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uBACCH now available for Windows

Keith_W

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Following the discussion in this thread I followed the link to uBACCH and found that it is now available for Windows as a VST3 for USD$399 - link. A trial version was available, so I downloaded it to take a look. Here is a mini-review with some comments and criticism.

For those who don't know what BACCH is, it works by crosstalk cancellation. I was quite enticed by reading multiple reports of BACCH creating sounds that appear to be emanating from behind your head in a 2 channel setup and enhanced spatialization effects, so I started investigating Ambiophonics products and got in touch with @STC . As @STC told me in a private email, crosstalk cancellation does not create an artificial soundstage, it only restores what was in the recording and degraded by the speaker and the room. Regardless, I have had two BACCH demonstrations (the first in another system using BACCH4Mac Intro, and the second using pre-convolved music files with BACCH kindly provided by @Gwreck) and neither were particularly convincing. At best there was subtle increase in soundstage.

uBACCH and BACCH4Mac Intro are both set up using room geometry only. The other versions of BACCH4Mac are set up with actual measurements, and supposedly are more effective than these introductory versions of BACCH. At the time of writing, uBACCH is the ONLY version of BACCH that will run on Windows.


Installation and Configuration
Installation was straightforward. Download the VST3, put it in your VST folder, and use a VST host. I used JRiver MC30.

The user interface is very simple. The first thing you see is a dialog asking you to register or activate your 14 day trial. Choose "activate trial" and you see the main screen. From there, choose "Tuning" and this is what you see:

1685803316809.png


The Windows VST interface seems much more basic than the Mac uBACCH interface (copied from the BACCH webpage):

1685803716391.png


The first part of setup is to click the left button which plays pink noise, and then adjust the angle until you hear the sound coming to the side of your left ear, then repeat with the right button. I could not get this to work no matter what I tried - no sound came out. So out came the tape measure and with some basic maths I worked out that the half-span angle was 23deg.

I was suffering from a lot of latency and dropouts (manifesting as soft bass thumps). So I reconfigured JRiver to stop upsampling to 192kHz and listened at 44.1kHz for the rest of my testing. This worked, and the dropouts went away.


Blind Testing, Part 1
The first blind test was to find out whether I could tell the difference between BACCH filter on or off. I found that the difference was more apparent with some tracks over others, so my testing methodology involved:

- quick listen with BACCH on and BACCH off so that I could note the difference
- wife would start playing music, then hit the bypass button a random number of times to turn it on and off.
- then I would ask her to switch from A to B.

Result: 6/6 correct, 4 iterations with different tracks (result: 24/24). It is really easy to tell the difference.


Blind Testing, Part 2
The second part was to find out if I preferred uBACCH or no uBACCH. I queued up a variety of tracks to play. This time there was no unblinded listening to familiarize myself with BACCH on vs off. My wife started playing the track with either BACCH on or off, and switched when I asked her to. In the end I would say whether I preferred A vs. B. These were the tracks along with the result and listening impressions (all these tracks are available on Tidal):

1685805049591.png


Bach Cantata BWV 91, Rudolf Lutz, J.S. Bach-Stiftung. Gelobut seist du, Jesu Christ: no BACCH preferred. This was a difficult track and probably a poor demonstration of BACCH's capabilities. Unfortunately, this is also the type of music I listen to the most. Without BACCH, the apparent source width (ASW) is smaller but the soloists seem more precisely located. With BACCH, soloists sounded physically stretched - for example, a solo singer does not seem to be singing from one location. She sounds as if her mouth is several feet wide. Instrumental timbre was preserved with both.

1685806154573.png


Schubert Lieder - Ian Bostridge, track 3 "Auf der Donau" Op. 21 D.553 - minimal difference. I am glad I did not use this when I was blind testing in Part 1 because I would have struggled to pick a difference between the two. This is a stereo recording of a solo singer with a piano accompaniment. I don't know how it was recorded, but I would guess that the singer and the pianist had a microphone each and thus there is little sense of a soundstage. Perhaps the location of the soloists shifted very slightly with BACCH on and off, but I honestly think I would have failed blind testing with this track.

1685806462504.png


Beethoven Symphony No. 3 - Niklaus Harnoncourt: BACCH preferred. Again, I do not know how this was recorded, but it was easy to tell the difference. Without BACCH, the orchestra seems to occupy a window between the two speakers. With BACCH, it is more of a concert hall experience. The soundstage expands towards the walls (my walls are about 1.5m away from the speakers) and it sounds more immersive.

1685805571984.png


Binaural - Physical Dreams: BACCH preferred. The first track has rain. Without BACCH, the ASW extends to maybe 50cm lateral to each speaker. With BACCH turned on, it extends several meters across. It is not quite a "you are there" experience but it is far more realistic with BACCH on than without.

