Surround Master v2: Thoughts and Impressions

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ar surround

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My first Surround Master arrived this morning. I did not buy the earlier v1 release, so everything with this device is new to me. I am very happy with it. The Involve quadraphonic mode produces results that are different than DPLIIx Music and Lexicon Logic7 Music. It is definitely another arrow in my surround sound quiver. Here are my findings and how things sound to my ears on my system:

In general, I find the performance of all three aforementioned decoders to be dependent on program material; and I might prefer one over the others given the material. Involve produces a much more intimate sound stage than Logic7 Music; and somewhat more intimate than DPLIIx Music. There are certain songs where I find Involve to sound "tighter" than Logic7. For example, with The Hollies Long Cool Woman, Logic7 seems a bit too reverberant while Involve is in the Goldilocks zone. Logic7 makes a sonic mess of the Gin Blossoms Hey Jealousy. Involve is much better on that song...and probably that whole album.

However, on Roseanne Cash's The Wheel, the Involve sound stage seems a bit flat compared to Logic7. On this particular song, Logic7 sucks the background vocals from left-center and right-center and routes them to the sides and back. Also, three jazz recordings sampled (Getz/Gilberto, Dave Brubeck and Flim & The BBs) all sound best with Logic7. On these, DPLIIx and Involve sound good, but not as satisfying as Logic7.

On CSN&Y's Carry On, both DPLIIx and Logic7 pin the acoustic guitar introduction in the left-front speaker while Involve places it somewhat between the left-front and left-rear speakers and makes it sound bigger. While none of the three decoders present what I would call a kick-ass presentation due to the shortcomings of this recording, I'd say that Involve yields the best results as it sounds the most natural.

At times, I find that Involve brings out more detail in certain songs than DPLIIx and Logic7. I was not expecting this very significant benefit at all.

Often, I find the bass in DPLIIx to be underwhelming while Logic7 is occasionally overwhelming. I find bass with Involve to be more balanced and natural in most situations.

One can overdo Logic7 as it is a highly adjustable codec. Although rare, the results of overdoing it are artifacts or pumping especially with primitive stereo. I hear no artifacts with Involve whatsoever...even when juicing up the surrounds by as much as 7dB.

Now, onto something many of you are not going to like to hear. Routing the Involve derived quadraphonic signal through Logic7 to produce a 7.1 ambient sound field yields results that to my ears are truly prodigious. This combination eliminates the potential anomalies of Logic7...no overwhelming bass with certain recordings; no excessive ambience with certain recordings; and no artifacts or pumping with primitive stereo recordings. Yet the periodic revelation of extra detail by Involve remains. Also, the combination of Involve and Logic7 mitigates any perception of a comparatively flat sound stage on certain recordings with Involve deployed on its own.

Two songs that always piss me off because of the way they were recorded are the above mentioned Carry On and The Moody Blues' Ride My See Saw. Using Involve with the Logic7 overlay produces results that really open up these two songs and put them "in your face" for lack of a better term. So, oh crap...now I probably need to acquire a spare Lexicon processor with analog inputs because I can't live without this Involve/Logic7 combo.

I hope you fellow buyers like your new Surround Master as much as I like mine.
 

sjcorne

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On CSN&Y's Carry On, both DPLIIx and Logic7 pins the acoustic guitar introduction in the left-front speaker while Involve places it somewhat between the left-front and left-rear speakers and makes it sound bigger. While none of the three decoders present what I would call a kick-ass presentation due to the shortcomings of this recording, I'd say that Involve yields the best results as it sounds the most natural.
I managed to get a pretty neat presentation of that track with the "surround" setting on the Fosgate Tate II. It puts the acoustic guitar intro in left rear with minimal leakage to the other channels, while the vocals come mostly from right rear with some bleed to the other channels.

A few other albums I'd recommend trying - any of the Jimi Hendrix Experience LPs (particularly Electric Ladyland), The Cars' debut and Heartbeat City, Black Sabbath's debut, and Heart's Dreamboat Annie.
 
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proufo

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Routing the Involve derived quadraphonic signal through Logic7 to produce a 7.1 ambient sound field yields results that to my ears are truly prodigious. This combination eliminates the potential anomalies of Logic7...no overwhelming bass with certain recordings; no excessive ambience with certain recordings; and no artifacts or pumping with primitive stereo recordings. Yet the periodic revelation of extra detail by Involve remains. Also, the combination of Involve and Logic7 mitigates any perception of a comparatively flat sound stage on certain recordings with Involve deployed on its own.
Is that summing the front and rear channels at each side with a Y?
 

ar surround

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Is that summing the front and rear channels at each side with a Y?
No, Pablo. The two channel outputs of an Oppo 205 are patched into the analog CD inputs of a Lexicon Processor. The processor has three zones. So I set the input of zone 2 to CD and have the outputs of zone 2 patched into the Surround Master. Then I have the 4 channel output of the SM patched directly into the second set of 5.1 inputs on zone 1 of the processor. Finally, the Logic7 7.1 overlay is applied to that set of 5.1 inputs.

