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Author Topic: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help  (Read 447 times)

Bob Sorel

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I have switched from bitstreaming to MC's internal decoding in order to eliminate the few audio dropouts that I had been experiencing. I know I am losing Atmos decoding, but my AVR's "Dolby Surround" DSP does a pretty decent job of synthesizing the 4 Atmos channels, so I feel that there is more to gain by using MC's audio handling than I get from using my AVR's decoding/processing. As such I am trying to get a hold on DSP Studio, as I would like to use it to fix other issues with my home theater sound.

First of all, my system is 7.2.4, though I am running both subs from a mono output, with 4 Atmos speakers, and I am using a WASAPI audio driver in MC.

So I started by setting up DSP Studio's Output format/Channels to "Source number of channels" in order to send the proper source channel configurations to my AVR. But right under the "Channels" dropdown is another dropdown labeled "Extra channels". What is this for (I can't seem to find any reference to it anywhere)? Should I set this to "4" to account for my 4 Atmos speakers? I just want to make sure that I am telling MC the correct information it needs to process and and send the PCM information to my AVR for further DSP processing.

And then I would like to make some changes to improve my center speaker. Two things need fixing:

1. I need to EQ my center channel for more dialog clarity/intelligibility, which lack even when the sound level is high enough. By boosting the frequencies around 1k to 4k, even a very small amount, the dialog words become easier for me to hear. I know I can do this by using the parametric EQ built in to DSP Studio, but I prefer to use a third party 31 band graphic EQ, as I am much more comfortable with graphic EQs than I am with parametric EQs due to my musical background. I can figure out how to load a third party VST just fine, but I have no idea how to assign it to the center channel ONLY. Is this possible, or am I stuck having to accomplish this feat using the built in parametric EQ, which, IIRC is the only DSP in DSP Studio which can be assigned to any speaker or combination of speakers?

2. Center channel mixes are all over the place in 5.1 and 7.1 movie source material (not MC's fault - this has been a problem with content producers forever). Sometimes the center channel is blaringly loud, while other times it is way too soft for me to hear all of the dialog with my aging ears (I will be 70 next month). Yes, I know that there is a center channel offset in DSP Studio, but it needs to be adjusted on a per film basis and sometimes on the fly, so its usefullness is limited. I have used peak limiters and compressors in my musical experience playing in bands, but the third party VSTs are a lot more sophisticated and complex than the old DBX compressors/limiters that I used back in the old days. I just want to get my center channel under control so that it is more consistent from one movie to the next, and a nice simple compressor would seem to be the right way to go to get this done. I have already engaged "Volume leveling" and "Adaptive Volume" in DSP Studio, but the effect is fairly minimal. What I would like to do actually is:

     A: "Normalize" the overall center channel level as referenced to the other 6 speakers.
     B: Raise the level of very soft dialog without reducing the dynamic range (as much as possible). I know that no matter what I do here I will face a reduction in dynamic range, but it is the lesser of 2 evils for me. I really need to use a "reverse peak limiter" (instead of lowering the peak volume I want to raise the low dialog volume), and I am wondering if today's third party VSTs can do this effectively (the old DBX compressors used to be subject to "breathing" as it compressed and relaxed volume, and there was not any way to raise low volume levels without limiting peaks at the same time).

Does anyone know of an inexpensive (or free) VST whch can do what I want, and will I be able to assign it to the center channel ONLY?

Advice or help, anyone??

Edit: Last night I ran into an unexplained anomaly while playing a movie. I opened DSP Studio while the movie was playing and noticed that the DSP "Tempo and Pitch" was checked, despite the fact that I had NOT checked it when the movie was stopped. I tried to uncheck the setting (while the movie was playing) and found that I could NOT uncheck it. Once I stopped the movie, the setting was magically unchecked again. What's up with that??
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eve

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2024, 10:10:41 pm »

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Bob Sorel

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2024, 01:43:07 pm »

Hi Bob (I'm schizophrenic...and so am I),

I don't know the answers to all of your questions and concerns, but maybe I can help a little.

1. First of all, I too am totally confused as to how to use DSP Studio's Output format/Extra channels dropdown, and even after a thorugh search, the only post I found on the subject was yours in post #1. Either everybody in this forum knows what this is and how to use it (and they don't want to make you feel stupid) OR everybody is as clueless as you are. Maybe one of the devs can jump in at some point and at least explain how this dropdown should be used and if it should be set to "4" to properly account for your 4 Atmos speakers.

2. As far as dialog normalization is concerned, it is more complicated than mere compression of the audio signal. Even a simple compressor, whether in software or in hardware, will compress the ENTIRE audio signal, not just the dialog, so other sounds which really should be in the background will become louder than intended...not a good idea. Some people recommend using the "night mode" available in DSP Studio's "Adaptive Volume", but in my case it does not help at all. In my system it merely makes everything obnoxiously loud when used at normal home theater volume levels, though it probably works great if used as intended - softer volume levels at night. Maybe you could try using the peak limiter in the adaptive mode (you never want to use hard clipping that you get from the "brick wall" type of limiting as far as I am concerned, as that leads to distortion) and then raising the center speaker level. It is not perfect, but it might be better than the wild and crazy center channel levels that movie producers use. The center channel levels of movies vary almost as badly as commercials do on network TV. Back in the old days, when I used Madshi's "eac3to" to demux Blu-rays, there was an option to normalize the center channel on the fly while demuxing. This worked GREAT, but I haven't worked with that command line program for years now....too lazy and I don't even know if Madshi continued its development to include UHD disks.

