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    The Immersive Audiophile Update 3

     

     

    My research into Atmos and other immersive audio continues. In fact it consumes most of my time every day. All the variables in immersive audio make two channel seem like child's play. Fortunately, one area that's pretty straight forward is amplification. In this update I'll cover some of my amplification considerations and reveal the amp choice for my Atmos / immersive audio system.

     

    7.1.4 Meaning.jpgDolby is pretty loose with its consumer requirements for playing Atmos content. Configurations from headphones, to a single sound bar to 11.1.8 systems and everything in between are OK. Take a look at this speaker setup guide from Dolby (link) to see many of the options. I bring this up only because one can't get too deep into amplifier selection without knowing how many channels need amplification. 

     

    When I first decided I needed to go down the path of an Atmos system, I reached out to friends and people in both the consumer and professional industries. I wanted to know which of the seemingly endless configurations is recommended. What I heard from most people was that I needed at least a 7.1.4 system to do it right. I was also directed to the Dolby Atmos Music delivery specification for professionals (link). This specifications says, among other things, "All deliverables must: have been approved for home listening and monitored in a room with at least a 7.1.4-ch speaker layout." My roads were all leading to a 7.1.4 system. 

     

    Note: This specification also states, "All deliverables must: use 24-bit PCM resolution at a sampling rate of 48 kHz." 

     

    A 7.1.4 system requires 12 channels of amplification. Given that my two channel system is the foundation of the Atmos system, I'll continue to use my Constellation Audio Inspiration mono amps for the front left and right channels. This is where Constellation amps come in extremely useful, in addition to sounding fantastic. Constellation amps have three inputs, 1 RCA, 1 Balanced XLR, and 1 Direct XLR. I never use the RCA inputs and don't plan to do so in the Atmos system. The balanced XLR input is a traditional balanced input using an XLR connection. The Direct input also uses an XLR connection, but is designed to receive its signal from a Constellation preamp. I connect this Direct input to my Constellation Inspiration Preamp's output. A benefit of this Direct input is that it bypasses one gain stage in the amplifier and produces even better sonics. 

     

    In the image below, one can see the little switch for Direct, BAL, and RCA. When listening to two channel audio, I will leave this switch set to Direct. When I want to listen to Atmos / immersive audio, I'll flip the switch to BAL. The BAL input will receive audio directly from a DAC or processor. In a perfect work this switch would be remote controllable or auto-sensing, but I'm not complaining. 

     

     

    IMG_4245.jpeg

     


    Two of the 12 channels are covered by the Constellation amps. The .1 (point one) channel is already covered because I will use a powered subwoofer. This leaves me with 9 channels in need of amplification. It's a difficult number because high end audio companies don't design 9 channel amplifiers. There's zero chance I'm going to use a jumbo AV receiver with "a million" channels of amplification, so it's time to get creative. 

     

    In addition to the number of channels, I also need to consider the type of amplification I'll use. Class A is out because the heat would make my listening room unbearable. Class A A/B is a possibility as is Class D. I though about a Krell Theater 7 XD Multi-Channel Amplifier with an iBias Class A topology, but I'd have to use two of them to cover 9 channels. Sure, I could use the 7 Krell channels and use a 2 channel amp for the remaining two, but I moved on. After talking to friends, I decided to look more seriously at using Class D amplification. 

     

    The NAD M28 7 channel amp uses new Purify amp technology and should be outstanding. I still run into the issue that it's "only" a 7 channel amp and I need 9. I decided to go down a different route. Use Class D stereo amplifiers that I know perform very well. This also gives me great flexibility with respect to placement of the amplifiers. If I want to place two on the left side of the room and two on the right, I can easily do that. The more I thought about this approach the more I liked it. 

     

    Note: I considered amps from a few other manufacturers, even some that build them based on the number of channels needed, but I was unsure of the reputation of these manufacturers. I had no experience with them and neither did anyone I know.   

     

    Mytek Brooklyn+.jpgAfter endless research, I decide to go with 5 Mytek Brooklyn+ amplifiers. Four of the stereo amps will power the surround and height channels. I'll use a single Mytek Brooklyn+ in bridge mode to power the center channel. I love this configuration because the amps are very small and efficient, I have great placement flexibility, and I know how well the Brooklyn+ amps perform. I haven't decided on the final placement of the amps though. A couple on each side of the room, with XLR cables under the floor is a possibility. I've also considered placing the bridged Brooklyn+ behind the center channel, but I think this is a bit difficult to do because running a power cable to the amp in the middle of the floor will be more difficult than a speaker cable. At least that's what I'm thinking for now. I could change it up and test each setup as I get to installing equipment. 

