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Surround Sound for music reproduction

Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby AVnerdguy » Sat Jul 15, 2017 4:39 pm

So I thought I better talk about something audio related for a change or you guys are gonna kick me out of the club.

I read this blog, http://www.realhd-audio.com/?cat=45, because I like his common sense approach to audio principles and no BS recording techniques. Read his current post “Flat Sound Believers” and the associated Update at the bottom. He can get a bit preachy at times but there is no denying he is very knowlegable and very skilled in his craft. His ego can get in the way also. I have sat in his demos at AXPONA the past few years and they are most impressive. He uses good, but not esoteric, gear and relies on room placement and encoding/decoding of 5.1 material to obtain his amazingly realistic soundstage. I also like that he concentrates on music as opposed to bang/thud movie soundtracks that are mixed with sound effects to impress and not necessarily realistic. I don’t care for a lot of the artists he chooses to record but that’s a personal preference thing. His music mixes are the closest thing to being on stage as I’ve experienced. Well actually I wish the groups I played with sounded that good on stage LOL.

The effect is as if you are centrally located within the recording venue with the performer and as you walk around the instruments stay in place as if you were walking amongst the musicians. This is unlike a lot of SS systems that loose the soundstage when you get off the sweet spot and placement gets blurry and moves. The unfortunate part of the system, typical of all SS systems IMO, is the amount of equipment necessary. Too many speakers for most average listening rooms. The electronics are not an issue however as he uses an OPPO DVD, a Benchmark DAC and a multi channel amp. The other unfortunate aspect is that it is proprietary which is never a good thing in the audio industry. Too many people have been burned too many times and are gun shy of trying anything new for fear of throwing money at something that may/may not be valid in a year or two. Too bad as it really is an outstanding sounding process.

In an effort to eliminate the push back by people like me with the “too many speakers” argument, he is promoting a new system, http://www.yarra3dx.com/, that uses a beaming technology center channel (well it’s really not a center channel per se) speaker that will simulate the SS speakers without the need for the physical devices. I haven’t seen or heard this yet but I talked to an engineer at Sunset Recording in LA who has and he was very impressed. It is currently in the development stages and should be available for delivery this fall. I hope to see/hear it at the RMAF.

They claim it’s a totally new process and are applying or multiple patents. But to me it looks very similar to a system that Yamaha was touting a few years ago that did the same thing. It was supposed to provide SS special cues without the need for rear channels and was a powered center channel type speaker using multiple drivers in an angled array. Not sure what the differences are but will investigate further. I believe it has to do with the beaming technology.

I’ve tried various multi channel systems going as far back as the Dynaco/Hafler quasi quad information extraction technique, SQ quad, various SS processes through the ages but have never been impressed enough to make it part of my permanent installation. I always found it gimmicky and as mentioned, felt it was designed more for effects to enhance films. Guess I spent too much time in foley and Lucas Films watching mix downs and special effects – kind of ruins it for me, can’t watch a movie without thinking about how it’s done LOL. I’m always curious to try something though if it shows promise to provide realistic reproduction for music listening. Anybody here use a SS system for day to day MUSIC listening?
"Julius Ceasar, and the Roman Empire couldn't conquer the blue skies...." - Neil Finn
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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby DaveyW » Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:10 pm

Will take a look at the links when I get a chance - a quick response in the mean time.

My brother is really into this - his living room is a shrine to a 60+", 7 channel + monster sub Movie set up

He's proudly extolled the virtues and demonstratred on several occasions
Possibly because I'm not massively into TV/Movies it's never appealed

We've got the TV Bluetoothed to the main hi-fi rig which feeds two largeish Monitor Audio speakers fairly discreetly located either side of the TV which give some grunt to the sound - this is enough for us.
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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby bauzace50 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:54 am

Hi,
The starkly basic Hafler "Dynaquad" circuit has been with me for many years. It is my preferred means for "ambience recovery". I use it continuously. Always "on".

Although it is not as technically proficient as elaborate surround systems it is good in its intended eponymous role: "ambience recovery".

However, full-fledged "surround" has not been part of my vision for my "man cave". I am not much for listening to helicopters flying to the rear of the room nor movie conversations behind me.

But "surround" is certainly a valid dimension in realism. If you've got it, enjoy it!
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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby AVnerdguy » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:00 pm

Great! Do you have the Dynaco Quadraptor or do you use the speaker wire hookup method? The Dyna box was basically the wire hook up method with a few internal resistors, a neato rear level pot and a balance stick and a convenient silkscreen to make sure that you connected everything correctly. It prevented blown output transistors on all those new fangled direct coupled SS amps that were coming into play in the late '60s and early '70s. I remember well because I replaced a lot of output devices at the time. A simple but very effective way of extracting the out of phase information without cancelling the in phase signals. It worked best with matched speakers but being the typical starving students we used whatever was available. Finally I had enough saved to purchase a matching set of Advent Utilities. The problem then arose as to wire the quasi quad or to "stack" the Advents which was also a big thing at the time. We (my room mates) decided to go with the stack to save space, and to impress the girls......
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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby tmazz » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:50 pm

It does not surprise me when I read this guys bio and he has a musical background. My problem with what he advocates is that it might be natural to him as a musician who spends time on stage playing music to have sound coming at him from all directions, but to me it is a very unnatural perspective to be placed in the middle of the action. For most of us who experience music only from the position of a listener all of the music happens in front of us (with the exception of some ambient reflections.) I personally find music coming at me from all over the room very distracting and in most cases rather annoying. I very much enjoy surround sound with movies and find it complements the film but in that case the perspective that is being presented is more that you are in a particular place or situation where sound would normally come from all directions and the full surround sound treatment enhances that suspension of disbelief. However; with the exception of certain pop albums (dare I say DSOTM) where the artistic intent was to created this artificial immersive sound environment, I don't think it adds to the music. (But heck, I'm just an old fart that still plays vinyl LPs through tube amps. :roll: )

