2019 QQ Test Lab Report - SURROUND MASTER 2

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JonUrban

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My box arrived today!!

Started off a bit worried, as the outer box was not taped or sealed! It has one of those opening flap deals, but there was no tape on it, so anywhere along the way the box could have been opened and futzed with. I wondered if customs did an inspection, but there was no sign that there was ever any tape on the opening flap! Weird! Fortunately, it looked OK inside.

Secondly, being an anal old fart like I am, I spent about 20 minutes trying to get all of the knobs perfectly set up with the vertical lines at perfect zero degrees straight up. It's a daunting task as there are no line up tabs in the knobs, and although there are bumps in there, they don't really align properly in the groves of the knob shaft. I took them all off and managed to get them as close as I could. Not bad. :)

I had no issue with a loose front panel.

Here's the unit right out of the box:

41233



And here's the signed bottom with the QQ member signatures of the development team!!

41235
 
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JonUrban

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I leaped right into "One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor" from the SQ LP of "There Goes Rhymin' Simon", which I happened to have handy. Played on my Sansui XP-99 with the Shure M-24 Cart into the SM2 then into the MOTU. Here's a look at the untouched wav file of that song's first few minutes. SM2 is set for SQ 4.0.

It sounds really good, and you can tell by looking at the individual channels that there is definition there of sounds in one channel and not another, as well as SQ can do it. I haven't compared this to the Q8 rip, but I probably don't even have to. The Q8 will be much more discrete. It's the nature of the beast.

I'm going to drag out my Quadraphile and try that next. MORE TO COME

41236
 

JonUrban

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Here's a quick look-see at the results of playing Track 3 of the Quadraphile Testing LP through the Surround Master 2. First using the SQ Mode on the SQ LP, then with the exact same settings on the QS LP in Involve Mode. I cranked the output pots up to the first dot because I was looking more for wav file definition here for the jpgs than for sound quality. There was a bit of clipping at this setting, but it was the same for both decodes. Also, I did nothing to the files. No NR, adjustments, or anything. This is what they played into the MOTU.

41239


Here's the wav file of the SQ in SQ Mode of the SM2:

41243



And the wav file of the QS in Involve Decode Mode;

41244
 
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sjcorne

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It sounds really good, and you can tell by looking at the individual channels that there is definition there of sounds in one channel and not another, as well as SQ can do it. I haven't compared this to the Q8 rip, but I probably don't even have to. The Q8 will be much more discrete. It's the nature of the beast.
The Q8 is almost too discrete, even by Columbia standards. If you solo the rears on "Kodachrome", literally all you'll hear is some percussion and a very low organ part. I've tried it through my Tate as well and it doesn't even come close to how the discrete tape actually sounds - "One Man's Ceiling" is a particularly tough track to decode as it has diagonally-panned information (the intro piano stretches from front left to rear right...kind of a strange mixing decision if you ask me), and the left rear is supposed to be completely silent.

I actually think most would find the decoded SQ to sound more "natural" in the case of this particular album.

rhymin_5_Q8.jpg
 
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JonUrban

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The Q8 is almost too discrete, even by Columbia standards. If you solo the rears on "Kodachrome", literally all you'll hear is some percussion and a very low organ part. I've tried it through my Tate II as well and it doesn't even come close to how the discrete tape actually sounds - "One Man's Ceiling" is a particularly tough track to decode as it has diagonally-panned information (the intro piano stretches from front left to rear right, kind of a strange mixing decision if you ask me), and the left rear is supposed to be completely silent. I actually think most would find the decoded SQ to sound more "natural".

View attachment 41238
Nice! It looks fairly similar, but has a lot more definition. Not unexpected.

I don't think that SQ can handle a silent rear channel. There are other SQ LP's I've had and even with a Tate, there is never a completely silent rear channel that I have found, despite when comparing to the Q8 mix there are in fact silent channels on the master. Matrix just does not make a silent channel easy, no matter where it is - front or back.

Thanks! :)
 
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Soundfield

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My box arrived today!!
Started off a bit worried, as the outer box was not taped or sealed! It has one of those opening flap deals, but there was no tape on it, so anywhere along the way the box could have been opened and futzed with. I wondered if customs did an inspection, but there was no sign that there was ever any tape on the opening flap! Weird! Fortunately, it looked OK inside.
One of mine also arrived today and I noticed exactly the same thing, completely unsealed - Given that it's travelled from Melbourne to the UK via Hong Kong, Dubai and Berlin I'm amazed it didn't fall out somewhere along the way!
 