3. Maybe JRiver would be interested in further developing their "adaptive volume" DSP to be more flexible, like having adjustable amounts of volume boost, as well as having the ability of assigning the DSP to any speaker or combination of speakers.

4. As far as DSP Studio's graphic EQ is concerned, it would be really nice if it were redesigned to adhere more to industry standards, meaning that it should have 31 bands, not 20. The 20 bands, though useful, are just not enough bands to really zero in on problem areas. I know that parametric EQs are much better in this regard, but if the purpose of the graphic EQ is to create a flat response by using the inverse of the measured response, then a 31 band graphic EQ is a faster, more effective tool IMHO. Also, should they see some value in redesigning the graphic EQ, it would really be nice to have it work more like the parametric EQ in the ability to assign and adjust settings for individual assignable speakers or combination of speakers, as well as other options available with the parametric EQ.

5. And finally a word about 3rd party VSTs that are user installed. I have tried installing a couple of free VSTs, but I found that I had no ability to assign them to channels or combination of channels, making them useless for my purposes. By default, is the VST being applied to ALL channels, just the main front channels, or what?

6. Oh, and I almost forgot, I too have NO IDEA why "Tempo and Pitch" mysteriously swtches itself on and off with every movie, but I can verify that the behavior you have described is correct...it happens to me as well.

I know it is not much, but I hope it helps.
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mwillems

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2024, 02:06:10 pm »

Hi Bob (I'm schizophrenic...and so am I),

I don't know the answers to all of your questions and concerns, but maybe I can help a little.

1. First of all, I too am totally confused as to how to use DSP Studio's Output format/Extra channels dropdown, and even after a thorugh search, the only post I found on the subject was yours in post #1. Either everybody in this forum knows what this is and how to use it (and they don't want to make you feel stupid) OR everybody is as clueless as you are. Maybe one of the devs can jump in at some point and at least explain how this dropdown should be used and if it should be set to "4" to properly account for your 4 Atmos speakers.

The extra channels provide extra blank channels for manual mixing.  This is useful if you have bi or triamped speakers or want to do some complicated mixing, but will not automatically move any sound to those channels.  You want to set the output format that most closely matches your setup, so something like 12-channels is what you want.  7.1 with 4 extra channels will just give you four blank channels.

Quote
6. Oh, and I almost forgot, I too have NO IDEA why "Tempo and Pitch" mysteriously swtches itself on and off with every movie, but I can verify that the behavior you have described is correct...it happens to me as well.

It most likely happens because you have enabled the VideoClock check box; that feature uses minor adjustments to the audio tempo to keep the video and audio tightly synced.  If you turn off that feature you'll should stop seeing the switching on and off of "Tempo and Pitch," but you will also no longer have the benefits of VideoClock.

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Bob Sorel

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2024, 02:50:30 pm »

Great! Thanks for the clarification!
Quote
...but will not automatically move any sound to those channels.
Then I now assume that I can leave the Output Format/channels set to "Source number of channels" and the "Extra channels" left at "None" and MC will send the decoded number of channels from the source as PCM to my AVR and then the AVR can apply its own DSP to support the Atmos speakers...got it.
Quote
It most likely happens because you have enabled the VideoClock check box
Yup, that was it!... :) My sync is excellent as is, so I will leave VideoClock enabled.

Thanks again!
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mattkhan

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2024, 04:43:24 pm »

https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,129609.0.html provides the interactive/visual UI that creates peq in MC but looks like a geq and can be applied to different channels
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Bob Sorel

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2024, 07:07:00 pm »

Wow, Matt, your beqdesigner looks incredible, but I am not the techiest person around, so I will be starting from the very beginning (I mean VERY beginning) on exactly what this is and how it works. For example, I assume that:

beq = bass EQ
peq = parametric EQ?
geq = graphic EQ?

(gotta know the jargon!)

From your link here I have followed back to many other links where I think I will be able to learn how to use your UI.

From the little I read so far, it looks like the best way for me to begin is to start with the AVS threads "Bass EQ for filtered movies" and "ezBEQ use and development" in order to get my feet wet, unless there is an even more novice guide available that you would recommend. My assumption is that once I can get a handle on beq (which also interests me, as I have noticed for quite some time now that the low bass content is nowhere near as fulfilling as it was a few years ago, and now I know why), then I will be better prepared to use your tools.

And as I learn I plan on incorporating your UI/editor to see how much better I can improve dialog in my center.

If you know a better path for me to learn how to use these apps, please let me know where to begin (especially if someone has written a "for dummies" guide)....wow, I have a lot to learn!

Thanks for pointing me in the right direction...you rock!
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mattkhan

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Re: Trying to use DSP Studio to "fix" my center channel...please help
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2024, 01:30:10 am »

You can ignore all that and focus on the linked pages

https://beqdesigner.readthedocs.io/en/latest/ui/manage_mc/

Which tells you how to use it while this page tells you where to get it from

https://beqdesigner.readthedocs.io/en/latest/install/

Download it, run it, open the MC dialog, connect to MC and away you go

The graphic eq type screen I was thinking of is

https://beqdesigner.readthedocs.io/en/latest/ui/manage_mc/#geq

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