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    The Computer Audiophile

    What Is Discrete Immersive Audio, and Some Atmos Music Favorites, Part 3

     


    Just when everyone thought they understood Atmos music and Auro 3D, some forward thinking pioneers released what's called Discrete Immersive audio. Oh wait, Atmos music and Auro 3D are still a bit fuzzy in peoples' minds? I'm only joking. Immersive audio can be a little confusing at the moment, just like the early days of computer audio and high resolution downloads. One great thing about all of these concepts is that the end result is absolutely worth any trouble or learning curve required to experience them (I've been told the same can be said about vinyl playback, but that's rocket science to me). I hate to imagine where we'd all be if we'd have said that understanding adaptive vs asynchronous USB, Exclusive mode, DSD, gapless playback, network audio, etc... are all a bridge too far. 

     

    Understanding Discrete Immersive audio first requires a tiny bit of knowledge about the alternatives. 99.9% of immersive audio is released in either Dolby Atmos or Auro 3D. Both technologies support immersive height channels, in addition to the traditional ear level speakers.  Music delivered as Dolby Atmos or Auro 3D is encoded at the studio, and requires a decoder in the consumer's audio system for proper playback. For example, Auro 3D files can be delivered via download as eight channel FLAC files, with four additional channels embedded into the metadata. Extracting all 12 channels of a 7.1.4 Auro 3D album, requires a proprietary decoder.  The beauty of these decoders is that audio can be sent to the number of channels in a listener's audio system rather than a fixed number of channels. If Morten Lindberg mixed an album in 7.1.4, it can be played back on systems from 5.1.2 to 9.1.6, and the Dolby Atmos decoder will properly route audio to the right channels. 

     

    Discrete Immersive audio, on the other hand, requires zero proprietary decoding. It's immersive audio as heard in the studio, before being downsampled, compressed, and encoded, for the mass market. Morten Lindberg's aforementioned 7.1.4 12 channel album recorded in DXD (24 bit / 352.8 kHz) would be released as 12 channel DXD WAV files. This is the holy grail of sound quality for us music loving audiophiles. It's the immersive equivalent to what stereo listeners have had since day one, unencoded FLAC, WAV, etc...

     

    The one negative aspect of Discrete Immersive audio, is that listeners with less than the delivered number of channels need to make adjustments to hear the music "properly." For example, in a recent Discrete Immersive album I received, was a note that said, "If your immersive speaker layout is 5.1.4 then please omit/mute channel 5 and 6 from these files. If your immersive speaker layout is 5.1.2 then please also omit/mute channel 11 and 12 from these files." The files are still playable in almost all their glory, but adjustments are required. 

     

    What if a Discrete Immersive album is released as 5.1.4, and listeners have 7.1.4 systems? This is easy to remedy without any manual labor. When playing a 5.1.4 Discrete Immersive 24/384 album, I use a convolution filter created by Mitch Barnett that routes the audio to the correct speakers. Given that everyone with a system capable of playing a 24/384 Discrete Immersive album will also want/use convolution capabilities anyway, this really isn't even an added step. 

     

    Currently I know of four places offering Discrete Immersive music downloads, 2L, NativeDSD, Spirit of Turtle, and trptk. 2L offers 7.1.4 DXD, trptk offers 5.1.4 DXD, Spirit of Turtle offers 5.1.4 DXD, and NativeDSD offers both 5.1.4 (24/384) and 7.1.4 DXD depending on the album. The prices of these Discrete Immersive albums are around $60 to $90. Based on what I've heard so far, the albums are absolutely worth every penny. This is as cutting edge as it gets in audio.

     

    As I type this, I'm listening to Lyden av Arktis (The Sound of the Arctic) in 12 channels of glorious DXD, from Morton Lindberg's 2L label. Track 4, Minnemøter - Fire Arktiske atmosfærer (Encounters Recalled - Four Arctic Atmospheres), is an 8.6GB file, 12 minutes long, and a stunning piece of music. Even without looking at the musician / recording layout below, I can easily identify where each musician is placed in the immersive soundstage. Listening to this album is truly listening without restrictions. Zero restrictions from the performance through playback. Captured immersively, with an original source of 7.1.4 DXD, and played back in my room at 7.1.4 DXD. How could home audio reproduction get better than this?

     

     

    musicians.jpg

     

     

    One last note about Discrete Immersive audio. I convert all my lossless Dolby TrueHD Atmos and Auro 3D albums to something similar to Discrete Immersive audio. Those formats are 24/48 and 24/96 respectively, so I convert them to 7.1.4 12 channel WAV files at those resolutions. Technically this is sort of discrete Immersive, but it isn't the same thing as a never encoded Discrete Immersive, pure from the studio. Thus, I think we should avoid calling such conversions Discrete Immersive, even they seem like it, kind of, sort of. 

     

     

    Now Playing, Immersively

     

    I know immersive music aficionados are always looking for new music, just like me, so I'm happy to help their additions to the wonderful hobby. Here are three favorites I've been listening to lately. 

     

    Spoon - Lucifer on the Sofa - Apple Music
    I've Neve listened to Spoon before this immersive release. This album is only available from streaming services. 