Sounds a bit confusing, but I can toggle back and forth between the straight Involve quad processing and the Involve quad plus L7 overlay simply by pressing a button the remote.
 

Sonik Wiz

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Wow thanks for the detailed report. I can tell you've given it a close listen just having it a short time.

It is definitely another arrow in my surround sound quiver.
I think that's a great way to look at it. There is so much obsession with trying to find the perfect decoder. Different decoders do things differently. Be aware of this & choose accordingly.

In general, I find the performance of all three aforementioned decoders to be dependent on program material; and I might prefer one over the others given the material.
Theoretically a QS/SQ decoder should decode those formats to intended specs and be pretty much the same allowing for the usual audiophile nuances. When playing back stereo into a surround soundfield everything changes. One of the things I liked about the Sansui decoders was the choice for basic QS, Hall, and Synthesizer modes. The QS mode speaks for itself, but in Hall the stereo was passed through to the front speakers completely undecoded. On the side the stereo signal was given some in phase blending and decoded QS Variomatrix & sent only to the rear channels. This allowed only ambient sounds, no direct or primary musical information, to emanate from the rear. Meanwhile in Synth mode out of phase blending was given to the stereo input & then decoded by QS Variomatrix. This gave that beautiful classic "horshoe" or 240 degree enhancement. A sound in stereo left only would be in left back. Right only = right back. And a sound panned left to right traveled from left back sweeping around in a circle to right back. This allowed quite a bit of choice in picking the best mode for playing back stereo.

When you can tear away from listening to music for a bit here are two white noise test tones that demonstrates the out effect of a regular pan left to right and a synth pan: Test Pan
It's 20 secs long so obviously at ten secs the sound should be center front. Of course listen to it in the Invole QS mode.

As for the hybrid Lexicon/Involve set up, I will contemplate that a bit more & try to understand it better. It reminds me a little bit in ancient days when someone would feed stereo into a QS decoder in synth mode, mix front left with lesft back and right front with right back via Y connectors and then deode again through another QS decoder. The the idea being that if it sounds good decoded just once WOW think how great it will be decoded twice! It certainly put out a lot of sound from all speakers but that's about all I can say.

I know you are doiung something diffent & I wish I could hear it in person. As for myself I have two main listening spots in my Bassment: one is the usual sweet spot right in the midlle of the speaker layout. The other is more casual on a couch ~6' back with the back speakers exactly at center left/right. This is when DPL IIx really helps as it puts good rear channel sound behind the couch position. When I get my SM v2 I will certainly build an outboard synth control & figure out how to do a center back. I don't have anything as cool as a Lexicon but perhaps I can use my Proton decoder. Let me know how your experiment goes along.

And what do you think of the Two Speaker Surround mode?
 

ar surround

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Meanwhile in Synth mode out of phase blending was given to the stereo input & then decoded by QS Variomatrix. This gave that beautiful classic "horshoe" or 240 degree enhancement. A sound in stereo left only would be in left back. Right only = right back. And a sound panned left to right traveled from left back sweeping around in a circle to right back. This allowed quite a bit of choice in picking the best mode for playing back stereo.
When you can tear away from listening to music for a bit here are two white noise test tones that demonstrates the out effect of a regular pan left to right and a synth pan: Test Pan
It's 20 secs long so obviously at ten secs the sound should be center front. Of course listen to it in the Invole QS mode.
Thanks. I will give the test pans a try. So, is the Involve mode a QS decoder? I thought it was some proprietary decoder that they came up with. I did not notice any material where the Involve decoder put a far right signal in the right rear speaker etc. as mentioned in your post. Jonathan suggested some material, but I haven't tried any of it yet.

As for the hybrid Lexicon/Involve set up, I will contemplate that a bit more & try to understand it better. It reminds me a little bit in ancient days when someone would feed stereo into a QS decoder in synth mode, mix front left with left back and right front with right back via Y connectors and then deode again through another QS decoder. The the idea being that if it sounds good decoded just once WOW think how great it will be decoded twice! It certainly put out a lot of sound from all speakers but that's about all I can say.
The processor has two versions of Logic7. One takes a straight stereo signal and creates a 7.1 surround field. The second version, the one I am using as an overlay on the Involve 4-channel signal, is specifically designed to be applied to multi-channel material. It is most definitely not the same as that applied to a straight stereo signal. I use it on occasion to enhance certain multichannel mixes into 7.1. Some that I can think of are DSOTM 5.1 SACD (Guthrie mix), Tommy 5.1 SACD, Sly and The Family Stone quad SACD and Tapestry 5.1 SACD...and now on the derived Involve quadraphonic field. The Logic7 overlay does not work well on The Moody Blues quads or any of Steven Wilson's mixes among others.