The example I always think back to was the first time I saw the DVD of the Eric Clapton Unplugged performance. The video on the screen clearly showed the backup vocalists standing behind the band, but the audio of those backup singers was routed to the rear channel surround speakers, which acoustically put the sound at the opposite end of the room from where the video showed the singers were on the stage. And while the disconnect between the audio and video presentations made me crazy I am just as uncomfortable listening to the DVD with the video turned off as it just does not seem right to me to hear most of the band in front of me as if they were on a stage and the vocal harmonies sounding that the vocalists are standing in the back of the theater.

I understand the benefits if surround sound as a technology, I just don't feel that it is a good tool for the reproduction of (most) music in the home.

But that is just my opinion, YMMV.
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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby bauzace50 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:32 pm

1- AVNerdguy,
I used the simple DIY wiring, as well as the Quadaptor box, and the second generation Quadaptor black box.
Admittedly less extreme effects, but very realistic ambience.

Oh, and Dark Side Of The Moon record is very impressive with this circuit.

2- tmazz- agreed that surround sound is impressive with movies, but too complicated for listening to music. True surround is great for certain movie effects, but probably distracting for pure musical listening.***A very personal opinion, too***

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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby AVnerdguy » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:57 pm

Agreed. I don't like SS for music reproduction. I have heard some 5.1 SACD concert footage that was very impressive but I spent too much effort listening to the hall effects and never melded into the experience like I normally do. I'll stay with stereo for music for the majority of my listening.

Then there are the MONO extremists that believe any manipulation of the instrument/vocal placement is false and not how we hear things. I won't go quite that far either as I prefer some stereo effect to add the soundstage effects. Occasionally I will listen to mono recordings even though a stereo mix is available. Case in point, early Beatles mixes where the vocals are panned hard left and instruments hard right with a big hole in the middle. Why a lot of the early British pop mixes were done like that puzzles me but I remember reading an interview with Pete Townshend in the '60s where he mentioned that issue (and ripped the Beatles musicianship) and said that is why he was building a new studio so he could control the recording process. Apparently had enough of the corporate engineering at EMI.
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Re: Surround Sound for music reproduction

Postby tmazz » Sat Jul 22, 2017 1:03 pm

AVnerdguy wrote:Agreed. I don't like SS for music reproduction. I have heard some 5.1 SACD concert footage that was very impressive but I spent too much effort listening to the hall effects and never melded into the experience like I normally do. I'll stay with stereo for music for the majority of my listening.

Then there are the MONO extremists that believe any manipulation of the instrument/vocal placement is false and not how we hear things. I won't go quite that far either as I prefer some stereo effect to add the soundstage effects. Occasionally I will listen to mono recordings even though a stereo mix is available. Case in point, early Beatles mixes where the vocals are panned hard left and instruments hard right with a big hole in the middle. Why a lot of the early British pop mixes were done like that puzzles me but I remember reading an interview with Pete Townshend in the '60s where he mentioned that issue (and ripped the Beatles musicianship) and said that is why he was building a new studio so he could control the recording process. Apparently had enough of the corporate engineering at EMI.


Just like SS, stereo is a tool that can be used well or make a mess . If you want to hear a great example of how a "proper" use of stereo technology can enhance a recording just listen to the new 50th Anniversary remix of Sgt Pepper. In it Giles Martin (George's son) went beck to some of the original tapes that were bounce mixed into the original 4 track master and was able to resync them and come up with a continuous soundstage stereo mix as opposed to original mix which had pretty much everything place hard left and hard right. Now I do not want to take anything away from the original album which was a real masterpiece in and of itself, but the new mix is much more natural and very listenable and enjoyable. (But as good as it is, my best Pepper is still the MoFi UHQR. I have no idea why, but the realism on that one is just uncanny.)

As for mono LPs I always look for them in thrift shops and the like, but not because I like them better artistically. I have a TT set up with a mono cartridge and when a mono record is played on a true mono cart a huge amount of the surface noise just disappears. The stereo versions from the classic 50s LPs from RCA Living Stereo, Blue Note and the like are the ones that command big buck on the collectable market so many used record outlets just treat the monos as trash LPs and throw them in the dollar bins just to get them out of the store. They are still great music and with a mono cart is much easier to find a copy that has a low enough noise floor for acceptable listening (Most stores only have stereo carts and if they try to sample the mono LPs on them they hear all kinds of noise that will not come through on a mono rig, so things they would play grade as VG- or lower will often sound like VG+ or better on a mono TT, and you get it for a buck or less. :thumb

Would I love to have good pressing of the stereo version of these types of LPs, of course, but when clean clean stereo versions cost $40, $50 and up and I can get a mono for 50 cents..... hmmmmm. And I will still keep looking for a killer 69 cent deal on a stereo version in the Crack House, but I can still enjoy the music on a mono copy in the mean time, and perhaps weed out albums that just may not float my boat musically at the same time. (As well as find ones that I really like and would be willing to pay bigger bucks for in a stereo or reissued version)

And BTW - while the effect is not as pronounced as using a full mono cart, I have found that switching the mode knob on my preamp to the Mono position does kill some of the noise even when playing a mono LP on my stereo TT. Give it a try.
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