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Dolby Atmos with stereo speakers

pirad

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#1
I tried to verify this ArsTechnica test of Dolby Atmos (done on headphones) but with two stereo speakers.
https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017...ng-thing-to-happen-to-pop-music-since-stereo/
Atmos has a binaural version of its codec, you can check it online here:
https://www.dolby.com/us/en/apps/access/pc-xbox.html
You will need the free trial version of Dolby Atmos for headphones (it runs only on the latest Windows 10). Once you download it you will be able to access quite a few test clips.
The above method is the easiest, but your Atmos sound will be only on the PC stereo outputs.
It also shows on USB, but the app warns "you are not experiencing Atmos", or something like that. If you don't want to feed your system from the $1 DAC of the PC (;););)), you need to borrow X Box One from your kid. I did so.
X Box One uses the same app as Windows 10. And here you can direct the Atmos for Headphones sound to the Toslink output (and concurrently to the headphones stereo output of the controller). For the subjective, unscientific test I used the Dolby test clips, "Hans Zimmer in Prague" Atmos BD and REM "Automatic for the People" Atmos BD. The testers were my usual hearing suspects.
First I put one chair half way between the speakers facing each other from the distance of ca 7ft (2m).The listener sits on the chair in the middle , as if between huge headphones. Ears on the acoustic axis. The test pieces were switched between stereo and Atmos reproduction. Let's remember that the Atmos feeding my system via Toslink was the binaural version for headphones. The test subjects reported a difference between the stereo and Atmos renditions. Stereo was "flat, missing detail, uninvolving". Atmos was "spatial, detailed, overwhelming". Many listeners stressed the "overwhelming" aspect in a negative way, like in "too much too big".
Then I moved the speakers to other positions, stopping for longer at the typical near field triangle, the midfield triangle and finally the usual home music/theatre positioning. I also
added 1-2 chairs for more people to listen together.
The differences between stereo and Atmos were still there but with lower intensity the further away the speakers went.
I would be very curious if others could replicate the experiments and experiences and then have a discussion what it all means.
 
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RayDunzl

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#2
Stereo was "flat, missing detail, uninvolving".
Bummer.

Did the test include other plain old stereo tracks not normally associated with the above deficiencies?
 

pirad

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#3
I should be very careful trying to describe the experience at this stage. First of all I have a cold and should trust my ears even less than usual. Secondly my test subjects were exposed to these clips
for 15 minutes on average . The test was totally unscientific. If I was to sum up their averaged conclusion, it is: "atmos binaural rendition on two speakers has more space and detail than plain stereo but it sounds uncanny". The sound also changed with a change of listening geometry. I liked triangles better than "both ears on axis". The anniversary deluxe REM set has both BD and CD discs of the album. The BD has Atmos and Hi-res (96/24) versions. The Atmos mix was mastered anew as described in the Ars Technica article. I don't know about the Hi-res. The stereo mix on CD is probably older, but again, not sure.
So we have three mixes and from the beginning there are differences. The first song "Drive" starts with words "one two, one two three four" before music begins. On Atmos they come from the right, Hi-res
from the left and Stereo CD from the middle. Also the CD sounds 6 dB higher (need to equalize) than both Atmos and Hi-res , which are at the same level. And that's the first 15 seconds of the album. I do not undertake to give my personal observations of the Atmos vs Hi-res vs CD renditions on two stereo speakers at this time. My cold has to pass and then I will need some more hours of testing. I believe there is a difference. I very much hope others will be able to experiment and share their observations.
Some caveats. I know of only one record now that can serve as an acceptable comparison platform: REM "AFTP" anniversary deluxe edition. There you get Atmos, Hi-res and CD versions of the same music.
If you use PC you will need a bluray drive. Your output will be most likely limited to AUX out. I used X Box One X. You have to check in the Audio settings "Dolby Atmos for Headphones" and "HDMI or optical output headset" --if you are listening to Atmos mix. For Hi-res and CD you need to uncheck those and choose "Stereo Uncompressed". Then, when playing BD, you need to choose from the disc menu either "Dolby Atmos audio" or "Hi-res". I advise to have the monitoring strip (click "i" ) open at the top. I tells you what codec is actually playing with bit rates etc. Dolby Atmos is in the Dolby True HD container and that shows. Hi-res shows LPCM.
Final warning! Do not try to downmix Atmos to Stereo checking the "Uncompressed stereo" option of Xbox while choosing "Atmos" on the BD menu. It comes out bad. All of that is a bit of a hassle.
 
