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Can VST plugins like Penteo 16 or Halo Upmix + jRiver replace AVR-hardware?

DjBonoBobo

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Hello!

I would like to upgrade my system from 2.0 to 5.0 soon. I have an RME UCX II and active studio monitors and use a Windows PC exclusively for playback. For 5.0. I will also use Dirac Live, already own a license.

I am interested in good (natural) upmix solutions for stereo music as well as playback of music mixed for surround. There seems to be more and more music for Atmos, but I don't want a full Atmos system, 5.0 will do for now. Movies are not relevant.

That is, I actually need an upmixer for stereo -> 5.0 and a downmixer of Atmos -> 5.0.

There are AVRs that can do this, but I don't really want such a device, because the RME interface and the PC are actually quite enough and hardware and software are actually sufficiently available. Good AVRs/Processors are also sometimes extremely expensive.

My question to you is now:
Do I see it right that I can simply use a (hopefully good quality?) plugin like Penteo 16 Pro for $ 350 with jRiver or Reaper and that would meet my needs on the PC?
Or am I missing something and it doesn't work that way?

To be clear: I am not producing something, i only use some pro hard- and software for playback. I don´t have a DAW, more like a HTPC.

Thanks!
 

tifune

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I would love to achieve the same thing, but my conclusion after spending hours looking into it: If you have the means, save yourself a ton of headache and just get a Denon. If you want Auro, which I totally recommend, unfortunately you need the 4700. Otherwise the 3700 is a great value or perhaps one of the new Onkyo/Pioneer which offer DL+BM, although I'm not aware of any bench tests proving their capabilities as of yet.

I completely agree with you, modern PCs are more than capable. Unfortunately, I was never able to get the official Atmos or DTS decoders to work from the MS app store and there's essentially no support. If you manage to get ahold of someone, they're basically guaranteed to be an underpaid, overworked binder reader who can't do much for you.

Re: Penteo, HaloGen, et al., I opened support tickets explaining exactly what you mentioned in OP and their reply was "I think it will work but you're definitely going it alone." I just don't have time to reinvent the wheel

What helped me, mentally, to justify the cost was thinking of the Denon more as an 8+ channel DAC. Yes of course it doesn't put up SINAD like a RME, but you sound like you've been doing this long enough to know that SINAD past 85dB (if even) doesn't amount to much in the real world.

As an aside, depending on the space in which you plan to set this up I do agree with most that passive speakers are preferred for most 5+ speaker setups unless you have one of like 3 brands supporting WISA and/or WAF is not a factor. 3 prong mains wire + adequate balanced cabling can be quite an eyesore

If you find anything cheaper than a 4700 that can easily do Auro, please let me know! Hoping to do a 6.1 all-Neumann in my home office but the speakers themselves will eat my budget alive
 

ernestcarl

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If it’s just 5.0 with no need for special Auro3d, height, or wide channel surround processing then you really don’t need a separate VST with JRiver. I don’t recall having any major issue downmixing/upmixing Atmos and DTS media (streamed/local files) to regular 5.1 or 7.1 myself.

The only difficulty is the learning curve manually setting things up.
 
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DjBonoBobo

DjBonoBobo

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I completely agree with you, modern PCs are more than capable. Unfortunately, I was never able to get the official Atmos or DTS decoders to work from the MS app store and there's essentially no support. If you manage to get ahold of someone, they're basically guaranteed to be an underpaid, overworked binder reader who can't do much for you.

Re: Penteo, HaloGen, et al., I opened support tickets explaining exactly what you mentioned in OP and their reply was "I think it will work but you're definitely going it alone." I just don't have time to reinvent the wheel

The MS app only works over HDMI, but I thought the Penteo plugin would work as an Atmos decoder (without the MS App). Am i wrong? Maybe i should simply try it myself with a demo version...

If it’s just 5.0 with no need for special Auro3d, height, or wide channel surround processing then you really don’t need a separate VST with JRiver. I don’t recall having any major issue downmixing/upmixing Atmos and DTS media (streamed/local files) to regular 5.1 or 7.1 myself.

