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Using Plogue Bidule and SPEC 4.0/4.21

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JonUrban

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I spent some time over at www.surroundbyus.com today, and tried the software that they recommend and that some of them have created, and wow, was I impressed.

I've never been a huge fan of upmixing, generally preferring a "real" surround mix and not giving much thought to taking a stereo recording and forcing it to be quad or 5.1. Of course, I tried it in the past using the SQ or QS script in audition, as well as using the MATRIX mode in old quad receivers, mostly to put a stereo only track into a quad compilation where there were one or two tracks that never were released in surround.

Anyway, by using the tools that the SurroundByUS group has put together, in only an hour or so I was hearing stereo tunes played back on my PC in what I have to say was very impressive surround!!

:yikes

So far, I have everything at default, and the results are very impressive. I had some stereo wav's on my PC, so I used those. I tried "Dream On" and "Dude Looks Like A Lady" from an Aerosmith folder I had, and also Paul Simon's "Stranded in a Limousine". All 3 tunes generated excellent surround mixes through the SPEC 4.0 processing.

At this point, I have no idea what I've done, or how I did it. I just know that it works and works well. It looks and feels complicated, but they have very detailed instructions on how to use everything over there, so even an old guy like me figured it out.

If you're up for it, go give it a shot. You can get the Plogue Bidule as a demo that runs for 45 days, but it only costs $75, so it's a no brainer to buy.

Here's a look at my messy desktop with the software laid out. I have it set so that I can monitor the audio:
 

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DKA

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wait until you start to mess with ArcTan, rather than SPEC-CC mode, and start to tweak even further. great to see this enthusiasm from you, Jon, and I'm sure the folks at SBU really appreciate the kind words.
 

MyCuff

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OK, stupid questions from me, but I have over a thousand CDs that I have not listened to in a long time since I acquired "quadrophelia". Maybe I can put them back in my rotation.
Q1: $75 is all I need to start upmixing? Really?
Q2: I know how to rip a CD, and obviously I should retain the full size of the disc, but does it matter how it is saved?
Q3: Is the output an ISO file, or a bunch of waves that need a que, or my choice?
Q4: I can't create DVD-Audio with Plogue Bidule, can I? Surely there is no benefit over a DTS-CD because the source is plain CD anyway, right?

I will do my own DD and check it out for myself, but answers still appreciated for me and anyone else who is on the fence.
Regards,
Mike
 

JonUrban

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Mike,

The Bidule just creates the surround wav file (either 6 mono's or 1 5.1 wav file). The rest is up to you. There are many tools to make a DTS-CD and/or DVD-Audio, but this is not one of them.

So far, I have just played around with the program and opened some saved wav files and processed them as shown above, then opened them in Sound Forge to audition the seperate channels and the mix.

I'm really the wrong guy to ask, as I am a total rookie at this point.

wait until you start to mess with ArcTan, rather than SPEC-CC mode, and start to tweak even further. great to see this enthusiasm from you, Jon, and I'm sure the folks at SBU really appreciate the kind words.
DKA - I know that the ArcTan was downloaded with the SPEC 4.0, but I have no clue how it's used. As I said, I just followed the simple directions found at the surroundbyus website and played around as shown above.

Is the ArcTan a different module?
 

DKA

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Mike:

1. The only two programs for which there is no free alternative are Plogue and whatever your DTS or MLP encoder of choice is. I believe the "your first conversion" guide on SBU has you encoding to ac3 as a free workaround. There are no outside VSTs used within SPEC, as its all in-house developed, so there's nothing within SPEC itself that will cost you anything. The goal would be to make everything free to start to finish, but it's not there yet. There's a whole lot of learning which has to be done to get to that point.