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pirad

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#4
The monitoring strip of X Box BD app shows read data rates for Atmos (Dolby TrueHD) 7-11 Mbps and for Hires 4-5 Mbps.
I checked with my Mytek converter the actual rates coming from Toslink. Alas, they are always 48/16, no matter
what source. So everything is resampled for the optical headset output. But on the other hand maybe better for comparisons.
PS. The CD version of the album which is +6dB, Mytek shows as constantly clipping or near clipping. Atmos and Hires are OK.
 
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Fitzcaraldo215

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#5
Atmos is not high on my list of audio stuff to try. Admittedly, I have not heard it in theaters, but I don't seem to be in any desperate rush to do so. Nor, am I in any hurry to add it to my 7.1 media system, which is used primarily with music in discretely recorded, hirez Mch, but also with video BDs. I am beyond very happy with the results. I do acknowledge that the 5//7.1 I listen to is a 2D medium, unlike stereo's 1D, and that I believe expanding fully from 2D to 3D via additional Atmos, Auro, etc. channels can in theory have benefits, though in my experience so far that is with sharply diminishing returns over expansion from 1D stereo to discretely recorded 2D Mch.

Also, in this Forum, dedicated as it is to finding objective performance improvements, mostly measurably, and acknowledging the circle of confusion surrounding recordings, adding something synthetic to the presentation, like stereo, 2-channel Atmos modifying plain direct stereo for a certain effect, seems incongruous. I could add BACCH or other processed synthetic methods to that comment, but I will not. But, enjoy them, if you like them.

If improved subjective perceptual imaging is highly desirable, as I believe it is, I do believe that too many audiophiles are dismissive of and in a seeming hurry to totally ignore quality 2D, 5/7.1 discretely recorded Mch. That is now as a niche widely available, and has been for over a decade. I have thousands of such recordings on my NAS. Instead, there seems a desire to believe that there is some sort of artificially processed shortcut, deriving truer and deeper, truth from available stereo recordings. If only that were true.
 

pirad

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#6
I am not interested in 14, 11 or even 7 speakers in my room.
My home theatre is stereo plus subs, same as for music. I am after improving stereo, which as we all know is burdened with some original sins like crosstalk. It was supposed to be three speakers but apparently somebody economized...I experimented with some ways to improve stereo (ambiphonics etc) but these were not very promising trials.
More interesting were attempts at binaural sound through two speakers,
but solutions like head movement tracking for a single audiophile are something out of a sci-fi comedy. Atmos is different from the multichannel of yesterday as it works with objects in 3D space. I believe it is the future of sound reproduction as long as it can do away with the ridiculous number of speakers. 2 plus subs is the maximum an average household will tolerate.
And subs can melt into the room design which I have been doing for some time. I really recommend the lecture of the Ars Technica article in the final part about how Atmos masters can be made of old recordings. It has nothing to do with artificially processed shortcuts. Also a home theatre with Atmos through two speakers has a better chance that 14 speakers or so. And here most movies will have the sound produced 3d way very soon.
Atmos has a binaural version for headphones which can be calculated in real time from the multiobject data stream. Most likely it is madness to try adapt it for two speakers and I predict I won’t get far with it. But why not try? In my tests so far some people like it , some hate it. Anybody with a PC and the Dolby Access free trial app can test his stereo for a binaural sound reproduction. Nothing to lose but a few afternoons.
 

