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Audio Definition Model

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name Audio Definition Model

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) ADM Guidelines summarizes the Audio Definition Model (ADM) as a standardized metadata model for describing the technical properties of audio. ADM is standardized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radiocommunication Sector and is also known by its specification number, "ITU-R BS.2076."

ADM's purpose is to formalize descriptions of audio placement. EBU says that the goal of ADM is to provide a single defined model for audio metadata. As a conceptual metadata model, ADM provides the metadata for authoring and rendering audio content; it does not hold any audio data. When used with Recommendation ITU-R BS.2088, a recommendation that defines "wave-file based formats such as the BW64 format", ADM metadata can be embedded into an audio file.

An ADM element is typically represented by an XML element, with its parameters specified either using attributes or sub-elements. The specification does not prohibit the use of JSON or other data standards to hold the descriptive information. See "2.2 Brief Overview" for further detail.

ADM descriptions can include technical aspects, such as a location placement, or content description, such as the language of the dialogue on the track. This information is used by audio processors to make decisions about the audio, such as where to place each audio channel in a complex setup, choose which channels to use, or improve the quality of the audio signals. ADM is not prescriptive about how the rendering should happen; it only holds contextual metadata about the purpose of each channel.

ADM defines audio in five categories: channel, scene, object, matrix, and binaural.

  • Channel-based: This is where an audio signal is expected to be delivered eventually to a loudspeaker without any need for modification. For example, "mono" or "stereo" settings. In ADM terminology channel-based audio is called 'DirectSpeakers.'
  • Scene-based: This is when channels represent a speaker-independent representation of a soundfield. This includes Ambisonics and Higher Order Ambisonics (HOA).
  • Object-based: This is where each audio channel has positional metadata or other properties attached to it."
  • Matrix-based: This is when combinations of audio channels are combined via matrix equations to generate other channels.
  • Binaural-based: This is for spatial audio that is intended to be played over headphones.

The specification outlines a few use cases:

  • 1) applications requiring a generic metadata model for, and a formalized description of, custom/proprietary audio formats and content (including codecs);
  • 2) generating and parsing audio metadata with general-purpose tools, such as text editors;
  • 3) an organizationʼs internal production developments, where multi-purpose metadata needs to be added;
  • 4) a human-readable and hand-editable file for describing audio configurations (such as describing a mixing studio channel configuration) in a consistent and translatable format is needed.

The initial publication of the standard was in 2016, with an updated edition published in 2019. The differences between editions are relatively sparse. They include more clarification on a number of elements, more flexibility in the usage of elements among each other and type of values, plus more explanatory text added in several sections. Annex 1 of the standard outlines the full list.

The standard cites other sources to support the argument for the need for this format: Report ITU-R BS.2266 and Recommendations ITU-R BS.1909 and ITU-R BS.2051.

ADM is designed to be a general model and can be embedded into several audio formats. It has a defined relationship with BW64 file format, specified in Recommendation ITU-R BS.2088.

Production phase It is an open specification, codec-agnostic and does not define the delivery process. It doesn't tie producers into any codec or a specific ecosystem during production.
Relationship to other formats
    Extension of XML, XML (Extensible Markup Language)
    Used by WAVE, WAVE Audio File Format. ADM can be embedded into WAVE Audio File Format.
    Used by MXF, Material Exchange Format (MXF). The ADM specification references MXF in 5.9.3 MXF Sub-elements and in the Appendices as capable of using ADM to allow for a comprehensive format description of the audio.. ADM includes an audioMXFLookUp subelement.
    Used by BW64. Not described at this time. The EBU ADM Guidelines has a page dedicated to BW64 and ADM.

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings None
LC preference See the Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement for format preferences for audio works.

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure Fully disclosed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

BS.2076 : Audio Definition Model": Recommendation BS.2076-2 (10/2019). The scope is defined as: "This Recommendation describes the structure of a metadata model that allows the format and content of audio files to be reliably described. This model, called the Audio Definition Model (ADM), specifies how XML metadata can be generated to provide the definitions of tracks in an audio file."

EBU hosts an ADM Elements reference page for all ADM elements and parameters and an Excursion page that covers other detailed information on other related aspects of the specification.

EBU Tech 3364 Audio Definition Model Metadata Specification. Version 2 (final). June 2018. EBU Tech 3364 says "To avoid any confusion and duplication of standardization effort that will arise from there being two separate specifications of the Audio Definition Model, the EBU has decided that Recommendation ITU-R BS.2076 should exclusively be used." However, some older references may still cite this standard.


Widely used across major audio systems, including Dolby products. A group of audio industry companies have adopted ADM as an Open Sound Control dictionary specification.

The Audio Definition Model and Delivery of Next Generation Audio panel (February 2022) acknowledges that ADM is being used for the BBC by their R&D team to handle some of their emerging content. A talk held at the Audio Engineering Society conference in May 2022 by the BBC, University of Southampton, and Sonos, Inc. also promotes the use and adoption of ADM.

David Marston of the BCC submitted a W3C proposal in 2013 entitled "The Audio Definition Model: Position paper for the Fourth W3C Web and TV Workshop" promoting the significance of the format.

    Licensing and patents No special issues. Comments welcome.

The specification and reference website both give several examples of use and what that looks like, which is helpful for understanding what the spec looks like in practice and how one might write something to implement it.

Structure is text-based metadata and both human- and machine-readable. The specification and reference website give examples of usage and how the specification can be implemented. Tooling is available from the BBC. The BBC Audio Toolbox is a suite of C++ libraries for manipulating object-based audio and ADM based BWF files.

See also: XML.

Self-documentation ADM is a metadata format. The format self-defines in its XML namespaces. See also: XML.
External dependencies

Listening to audio that has ADM metadata requires a renderer.

EBU has developed the EAR (EBU ADM Renderer), which is an open-source renderer written in Python. It has been designed to be a baseline reference for rendering from ADM metadata.

Other renderers have been developed for MPEG-H, Dolby, and DTS, as documented by the EBU ADM Guidelines page on rendering.

Technical protection considerations None.

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Normal rendering This format does not render sound.
Fidelity (high audio resolution) This format was created to support structuring high fidelity in complex audio systems.
Multiple channels This format was created to support structuring multiple sound channels.
Functionality beyond normal rendering Does not render sound.
Normal rendering This is a text-based metadata structure, usually stored as XML. It is both human-readable and machine-readable.
Integrity of document structure The structure is typically XML, but may be another data format such as JSON. Nested values represent the different categories of elements. There are 11 elements: audioTrackFormat, audioStreamFormat, audioChannelFormat, audioBlockFormat, audioPackFormat, audioObject, audioContent, audioProgramme, audioTrackUID, audioFormatExtended, and Time parameters format.
Integrity of layout and display Represents layout semantics that are important to the display of scores, such as: whether directions should go above or below a staff; spacing for staves; and scaling of features relative to a single measure that can be adjusted to fit a particular pagesize.
Support for mathematics, formulae, etc. None.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension See related format.  See XML
XML DOCTYPE declaration See note.  See XML.
Pronom PUID See note.  PRONOM has no corresponding entry as of April 2024.
Wikidata Title ID Q99529230

Notes Explanation of format description terms

History On the intent behind development, the specification says: "Audio for broadcasting and cinema is evolving towards an immersive and interactive experience, which requires the use of more flexible audio formats. A fixed channel-based approach is not sufficient to encompass these developments and so combinations of channel, object and scene-based formats are being developed." According to Wikidata, the standard was initially released on June 17, 2015. Version 2 of the release was published October 2019.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Last Updated: 03/26/2024