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Upmixing - where are we at? Have people compared upmixers?

dlaloum

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So, in the early days of surround, I had a Lexicon DC1 and then an MC1...

These used Logic7 which did a fantastic job of upmixing stereo Dolby Surround to 5.1 or 7.1 channels...

Then there was Dolby's own PLII - variable, but frequently OK ... varied dramatically with different implementations by different vendors

Now Dolby has deleted PLII, and released a new "Dolby Surround", meanwhile we have Harman with Logic16 replacing the old Lexicon Logic7, DTS with Neural surround upmixing, and there is a buzz around Auro 3D as an upmixer

So where are we at? What sounds good/best today?

What works best for Music (stereo)?

What works best for Movies (stereo to 5.1, or 7.2.4.... 5.1 to 7.2.4)?
 

snickers

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So, I can only tell you my experience here:

Old L7 from my Harman (should be a bit worse than the old L7 in the Lexicon's) > Logic7 Immersion in the new Lexicon > Dolby PLII
Dolby PLII > DSU & DTS:X

No experience with Auro and the Logic16 in the new JBL's

So whats the point of this? I'm still using my old Harman 7550HD with proper 8-channel audio extraction from HDMI, which improved my sound the most. Even if I could and would like to afford something never, nothing is making me happy me like my Harman.
This one replaced my Yamaha RX-A1050 and in the meantime I sent also the Lexicon RV-6 back again...
 

ThatM1key

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I have a Sony STR-DN1080 and I love it's Dolby Surround upmixer. Despite it being a "Movie" DSP, it works well with stereo music for the most part. I heard Auro 3D is a good upmixer when you throw Dolby Atmos at it.
 
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DjBonoBobo

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I started looking into the Penteo VST plugin for upmixing stereo, also in combination with the Ozone Imager. I don't know how I find it yet, as I haven't finished setting up my new surround setup. But there you can at least set quite a lot yourself, for example how much the surrounds and the center should be included. A competing product is Nugen Audio Halo. I've also heard that the jRiver-upmixer is good, but I haven't tried it yet.
 

Sancus

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People generally like Auro3D and the old Lexicon Logic7. People generally dislike DTS: Neural X and its variants. Opinions on Dolby Surround are mixed; some people like it better than anything else, most people like it less than Auro3D. Those who do like it almost always need the center spread option on.

It would be difficult to do an objective comparison without acquiring upmixers and then recording their preouts and analyzing them to see what's actually going on. This is especially difficult as some of these upmixers do things with phase and other attributes that would not necessarily show up in sweeps or other simplified signal tests.

Logic16 still doesn't work properly as far as I know, the SDP-55 has a number of software problems that remain unfixed.
 
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dlaloum

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Sad to hear Logic16 / Harman still have not got their development team up to scratch....

Sounds like once they absorbed Lexicon, and got rid of the original surround dev team, they have never managed to get a decent team together. Since then it has been a litany of software issues.
 

Sal1950

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I've experienced and owned most of them all some point over the years. Logic 7 was an excellent one in it's day, great at creating ambiance in the rear channels from a stereo source.
Today my Marantz offers Dolby Surround, DTS Neural, and Auro 3D.
For music, which is 90% of my listening time, I can't really name a favorite. I do upmix stereo to something surround near 100% of the time now. To me it just seems to be completely source dependent as to which provides the best upmixing experience. I've got my remote "Sound Mode" buttons set for the three of them and will give a quick listen to each when starting a new album and pick the one I prefer the best for that release.

Can't remember the last time I watched a 2 channel movie?
With 5.1 multich movies I'll always use the codeing it was mixed in. I'll sometimes upmix to the overheads but not often since I'd prefer to hear the soundtrack the way the engineer intended. Same for the ones mixed in an immersive codeing, Atmos for Atmos, DTS X for DTS X, etc.

Bottom line for me is once you get used to multich, listening in 2 channel becomes too plain and non-involving.
 

Soundmixer

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People generally like Auro3D and the old Lexicon Logic7
For music, I agree. Not for movies though.
People generally dislike DTS: Neural X and its variants.
For music, I agree. For 5.1 and 7.1 movies, I could not disagree more. The very thing that helps Neural X with movies is the very thing that hurts it with music. It's 3D steering activity. It works extremely well with movies but tends to move things unnaturally with music.

Opinions on Dolby Surround are mixed; some people like it better than anything else
It is very stable with music, but flat as a pancake with movies.
 