pirad

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#8
Is your central speaker exactly the same as the L/R mains and is it located in the middle of the screen , behind it? The central channel is much more than dialog, which unfortunately in many instances comes from an improperly matched speaker presenting annoying phantoms of sound.
I personally deeply dislike in cinema sound effects coming from behind me or from above. It is always a jarring betrayal of the “suspension of disbelief”. But the all encompasing rumble of earthquakes, thunderstorms and good explosions from distributed bass adds to the illusion. What’s more, the female half of the world usually prefers a good story and acting to the sudden machine gun series from your six, especially when it’s coming from those ungainly boxes littering the floor or shelves. De gustibus etc...
PS. We haven’t watched movies and series on TV for years. A good projector hiding under the ceiling of the living room is a must. And thick window curtains or good blinds. One more heresy: no screen in the living room. Surprising how a good projector can use the wall to present an excellent 150 inch image. Mine is a 10 year Panasonic PT 3000.
 
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pirad

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#10
I love “Brooklyn” but it’s not Woody Allen’s. “Manhattan” is. Why do you
ask?
 

NorthSky

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#11
Woody Allen because the music soundtracks are great from his collection of mono LPs. And the others because it's about love and not about comic superheroes with bombastic sound.

I like all type of movies, from soft romance to science fiction like Blade Runner 2049.
And with the later Atmos multichannel audio bristles with magnificent stars.

Atmos stereo with headphones I have no experience, but QSound in stereo yes, no headphones though...just two speakers and one listener sitting right in the center between them.

Like from this album for example:
 
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pirad

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#12
I like all type of movies, from soft romance to science fiction like Blade Runner 2049.
And with the later Atmos multichannel audio bristles with magnificent stars.
Same here. But like 99% of households we don’t have a possibility of a separate home theater room and the living room is a common area for family and social life where all kinds of compromises must be taking place.
Placing speakers in the ceiling is not one of them.
 

pirad

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#13
[QUOTE="NorthSky, post: 80183, member: 8”]
Atmos stereo with headphones I have no experience, but QSound in stereo yes, no headphones though...just two speakers and one listener sitting right in the center between them.

Like from this album for example:
[/QUOTE]


Yes, I know Qsound and this particular album rather well. It is the best example of what kind of spatial sound is possible with two speakers. There are sounds there that simply have no right to be where they are, through a regular stereo system. It’s all done with the recording and mastering. Q sound is one of the systems I had in mind talking about the past schemes for spatial sound on stereo. It did not need any head tracking and the listening window was not bad. Regrettably it’s rather dead. My hopes with Dolby atmos binaural (formally for headphones) are bigger because Atmos is becoming the Hollywood standard. The big question is how it can be adapted to speakers and whether people will accept it. Big ifs, small chance of success IMHO.
 
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Fitzcaraldo215

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#14
I am not interested in 14, 11 or even 7 speakers in my room.
My home theatre is stereo plus subs, same as for music. I am after improving stereo, which as we all know is burdened with some original sins like crosstalk. It was supposed to be three speakers but apparently somebody economized...I experimented with some ways to improve stereo (ambiphonics etc) but these were not very promising trials.
More interesting were attempts at binaural sound through two speakers,
but solutions like head movement tracking for a single audiophile are something out of a sci-fi comedy. Atmos is different from the multichannel of yesterday as it works with objects in 3D space. I believe it is the future of sound reproduction as long as it can do away with the ridiculous number of speakers. 2 plus subs is the maximum an average household will tolerate.
And subs can melt into the room design which I have been doing for some time. I really recommend the lecture of the Ars Technica article in the final part about how Atmos masters can be made of old recordings. It has nothing to do with artificially processed shortcuts. Also a home theatre with Atmos through two speakers has a better chance that 14 speakers or so. And here most movies will have the sound produced 3d way very soon.
Atmos has a binaural version for headphones which can be calculated in real time from the multiobject data stream. Most likely it is madness to try adapt it for two speakers and I predict I won’t get far with it. But why not try? In my tests so far some people like it , some hate it. Anybody with a PC and the Dolby Access free trial app can test his stereo for a binaural sound reproduction. Nothing to lose but a few afternoons.
I just don't see the object orientation of Atmos to be of much validity for music. And, remember, it is not a native recording format, whereas Auro 3D is. Atmos is a mastering format generated by Atmos processing from normal channel oriented recordings.