JonUrban

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OK, I'm done for now. You guys can post your test results in this thread as well, it's not just for me.

I will chime in when I find other stuff out that I want to post. But before I leave, I will leave you with something to listen too. It's a short stretch of track one of this bizarre SQ LP that many of you young folks have never heard about. It's really strange, but now I am on a mission to convert the whole thing for the car, this sounds so good (to me anyway). Be prepared, it's really bizarre. (24/48 .flac sample only, 6CH layout, 4 CH SQ decoded audio using SM2)


I will probably delete this is a bit so get it quickly

41246
 

J. PUPSTER

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OK, I'm done for now. You guys can post your test results in this thread as well, it's not just for me.

I will chime in when I find other stuff out that I want to post. But before I leave, I will leave you with something to listen too. It's a short stretch of track one of this bizarre SQ LP that many of you young folks have never heard about. It's really strange, but now I am on a mission to convert the whole thing for the car, this sounds so good (to me anyway). Be prepared, it's really bizarre. (24/48 .flac sample only, 6CH layout, 4 CH SQ decoded audio using SM2)


I will probably delete this is a bit so get it quickly

View attachment 41246
This is the Electronic Outer Space Whale genre - very trippy, but very cool. Makes me want to try some of my Michael Whalen stuff.
 

JonUrban

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Playing more with the new box today - it's really nice. The level adjustments for each channel are such a welcome addition, especially with an eye towards inputting into the PC for conversions/file creation. They really make a difference. I found that moving them each to the first spot on the scale boosted the volume enough to make the signal clip a bit, but then I realized that the CueMix settings on my MOTU were almost cranked to the max to compensate for the low signal I previously was stuck with coming from the turntable/receiver combination I have next to my PC for conversions.

With the SM2 adjustments, I can now crank down the MOTU a bit, crank up the SM2 a little, and get a nice clean signal without setting any levels to the max or near the max. I mean, it probably makes little difference, but I FEEL better about it! :)

I also like the on/off button on the front. It's easy to get to, and the LED indicators leave nothing to guess work. It's on or it's off and you can tell at a glance.

This is a very nice presentation, front and back, and it just feels so much more professional in the metal case with all of the controls and such as opposed to the little plastic box of the SM and SMSQ.

I am next going to do some SM2/SPECWeb comparisons. I have grown very fond of SPECWEB 1.5 in doing both 4.0 and 5.1 from stereo source, and I am looking forward to seeing how they compare. Since I know which tunes I've done in SPECWEB that sound great, I will start with those, using Involve Mode.

One thing for sure, for real-time, on the listening room system, the SM2 is really the only solution, but I'm talking on the workstation here. I suppose you could say that SM2 and SPECWEB are not really meant to compete against each other in that manner, but it will be fun to see just how close or how far apart each one is.

MORE LATER

And hey! What about you other guys? Let's hear about your SM2 experience
 

Sonik Wiz

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I am next going to do some SM2/SPECWeb comparisons. I have grown very fond of SPECWEB 1.5 in doing both 4.0 and 5.1 from stereo source, and I am looking forward to seeing how they compare. Since I know which tunes I've done in SPECWEB that sound great, I will start with those, using Involve Mode.
Funny you should mention SpecWeb. I was always intrigued by Plouge Bidule but found it way confusing . So I jumped at the chance to use SpecWeb. Some of the things I like about SpecWeb is what it doesn't do: it does not alter dynamic range, cause any tonal changes or add any noticeable artifacts at all. Based on using a significant amount, using test signals, and a convo with Zeerround in another thread I learned that the process is based on strictly amplitude analysis between the channels. I am probably over simplifying it but I certainly welcome correction.

This means that a sound panned hard left in stereo emanates from the left back speaker. Hard right = right back. I like that. A pan left to right makes a nice sweep around. The SM for all it's high techiness is still at its core a basic QS decoder. Feed it hard left you get a center left, etc. So the SpecWeb sounds better in that regard. What I don't like is that SpecWeb does not differentiate between center front or center back. That means what is conventialy accepted as center back pops up center front. Anything say QS left back pops up somewhere up front. If I understand correctly Zeerround says recording engineers watch a phase meter closely & do not allow out of phase relationships between the channels. In my experience echo, reverb, other effects certainly do that. You can pick any multitrack pop music & check it out on AA 3 Phase Analysis see there is quite a bit of out of phase sonics depending on the song.