     

    One other amp I considered for the Atmos / immersive system was the Schiit Vidar. I love the Vidar! Two things give me hesitation when I think about using Vidars in this system. First, in order to use them with balanced XLR connections, each amp has to be use as a monoblock. This means 9 Vidar amps would be needed. Second, the Vidar puts off quite a bit of heat. Nine Vidars in my room could turn it into a sauna.  

     

    Readers may be thinking to themselves, how can one select amplification without knowing which loudspeakers the amps will drive? Oh don't worry, speakers have been selected. Be patient, that will be included in a later Immersive Audiophile update :~)


     

     

     


     




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    You could use active speakers. Or even speakers with built in Revanna 😀

     

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    One small point of clarification. The numbers refer to how many channels, not the number of speakers although for most applications they will be the same. For instance, you can hook up as many powered subwoofers as you want to the .1 channel. However, hooking up 3 subs to the .1 channel does not make it a 7.3.4 system.

     

    This is important because any signal processing will be applied to the channel. So in my system which is 9.3.6, each sub has it's own channel which is analyzed and processed without regard to the others. Hooking all 3 to one channel would be a compromise because being  in different locations requires separate processing to optimize them.

     

     

     

     

     

    1537746813_7.webp

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    12 minutes ago, Jørgen Skadhauge said:

    hm a bit late, but I think you dreamed about this one: https://www.apollonaudio.com/product/purifi-1et7040sa-multichannel-amplifier-6-12-channel/

     

    Hi Jorgen, I’m aware of that amp for sure. My hesitations are related to the company.  It could be a great company, but I couldn’t find any information on its track record, customer service, etc… That kind of stuff is very important to me. 

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    54 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Hi Jorgen, I’m aware of that amp for sure. My hesitations are related to the company.  It could be a great company, but I couldn’t find any information on its track record, customer service, etc… That kind of stuff is very important to me. 

     

    It seems they do not have distributor in the US, and I would be leery about sending that much coin to a company that I can't touch, feel, hear a piece of equipment. They could be very well made, and the best sounding amp out there, but that little detail gives me pause.

     

    There was an American speaker manufacturer in Kalamazoo, MI called Buggtussel, and they went out of business because they shipped items to Japan and China and never received any payment through their agent. It basically killed the company, which was sad as they really had nice sounding speakers. They are also 1/4 TL designs, which as many know are few and far between.

     

    A 2002 tour of their factory.

     

    Bugtussel

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    4 minutes ago, botrytis said:

    It seems they do not have distributor in the US, and I would be leery about sending that much coin to a company that I can't touch, feel, hear a piece of equipment. They could be very well made, and the best sounding amp out there, but that little detail gives me pause.

    Yeah, that's where I'm at with this. Could be a great company with great products, but also might not be. I don't want to be the one to find out. 

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    1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Yeah, that's where I'm at with this. Could be a great company with great products, but also might not be. I don't want to be the one to find out. 

     

    Exactly and totally agree Chris.

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    Just now, botrytis said:

     

    Exactly and totally agree Chris.

    This is one benefit of a trade show like Munich. I can meet people in person, maybe grab a bite to eat with them. Also, talk to other people who may know of them or have heard about them. I've found diamonds in the rough this way, and it's fun to discover good companies and tell people about them. 

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    3 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    This is one benefit of a trade show like Munich. I can meet people in person, maybe grab a bite to eat with them. Also, talk to other people who may know of them or have heard about them. I've found diamonds in the rough this way, and it's fun to discover good companies and tell people about them. 

     

    Some of us can only go to AXPONA - DARN IT! 🤣

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    I will try this one day, again when I have time and money.

     

    More information makes for intelligent decisions. Thanks Chris!

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    13 minutes ago, botrytis said:

    I will try this one day, again when I have time and money.

     

    More information makes for intelligent decisions. Thanks Chris!

    I'm happy to help. 

     

    P.S. This is really preliminary, but I've discovered the dynamic range of my Atmos content is much better than the same albums stereo release. Sometimes it's double. More research is needed. 

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    I only have DVD-A's and some of my SACDs are both multichannel/2 channel. but that is all.

     

    Still, this is interesting and yes, some music engineers really are getting into atmos as a way to be more immersive with music.

     

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    I can only envision the cabling.  Color Tag everything or you will get lost!

     

    Then there is power distribution, oh my!

     

    Yet it is all exciting.

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    6 minutes ago, bobfa said:

    I can only envision the cabling.  Color Tag everything or you will get lost!