There are sonic downsides to object orientation. Objects carry with them all the local reverb, echo, and reflected sound picked up by the mics in the original positions in the original channels, pre-Atmos processing. That local sound field is then moved inseparably along with the direct sound of the objects, potentially distorting the spatial presentation of the result. No doubt, as a result, recording for Atmos will involve suppressing that local reflected sound field around the objects, but simultaneously eliminintating the natural air, ambiance, etc. that reflections provide to normal recordings. Its main reason for being is that it is oriented to motion by the objects during mastering merely as direct sound sources, which may be good for certain movie effects, but that hardly has applicability to music beyond gimmickry.

The hope of achieving realistic, spacious, enveloping sound from 2 speakers that is even remotely comparable to what Mch discretely recorded using an array of 5 or more angularly spaced mics can do via an array of 5 or more speakers is a misguided pipe dream, IMHO. 2-channel playback always truncates and limits the natural sound field to just the frontal dimension, and reflections in the listening room are quite inadequate in time and space to regenerate the original sounds in the original venue. But, conventional, channel oriented Mch preserves a much better replica via direct sound and phantom images of the natural sound field - direct and reflected - as recorded, including the angular orientation of sounds, often diffuse reflected sounds, in that omnidirectional sound field.

No doubt, Atmos or other enhancement schemes can generate very interesting effects, even addictive ones, via 2 or even more speakers in the room or via headphones. Enjoy it if you like. But, they are effects, not a reasonable facsimile of the natural sound, and that is not for me. For the past decade, I have been listening to really good, discretely recorded 5/7.1. No point at all in going back to 2 speakers. Also, based on my experimentation, attempting to derive satisfying Mch from stereo sources has proven seriously inadequate by comparison.

Yes, we agree completely about subwoofers, with/without Mch, and they have nothing directly to do with Atmos.

Yes, I agree, you are unlikely to get far with your experiments. I don't think Atmos is a huge game changer, especially not in binaural from speakers.
 
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Fitzcaraldo215

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#15
Is your central speaker exactly the same as the L/R mains and is it located in the middle of the screen , behind it? The central channel is much more than dialog, which unfortunately in many instances comes from an improperly matched speaker presenting annoying phantoms of sound.
I personally deeply dislike in cinema sound effects coming from behind me or from above. It is always a jarring betrayal of the “suspension of disbelief”. But the all encompasing rumble of earthquakes, thunderstorms and good explosions from distributed bass adds to the illusion. What’s more, the female half of the world usually prefers a good story and acting to the sudden machine gun series from your six, especially when it’s coming from those ungainly boxes littering the floor or shelves. De gustibus etc...
PS. We haven’t watched movies and series on TV for years. A good projector hiding under the ceiling of the living room is a must. And thick window curtains or good blinds. One more heresy: no screen in the living room. Surprising how a good projector can use the wall to present an excellent 150 inch image. Mine is a 10 year Panasonic PT 3000.
Yes, agreed. The center channel is much more than dialog, though it dramatically improves dialog articulation. Toole's latest book explains exactly why. But, even for music in Mch, it has numerous advantages over a phantom center channel, as in stereo or 4 channel.

With proper setup, speaker matching and calibration, there is no reason it should sound other than perfectly seamless. Sorry, if your experience has contradicted this. But, my system and those of numerous friends bear me out.
 

NorthSky

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#16
This is an interesting subject, stereo and multichannel music listening.
Both formats offer thrills.

Today, in general, people love movies and with sounds and music all around, like if we were assisting to real live performances.
The songs @ the end of many movies, rolling end credits, are generally the best demos, the best music recordings, the best examples of quality sounds to caress our emotions and senses with high pleasures and high fidelity.