Another thing I can do with Logic7 is roll off the surrounds and rears. It won't roll off anything that is recorded directly in the surrounds, but rather whatever L7 is directing to the surrounds and rears. Other neat stuff that I can do with L7: adjust the rear channel time delay; and route the subwoofer .1 channel to the mains, surrounds, center and rear speakers.

And what do you think of the Two Speaker Surround mode?
I have yet to try Two Speaker Surround mode.
 

proufo

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No, Pablo. The two channel outputs of an Oppo 205 are patched into the analog CD inputs of a Lexicon Processor. The processor has three zones. So I set the input of zone 2 to CD and have the outputs of zone 2 patched into the Surround Master. Then I have the 4 channel output of the SM patched directly into the second set of 5.1 inputs on zone 1 of the processor. Finally, the Logic7 7.1 overlay is applied to that set of 5.1 inputs.
So you are not "Routing the Involve derived quadraphonic signal through Logic7 to produce a 7.1 ambient sound". You are routing the Involve derived quadraphonic signal through_____5.1 L7 Music____to produce a 7.1 ambient sound.

Plain Logic 7 (L7) derives 7.1 channels from ____stereo____ sources, including matrixed multichannel mixes.
 

ar surround

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...The Involve quadraphonic mode produces results that are different than DPLIIx Music and Lexicon Logic7 Music. It is definitely another arrow in my surround sound quiver. Here are my findings and how things sound to my ears on my system:

In general, I find the performance of all three aforementioned decoders to be dependent on program material; and I might prefer one over the others given the material. Involve produces a much more intimate sound stage than Logic7 Music; and somewhat more intimate than DPLIIx Music. There are certain songs where I find Involve to sound "tighter" than Logic7...
I think that's a great way to look at it. There is so much obsession with trying to find the perfect decoder. Different decoders do things differently. Be aware of this & choose accordingly.
I want to clarify some of my early comments above. Please note that the Dolby mode with which I was comparing Involve was the 7.1 PLIIx Music. That "x" is very important because 7.1 PLIIx Music is far superior to straight 5.1 PLII Music. Consequently, I never use PLII Music. So this afternoon I tested a dozen or so tracks to compare Involve to PLII Music. I did everything I could with PLII Music such as raising the level of the surrounds, messing with delay, etc. to try to give PLII Music an advantage. What I found was that the surround sound presentation of Involve, either in four channel or 5.1 stomps all over PLII Music......No, that's too mild a statement...Surround Master's Involve decoder takes PLII Music, chews it up, spits it out, stomps all over it, wipes the floor with it and then urinates on it for good measure. (How's that for a string of superlatives?)
 

Sonik Wiz

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Awesome report thank you!

I want to clarify some of my early comments above. Please note that the Dolby mode with which I was comparing Involve was the 7.1 PLIIx Music. That "x" is very important because 7.1 PLIIx Music is far superior to straight 5.1 PLII Music. Consequently, I never use PLII Music.
I agree about DPL II music vs DPL IIx music. It's just not what is added to a rear channel but how it is redistributed between the rear channels. I experienced the same significant change when I switched my Proton SD-1000 to center back. My Anthem AVM-30 is also set to "X".

urround Master's Involve decoder takes PLII Music, chews it up, spits it out, stomps all over it, wipes the floor with it and then urinates on it for good measure.
But then how does it do compared to DPL IIx music?
 

ar surround

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But then how does it do compared to DPL IIx music?
I made some comments along those lines in my initial post. The answer remains, "it depends." I played some stuff where I preferred DPLIIx Music to Involve 4.0 (with the rears turned on so that the same signal sent to the surrounds was sent to the rears at the same level as DPLIIx.) Here is a summary of my opinions:

- Involve produces a somewhat more intimate sound stage than DPLIIx Music.
- DPLIIx Music can "pin" certain sounds inside a speaker. Like on CSN&Y's Carry On, DPLIIx pins the acoustic guitar introduction in the left-front speaker while Involve places it somewhat between the left-front and left-rear speakers making it sound bigger and more natural. In this case, Involve is more satisfying to my ears.
- With many recordings, I find the bass in DPLIIx Music to be underwhelming while Involve seems more balanced and natural in most situations.
- Involve brings out more detail in many recordings than DPLIIx (and Logic7.)

