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Envelop Ambisonic

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Sonik Wiz

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Suzanne Ciani's latest surround music release is in a variety of formats: 4.0 & 5.1 discrete, stereo, and Ambisonic. I inquired about what encoding was done for the quad version & the person replying to me wasn't sure about the quad encoding but the Ambisonic mix was done using the Envelop software. I had run across this website some time ago & in revisiting I left with the same impression I had the 1st time; rather confusing, heavy on self promotion & light on details. No where I can find anything mentioned about Ambisonic. And if it does Ambisonic I can't tell if the final output would be UHJ or some higher level format.

Now it's nice that the Envelop stuff is free but evidently it only works with Ableton Live and the middle package is $449.00 so I wouldn't be spending money on that. There is a light version for only $99 which isn't bad but no info is given on Envelop's site if it would work with the less expensive version.

All together it's a very interesting and equally confusing package. Has anyone else had experience with the Envelop software? Links?
I searched QQ but didn't turn up anything. Always ready to learn something \new about surround sound. Thanks!
 

jimfisheye

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Hmmm...
Ableton Live uses VST and AU plugins. I think they might be supporting some cursory level of scripting now? Or if they are, it's pretty DIY territory. Anyway, it's not the kind of DAW with advanced features or proprietary plugin formats like, say Reaper.

Reaper on the other hand is precisely such an advanced thing!
There's a section of their forum on ambisonic. (Or at least active discussions regularly if not a dedicated sub.) I'd head over there. Reaper is clearly the DAW for such a thing. Ableton would be a last choice I'd think. They have their unlinked time stretch looping stuff right on the surface which is their main thing but the DAW functionality is a simpler level. Not a dis on them or anything. Looping with the tempo match and stretch is their main thing.

My take is an ambisonic approach is kind of like a field recording approach.
You can record at a location with that Neumann dummy head array in stereo and have a very accurate capture of exactly what it sounded like in that spot. If this was a concert and the mix was truly perfect in that spot, then you're golden! It usually turns out that you get enough "ambience" along for the ride that you need a reference system to be able to listen to such recordings in a meaningful way. Whereas we make hyper realistic mixes that 'pop' even on cheap devices.
Ambisonic is the surround version of that. There IS a lot to like about the way you can scale to different speaker arrays vs making unique mixes for different channel formats.

There are a lot of "old school" tricks that still deliver. Like putting a kick drum in mono in a pair of speakers to effectively couple them and have a "bigger" speaker for the bass content in that kick drum. That stuff all gets abandoned for the clinical approach in ambisonic. And then you need a reference level system to appreciate it in a similar way that you do for field recordings.

Now if what fans of the format are really suggesting by this is that everyone should have a reference quality system... well, right! :D

Anyway, that's my take on it. And that leads to feeling like perusing the "standard" 5.1 format more widely is more productive.

Am I misinformed on any of that and missing out?
 

J. PUPSTER

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Hmmm...
Ableton Live uses VST and AU plugins. I think they might be supporting some cursory level of scripting now? Or if they are, it's pretty DIY territory. Anyway, it's not the kind of DAW with advanced features or proprietary plugin formats like, say Reaper.

Reaper on the other hand is precisely such an advanced thing!
There's a section of their forum on ambisonic. (Or at least active discussions regularly if not a dedicated sub.) I'd head over there. Reaper is clearly the DAW for such a thing. Ableton would be a last choice I'd think. They have their unlinked time stretch looping stuff right on the surface which is their main thing but the DAW functionality is a simpler level. Not a dis on them or anything. Looping with the tempo match and stretch is their main thing.

My take is an ambisonic approach is kind of like a field recording approach.
Being similar to or (actually) like live field recordings as to Ambisonics; doesn't that mean Suzanne Ciani would have had to have a Quad speaker array setup while recording since she's all synthesizers (and at what distances to the speakers to get a good recording); instead of say, an acoustic performance like The Cowboy Junkies recording of The Trinity Session, which was recorded live with an Ambisonic microphone?
Just asking as I think through this, because I don't know how she recorded this.
 

jimfisheye

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Sometimes you record elements in stereo or surround. But then you usually make a hyper realistic mix using those elements in combination with normal mono recorded sources and so forth.