2. FLAC or WAV work fine, but starting with a lossless source matters, and picking a strong source matters.

3. The output from Plogue is six mono wavs. You then encode to whatever you want, which partly answers question #4.

4. You can do DVD-A, or 24/96 MLP. Sure. Plogue has little to do with that, as my answer to #3 said. My opinion is that, unless you're starting with a 24/96 source to begin with (and I don't even think a 24/96 needle drop counts) the gain from going from 16/44.1 to 24/96 is negligible.

The main programmer behind SPEC, Zeerround, had only spent about 3-4 months working with the program before developing the first build of SPEC, and look where he is now.
 

DKA

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Is the ArcTan a different module?
It's a different "approach." SPEC-CC (what you had chosen in your screenshot) is based on the algorithm used by another popular extraction tool, Center Cut GUI, which splits a stereo file into center and sides. What you were listening to with your Aerosmith was full stereo in the fronts, center output from that split in your center, and side output from that split in your rears. What Center Cut doesn't have, but SPEC-CC does, is the ability to move more from that center into the sides to prevent distortion and harshness with some sources.

The "Slice" mode is similar, but adds another "cut" in the sides in order to increase differentiation between what's in the fronts and rears. "ArcTan" is another animal altogether, and the most complex of the modes, and one Zeerround can always explain better than I do. When used correctly, though, it gives, by far, the best separation of anything I've ever come across. If you've come across some of the Bowie 5.1's that were recently put into circulation, the separation's pretty ridiculous on some of those.

Guys, feel free to ask questions on SBU as well. There's always someone to give a quick answer, and they're much better technically than I am. :)
 

timbre4

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Just getting ready to dive in and now there's a couple more folks on the diving board. :)

More to share the experience can only be a good thing...
 

MyCuff

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All,
Thanks for info and advice so far. For DKA: On the SBU, there is a wiki called "Authoring a basic DVD-A with DVDA-Author". It seems like you go straight from Plogue to DVDA-Author (freeware). Unless I am not understading this correctly, it seems like all I would need to buy is Plogue and then the rest is freeware. I think this means I need three applications:
1. I Prepare the source with Exact Audio Copy (freeware)
2. I convert from stereo to 5.x with Plogue Bidule
3. I author the DVD-A using DVDA-Author (Freeware)
4. Oops I forgot - I burn with IMG burn (an application I am already familiar with).
 

A.L.

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All,
Thanks for info and advice so far. For DKA: On the SBU, there is a wiki called "Authoring a basic DVD-A with DVDA-Author". It seems like you go straight from Plogue to DVDA-Author (freeware). Unless I am not understading this correctly, it seems like all I would need to buy is Plogue and then the rest is freeware. I think this means I need three applications:
1. I Prepare the source with Exact Audio Copy (freeware)
2. I convert from stereo to 5.x with Plogue Bidule
3. I author the DVD-A using DVDA-Author (Freeware)
4. Oops I forgot - I burn with IMG burn (an application I am already familiar with).
You're exactly right. I wrote that guide on SBU and I can tell you that DVDA-Author really does the job. You need to feed it a 6-channel wav (from Plogue) and it will create a DVD-A iso for you. When I wrote the guide, it did not support MLP, which is a proprietary format. It also did not support track points to virtually break a long wav down into individual tracks, but they were working on it as well as on improving menu features. Not bad at all for a free program. Glad to see you're spending time at SBU's.
 

JonUrban

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DKA and/or A.L.;

With regards to my screen shot above, why is the Subwoofer channel (LFE) potted down in the default settings?

Just curious.
 

A.L.

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DKA and/or A.L.;

With regards to my screen shot above, why is the Subwoofer channel (LFE) potted down in the default settings?

Just curious.
Not only is the LFE slider set to -60 dB, but the Additional Bass Boost box is set to Off. This will create a 5.0 mix (empty LFE). If the Additional Bass Boost was checked, a 5.1 mix would be created and the LFE slider should then be moved to the right (to something like -8 or -10 dB). Whether you want to create a 5.0 or 5.1 mix is up to you. Personally, I prefer a 5.0 mix because all my playing options have great bass management features, which means that the LFE is generated by the system itself. When you play a 5.0 mix, it's your own bass management preferences that are applied. When you play a 5.1 mix, it's the mixer's preferences that are used.
 