1685805888073.png


Hans Zimmer - Blade Runner 2049 - BACCH preferred. The effect of BACCH on the first track (2049) was simply awesome. 2049 sounds desolate, foreboding, and empty. BACCH does a convincing job of enveloping you in sound, even if it does not quite reach 90 deg to either side of my head. There is a section where some vehicle seems to pass overhead and it sounded way more involving and real with BACCH.


Conclusion, Criticism
BACCH works in my system, however its effectiveness is heavily recording dependent.

Criticism: BACCH VST for Windows is buggy, notably the dropouts at 192kHz and the inability to play pink noise on my system to get it set up. BACCH themselves recommend setup by ear - adjust the angle until the effect is maximal. I was unable to do this so I may not be getting the maximum effect. Also, the Windows version seems to have fewer options than the Mac version, notably the control to independently adjust the angle of the left and right speaker is missing.


Questions (for any Theoretica employees who might be reading)
- What are the differences between uBACCH and BACCH4Mac Intro?
- The purchase page does not tell you exactly what you are purchasing. Is this a lifetime license with lifetime upgrades, or something more limited?
- Is there an upgrade option for the Audiophile version if you purchase uBACCH?
- Is there a Windows version of BACCH4Mac Audiophile in the works?
 

Gwreck

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This recording is far from audiophile grade. It should be able to put the voice moving around your head. I assume it’s processed with a generic HRTF so not everyone is likely to hear the effect.

 

IAtaman

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This recording is far from audiophile grade. It should be able to put the voice moving around your head. I assume it’s processed with a generic HRTF so not everyone is likely to hear the effect.
That was interesting. I heard it more like softly transitioning from left to right and vice versa rather than moving around my head, but the localization was above and behind my head and when the female vocal started, I got an ASMR reaction with tingling and goosebumps and all that.
 
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Gwreck

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That was interesting. It heard it more like softly transitioning from left to right and vice versa rather than moving around my head, but the localization was above and behind my head and when the female vocal started, I got an ASMR reaction with tingling and goosebumps and all that.
Try it with headphones and that what you should expect if BACCH is fully optimized.
 
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Keith_W

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I heard that with headphones, and it really does move around the head - behind, in front, to the left and right - amazing. Even with laptop speakers the sound seems to pop out of the laptop about half a foot on either side.

I hope that @Theoretica Appl. Physics sees this thread.
 

Gwreck

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I heard that with headphones, and it really does move around the head - behind, in front, to the left and right - amazing. Even with laptop speakers the sound seems to pop out of the laptop about half a foot on either side.

I hope that @Theoretica Appl. Physics sees this thread.
The song is not the best audio quality but is a pretty dramatic example of 3D audio effect. I use it to demo BACCH for non-audio enthusiasts for a dramatic difference that is definitely noticeable.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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Questions (for any Theoretica employees who might be reading)
- What are the differences between uBACCH and BACCH4Mac Intro?
- The purchase page does not tell you exactly what you are purchasing. Is this a lifetime license with lifetime upgrades, or something more limited?
- Is there an upgrade option for the Audiophile version if you purchase uBACCH?
- Is there a Windows version of BACCH4Mac Audiophile in the works?

It has been more than a couple of weeks since I posted this thread, tagged Theoretica, and then followed it up with an email to Theoretica with the same questions. I would really like to purchase uBACCH for Windows, but I am undecided if I should do this, or buy a Mac and send audio to it. I would like an option to upgrade to "more advanced" versions of BACCH in the future, and if the Windows version is going to be a dead end, then I will not purchase it.

I am very disappointed with Theoretica's lack of transparency and lack of response to these questions.
 

Gwreck

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It has been more than a couple of weeks since I posted this thread, tagged Theoretica, and then followed it up with an email to Theoretica with the same questions. I would really like to purchase uBACCH for Windows, but I am undecided if I should do this, or buy a Mac and send audio to it. I would like an option to upgrade to "more advanced" versions of BACCH in the future, and if the Windows version is going to be a dead end, then I will not purchase it.

I am very disappointed with Theoretica's lack of transparency and lack of response to these questions.
I think they have limited staff and often Dr Choueri is often doing the support himself and I imagine he is very busy.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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I think they have limited staff and often Dr Choueri is often doing the support himself and I imagine he is very busy.

Yes, I can imagine that. But it would be really nice to know what you are buying. I was stung by HQPlayer after I discovered that if you lose your download, you have to buy another license. This was not disclosed until after you pay your money. These days I look very carefully to see what you get with your license. In particular, whether the software will be supported with upgrades, if so for how long, and whether there is an upgrade path. Theoretica has not published this information.
 

