Engineers in Germany have reproduced surround sound in a way that works with MP3 files.

The system, devised by the Fraunhofer Institute, adds a small amount of information to the MP3 encoding stream that that helps MP3 players enabled with the technology to recreate the surround-sound effect.

The BBC explains that producing surround sound normally requires much data because it is produced by recording audio from many different channels to create the illusion that it is coming from different directions. MP3s are 12 times smaller than music carried on a CD.

Music using the system will be compatible with older players, but only players that are designed to use the extra information will be able to create surround sound.

Fraunhofer said that the first products using the surround-sound technology should be available by July 2004.