The only difficulty is the learning curve manually setting things up.

I first thought i could do it manually but it got more complicated after every bit i read about it so i figured it´s too much to learn for me right now.
 

HighImpactAV

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JRiver has its own upmixer called JRSS which I think is better than any in my StormAudio processor. You don't need to purchase a VST plugin. Atmos will scale down to the number of speakers you have. JRiver can decode Atmos to 5.1. You will then need to manually decide what to do with the LFE channel. JRiver will let you mix it into any of the other channels.
 

retro

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I retired my Krell HTS 7.1 sometime around..hmm...2004? After that, it's been HTPC with Lynx soundcards + Jriver all the time. No regrets.
Currently 12 channels balanced out, more than enough for a 7.x system with multiple subs.
Sure, no Atmos decoding as of yet, but who knows...maybe some geek is already working on that...;)
 
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DjBonoBobo

DjBonoBobo

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JRiver has its own upmixer called JRSS which I think is better than any in my StormAudio processor. You don't need to purchase a VST plugin. Atmos will scale down to the number of speakers you have. JRiver can decode Atmos to 5.1. You will then need to manually decide what to do with the LFE channel. JRiver will let you mix it into any of the other channels.

That sounds great, thanks!
 

ernestcarl

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I first thought i could do it manually but it got more complicated after every bit i read about it so i figured it´s too much to learn for me right now.

It can be initially confusing, but may be not nearly as complicated as you may think compared to the “manual setup” process already found in other AVRs.

Anyway, if you change your mind or find yourself lost, I (or anyone else with experience here) should be able to help.
 

Sancus

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JRiver can decode Atmos to 5.1.

I'm pretty sure this is not true. What's probably happening is that it's playing the 7.1 or 5.1 Dolby subtrack embedded in the Atmos stream, rather than using the object-based data. Atmos typically has several subtracks for stereo and legacy surround formats.

I haven't actually seen anything that will decode Atmos to 5.1. Perhaps some AVRs will do it, but Denons at least won't -- it requires 7.1 or 5.1.2, otherwise they'll fall back to the Dolby Surround/TrueHD tracks.

And to the best of my knowledge, there is no piece of publicly available free or commercial software that can decode the Atmos object data at all. There is professional software available for working in Atmos, but I don't believe it will actually play the post-rendered consumer formats, just the intermediary pro formats that are used prior to the final rendering.

All the sources that do play Atmos(Windows, Android boxes, etc) are just able to bitstream to a hardware decode device like an AVR.
 
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DjBonoBobo

DjBonoBobo

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There is professional software available for working in Atmos, but I don't believe it will actually play the post-rendered consumer formats, just the intermediary pro formats that are used prior to the final rendering.

That was the aim of my question. Unfortunately I can't just try this with Penteo because you need an iLok USB stick, even for the demo version.
 

Sancus

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That was the aim of my question. Unfortunately I can't just try this with Penteo because you need an iLok USB stick, even for the demo version.
@audio2920 might know for sure as he works on mixing Atmos if I'm not mistaken. But I'm like 99.99% sure that the answer is "Dolby has decoding of consumer Atmos locked down tight to licensed devices only" because I've never seen any indication otherwise, so far.
 

tifune

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And to the best of my knowledge, there is no piece of publicly available free or commercial software that can decode the Atmos object data at all. There is professional software available for working in Atmos, but I don't believe it will actually play the post-rendered consumer formats, just the intermediary pro formats that are used prior to the final rendering..

Recently I've seen an uptick in 2 "workarounds"(?) in the MKV scene. Maybe you'll understand these betters than I do? I'm not certain how the Atmos metadata is extracted, since as you say there's not yet a software decoder. VLC can bitstream it handily, for some reason none of my ffmpeg setups (MPC-HC) can. that's probably user error - sooooooooooo many options in there

New IMAX scene rip audio track options:

#1:English 7.1ch MLP FBA 16-ch @ 4 284 kb/s (Dolby TrueHD/Atmos Audio / 7.1+13 objects / 48 kHz / 4284 kbps / 24-bit)
#2:English 5.1ch E-AC-3 JOC @ 768 kb/s (Compatibility Track / Dolby Digital Plus/Atmos Audio / 5.1+15 objects / 48 kHz / 768 kbps)

Some reading on JOC. If anyone can elaborate on JOC or MLP FBA, I'd appreciate it. I'm probably barking up the wrong trees but I have such a difficult time finding layman explanations of all the surround formats.

