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Quadraphonic FLAC

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Antonuzzo

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I came across a FLAC of Wish You Were Here that I'd (hem hem) acquired a long time ago, before I had any way of playing it back. I've now got a Sony 5.1 setup, so I figured it was time to have a go.

The source of this was the quad 8-track, so it promised to be 'proper' discreet quad rather than something decoded from a matrix.

Opening it in VLC revealed that it was indeed four channel: off to a good start. But my WDTV box only interpreted the FLAC as 2.0. I then opened it in Audacity, and it pulled out the four separate channels. So far, so good. Now came the tricky bit. Which channel was which? I guessed that in number order they'd be FL, FR, RR, RL going clockwise.

On that basis, I created a new 5.1 project in Logic and assigned each exported WAV to the appropriate channels, leaving the centre and sub absent. That resulted in a 4gb MOV file, which I converted via Handbrake to an MP4.

And - it worked. Now, I don't know if I got the channel order right - the front two sound fine but I don't now if the rear channels are reversed or not. But it sounds absolutely IMMENSE - there's just no other word for it. There are so many little details that you don't here on the stereo mix (more 'oohs' during the verse of Shine On) or actual differences; more tinkly synths in Shine On, an extra synth line in Welcome to the Machine, different cuts of Have A Cigar and Wish You Were Here...

It took a good solid afternoon to do (my first version rotated the front channels by 90 degrees and mis-assigned one of the surrounds as mono) but it was well worth it.
 

LuvMyQuad

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There is a much easier way to do this using Homers Media Music Helper. It will a 4.0 Flac file and add an empty center and LFE channel

 

Antonuzzo

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Thanks for that. I'll have a play around - I don't regret doing it the hard way though, it was quite satisfying.
 

jimfisheye

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FYI, the .mov and .mp4 formats are lossy (think mp3 but much more apparent). To preserve the original quality, use lossless formats like .wav and .flac. You can still use your favorite DAW (or an app like Wave Agent or a trusted script someone wrote).

And of course if we're talking about WYWH, the studio master or the original 4.0 quad is on bluray in 24/96. The WYWH 8-track copies were all buried in a mountain of hiss. Subtle details in the mix and ambient mix elements were all stepped on pretty hard. Of the 3 official quad releases (AHM, DSOTM, WYWH) this was the one unobtainable in any kind of fidelity. People were struggling with early digital noise reduction and everything to try to salvage it. AHM was a heavyweight challenge to clean up and still preserve fidelity back then and one copy turned out pretty well. (There were some incredibly bad failures out there too though!) WYWH was the "lost" quad album and unsalvagable. You'll get to experience all that from the 8-track. :D FYI You're going to be hearing warbley artifacts that go beyond what the SQ encoding did from the lossy hit from downgrading to .mov and then further with .mp4.

There was a clearing throat sound edited out of the beginning of WYWH on the bluray. Same edit as the stereo mix.

It IS good practice to put 4.0 in a 5.1 file format with digital zero blank channels. The FLAC format makes blank channels take almost no storage space too. Some media players are just programmed to only accept 2.0 or 5.1 even though the others are valid official formats. VLC player is one of the offenders too.
 
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J. PUPSTER

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In Audacity, I believe it’s FL, FR, RL, RR for Quad. But definitely keep center and sub channels in there if you’re not sure your gear will play just Quad, most folks here stick with flac also.
 

jimfisheye

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FLAC is the consumer standard now for sure. Cuts the size of wav in half but keeps full quality.
Apple tried to compete with their ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec). It's identical to FLAC in being lossless and half the size of wav. They disabled FLAC playback on iTunes to compete. I haven't tried using Logic in a long time but that little restriction might be in there too. Work in wav or ALAC in Logic in that case. XLD (X Lossless Decoder) is a convenient format conversion app that will convert ALAC to FLAC and many other formats (including lossy choices).
 

Antonuzzo

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There are limits to what my gear will play. WAV and FLAC are fine, but it won't play them in surround - so it's either a lossy format in quad or a lossless format in stereo.

I noticed that the throat clearing was missing - along with a few bars of the intro of WYWH (but you do get a nice pedal steel solo and a longer solo for HAC, so...)

I haven't heard the Blu-Ray version, but I've seen conflicting reports about it. Some say that the quad version on it is the same mix that I have, with the alterations, others say that it's different, with the same versions of the songs as the stereo mix.

And yep, I know that I was losing quality with each re-encode. But at least I now have a quad version that I can enjoy which to my cloth ears sounds pretty good.

