the nature of sound radiation and people (things with a lot of mass).

        I do know (from the Convolvotron studies) that spatialized audio can be perceived in 3D through Stereo Headphones and at least TWO position sensors (in the headphones). This solution might come across as a little “Silent Rave-esque” but it’s a better solution than being immersed inside an array of speakers where others are absorbing sound before it gets to you because everyone gets their own processed signals in their own headphones rather than sharing one communal source. Oh and this works everywhere you can wear headphones and place an “Origin transciever”; Museums, Clubs, Concerts, Traffic, Theaters, etc.

        I was surprised when NASA cut the funding for this and Dolby bastardized the work by making Dolby Surround 5.1 as their consumer product.

        • The man

          You are a troll

          • DJ_ForcedHand

            How can I be trolling my own response?

          • Kinkie Pink

            DJ_ForcedHand, where can I find out more info on creating a 3 Dimensional sound with stereo headphones? ? “spatialized audio can be perceived in 3D through Stereo Headphones and at least TWO position sensors (in the headphones). “

          • DJ_ForcedHand

            The hardware is very expensive (simply because few people have developed for interactive position, facing, and rotation) however, it may be possible to replicate the original Convolvotron experiments with bluetooth or other position-capable hardware.

            Start here: .

            I would imagine the same hardware that was used for VR Goggles (like the Oculus Rift VR) would work as long as the positioning sensors fed back to your 3D Audio Mixing software (insert my gripe for not having individual stem controls for music here). Most of the consumer VR gaming goggles are not designed for use in a room where you can move around, however and would have to be modified for this purpose.

            It is important to note that the origin of the sound source needs to either be arbitrarily located in the software, or positioned in reality with a sensor similar to the VR goggles. It is even more important to note that the more unique users in the environment, the more processing must be done.

            There are 11 points in the ear (on each side) which determine how we hear things and the space between the ears which determines 3D positioning (yes, you can make virtual sounds inside your own head).

            Since there’s not a LOT of interest regarding this technology, there’s not a lot of people working on it, but I’m sure you can make a working prototype for yourself with 3D Audio plug-ins and your own DAW.

          • Johnny Rizk

            Dude, i would say two thing for you.

            First: Imagine you telling everything you wrote to the guys that invented stereo. We know nothing about the future, and i guess you’re not special among us.

            Two: Headphone spatial systems with sensors are not THAT expensive, Beyerdynamics have a system like that and it costs a couple of thousand dollars, nothing big when you are dealing with pro studio monitoring.

            Btw, check this out, a virtual 3D haircut audio, modeled under CETERA algorythm

          • DJ_ForcedHand

            Capability isn’t the problem, it’s a matter of desirability. I’ve heard the virtual haircut before (as well as the buzzing bee) among other things. The 3D haircut is not interactive with the observer’s cartesian positioning, nor is it directional as is what you would expect from an environment where speakers are used.

          • BLKSMTH

            How can he be a troll. He’s providing valid information that most if not all of us didn’t know about. It’s called realism and it tends to overthrow optimism every time. Welcome to the real world.

    • Johnny Rizk

      Well, i posted it as a reply, but i guess it would be useful to move forward into the discussion.

      As far as i know as a producer, stereo sound is a 3 dimensional emulation, because you can place whatever in the stereo field and simulate the depth (that’s why we use reverb plugins/hardware). Its like a picture, its 2d but emulates the third dimension using light.

      With this rig the depth now is a real dimension. In the “image” world, it would be an equivalent of a hologram 🙂

      It still a 3D thing, because lets think a bit and remember a simple thing, Max Cooper did not invented the 4th dimension of sound, because as far as i remember, everyone use time to do music, right?

      But let them use the name, its cool and a good way to sell the good work done hahahaha

      • Frydac

        Indeed, I wrote a master thesis on 3d sound in virtual environments (about 8 years ago now.. getting older 🙂 ).

        A good starting point to learn more about this is:

        To simplify things: more channels can make the ‘sweet spot’ bigger, but 2 channels are theoretically enough to get a full 3D sound experience (so left-right, top-bottom, front-rear)

        Also these binaural recordings depend heavily on the specific dimensions of the ‘ear-head-torso’ shape that has been used to record them, just 2 mics will not get anywhere near recordings made from in ear microphones (yes recording from inside the ear). So if it is recorded with in ear mics, and your shape doesn’t resemble the recording one, a lot of the effect gets lost. So thats why the binaural recordings probably dont seem all that impressive..

        The function that describes this relation to position of sound and ear-head-torso is called a head related transfer function:

  • KoenraadVDS

    Made this kind of setup when I was a student at the Royal Academy of Arts. The difficulty lies in not to let the setup be the cool thing, but letting the soundscape forget about the technology. It’s only as good as the soundscape is. You have to put a lot of effort in layering sounds and spatialization. I won’t punch the bass in your face, but it will make you dream.