So neither is quite perfect for me. My approach right now is to do the equivalent of the Sansui Synthesize mode on the PC, out of phase mixing between the channels by -7dB. Actually I use the Pan/Expand Process mode to accomplish this but that's another story.

Since I first used this method to prepare files for SpecWeb, I had them ready to go. I can compare my pre-synth stereo through the SM and listen to the SpecWeb multi-ch flac files created from the same enhanced source. The difference is significant. The SM has much "rounder" sound, or a better sense depth than SpecWeb. It is such a vibrant energetic soundfield that, as I said elsewhere, sometimes you feel like your in the spin cycle!

I have in progress a companion front end for the SM that will allow up to 4 inputs, bass/treble, left/right balance and front/back phase balance. That should eliminate any up front PC work, just play through the SM and adjust for perfect soundfield.

Oh and also... the pre-synth techniques I'm talking about would be totally counter productive applied to QS/SQ records.

Jon, looking forward to your comments on SpecWeb and SM.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Funny you should mention SpecWeb. I was always intrigued by Plouge Bidule but found it way confusing . So I jumped at the chance to use SpecWeb. Some of the things I like about SpecWeb is what it doesn't do: it does not alter dynamic range, cause any tonal changes or add any noticeable artifacts at all. Based on using a significant amount, using test signals, and a convo with Zeerround in another thread I learned that the process is based on strictly amplitude analysis between the channels. I am probably over simplifying it but I certainly welcome correction.

This means that a sound panned hard left in stereo emanates from the left back speaker. Hard right = right back. I like that. A pan left to right makes a nice sweep around. The SM for all it's high techiness is still at its core a basic QS decoder. Feed it hard left you get a center left, etc. So the SpecWeb sounds better in that regard. What I don't like is that SpecWeb does not differentiate between center front or center back. That means what is conventialy accepted as center back pops up center front. Anything say QS left back pops up somewhere up front. If I understand correctly Zeerround says recording engineers watch a phase meter closely & do not allow out of phase relationships between the channels. In my experience echo, reverb, other effects certainly do that. You can pick any multitrack pop music & check it out on AA 3 Phase Analysis see there is quite a bit of out of phase sonics depending on the song.

So neither is quite perfect for me. My approach right now is to do the equivalent of the Sansui Synthesize mode on the PC, out of phase mixing between the channels by -7dB. Actually I use the Pan/Expand Process mode to accomplish this but that's another story.

Since I first used this method to prepare files for SpecWeb, I had them ready to go. I can compare my pre-synth stereo through the SM and listen to the SpecWeb multi-ch flac files created from the same enhanced source. The difference is significant. The SM has much "rounder" sound, or a better sense depth than SpecWeb. It is such a vibrant energetic soundfield that, as I said elsewhere, sometimes you feel like your in the spin cycle!

I have in progress a companion front end for the SM that will allow up to 4 inputs, bass/treble, left/right balance and front/back phase balance. That should eliminate any up front PC work, just play through the SM and adjust for perfect soundfield.

Oh and also... the pre-synth techniques I'm talking about would be totally counter productive applied to QS/SQ records.

Jon, looking forward to your comments on SpecWeb and SM.
Hey SW, didn't you mention somewhere a good RCA switcher, I'd like to add one between the SMv2 & Denon DVD-3910 to my AVR, in order to easily switch when I want to play a D-V quad SACD or other?
 

Sonik Wiz

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Hey SW, didn't you mention somewhere a good RCA switcher, I'd like to add one between the SMv2 & Denon DVD-3910 to my AVR, in order to easily switch when I want to play a D-V quad SACD or other?
Not that I remember but if it was farther back than yesterday that's probably why. What I used to use was 2, 2 ch Radio Shack switchers, one for the front & one for the rears. A few years ago I discovered the wonderful Zektor switcher & it works like a dream. The photos on this ebay listing are pretty bad but it's a fair price. It doesn't have a wall wart power supply but that is easy to come by. The unit can be used by push buttons on the front panel or remote control. It is not supplied with a remote control. So what's cool about the Zektor is it learns commands from the remote of your choice, not the other way around.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Well, I'm having a blast with my SMv2! A solid feeling unit with nice fit and finish, (still need to align the knobs to 12 o'clock detent though.) I've mostly been sampling CDs through the 4.0 involve mode, as I only have 4 speakers set up right now on the secondary equipment in my old office.
Besides my thoughts on surround have become more inline with what I call the "Chucky Factor" in appreciating no center channel (to put it mildly.)