I would not want to part with the Surround Master, Logic7 or DPLIIx.
 

chucky3042

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Thanks. I will give the test pans a try. So, is the Involve mode a QS decoder? I thought it was some proprietary decoder that they came up with. I did not notice any material where the Involve decoder put a far right signal in the right rear speaker etc. as mentioned in your post. Jonathan suggested some material, but I haven't tried any of it yet.



The processor has two versions of Logic7. One takes a straight stereo signal and creates a 7.1 surround field. The second version, the one I am using as an overlay on the Involve 4-channel signal, is specifically designed to be applied to multi-channel material. It is most definitely not the same as that applied to a straight stereo signal. I use it on occasion to enhance certain multichannel mixes into 7.1. Some that I can think of are DSOTM 5.1 SACD (Guthrie mix), Tommy 5.1 SACD, Sly and The Family Stone quad SACD and Tapestry 5.1 SACD...and now on the derived Involve quadraphonic field. The Logic7 overlay does not work well on The Moody Blues quads or any of Steven Wilson's mixes among others.

Another thing I can do with Logic7 is roll off the surrounds and rears. It won't roll off anything that is recorded directly in the surrounds, but rather whatever L7 is directing to the surrounds and rears. Other neat stuff that I can do with L7: adjust the rear channel time delay; and route the subwoofer .1 channel to the mains, surrounds, center and rear speakers.



I have yet to try Two Speaker Surround mode.

Its base matrix is QS it differs in how all the inputs are weighted / scaled to match human hearing , ditto on how the final steering paramaters are applied to the base matrix equation. Plus it is tri band.
 

chucky3042

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I want to clarify some of my early comments above. Please note that the Dolby mode with which I was comparing Involve was the 7.1 PLIIx Music. That "x" is very important because 7.1 PLIIx Music is far superior to straight 5.1 PLII Music. Consequently, I never use PLII Music. So this afternoon I tested a dozen or so tracks to compare Involve to PLII Music. I did everything I could with PLII Music such as raising the level of the surrounds, messing with delay, etc. to try to give PLII Music an advantage. What I found was that the surround sound presentation of Involve, either in four channel or 5.1 stomps all over PLII Music......No, that's too mild a statement...Surround Master's Involve decoder takes PLII Music, chews it up, spits it out, stomps all over it, wipes the floor with it and then urinates on it for good measure. (How's that for a string of superlatives?)
Stop beating around the bush and say what you really think!!!!!
 

rustyandi

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First off I paid QQ discount
Also I said that the first unit was as good decoding as you would want
But others wanted more
All you had to do was plug it in
The Tate units you had to set the levels and the decoding
The SM/2 has the controls for users that have new Amps.
I have only played the decoder as a 4 channel decoder
The Decoding of Involve (QS) and SQ was to ears the same as the first unit (Exultant)
The sound stage was clear and the channel separation was as good as you can get
With a matrix system
I don’t use the controls as my system does not need them
But they will be of great help to others
It has been built to strong standard and controls are smooth
It is the only Decoder that has had the best decoding of QS and SQ in the one
Unit made for sale
The only Decoder worth Buying
Unless you want 40 years old units for display if they stop working
 

JonUrban

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How are these arriving in the US? Via US Mail? UPS? FedEx? DHL?

This waiting is tough to take! :)
 
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chucky3042

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How are these arriving in the US? Via US Mail? UPS? FedEx? DHL?

This waiting is tough to take! :)
Hi John

Production is grinding on, Just checked - yours is tagged to go out Monday or Tuesday. Deliveries are by UPS.

It will happen!!

Onwards Excelsior

Chucky
 

Sonik Wiz

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Hi John

Production is grinding on, Just checked - yours is tagged to go out Monday or Tuesday. Deliveries are by UPS.

It will happen!!

Onwards Excelsior

Chucky
Indeed I have received follow up info that mine will arrive this Friday the14th, EOD.
As mentioned before a free service called Your Freight Agent will notify you as soon as the package is scheduled for pick up.
 

ar surround

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How are these arriving in the US? Via US Mail? UPS? FedEx? DHL?

This waiting is tough to take! :)
Indeed I have received follow up info that mine will arrive this Friday the14th, EOD.
As mentioned before a free service called Your Freight Agent will notify you as soon as the package is scheduled for pick up.
From the time I got the email from Your Freight Agent stating that the package was scheduled for pickup until delivered to my doorstep (east coast US) by UPS was only three days.
 
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