     

    Then there is power distribution, oh my!

     

    Yet it is all exciting.

     

    My head has already been spinning thinking about getting out my label maker for the cabling. 

     

    Fortunately, I have a lot of space behind the walls in my listening room. I could put all the components in there if I wanted to, but I will likely just have most of the cabling in there. 

     

    This has been a fun journey, and it's only just begun. 

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    How are you controlling volume on these extra channels?

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    7 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

    How are you controlling volume on these extra channels?

    Two ways I can go. 
     

    1. A processor like Trinnov Altitude

    2. A DAC like Merging HAPI Mk2

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    Oh...okay. Those amps are small and should work great.  

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    3 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

    Oh...okay. Those amps are small and should work great.  

    Yes! Small, powerful, and great. 

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    Just dropping this here as another option. These little puppies take direct Ethernet Input over AES67 (using POE). The HAPI would oblige such an option. Not trying to change your mind or current path. Just another option to consider at this early stage

     

    https://www.genelec.com/4430a

     

    I've not heard them myself but I suspect they wouldn't sound to disappointing. Especially when dealing with the combined output capabilities of  many of them together in an Atmos style system.

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    2 minutes ago, cjf said:

    Just dropping this here as another option. These little puppies take direct Ethernet Input over AES67 (using POE). The HAPI would oblige such an option. Not trying to change your mind or current path. Just another option to consider at this early stage

     

    https://www.genelec.com/4430a

     

    I've not heard them myself but I suspect they wouldn't sound to disappointing. Especially when dealing with the combined output capabilities of  many of them together in an Atmos style system.

    Information is good!

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    I wonder if Wilson Audio will be someday producing in-wall speakers for Atmos?

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    3 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

     

    4 hours ago, vortecjr said:

    How are you controlling volume on these extra channels?

    Two ways I can go. 
     

    1. A processor like Trinnov Altitude

    2. A DAC like Merging HAPI Mk2

     


    EMM preamps have an RS232 connector so you can daisy chain them for multi channel … you only need 6 of them. $90K for that many PRE 2 preamps or $150K for PREs

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    Chris, I have  to confess I am confused by the possibilities of Atmos.  As I understand it from this piece, it’s a 7.1.4 multichannel format, with 12 channels of audio, to be ripped from a DVD or decoded by a dedicated Atmos processor,  and thus requiring 12 channels of amplification and 12 speakers in dedicated surround positions.That all makes sense to me.

     

    But when I look at the explanation from Apple or Tiidal, none of that is mentioned and it simply talks of getting the benefits of Atmos via appropriate TVs and sound bars etc or even in the case of Apple (but explicitly not from Tidal) via headphones on an iPad etc.  So if I listen to Atmos  as they suggest, I‘m guessing the decoder  is built into the TV or sound bar (or iPad?), but I can’t see that I would be getting a 12 channel immersive experience. Does this mean that ATMOS also offers improvements when listening on 2 or 3 channel equipment or via headphones?

     

     

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    22 minutes ago, Norton said:

    Chris, I have  to confess I am confused by the possibilities of Atmos.  As I understand it from this piece, it’s a 7.1.4 multichannel format, with 12 channels of audio, to be ripped from a DVD or decoded by a dedicated Atmos processor,  and thus requiring 12 channels of amplification and 12 speakers in dedicated surround positions.That all makes sense to me.

     

    But when I look at the explanation from Apple or Tiidal, none of that is mentioned and it simply talks of getting the benefits of Atmos via appropriate TVs and sound bars etc or even in the case of Apple (but explicitly not from Tidal) via headphones on an iPad etc.  So if I listen to Atmos  as they suggest, I‘m guessing the decoder  is built into the TV or sound bar (or iPad?), but I can’t see that I would be getting a 12 channel immersive experience. Does this mean that ATMOS also offers improvements when listening on 2 or 3 channel equipment or via headphones?

     

     


    You’re not alone :~)

     

    Atmos is adaptive because of the way it’s mixed. Think of your listening space as a three dimensional rectangle or square or whatever. The mixing engineer places sounds in that space, rather than placing sounds in a channel. The Atmos decoder then uses the available channels in one’s playback system to reproduce what’s on the album, as close as possible to the three dimensional mix. 
     

    When mixing an album, the engineer can select the different channel configurations to hear what it will sound like on any given system up to the maximum number of channels in the engineer’s system. 
     

    Sound bars are a strange animal because they use channels that beam music off the ceiling and channels that direct sound toward the listener. It’s less than ideal, but it’s what consumers want. 
     

    Does this make any sense?

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