    • DJ_ForcedHand

      Yeah, there are 3D production environments which use Dolby surround systems, but all of that gets lost when run through a club system which is often Mono and sometimes Stereo. I have created a Dolby 5.2 system in a space, but the price to do so was over $75,000. Trust me, if people are paying attention to the music parts, they’re not having fun, they’re looking for something to blame.

      • Johnny Rizk

        Well, regardless the X.1 technology (for me [own opinion] its BS, just a way to make people spend more money, because seriously, i never enjoyed a 3D audio experience that rocks, even in these mega movie theaters rooms watching a mega 3d production).

        But getting back to this new technology. If we get into in a scenario that it became affordable to clubs and theaters or whatever this rig could be useful, this is not a question of “what are people paying attention?” or “if someone is paying attention he/she’s just looking something to blame”. Its about a new way to express music, and sorry to say this is the raw way, but the audio world don’t create stuff for DJs, but for who works with music in general.

        Btw, tell to the guys that invented stereo “Hey, why two speakers? If people are paying attention on witch speaker the guitar or the flute is, they are looking something to blame!”

        • DJ_ForcedHand

          Are you familiar with Bi-monoaural? Same problem. The technology was fragile, required more skill to operate and was more expensive. People have been trying to replicate an experience with omni-directional speakers for years, but the problem is always “Do people really care enough to spend the money for a slightly better quality?” So far, the answer is “No.”

          Try working with me instead of directly challenging me. I have information that is useful in this area. I would love to see this technology used a lot more, but it’s simply not compelling enough for the average user to buy.

          • Johnny Rizk

            Not challenging anyone, but i can’t accept that a new technology or new application of an old technology is rightly useless or inappropriate just because the cost. I accept the fact that i just don’t know the day after and i try to remember that carbon fiber was NASA/DARPA technology 10 years ago and today we use sport glasses made of it instead of plastic, and its in ours cars, compact players and electrical tin openers.

            BTW, till a year we believed that 0K was the lowest temperature possible, and it was wrong for i don’t know how many decades. Do you know what i mean? Tomorrow someone in MIT can mess up and experiment and develop something alien that make it cost a penny, or develop a fuzzy logic algorithm that makes it simpler, or rearrange it to place in the roof with a fourth of the speakers, we just don’t know.

            For example, 5.1 or 7.1 is not compelling in my opinion, it brings a pseudo 3d environment that costs 3-4 times a stereo equivalent, also pseudo. I actually spent that money and I regret not bought a very good pair of hi-fi speakers with the same money.
            Or another thing, do you think 3D televisions are compelling enough? I think that’s boring and brings me a creepy nausea, but market is about creating demand, not waiting the demand appears. If Sony decides it’s cool, they ad it as coke and people will buy, not so simple but sort of it.

            And sincerely, i can’t see just a slightly better audio quality, but a new whole way of creation. Max just played what he composed in stereo using this system to make some glitchs and FX more funny… Dont know if you are a producer or have a crazy mind of one, but im wondering how cool and mind blowing could be the experience to listen something composed directly on it.

            Thinking better about the name, maybe there’s a real new dimension to be explored and we just don’t know it. Someone said about using space/void as a dimension and i’m about to agree with that! lol

  • allday

    unsure on the name “4D”. Considering hes using 3 dimensions not 4..

    • leavesremix

      It does happen over time….

      • DJ_ForcedHand

        Dimension 1: X
        Dimension 2: Y
        Dimension 3: Z

        Using these Cartesian coordinates in conjunction, any virtual object change in; Rotation, Translation, or Scale, must be expressed using time hence, the fourth dimension, Time.

        • leavesremix

          that’s what i meant to say 😉

    • ThatBunnyGuy

      I think they use the name “4D” because they not as boring as you are.

      • DJ_ForcedHand

        I think they used it because they already use in in 3D Animation content creation “Cinema 4D.”

    • MarkQuest

      nah, the name’s legit. He’s using a 4th dimension that hasn’t been utilised yet – space/void

      • DJ_ForcedHand

        Time is a Dimension.

    • Athena

      The 4th dimension is time, mate

    • LightingGeek

      Maybe the music soul is the 4th dimension. Music conquers time.

    • Johnny Rizk

      As far as i know as a producer, stereo sound is a 3 dimensional emulation, because you can place whatever in the stereo field and simulate the depth (that’s why we use reverb plugins/hardware). Its like a picture, its 2d but emulates the third dimension using light.

      With this rig the depth now is a real dimension. In the “image” world, it would be an equivalent of a hologram 🙂

      And i guess you are right, but let them use the name, its cool and a good way to sell the good work done hahahaha