Just yesterday, ran a cord from my main computer 3.5mm (front speaker out to the SM) so I can play through Foobar2000 in flac files etc. as my old Denon 3910 that I'm using with the SMv2 doesn't take flac or have USB etc.

This is my first piece of gear like this, and have been very impressed with overall separation of some regular CDs. Eventually I'll tie into the computer via a new MOTU to do some recordings from QS/SQ records and even stereo to involve 4.0. A couple of things I have noticed is slight adjustments in the 4 outputs makes a difference for each song. Probably what I'll end up doing with recordings derived from the involve 4.0 mode is taking certain songs that I know it does a great job at decoding and make mix CDs and folders on a SSD. Not all songs benefit from the processing; and certainly some newer CDs like the "Grooove is King - Rock Candy Funk Party"..wiki ; are stunningly good. Almost all songs do benefit with an overall
immersive sound.

Sure would be great for others to comment here about their involve units; and also contribute to Jon's other thread here: ..Stuff that sounds amazing with the Surround Master
 

chucky3042

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Well, I'm having a blast with my SMv2! A solid feeling unit with nice fit and finish, (still need to align the knobs to 12 o'clock detent though.) I've mostly been sampling CDs through the 4.0 involve mode, as I only have 4 speakers set up right now on the secondary equipment in my old office.
Besides my thoughts on surround have become more inline with what I call the "Chucky Factor" in appreciating no center channel (to put it mildly.)

Just yesterday, ran a cord from my main computer 3.5mm (front speaker out to the SM) so I can play through Foobar2000 in flac files etc. as my old Denon 3910 that I'm using with the SMv2 doesn't take flac or have USB etc.

This is my first piece of gear like this, and have been very impressed with overall separation of some regular CDs. Eventually I'll tie into the computer via a new MOTU to do some recordings from QS/SQ records and even stereo to involve 4.0. A couple of things I have noticed is slight adjustments in the 4 outputs makes a difference for each song. Probably what I'll end up doing with recordings derived from the involve 4.0 mode is taking certain songs that I know it does a great job at decoding and make mix CDs and folders on a SSD. Not all songs benefit from the processing; and certainly some newer CDs like the "Grooove is King - Rock Candy Funk Party"..wiki ; are stunningly good. Almost all songs do benefit with an overall
immersive sound.

Sure would be great for others to comment here about their involve units; and also contribute to Jon's other thread here: ..Stuff that sounds amazing with the Surround Master
So glad you are a convert to "the Chucky factor". I find most music benefits surround processing, with some that are totally flat there is no loss/ no gain. I suppose 5% in my opinion the processing makes it worse. I would like a world where there are no losers!
 

JonUrban

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Had an hour or two to mess around with comparisons between the SM2 and SPECWeb 1.5. I used the track "I Can't Tell You Why" from the Eagles CD (Target CD) "The Long Run" because I remember that particular tune decoded very nicely putting Glen Frey and the backup singers in the rears fairly isolated.

So I ran the track twice through the SM2 into my MOTU first in 4.1, then 5.1. I then ripped the track from the CD onto my PC, just to keep everything equal, then ran it through SPECWeb 1.5 with all of the default settings, once for 4.0, then for 5.1. I did not futz with any EQ or loudness stuff. These are the files as they were recorded in.

One thing about the SM2, or maybe it's just my SM2, but when I switch to 5.1 mode, I have to turn the center channel pot down to 9 O'Clock, as the center signal overdrives the MOTU to the point of clipping. Watching the audio into Vegas popped the red clipping indicators. Not sure what's up with that, but it's easily dealt with thanks to the signal level controls.

Here are the results, in 4 One Minute 6CH .flac files which you can check out if you like. They are of the second verse, where the background vocals are prominent. Those with DAW's can play around with them and look and listen to individual tracks. Those who can only listen can still hear the results and determine what you all think.

These less than one minute sample files are provided for evaluation only. No ownership is implied.

Surround Master 2 - 4.1 Involve Mode: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SM2_4-1.flac

Surround Master 2 - 5.1 Involve Mode: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SM2_5-1.flac

SPECWeb 1.5 (Defaults) - 4.0 Output: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SPEC_4-0.flac

SPECWeb 1.5 (Defaults) - 5.1 Output: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SPEC_5-1.flac


41379
 
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J. PUPSTER

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Had an hour or two to mess around with comparisons between the SM2 and SPECWeb 1.5. I used the track "I Can't Tell You Why" from the Eagles CD (Target CD) "The Long Run" because I remember that particular tune decoded very nicely putting Glen Frey and the backup singers in the rears fairly isolated.