Sancus

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For music, I agree. For 5.1 and 7.1 movies, I could not disagree more. The very thing that helps Neural X with movies is the very thing that hurts it with music. It's 3D steering activity. It works extremely well with movies but tends to move things unnaturally with music.

That's an interesting point. My post was intended to be focused on music, as while I do use upmixing for movies, it doesn't really matter that much as almost anything I watch nowadays has native Atmos. For the things that don't(mostly TV shows) it's DD 5.1 and then I just let the DSU upmixer work because /shrug.

I will try Neural X for the DD5.1 TV material!
 

EEE272

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For movies, I usually use the "enhanced" DSP with a lower level.
I do not use Dts neural:X because I really like the dialog lift, which cannot be added.

For music, I often listen straight but for dry recordings, I switch to "chamber" with reverb reduced to <5%. It sounds quite natural to me.
 
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dlaloum

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I look forward to experimenting with a current generation AVR....
 

Dj7675

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My experience FWIW..
-For 5.1/7.1 upmixing I am always amazed at what DTSX Pro can do.
-Upmixing stereo music...that is a bit more tricky. Auro3D has issues for me in regards to bass. Auro ads a great deal of bass which I don’t like. I go to great lengths to get the bass right and don’t want an up mixer adding even more. Fortunately there are a lot of options within Auro to help mitigate the added bass. There are times that I actually prefer DSU and enabling center spread as it seems to retain the tonal balance better.
 

Jbrunwa

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For 2 channel content on our 5.1.4 HT I like Auro-3D, it has options to select small, medium, large, movie or speech, and a variable strength control.
 

Andysu

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the up-mixer is a con. it is merely a matrix as some few would know? it doesn't add anything to immerse elsewhere in the room it just extracts a stereo sound that has been matrix filtered to reduce cross-talk and uses one of... well anyone knows how PLIIx sounded with 4.2.4 matrix source and if anyone took the time to actually listen to the surround channels, with LCRsw switched off muted disconnected I don't care which, then listened to how side surround and back surround sounded with a 4.2.4 say a popular movie 'the empire strikes back' laserdisc. PLIIx produces a fake stereo surround that wasn't the original idea but still produces fake stereo surround for side/rear and phantoms most of the bass out of the side surround that is routed to back surround as circuity steering is looking for freq and phase. If you listen careful to how it works and then compare this, rubbish dolby up-mixer or rubbish dtsx neural or even more rubbish auro3d up-mixer that sounds by far the worst scam/con by far with lousy cross-talk and annoying echo chamber delay effect, when pausing a movie/music you'd hear a odd annoying delay, wow how cheap can it possible get?

up-mixer i would say uses one of the PLIIx surround channels (not saying it is PLIIx just saying it sounds similar). as how do you expect it produces stereo overhead channel that is duplicated on height 1 2 and 3 what a scam/con. yes it duplicates the same signal that has no real change in sound steering. now take a native atmos mix that isn't one of these rubbish upmixed versions for old outdated movies, just so studios can, cash milk cow the death out of movies like, 'total recall' dolby fake atmos 'the thing' dts fake x.

so my guess one of the two surround channels of PLIIx is being used and logic circuit that switches the decoder to duplicate the signal when used with a laserdisc 4.2.4 or a 5.1 movie played and just decoders the front left and right ch, yes its decoder is attached to the front left and right, blimey hasn't anyone been listening for what 8 years since it became available to consumer market?

also added an up-mixer of dts neural x on top of atmos native mix only adds frequency masking and you won't hear any of those discrete sounds at all! if the atmos native only used sound/fx for the overheads and dts or auro up-mixer is switched on, forget about it because you'd only be hearing listening to the front left and right signals duplicated on heights 1 2 and 3.

what the up-mixer should have really done was decode the front left right separately - the side surround - separately and back surround separately, by extracting a centre phantom and placing it above on the ceiling so to fake the up-mixer with sounds panning from the back surround and then upward overhead. get the idea? anyone? anyone? that's what they should have done and a lot more besides that?

when its native the pairs of overhead surrounds depending on the mixes often have stereo sound other times a mono sound and other times lousy sound editing or lousy listening monitoring mixing it as i hear so many sound flaws when listening only to the overhead surrounds. not very polished sounding, on most that is.

now this up-mixer should have also incorporated manual gain level balance adjustment so if you want a blend of fronts or side surrounds or back mixed up onto the overhead surrounds for those that really don't listen and think it brings a lot to the table? then fine audio frequency mask the discrete sounds. but a proper balance mixer should have been fitted into all this from the start, with gain level ranging -60dB to +10dB so very small tiny amounts can be added.