Interesting stuff about AHM there - thanks for that.
 

jimfisheye

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I can tell you it's the same mix on the bluray. Just the edit in the WYWH intro. The 8-track is so stepped on and then the various attempts to salvage it a decade or more ago (ranging from semi-pro to amateur shots in the dark) were so pulled and tugged on it altered what you were hearing significantly. The bluray sound is pro. There may be some discussion to be had around the mastering as with anything. It's so light years more of an accurate copy than anything else out there it's beyond silly.

Sounds like you got saddled with one of those receivers with no discrete inputs? You can only input lossy digital through a pair of rca SPDIF connections or optical TOSLINK? No analog inputs? No unrestricted HDMI?
That is what it is of course. You'd get help around here with the shortest most frugal path to discrete surround playback - but you knew that. :)

Just FYI that between the generation loss in the consumer 8-track, the downgrade to .mov. Then the reencode downgrade to .mp4. There must be a conversion to either dts or dolby there to support those 2 channel container formats. So that too. Basically you are listening to very little of that original quad and a whole world or generation loss and conversion artifacts. Just sayin.

My aim is always the cleanest copy of the master mix or a definitive mastering of a mix and preserving the audio to the highest degree possible. I might still be nostalgic for some older formats and tech but I'll put preserving sound and equipment choices to facilitate that above everything else. I put performance above ease of use or preference of workflow. Just FYI on where I'm coming from on that.
 

ssully

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If you have a WAV (or WAV to FLAC) surround file, and a PC, download Audiomuxer (free) and you can easily encode it to DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1, which it sounds like your rig can play. Contrary to audiophile paranoia, there will likely be no audible quality loss.

But starting from 8-track , you already have a significant quality loss. Since the 4.0 digitized from the original quad masters tapes is now available (from the PF Immersion set) I'd seek that out.

That said, WYWH 4.0 turned out to be a letdown to me, after wanting to hear it for years. Unfulfilled potential, though it has moments. The 4.0 of Atom Heart Mother is superior.
 

Cyber 1

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yep absoulty no point in a Q8 of that now that the original quad master digital release is available.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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A quadraphonic .flac file will most likely be laid out fl, fr, rl, rr.

Rule of thumb: When creating multichannel .wav and .flac, although 4.0 configurations are possible within the file spec, due to many lazy programmers cutting corners and creating hardware and software that will completely ignore the channel assignments on the file, you need to stick to 5.1 to ensure maximum compatibility, with the order of fl, fr, c, lfe, rl, rr. When authoring dvd-a, stick to 5.0 or 5.1 for the same reason.
 

jimfisheye

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A quadraphonic .flac file will most likely be laid out fl, fr, rl, rr.

Rule of thumb: When creating multichannel .wav and .flac, although 4.0 configurations are possible within the file spec, due to many lazy programmers cutting corners and creating hardware and software that will completely ignore the channel assignments on the file, you need to stick to 5.1 to ensure maximum compatibility, with the order of fl, fr, c, lfe, rl, rr. When authoring dvd-a, stick to 5.0 or 5.1 for the same reason.
It's really true and this will really save you hassle. As a content creator especially!
The catch-22 with DVDA is those blank channels take up space just like a blank wav file would. The MLP lossless compression doesn't reduce blank channels to nearly zero like FLAC does. That means quad program on a DVDA in 5.1 will take 50% more disc space than in 4.0.

It's not hard to quickly convert 4.0 to 5.1 but making a consumer do anything technical isn't a good look!
Hmmm... Could probably make a script to put in the dock that would let you drag/drop a file or folder of files and convert 4.0 (or any other < 5.1 format) to 5.1 with the same format (sample rate, etc). A simple use dock-able script that only touches what you drop into it and outputs to the same folder. Maybe puts the originals in the trash so you have a failsafe. No menus or other windows. Perhaps just using ffmpeg to keep everything simple and open source.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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Yes, that's true that adding extra channels to dvd-a means more space. But my reasoning for it has nothing to do with .flac creation, it's due to dvd-a playback itself. Many pieces of recent equipment can't handle 4.0 material and will play it back improperly, typically downmixing to stereo or something like that. So my compromise has been 5.0 to only add 1 extra silent channel. It fixes the playback issue, but anyone ripping files will either need equipment that will playback 5.0 wav/flac properly, or will need to convert the 5.0 to 5.1.
 

jimfisheye

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The Blu-ray deletes the few extra bars in the second half of SOYCD that are on the 8-track and SQ versions. It's infuriating.
There could be a labor of love project to restore the original unedited WYWH. Reconstruct the missing segments using the "best" 8-track source + the leaked rough mix tape + recycled elements (single drum transients, etc) from elsewhere in the program. The kind of thing where you spend about 40 hours on those 15 seconds of program to make it authentic and seamless.

