Recommendations For Surround Sound Production


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300 Club - QQ All-Star
Jul 12, 2007
Here is an interesting document from NARAS, the Recording Academy.

It gives a history of surround sound from their point of view.

Then it gives set-up and production recommendations.

Recommendations For Surround Sound Production

There are parts I disagree with.

From Mr. Dorren's post's, I expect so does he.
(Although different parts.)
Thanks for posting this.
Now I know why my DVD-A player flashed the "No Downmix" when I play a 5.1 DVD-A.
Of course, lots of other good info in the document.

Tom in So Cal
Excellent. Sticky for sure.

Thanks for posting that. A must read for all members - takes some time, though.
It's been up at the Grammy site for a while - a great document.
Almost holy writ.
The whole DVD-A/Stereo/Downmix or not issue is easily avoided as it says here:
PGC Blocks are the way to go. This has the added benefits of only needing a single group instead of 2 groups, and sharing menus as a direct result of that - but even better, it means you can set the disc up to either
A - Autoplay, or
B - load up to a point where pressing the PLAY button starts playback - and you will automatically get the stream your player is set up for.
(Oddly enough, Sonic DAC throws a spec violation error "this stream is unable to be presented in stereo" because of the lack of a downmix.
However, I have always just ignored this & never had a DLT set returned by the factory yet so it has to be a false flag)

Saves ages at authoring time.
Old Quad Guy said:

I'm most interested in trying to mix music into multi-channel. I've remixed 2 albums by NIN (Nine inch nails) from the multi-tracks and created DVD-Audio discs 5.0 mixes. I would be more than happy to send you copies of these discs if you like. I would really like to give a try at mixing what you have and send you back the results in either DTS-CD or DVD-A form.

Old Quad Guy said:
Well, unlike a lot of guys, I don't listen to rock-n-roll so I couldn't really tell you if your rock-n-roll mixes are any good or not beyond a few simple rules I follow:

1. No leads in the surrounds (i e no lead vocal or lead instrument)

2. Backup singers or audio sweetening in surrounds only, or sometimes with slight echoes in the mains (front) but crossed left for right and delayed maybe 8 milliseconds or so. That gives the SQ (or whatever Dolby Pro Logic they call it nowadays) a chance to use its logic to steer towards that dominant channel without swimming in phase errors.

3. Reverb mostly in surrounds. If you are doing 7.1 you can do a somewhat dry Mains mix (everything but suppemental players and backup singers) a Main Surrounds mix of mostly band/orchestra with more reverb than in the mains along with #2 above and mix that plus 90-degrees out left and minus-90 degrees out right and then do a reverb-only track for the 7.1 part and do 45-degrees out left and 45-degrees out right.

You can play around with 135 out left and 135 out right as well for effects and see what you get.


Here is an interesting document from NARAS, the Recording Academy.

It gives a history of surround sound from their point of view.

Then it gives set-up and production recommendations.

Recommendations For Surround Sound Production

There are parts I disagree with.

From Mr. Dorren's post's, I expect so does he.
(Although different parts.)

Out of interest, what parts would those be?
Incidentally, the same document (Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing) is linked from the Grammy site too.
I don't agree with all of it either. Have to look through it again but I disagree with "2.2 Professional Mixing Environment". Recommending Mid Field monitors and room treatment when there is no clear consensus on if you can actually tune a room let alone there being some sort of standard to treating rooms. Nearfield monitoring I personally think is not contingent upon room treatment and is therefore more predictable room to room.
Nearfield monitoring can be superb - no doubt about it - but nearly all nearfields are compromise designs with their own pitfalls.
Midfield is indeed the best solution, and there are many first-class facilities out there who would state categorically that you can tune a room.
Please remember we are talking ideal situation here - hence the word "recommendations" - so all monitors should be capable of 20Hz reproduction without being strapped to a Sub for the extension, and definitely not at -3dB 20Hz either. You need to be able to hear it to mix/master it. Sure we can get around this & use seriously well designed nearfields with Subs to extend response but that is a workaround.
Again with nearfields, you would need more constants.
Ported or unported? Minimum of 2' (some would say 3') from a wall. 1" or 2" compression driver or ribbon tweeter for top end? (the sound is dramatically different)
How are we acoustically isolating nearfields? Neoprene or acoustic foam? Stands? Spiked or not, weighted or not - and what with?
I don't know if I should really get into a point by point discussion on why I disagree with some of what you are saying. But I think making a standard that requires you to reach down to 20Hz is getting too greedy with the FR when it's not even needed and in most situations will cause more harm than it will help - exciting modes in rooms smaller than 25 feet while at the same time not giving much of an audible benefit. I find -3dB at 20Hz vs 0dB at 20Hz to be a negligible difference. I find most decoupling and acoustic isolation to not have much of an effect as well - Can any bass trap really trap 20Hz? I guess a big part of a standard for me is that it should be accessible as well as functional.

I think a lot of the differences in sounds and the perceived need for acoustic treatment from room to room is because of the tweeters and how they integrate with the polar pattern of the mid and bass drivers. Now that tweeters are starting to reach into the high frequencies with a wider and more uniform polar pattern the need for room treatment is actually going away. I know this seems counterintuitive and that in theory the more omnidirectional you make a speaker the more modes you excite. But I think you will find that the more area you can cover with a behaved polar pattern (omni, dipole, cardiod) the less the room interferes with the direct sound and the more the direct sound will swamp out first and late reflections. If you keep the polar pattern of the speakers smooth, eliminate early reflections where possible, and keep the first reflections of the room to more than around 6-20ms you can effectively blank out the rooms interference with the sound.

Now if what I say holds true - which I think most all of it should - then I think that nearfield monitoring with a FR of at least 30Hz-20kHz might be a hell of a lot more consistent from room to room than midfield monitoring with a mishmash of decoupling and acoustic absorbers which wont translate to the home in anyway.
Interesting points there, and well needing some serious consideration.
as far as 20Hz goes, I confess I routinely use HPF with a minimum of 48dB/Octave slopes unless there is genuinely something down there I need to allow through
as it tightens up the bass response no end by filtering out crap like rumble & unwanted thumps.