all these company names auro3d that started it followed by dolby labs I guess they feared losing out then dts labs as they really feared losing out on this, overhead surround. wow, overhead surorund has been used in certain cinemas since late 1960's with 70mm cinerama at the once local last cinerama in the uk, bournenouth screen 1, that is now home to the pigeons. it used x6 overhead surrounds flush mounted in the ceiling and yes i heard the star destroyer when 'star wars' went national in the uk 1978, opened in london december 1977. screen 1 used the existing overhead to good use. the downstairs screen 2 used side/back and overhead surround all off the same 4.2.4 matrix, matrix mono surround with dolby stereo cp50.
83914462_10157823637940149_9126692993036713984_n.jpg

also note JBL 8330 mkI surrounds fitted lousily around the circular ceiling and really was a waste of stereo surround for 5.1. look closely and you'd see the original overhead surround flush, x6 speakers.

when i worked for uci cinemas, tower park ten plex, 1989 that cinema used experimental overhead surround as surrounds was usually fitted on side/back walls to surround. the overheads at tower park, worked very effectively with dolby stereo cp55 with sra5 the speakers was EV.
84091475_10157823645965149_8424125128975056896_n.jpg

larger screens 5 and 6 and this would be screen 6 as i can tell from the projection port windows and down the right side of the picture behind the wall is a narrow corridor that connects to screen 5 which was main booth office as well. x8 EV overhead surrounds mounted to the ceiling. oh they also have the same spacing as today, how about that huh? guess somethings don't change that much then huh?

56558689_10156967645990149_1127117495711301632_n.jpg


84386661_10157823642185149_1295237591011950592_n.jpg

smaller screens 1 to 4 and 7 to 10 all with same design. the smaller screens used x7 overhead surrounds one mounted near entrance and when walking further in the remaining x6. the smaller screens was okay a bit awkward with screen being a bit high up but the LCR and overhead surrounds performed nicely and i can still remember how it freq sounded to this day.

moving forwards dolby clam they have surround ex? well that's rather funny i had same idea and even shared it. the idea came to mind while i was working for UCI and while in booth, often listening to how the mono matrix surround sounded on the booth monitor and being frustrated with 70mm with split surrounds at Empire Leicester Square Empire 1, that sounded awesome but just felt something odd with centre phantom.
i didn't put my idea into motion until late of, 1997 when i saw a price drop in, millennium dts 2/4/6 decoder and saved up for it and fitted it in around 1998. i also used a yamaha dsr70pro connected to the stereo surrounds to try if my idea works or not? it did work more than i expected and more. i shared the idea with a long distance call 9pm uk time for 30mins to dolby labs new york, and was talking with someone called,eric kristofferson

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who basically was very interested in fact far too interested and asked way too many questions and after the phone call ended that was that. not really. i was pissed red faced when i saw my idea published in a home cinema magazine around 1999 about some new 'star wars' "story about a jar jar binks" i was fuming red faced angry. i didn't say steal my idea without giving me credit for the idea and capitalizing n it for profit greed. but sure dolby labs will make up some bullshhit to say they came up with the idea. yeah sure they did.

dolby labs used their dolby cp45 as sa10 as that is all really is with few minor modifications and you can pick these decoders up today cheaper than fish and chips. so dolby used its sa10 for few years then had another project called sonic whole overhead surround 2002 'we were soldiers' where some claims the overhead or matrix encode on the dvd hd-dvd bluray doesn't have the extra signal? yeah, really? if really and was only mixed for one print that was used at not sure of the cinema in usa where a ceiling was covered in speakers for extracting the signal on the extra channel of the sa10 or rather the dolby cp45 lol, or lets say the surrounds are discrete and if using some extra sound signal mixed in with an anti-phase out-of-phase the decoder will see the strength in the signal and steer it to the mono matrix surround output on the sa10, i mean the cp45 or anyone else could have used a cheap cp55 back then that would do the same exact thing. lol

so consumer surround ex came out in 2000 but the manufacturers with dolby labs when cheap and only gave you consumers a watered down ex or three channels only when the pro version uses four channels, because its a matrix pro-logic for crying out loud! so maybe that extra signal is intact on 'we were soldiers' or maybe it isn't? because who can tell? because you need a proper matrix decoder connected to the AVR stereo surrounds output. i can see strong signal steering on my dolby cp45 i use in main room rack and have few cheap fish and chips sa10 x4 of them.