The us vs. them element...
You know how you need accurate speakers, set up and aligned with precision, and in a reasonably decent and/or treated room to hear a phantom center image as though it was coming out of your center speaker? Where you literally have to walk up to the center speaker to hear that it's off if fools you so well? That's what you need with the ambisonic approach or it will start to fall apart.
 

stevendive

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My take is an ambisonic approach is kind of like a field recording approach.
You can record at a location with that Neumann dummy head array in stereo and have a very accurate capture of exactly what it sounded like in that spot. If this was a concert and the mix was truly perfect in that spot, then you're golden! It usually turns out that you get enough "ambience" along for the ride that you need a reference system to be able to listen to such recordings in a meaningful way. Whereas we make hyper realistic mixes that 'pop' even on cheap devices.
Ambisonic is the surround version of that. There IS a lot to like about the way you can scale to different speaker arrays vs making unique mixes for different channel formats.

There are a lot of "old school" tricks that still deliver. Like putting a kick drum in mono in a pair of speakers to effectively couple them and have a "bigger" speaker for the bass content in that kick drum. That stuff all gets abandoned for the clinical approach in ambisonic. And then you need a reference level system to appreciate it in a similar way that you do for field recordings.

Now if what fans of the format are really suggesting by this is that everyone should have a reference quality system... well, right! :D

Anyway, that's my take on it. And that leads to feeling like perusing the "standard" 5.1 format more widely is more productive.

Am I misinformed on any of that and missing out?
[/QUOTE]

Just to sort of disambiguate a few things, it’s worth looking at ambisonics in slightly more detail.

Describing ambisonics as ‘clinical’ could perhaps be put more simply as ‘accurate’. Ambisonics is a sound scene based approach, based on the spherical harmonic components of the soundfield around the microphone, which you alluded to. The onus then is for creating a good sonic experience based entirely on the performance on the musicians, artists and recording location rather than the engineer who might tweak things to obtain something slightly else. The usual practice of acoustic recording in ambisonics is to keep technical alteration post production to a minimum.

It’s worth noting that the spherical harmonic basis and design of ambisonics processing means coupling happens in the reconstruction area (consistent, incidentally, with the Huygens-Fresnel Principle with the maths rearranged a bit).

Artistic fun can be had in post production in ambisonics as well. A recording can be synthesised all or in part from mono or stereo sources panned into the soundfield as required using a DAW, with all sorts of convolution applied entirely at artistic whim.

There is no specific requirement to use ‘reference’ quality loudspeakers, etc, just reasonably good ones that, these days, can be bought easily on most high streets. Claims by anyone that some sort of reference quality system is needed are erroneous and just puts off anyone curious to give ambisonics a try. The requirement is for all four or six speakers (for a first order horizontal setup) to be identical/near identical, placed on the (virtual) arc of the same circle, equalised as closely as possible and for the listener to be in the (virtual) centre of the array where the soundfield reconstruction is most accurate. Ideally, the drivers should be closely spaced for lateral cohesion. The more care taken with speaker placement the better, with the exact speaker layout then input to the processor. Loudspeaker quality & cost are entirely up to the customer. Of course, an ambisonic processor is required*.

Room treatment is beneficial for any listening room, not just ambi. Ambisonics reconstructs especially bass waves very accurately, even at first order, and ambisonics decoder design takes into account use in modestly sized homes. Bass room treatment may be slightly less of an issue than for stereo or quad.

It’s not clear whether you meant a dummy head could be used for ambisonic recording as this would be incorrect. A first order ambisonic compatible mic has a special arrangement of 4 cardioid or sub-cardioid capsules, placed on the vertices of a regular tetrahedron and as closely spaced as possible. Modern examples of ambisonic compatible mics are made currently by companies such as CoreSound, Soundfield, Brahma, Eigenmike and some others.

*Hardware/firmware processors for domestic ambisonics are currently made by Meridian, for which older units can be found fairly easily. There may still be Minim, Sanyo or Bryson analogue ones floating around.
 
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