The MS app only works over HDMI, but I thought the Penteo plugin would work as an Atmos decoder (without the MS App). Am i wrong? Maybe i should simply try it myself with a demo version...

Sorry, my fault. I was only focusing on the upmixing aspect of your Q. Downmixing, with a reliable codec pack installed (I use K-Lite because it's so easy), is basically automatic. I've never heard once had to intervene with the exception of Atmos in which case I switch audio tracks or use VLC. If you're a Marvel superfan, you probably wont like that much but my goal was HTPC with Dirac and Auro3D upmix capability to 12.2 (no center due to UST projector). You can probably see why I gave up...
 
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audio2920

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Thanks for tagging me @Sancus as I had no idea of Jrivers capability really, I just thought it was yet another media centre with a bit of EQ... I might look in to this for my next setup.

Anyway, if it can run VST I see no reason why Penteo wouldn't do the trick for 5.0 upmix. If I was in your shoes @DjBonoBobo I'd just try a different upmixer demo to prove the concept before getting an iLok. Maybe look at Nugen Halo (which is my current go-to, that or Penteo) or Waves DTS Neural?

In terms of Atmos downmix, I might be missing something but I can't see many scenarios where that's necessary? Most (but not all) platforms use Dolby Digital + Joint Object Coding and if you're listening to that stream, the "DD" part of it is exactly the same as a downmix of the full atmos decode then folding back down to 5.1 anyway, as it comes from the Atmos master we provide.
 

Sancus

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In terms of Atmos downmix, I might be missing something but I can't see many scenarios where that's necessary?

My actual question was whether you knew of any PC/Mac professional software(at any price) that could play back the actual Atmos object encoding, from a consumer format file or bitstream, to a standard audio device(mch DAC or whatever). :) My guess was no.
 

audio2920

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My actual question was whether you knew of any PC/Mac professional software(at any price) that could play back the actual Atmos object encoding, from a consumer format file or bitstream, to a standard audio device(mch DAC or whatever). :) My guess was no.
Ah I see. Then you're right, no, not that I'm aware of. All the studios I know have "consumer" hardware decoders for that. The Atmos software itself can make a rough and ready consumer (mp4) encode, but not replay it.
 

Sancus

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Ah I see. Then you're right, no, not that I'm aware of. All the studios I know have "consumer" hardware decoders for that. The Atmos software itself can make a rough and ready consumer (mp4) encode, but not replay it.
Yeah -- I figured Dolby wouldn't let that happen. If there's consumer playback software available(even at a high price) it makes reverse engineering the algorithm a lot simpler than trying to dig it out of a hardware black box.
 
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DjBonoBobo

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Anyway, if it can run VST I see no reason why Penteo wouldn't do the trick for 5.0 upmix. If I was in your shoes @DjBonoBobo I'd just try a different upmixer demo to prove the concept before getting an iLok. Maybe look at Nugen Halo (which is my current go-to, that or Penteo) or Waves DTS Neural?
Yes, good idea. I´ll probably try Halo and the jRiver upmixer after i moved and have the hardware set up before i buy Penteo.

In terms of Atmos downmix, I might be missing something but I can't see many scenarios where that's necessary? Most (but not all) platforms use Dolby Digital + Joint Object Coding and if you're listening to that stream, the "DD" part of it is exactly the same as a downmix of the full atmos decode then folding back down to 5.1 anyway, as it comes from the Atmos master we provide.
I'm not familiar with Atmos so far, so I don't know how realistic these scenarios are. One thing that doesn't work is Tidal with Atmos. It only outputs as stereo, even if I have a 5.1 audio device. Here, there seems to be only Atmos via HDMI or stereo, unfortunately.
 
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