So I ran the track twice through the SM2 into my MOTU first in 4.1, then 5.1. I then ripped the track from the CD onto my PC, just to keep everything equal, then ran it through SPECWeb 1.5 with all of the default settings, once for 4.0, then for 5.1. I did not futz with any EQ or loudness stuff. These are the files as they were recorded in.

One thing about the SM2, or maybe it's just my SM2, but when I switch to 5.1 mode, I have to turn the center channel pot down to 9 O'Clock, as the center signal overdrives the MOTU to the point of clipping. Watching the audio into Vegas popped the red clipping indicators. Not sure what's up with that, but it's easily dealt with thanks to the signal level controls.

Here are the results, in 4 One Minute 6CH .flac files which you can check out if you like. They are of the second verse, where the background vocals are prominent. Those with DAW's can play around with them and look and listen to individual tracks. Those who can only listen can still hear the results and determine what you all think.

These less than one minute sample files are provided for evaluation only. No ownership is implied.

Surround Master 2 - 4.1 Involve Mode: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SM2_4-1.flac

Surround Master 2 - 5.1 Involve Mode: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SM2_5-1.flac

SPECWeb 1.5 (Defaults) - 4.0 Output: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SPEC_4-0.flac

SPECWeb 1.5 (Defaults) - 5.1 Output: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SPEC_5-1.flac


View attachment 41379
I listened to all of them about 8 times each on my main system (it has 5.1 speakers).
This was a really tough one.

SM-4.1: Noticed the background vocals first that seemed to shift from the FL to the rears, but sounded good. The main vocal coming from the FL mainly. Guitar in RL with slight bounce to RR. Organ was very muted and almost non-existent. There is a quasi orchestra synth. that was a little more out front in the FL. Fairly clean sounding overall.

SM-5.1: Most of the vocals seem to come from the fronts (center maybe); lead vocal from center. Guitar in mostly RL. The synth. and organ about the same as SM-4.1. Fairly clean sounding overall.

SW-4.0: First impression was the bass and mid-range sounded a little muddy. On the plus side the organ was more prominent I believe in the FR. The synth. was a little more muted but from FL to RL. The guitar bounced back and forth in the rears (a little too much- almost gimmicky.) The background vocals shifted first front then to rears.

SW-5.1: Lead vocals more in the center channel and the rest similar to the SW-4.0.

I have to give it to the Surround Master for my taste, except too light for the organ. The muddiness of the Spec-Web in the mids and bass was too distracting for me. In the final analysis I wasn't satisfied totally with any of them and just made me want a full on DVD-A by Scheiner!🤗
 

J. PUPSTER

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Had an hour or two to mess around with comparisons between the SM2 and SPECWeb 1.5. I used the track "I Can't Tell You Why" from the Eagles CD (Target CD) "The Long Run" because I remember that particular tune decoded very nicely putting Glen Frey and the backup singers in the rears fairly isolated.

So I ran the track twice through the SM2 into my MOTU first in 4.1, then 5.1. I then ripped the track from the CD onto my PC, just to keep everything equal, then ran it through SPECWeb 1.5 with all of the default settings, once for 4.0, then for 5.1. I did not futz with any EQ or loudness stuff. These are the files as they were recorded in.

One thing about the SM2, or maybe it's just my SM2, but when I switch to 5.1 mode, I have to turn the center channel pot down to 9 O'Clock, as the center signal overdrives the MOTU to the point of clipping. Watching the audio into Vegas popped the red clipping indicators. Not sure what's up with that, but it's easily dealt with thanks to the signal level controls.

Here are the results, in 4 One Minute 6CH .flac files which you can check out if you like. They are of the second verse, where the background vocals are prominent. Those with DAW's can play around with them and look and listen to individual tracks. Those who can only listen can still hear the results and determine what you all think.

These less than one minute sample files are provided for evaluation only. No ownership is implied.

Surround Master 2 - 4.1 Involve Mode: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SM2_4-1.flac

Surround Master 2 - 5.1 Involve Mode: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SM2_5-1.flac

SPECWeb 1.5 (Defaults) - 4.0 Output: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SPEC_4-0.flac

SPECWeb 1.5 (Defaults) - 5.1 Output: https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/Samples/TEST_SPEC_5-1.flac


View attachment 41379
So on the Surround Master v2 settings Jon, did you have the 4 channels (FL-FR-RL-RR) of the outputs set at 12 o'clock or other?
 
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