leap forward dts labs came out with discrete dts es 6.1 and it and ex sort of frizzled away.... then came PLIIx followed by PLIIz (i have a PLIIz cheap fish and chips flagship onkyo TX NR807 not used it really) i used the other AVR onkyo TX SR-875.

i was going to do ABCDE testing few years ago but my Cats come first as they demanded petting and more food.
sooty cat magic.jpg


so there it is. these up-mixers are just matrix decoder with a new fancy bs name called up-mixer because I guess it puts sound on the up on the ceiling. since last bs sound mixers and studios last rubbish 'the thing' dts fake x, i have switched the denon AVC-X8500H back to 5.1 as i couldn't care less about atmos, dtsx really didn't care for 'bad boys 3' 'apollo 13' 'the thing and certainly not auro3d with only two titles that i loath 'blade runner 2' and 'red tails'. if movie studios skipped on other country languages for uk and placed dts auro atmos all on same disc instead of this, bulllshhhit buying this disc format dtshdma this disc format auro this disc format atmos. 35mm amazing when fitting dolby sr and digital and dts and sdds 8ch all on same film print. am i making you rest consumers angry now?
 

tifune

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Assuming this is an actual picture of this gentleman, I don't think I agree with your decision to include it, or his name, in your (ostensibly very emotional) post. It adds no tangible value and invades his privacy.

To the OP:

I agree with most here that Auro3D is the best out-of-box, no muss no fuss option. My caveats would be:

Auro doesn't support front wides. If your room and speaker config benefits from that, Dolby w center spread usually wins. IMO, for the 2ch upmix use case, most domestic environments should simply opt for wide directivity speakers instead. I bring it up because I'm seemingly in the minority, as you may be, in that I prefer the depth that typically accompanies controlled directivity (e.g. Kef) to wide directivity (e.g. revel, BMRs) , so front wides w Dolby, DTS:X, and Atmos are useful to me.

For 2ch upmixing, I have yet to meet a center speaker that I like. Center speakers are hard in general (Erin just made a great video about this if you're not familiar with the topic), but I also feel all codecs are a little too overzealous with pushing material into the center thus causing a collapse of the stereo image. Frustratingly, on my Denon, simply turning off the center speaker in Speaker Config also "resets" Audyssey. So, at least in my case, it's not practical to turn it on/off at will.

Auro2D, for some reason, is quite a bit different than Auro3D. It is not nearly as highly regarded, and I agree with that assessment. So, you need front height or front atmos speakers. Unfortunately, IME it's very important to stay within the same lineup for your L/C/R and front heights unless you're extremely handy with EQ, so that's additional cost.

To that end, the price/performance ratio for upmixing is very difficult to dial in. If your room is mixed use, as most are, then it's worth it to spend more on surrounds for movies/TV. But if it's solely for upmixing, very little sound actually comes out of the surrounds so it's hard to justify the $ to stay within the same lineup as your LCR.

Even different lineups within the same manufacturer can make a big difference. I was using LS50's as height for my R3's, and I could always sort of tell there was a bed layer and a height layer. Eventually I replaced the LS50's w R3's, and suddenly instead of 2 layers it was like my front wall was 1 whole speaker. You can call it sighted bias, and/or I'm bad w EQ, and there's probably truth to both. But, it really was that dramatic to my ears.

So, you (probably) can't just cheap out and buy a bunch of LSR305's or Neumi's if your L/C/R are Kef R-series.They're too different, it will sound awkward. But it also doesn't make sense to buy R3's for surrounds when 90% of your signal is coming from L/C/R. Remember, I'm just talking about 2ch music upmixing here. I'm very fortunate to have recently upgraded to the revel Be series for fronts and front heights (no center) and am struggling with this myself.

Sorry that's a lot, these are just all the lessons I wish I knew when I started but either I didn't find/absorb them or they simply aren't out there. Hopefully it's helpful ( or hopefully someone can help me solve my surrounds problem :) )
 

dasdoing

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I don't see sense in upmixing stereo music to 5.1. you extend the ambience in a fisheye sense. now stereo to 3.1 makes much more sense
 

Andysu

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we don't need another surround format.jpg


or do we? i know this much, auro, atmos dtsx are flawed in giving me a discrete wow.