     

    Dave McKendry - HumanBeingKind - Apple Music | Blu-ray
    I absolutely love this album from Dave Mckendry. I don't think I would've given the album more than a 30 second spin, if I didn't see it was also available in lossless TrueHD Atmos. I ripped the Blu-ray and haven't stopped playing it since. I think it sounds fantastic, and the Atmos mix serves the music very well. Not too conservative nor too adventurous, but just right. The TrueHD Atmos is a must have. 

     

    Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas - Apple Music | Blu-ray
    Like many members of this community, I've been listening to this album forever. This year a new stereo and Dolby Atmos mix was released. I just received the Blu-ray with lossless TrueHD Atmos and ripped it to my growing collection. Excellent music, fairly conservative Atmos mix, and very enjoyable. The Super Deluxe Edition includes the Blu-ray and some great information about the recording of the tracks. Highly recommended!

     

     

    spoon.jpg folder.jpg folder.jpg

     

     

    Wrap Up

     

    Lastly, a very neat rumor for Tesla owners started floating around three weeks ago. Soon an update from Tesla will enable Dolby Atmos in its cars. I can't wait to listen. In someone else's car of course, my banged up Subaru won't ever support anything other than stereo.

     

     

    tesla dolby atmos.jpg

     

     

     




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    You can listen in my M3 CC, but I am sure as hell not driving it to Minney Soda.

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    50 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

    You can listen in my M3 CC, but I am sure as hell not driving it to Minney Soda.

    Ha!

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    Quote

    What if a Discrete Immersive album is released as 5.1.4, and listeners have 7.1.4 systems? This is easy to remedy without any manual labor. When playing a 5.1.4 Discrete Immersive 24/384 album, I use a convolution filter created by Mitch Barnett that routes the audio to the correct speakers. Given that everyone with a system capable of playing a 24/384 Discrete Immersive album will also want/use convolution capabilities anyway, this really isn't even an added step. 

    Can you detail what the convolution actually does?  Does it create a mix of the adjacent channels for the missing ones, e.g., mix(FR+RR) -> SR or mix(FRH+SR) -> SRH?

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    2 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

    Can you detail what the convolution actually does?  Does it create a mix of the adjacent channels for the missing ones, e.g., mix(FR+RR) -> SR or mix(FRH+SR) -> SRH?

    It can do anything you want. 

     

    Mine just routes audio to the right channels and does room correction.

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    20 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    It can do anything you want. 

    That's attractive.

    20 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Mine just routes audio to the right channels and does room correction.

    What I am asking is whether it creates a location-appropriate signal (or simply copies an adjacent channel).  Roon/JRiver, of course, can do these things with a little hand's effort but not in a very sophisticated way.

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    Just now, Kal Rubinson said:

    That's attractive.

    What I am asking is whether it creates a location-appropriate signal (or simply copies an adjacent channel).  Roon/JRiver, of course, can do these things with a little hand's effort but not in a very sophisticated way.

    If it’s 5.1.4 it sends audio to the correct 10 channels of my 12 channel system. I don’t mess with creating information in spaces that aren’t on the recording. 

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    52 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    If it’s 5.1.4 it sends audio to the correct 10 channels of my 12 channel system. I don’t mess with creating information in spaces that aren’t on the recording. 

    I misinterpreted "What if a Discrete Immersive album is released as 5.1.4, and listeners have 7.1.4 systems?"  and what followed to mean that it was doing upmixing.  So, it is just rerouting.  

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    1 hour ago, Kal Rubinson said:

    I misinterpreted "What if a Discrete Immersive album is released as 5.1.4, and listeners have 7.1.4 systems?"  and what followed to mean that it was doing upmixing.  So, it is just rerouting.  

    I’m just routing channels because channels 1-10 don’t align with my 1-12. Upmixing could be done though. 

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    This one is required reading.  You explain the formats perfectly!

     

    ***** Dave McKendry - HumanBeingKind.  (is a five star album)

     

     

    I am getting behind in my reading and I have hours of music to sample!  I am going to have to block out music time!  

     

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    On 12/16/2022 at 12:21 AM, ted_b said:

    Great article, Chris, as usual.  We've been pleasantly surprised by the openness of the labels to let their native discrete DXD masters of this stuff out to the public (well, 10+ channel dac public, that is  :)  ).  I've asked some more traditional 2 and 8 channel dac manufacturers to take a close look at possibly providing, for the market, a 10+ channel configuration that would work, whether it's similar to the stacking I worked with Mytek on back 10 years ago (the Asio driver and usb hub being the traffic cops on that one), or a way to combine units with word clocks, etc.  Anyway, it should be fun to see what comes up to add to the pool of dacs that can do DXD 7.1.4 (i.e 12 channels of 24/352.8k.....or more  :)  ).  Stay tuned. 

    I would be very interested in a DAC like that.  I am using a MOTU 24AO studio audio interface now, which is great, but fussy.  I could see Topping taking their 8 channel DAC and glueing two of them together in a 19in rack 16 channel form factor.  maybe add Ravenna?

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    eClassical also sells a lot of 5.0, 5.1, 7.1, etc., downloads.  But I haven't seen any with height channels, as well, so perhaps not to be included in this round-up.

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