DKA

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SPEC was just updated to version 4.2 this morning, which improves even further upon "ArcTan" mode and adds an even simpler channel balancing and normalization feature called "ZAG." Both are highly worth upgrading to and/or checking out for the first time.

Thanks AGAIN to Jon, Tim, and everyone else for their support. I love being one big surround family.
 

JonUrban

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I just downloaded the latest version on SPEC. I also made a "request" over at SBU for a way to monitor solo channels of an upmix so one could hear the extraction on a per channel basis, and the next day it appeared! Wow! :phones

Anyway, here's my desktop view with everything at default, showing the ARCTAN setup with the new monitor panel and the LFE controls. It's setup for monitoring, not recording. I'm piping it through my XFi Soundcard. The results using the default settings are quite remarkable.

Now I just have to figure out how to use all of those sliders for something! :yikes
 

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JonUrban

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OK. Some of you have asked to hear what this stuff all does and sounds like. Here's a minute (well, a bit over a minute) of the rear channels of a song you've all heard a million times, Aerosmith's Dream On - attached as a stereo MP3. This is the result using the above setup with NO TWEAKING, it's just what you get!!! You should be able to just play it right from here.

I thought it was pretty impressive. Please listen and comment as I'd love to hear what you guys think.
 

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JonUrban

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Here's one for you Firesign Theater fans. It's a minute of "Nick Danger, Third Eye" from the MFSL CD. This one you'll have to download and put into a program that can play a 5.1 wav file. Be prepared to smile a bit! :D

Again, please comment on your thoughts with these results.............

The download is 38Mb and is a 5.1 wav file
 

DKA

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going back to your screenshot, Jon......you could easily play with the center/front width on the main ArcTan UI. I usually have mine at about 52/83, respectively, and they produce a very nice centered vocal.

the one thing I don't see you showing on that screenshot is the ability to "blend in Slice rears," which is a submenu from ArcTan. that, and the "adjacent speaker" settings are some of what I tweak the most, and where you're able to get the most separation out of those rears with some sources.

I can see we've got you hooked. :)
 

timbre4

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I'm in, bought yesterday. Started reading the beginner stuff, got an image prepared but not much more. Eyes glazed at VST and Blam it's Monday. But the process has begun in earnest. :)
 

timbre4

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OK. Some of you have asked to hear what this stuff all does and sounds like. Here's a minute (well, a bit over a minute) of the rear channels of a song you've all heard a million times, Aerosmith's Dream On - attached as a stereo MP3. This is the result using the above setup with NO TWEAKING, it's just what you get!!! You should be able to just play it right from here. I thought it was pretty impressive. Please listen and comment as I'd love to hear what you guys think.
Spooky good! This is what I've been raving about. [shot of Kevin McCarthy in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers]
 

timbre4

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Here's one for you Firesign Theater fans. It's a minute of "Nick Danger, Third Eye" from the MFSL CD. This one you'll have to download and put into a program that can play a 5.1 wav file. Be prepared to smile a bit! :D Again, please comment on your thoughts with these results.............
The download is 38Mb and is a 5.1 wav file
As a FT fanatic I'd love to but instead of a Save to option, my Windows Media player comes up and informs me of an error? (not that I asked it to the party)
 

DKA

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OK. Some of you have asked to hear what this stuff all does and sounds like. Here's a minute (well, a bit over a minute) of the rear channels of a song you've all heard a million times, Aerosmith's Dream On - attached as a stereo MP3. This is the result using the above setup with NO TWEAKING, it's just what you get!!! You should be able to just play it right from here.

I thought it was pretty impressive. Please listen and comment as I'd love to hear what you guys think.
what.....you try this once and you're already better than me? :)
serious good job there, Jon. congrats.
 
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