i can play the music video on stage Le-centre Re-centre with dolby surround up-mixer, i mean dolby surround matrix (with overheads switched off) the centre signal is piggy-backed onto left right signals then i can matrix switch the channel configuration to Le-c Re-c and adjust the level of the centre signal, sort of like having no centre channel yet I can reduce the L R gain level down, or increase or turn centre signal up or down, try doing that on most AVR AVP. I can use several surround modes most of which are new modes, try doing that at home. i can use the surrounds ether as left-half and right-half, try doing that in the home. easy really yet very few have forgotten what the original surround confication was and doubtful many could even remember he actual frequcy sound signature of it?

i can see where the camera is looking and if i was say holding on to the camera crane moving over the children choir voices i would hear the voices below me. and as the image merge with closer up images superimposed into the music video the voices should blend into the new stage channels as three and five screen channels are outdated by the 1940 and 1960's only new recording techniques improved frequency range dynamic range in 1970's and 80's but the screen channels haven't changed all that much.

need at least 15 screen channels behind a AT screen large in cinemas, homes would have to scale them down as it wouldn't be possible to fit the large cinemas pa speakers behind the screen smaller matched pa speakers yes, or smaller matched monitors yes.

sound then can pan upwards side to side and diagonally. auro only uses six speakers and that layout is hardly wowing me. 15 at the least.
5 across the top
5 middle
5 below

floor surrounds mounted flush in the floor wooden floor would be way to do it. how many below surround is complicated as it would need an advanced encode/decode to play the sounds discretely and with all the rest of the side/rear overhead should take a year or less to mix a decent film mix and not just rushing it to push the cash cow out the door for consumers to milking it. because it would be highly complex to mix.

i use a matrix below surround that is effective and i doubt many have a below surround in their atmos home theatre. until their is a mark II atmos which kinder strikes me odd why not a newer updated version in 9 years, 2013.
Below sur 2.jpg

below matrix surround reflects onto the seat buckets and doesn't need the THX dipolar diffusion the sound reflects and spreads out a bit sounds great with 'unbroken' first 6 mins with one of the airplanes swoops underneath below the seating as pans off-screen centred on screen then pans downwards off-screen, with atmos the rest of sound i hear along the sidewall rear wall few overheads now and then.

Below sur 3.jpg

my late cat, Sooty hears below surround pink noise testing and he has the best listening ears.

few years ago when using JBL control 5 overheads that soon was updated with x3 more for dog channels and then few months after installed JBL 8330A x9 overheads.

if any wanted to use PLIIx with current AVR/AVP easy just use the 8ch inputs there simple and now you can use PLIIx, logic7 and switch video modes and sound input to auxiliary 8ch input mode.

expanding on dolby surround, dts neural x, auro really the sound it matrix belongs up front. like Dolby Stereo for cinema that we first heard listened to, very few maybe can't recall? anyway the mono matrix surround carries cross-talk of the front L R and anti-phases out the centre signal of common dialog or the L R should in a mix reduce the amount of front L R down to some many -dB. but it still cross-talks which is why it sounds active all the time. a discrete mix is going to have differences in music and certainly sound/fx on the surrounds compared to the discrete LCR. some movies like six-track 70mm ones often at times the surrounds remained muted in the mix. if i wanted to add some surround from the front L R I add on extra matrix decoder like i did before all this immersive audio even existed and have small blend of mono matrix surround mixed into the discrete surrounds, using a simple 6ch audio mixers line inputs and outputs. and worked well with 'forrest gump' as the 5.1 hardly uses the surrounds when forrest is narrating about "rain" which i thought was so poorly mixed as i never heard rain ever upfront unless its moving slowly as misty hazy in the distance then, i'd feel the raindrops then as it passes over i hear the rain behind me or everywhere and depends on the surroundings as rain free-falls Silent! it never makes a sound until it lands on random object surfaces to make a sound, mostly it will be heard at ground level and again depends on type of rain if its a drizzle then it be faint sounding if its raining then its heard on the ground, if its a down pour or flash flood it be thicker than ice and will blur anything up to sevreal meters as it's coming down by the bucket load per second, per second and rain clouds can hold up to anywhere like 270 million gallons or 2.3 billion pounds, and that's why noah built an ark for the animals.
istockphoto-517241247-612x612.jpg
 
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Soundmixer

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I really wish people understood how the upmixers actually work before making bold statements and proclamations. We are not in the '70s, PLIIx is gone, Dolby Stereo and the old 4:2:4 matrix - gone, and pictures of old theaters and old equipment are deflectively unuseful.

The old days are gone and technology has changed. The upmixers of yesteryear are gone, so it might be more helpful to learn how the news ones work - and THEN make the bold statements and proclamations.
 
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