I am not a headphone person, I don't know the long-term effects. But I do know that it immerses me in a bubble of rainbows.
Kids and adults today wear more headphones than ever before...on the go with their androids and tablets and iPhones and iPads.

For home the high end ultra audiophiles are sophisticated in their choices. ...From one channel mono to stereo headphones and multichannel home music concert hall. And the later can also play an expanded dual role as a movie home theater...with moving pictures on a screen, with the full music band playing on stage and the audience...an additional visual sense to accentuate the aural experience. I'm big on music video concerts filmed in high definition video (4K) and recorded in high resolution multichannel audio (uncompressed/lossless Atmos, Auro-3D, DTS:X, TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio). I also like hybrid SACDs without moving pictures, and Blu-ray Audio (Pure Audio) and DVD-Audio in high res. ...Both in stereo and in 5.1-channel.

Some headphones provide a 3D virtual reality, adding even more to the personal enjoyment of advanced technological world of A.I. entertainment.

We live for thrills, for rushes of the senses and brain.
 
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NorthSky

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#18
My VCRs have a headphone output, my first CD player, my very first DVD player as well, and my last Blu-ray player too.
And they all have their own volume control.
All my receivers and pre/pros too.
My computers, laptop, tablet, cell phones, ...
Many components have a headphone output; DACs, TVs, iPhones, soundbars, airplanes, recording music studios, recording movie studios, ...

The only place where they don't have a headphone output is @ the movie theaters, rock concerts, music halls, conservatories, planetariums, stadiums, forums, sanitariums, asylums, hospitals, discotheques, jazz clubs, repertoires, blues alleys, cabarets, auditoriums, recital halls, anechoic chambers, ...
 

DonH56

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#19
From 2014, and ignores all the AVRs sold with surround sound decoders. I would not give it up and can't really see the movie biz giving it up either. I agree it never really caught on for music, a shame, and a little perplexing given the number of surround-sound movie systems fielded.

That said I certainly do not have all the sales and marketing data, not my job...
 

Fitzcaraldo215

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#20
Several things. Did you look at the date, 2014? Are his conclusions still valid? Remember, Atmos, Auro 3D, etc. came to market after this dismal SG forecast for the future of Mch.

Also, do you know who Steve Guttenberg is? He is a part-time, irregular writer at Stereophile and elsewhere, who really likes rock, vinyl, etc. and who dislikes and is demonstrably ignorant of Mch, as his writings have abundantly shown, like the one at CNET. Even in Stereophile, his occasional tirades against Mch have been myopically sophomoric at best compared to Stereophile's very knowledgable and respected Kal Rubinson, who writes about Mch in a regular bimonthly column, as he has for years.

Steve only likes rock music, so he is very down on Mch because it never succeeded in that immensely popular genre. No matter that it remains a respectable niche for recordings in other genres, like classical. He does not care or even acknowledge that.

His "analysis" of lack of standards for Mch recording/playback is simply way out of date and, therefore, misleading and confusing. He is trying to dazzle us with how much he knows, but he only reveals his total ignorance.

Here is Steve in action:

https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/steve-guttenberg-i-am-an-audiophile.1706/

If you like what he says and find him credible, don't listen to anyone else. For example, don't listen to Floyd Toole's praise of Mch sound, and pay no attention to Dr. Toole's elaborate Mch system in his home.

Sound bars? Sure, they are exceedingly popular for obvious reasons, including price, ease of setup, etc. I use a sound bar in my bedroom system for precisely those reasons. Just don't try to tell me that sound bars are as good or remotely even close to a properly set up Mch system.

And, if maximum popularity were somehow synonous with maximum sound quality, we would all just be listening to MP3s via headphones. Also, when I go to my local Best Buy, a popular mass marketer, stereo integrated amps are nowhere to be seen, yet Mch AVRs abound. Surely, someone must be buying them in 2018 or they would not keep them on display. And, of course, they offer plenty of sound bars, too.
 
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