It's not that there isn't plenty to comment about on the bluray audio for this one! It's just that the consumer copies - both the warbled mess that is the SQ encode and the hissy nightmare of the Q8 - were SO obliterated that the edits and arguably slightly treble boosted sound of the bluray is a moot point to me. These defects don't even scratch the surface (there's a pun in there somewhere) in the long and short of it. The program is in a very high caliber of good shape here whereas it was obliterated on the old consumer copies. If that made me a little too easy to please with the bluray... well, there it is. I do think the bluray master is a little bright. Not bluntly like those Beatles 5.1 remixes though. Not mid scooped like those Chicago quad remasters. And I still think both of those, flaws and all, and more undamaged than damaged in the long and short of things.
 

jimfisheye

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Yes, that's true that adding extra channels to dvd-a means more space. But my reasoning for it has nothing to do with .flac creation, it's due to dvd-a playback itself. Many pieces of recent equipment can't handle 4.0 material and will play it back improperly, typically downmixing to stereo or something like that. So my compromise has been 5.0 to only add 1 extra silent channel. It fixes the playback issue, but anyone ripping files will either need equipment that will playback 5.0 wav/flac properly, or will need to convert the 5.0 to 5.1.
I've seen screwups with 5.0 too. I keep everything strictly to 2.0 or 5.1 when I want it to be bulletproof.

I HAVE authored some 4.0 DVDAs in the past...
I believe I'm guilty of a couple blurays with 4.0 program too. (Like Floyd best of '77 tour that only fit on a single bluray as 4.0.)
The only other option is to go to multiple discs when you run out of space.
 

Owen Smith

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I've never had any problems with 4.0 MLP on DVDAs. I have two different players (Arcam DV137 and Oppo 95) and both play them fine out of the multi channel analogue outs. What sort of gear gets this wrong?

If using HDMI audio out does the problem move to the receiver ie. the player presents 4.0 PCM on the HDMI and it's then up to the receiver whether it gets it right or not?
 

jimfisheye

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I've never had any problems with 4.0 MLP on DVDAs. I have two different players (Arcam DV137 and Oppo 95) and both play them fine out of the multi channel analogue outs. What sort of gear gets this wrong?
Off the top of my head, VLC player for one. A bit glaring for such a popular video player I thought.

If using HDMI audio out does the problem move to the receiver ie. the player presents 4.0 PCM on the HDMI and it's then up to the receiver whether it gets it right or not?
HDMI is going to deliver the digital audio stream as originally created. I would point to a bug in the receiver in that scenario.
 

Owen Smith

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Off the top of my head, VLC player for one. A bit glaring for such a popular video player I thought.

HDMI is going to deliver the digital audio stream as originally created. I would point to a bug in the receiver in that scenario.
I don't use VLC, I meant do any physical DVD/BD players play 4.0 audio incorrectly.

For HDMI it is highly unlikely that the MLP will be sent to the receiver, very few receivers can handle MLP (or DSD from SACDs for that matter). Players generally convert MLP or DSD to LPCM to send over HDMI to receivers. The question then is whether receivers do the wrong thing with 4.0 LPCM. That said an enterprising player could fix that by adding an empty Centre channel.
 

LuvMyQuad

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I've never had any problems with 4.0 MLP on DVDAs. I have two different players (Arcam DV137 and Oppo 95) and both play them fine out of the multi channel analogue outs. What sort of gear gets this wrong?

If using HDMI audio out does the problem move to the receiver ie. the player presents 4.0 PCM on the HDMI and it's then up to the receiver whether it gets it right or not?
It seems to happen mostly with disk players and AVR's manufactured in the last 3-4 years. I read somewhere it has something to do with a certain chip that they all have in common. Older equipment uses a different chip that has no issue with 4.0. Who knows what's going to happen with the newer stuff. It just seems like the modern remedy is to not bother to change the function for that small minority who need to play a legacy format like 4.0, rather, have the content providers modify the number of channels. So newer releases have gone to a 6 channel audio format even though two of those channels might be empty for 4.0 material.
 
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