Published: April 3, 2024 By

Imagine yourself walking into an unassuming room on the CU Boulder campus. You cross the threshold, close your eyes, and are instantly transported by sound into the heart of the Amazon jungle or to the sonic center of a Beethoven Symphony. The space takes on new dimensions, and your imagination unfurls as a tapestry of sound overtakes you. 

This is the experience of hearing the high-density speaker array in the ATLAS B2 Center for Media, Arts & Performance for the first time. Unlike conventional stereo or surround sound audio systems, high-density speaker arrays utilize a collection of strategically placed speakers throughout the room to create an immersive three-dimensional soundscape. This means that instead of simply hearing a Beethoven symphony emanating from a speaker positioned in front of you, you're dropped right into the heart of the performance itself, surrounded on all sides by its robust instrumentation. 

The high-density speaker array in the ATLAS B2 consists of 44 custom-built speakers that encircle the walls and ceiling of the ATLAS B2’s 2,700-sqft Black Box Experimental Studio. The system was installed in 2020 to enable cutting-edge sonic research and performance experimentation. Since that time, the ATLAS B2 has been able to present live and recorded works of many renowned guest artists as well as esteemed faculty and students from across campus. 

This month, the ATLAS B2 offers the Front Range community an opportunity to experience firsthand the full power of this large-scale immersive audio environment during Dr. Sean Winters’s Sonic Summit: 40.4 Festival, which runs April 15th to 20th. Sonic Summit stage setup with illustration of speaker around in 270-degree surround theater

The festival, created by Winters in 2022, brings together a global community of immersive-sound audiophiles and showcases the remarkable capabilities of CU’s space. It also provides the perfect chance for first-time audiences to experience sound in an entirely different way. 

Winters explains, “It’s easy to take sound for granted in everyday life and, typically, sound is presented to us in predictable formats. This festival gives us a chance to present sound in fresh ways that offer audiences an opportunity to listen…to really listen…. It’s almost like hearing again for the first time.” 

Now in its third year, Sonic Summit (or the 40.4 Festival) is attracting the attention and participation of some of the most notable artists and organizations in the industry. This year, the festival is collaborating with Austria’s Ars Electronica to present “Sonic Saturday”, a collection of sound pieces curated for Ars Electronica by Anton Bruckner Private University. Artists from all over the world have specifically designed these works for immersive audio environments like the one at ATLAS B2, and Boulder audiences will be the first to hear this collection outside of Austria. 

Sonic Summit schedule
All are invited to attend festival concerts in the ATLAS B2 Black Box Experimental Studio (directions and parking) on Wednesday & Thursday, April 17 & 18, at 7:30 pm, and on Saturday, April 20, at 2:00 pm. Each date offers a distinct lineup and audiences are encouraged to attend them all.  

  • 4/17 - Enjoy an evening of immersive acousmatic and audiovisual compositions from artists around the world, curated by Sean Winters
  • 4/18 - Artists Mary Letera, Sean Winters, and Enrique Mendoza perform live with original compositions utilizing the speaker array
  • 4/20 - Experience the Ars Electronica immersive audio collection 

Events are free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but registration is encouraged. Registration links and additional details can be found at