Gwreck

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Yes, I can imagine that. But it would be really nice to know what you are buying. I was stung by HQPlayer after I discovered that if you lose your download, you have to buy another license. This was not disclosed until after you pay your money. These days I look very carefully to see what you get with your license. In particular, whether the software will be supported with upgrades, if so for how long, and whether there is an upgrade path. Theoretica has not published this information.
I was looking for a link to see uBACCH for windows and it’s not clearly on the Theoretica page. With the Mac version you get support/upgrades for 1 year but after that you keep the program. I imagine this is fine if you have a system dedicated to BACCH but things can quickly become incompatible when the OS updates.
 

phoenixdogfan

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I did contact Theoretica and asked two of the big questions: Can UBacch for Windows be used with headphones, and they didn't recommend it. The answer said it would not properly render the spatial effect with headphones.

As for whether this is the final product for Windows or an initial forray that may be upgraded with further capabilities a la Bacch4Mac, the answer was 'we'll see" which I think is perfectly reasonable. If the interest in the product is demonstrated by seeing a sizable demand for this base level offering and its sales generate a lot of cash throw offs, I would anticipate it will be followed by something along the lines of the upgrades in the Mac version. OTOH, why would they go further if no one's interested in the $400 product. Very sensible and reasonable.

I'm probably going to bite on this one in the next month or so b/c I think it's a reasonable price to see what this is all about. Also I want to see how it works and plays with my advanced Dirac modules.
 
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Keith_W

Keith_W

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I did contact Theoretica and asked two of the big questions: Can UBacch for Windows be used with headphones, and they didn't recommend it. The answer said it would not properly render the spatial effect with headphones.

As for whether this is the final product for Windows or an initial forray that may be upgraded with further capabilities a la Bacch4Mac, the answer was 'we'll see" which I think is perfectly reasonable. If the interest in the product is demonstrated by seeing a sizable demand for this base level offering and its sales generate a lot of cash throw offs, I would anticipate it will be followed by something along the lines of the upgrades in the Mac version. OTOH, why would they go further if no one's interested in the $400 product. Very sensible and reasonable.

I think it's fair if they decide not to do any further Windows development if they find that nobody buys their $400 VST. However, I would like to know if my Windows license can be transferred to Mac (in the event that they decide not to do any further Windows development). And also, whether uBACCH for Mac can be upgraded to BACCH Audiophile/Audiophile+ in the same way that BACCH4Mac Intro is upgradeable. The feature that I really want is the ability to generate BACCH corrections by binaural measurements, rather than room geometry alone (i.e. BACCH4Mac Audiophile and above). If I have to buy a Mac to do that, I am willing to do so.
 

Lieglein

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There is a very similar Plugin out there called HPL 2 Processor by NovoNotes.
The main difference I could figure out as a side effect is, that HPL2 makes the sound way thinner (At least on this "8D sound" song) while uBACCH rather thickens it up. Whats more neutral, I really do not know.

Edit: I just found out, that when you set the angle to 60 at UBACH, it really gets the same effect as in HPL2.
So the thickening really only comes from the more narrow angle by default which makes sense.
 
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SDC

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I'm trying the demo just now...

It is very impressive how speakers disappear even with fully panned mono sounds.

But not quite sure the tone is right with simple universal filter.

Little awkward.

Will I pay for more than just demo? Not sure right now...


Edit: Ok I just listened to Thriller and wow... it is a 400$ experience... Bought it for my LP system.
 
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SDC

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Now I really wish they make upgrades for window.
I'm sold but macOS is the last thing you'll want to use in S.Korea.
 
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Keith_W

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I am still holding off on buying it. @SDC can you please let us know what the license conditions are? Did they send you an email that answers the questions that I listed in my first post?
 

Galliardist

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I heard that with headphones, and it really does move around the head - behind, in front, to the left and right - amazing. Even with laptop speakers the sound seems to pop out of the laptop about half a foot on either side.

I hope that @Theoretica Appl. Physics sees this thread.
My experience is different. I can hear the height difference, and some sounds made it in front of my ears when hard left and right. but as they panned across everything went back to just between the ears.

I've had this with other 3D audio attempts through headphones, except once when a saxophone made it to the bridge of my nose and made me want to sneeze.

It;s still intriguing.
 

SDC

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I am still holding off on buying it. @SDC can you please let us know what the license conditions are? Did they send you an email that answers the questions that I listed in my first post?

There is no additional info they sent me but I can mail them for some.

Edit: Oh, I have 10 chance for registration code. So not but almost life time I suppose.

And for buggy pink noise it is Jriver problem. You have to make it play something to start the pink noise in jriver vst
 
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Zoomer

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I am still holding off on buying it.
Same here, although I'm thrilled to see a windows version.
USD$399 is still a lot of money for something that might or might not be a dead end towards full functionality.
If they're testing the waters (no commitments) it would help to at least know their intentions.
 
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