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Immersive Audio Processor

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
http://www.illusonic.com/
The bummer is there is no sound decoder in it.
CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 90
manual_v110.pdf 1320k .pdf file
Edited by johnbr - 5/6/13 at 11:11am
post #2 of 28
i just took a look at this pro... wow have something to add to the wish list....
post #3 of 28
The literature states that it will work with a multi channel PCM signal . I really don't know how Atmos or MDA would be compatible but this processor is seriously cool .
post #4 of 28
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jillbrazil View Post

The literature states that it will work with a multi channel PCM signal . I really don't know how Atmos or MDA would be compatible but this processor is seriously cool .

If as is expected HDMI 2.0 includes support for 16 channel LPCM, the "next generation" of the Illusonic Immersive Audio Processor could then eliminate the existing 8 channel LPCM input limitations in HDMI 1.4 through inclusion of HDMI 2.0 technology. This would permit some future Illusonic Immersive Audio Processor to act as a pre-amp|post-processor for...

  • Home Theater Dolby Atmos|MDA disk|stream content rendered (into a "compatible speaker configuration" MCh LPCM) using an add-on external processor
  • DTS Neo:X 11.1 or Auro3D 9.1|10.1|11.1 decoded|expanded BD content from a "next generation" HDMI 2.0 BD player
  • 8.1 to 15.1 downmixed from Hamasaki 22.2 audio in some (future!) SHV broadcast|BD4k disk
  • Legacy 2.0, 5.1, and 7.1 channel material


Obviously the capabilities of the (current count) 168 speaker configurations ranging from 2.0 to 15.1 might not be sufficient for every audio aficionado's needs . . . but likely it will suffice for most.biggrin.gif
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Edited by SoundChex - 5/12/13 at 9:09pm
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jillbrazil View Post

The literature states that it will work with a multi channel PCM signal . I really don't know how Atmos or MDA would be compatible but this processor is seriously cool .
The Illusonic is an upmixer. Atmos/MDA object audio content needs no upmixing. But all three of these processes could use the same speaker system. When object soundtracks are not available, then Illusonic steps in to fill the void.
post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

The Illusonic is an upmixer. << . . . >>

Apparently an earlier (circa 2011) prototype 13.1 system was actually so named|characterized at Klangschloss 2011 (link):
Quote:
"Klangschloss 2011 - PSI Audio and Illusonic 3D upmixer 13.1 system
Klangschloss 2011 near Zurich was the occasion of a very special event.

The Swiss company, Illusonic, first launched their first prototype of 3D upmixer from a stereo or surround content to 13.1 discrete channels outputs. This system was displayed"
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post #8 of 28
Thanks to the generosity of Christof Faller, owner of Illusonic, I was able to audition his new Immersive Audio Processor (IAP) in the confines of my home theater. The IAP supports up to a “15.1” configuration, with 9 main speakers and 6 height speakers, in almost any combination. In my case, with “only” a 7.1 system, I chose the traditional 7.1 configuration. Thus, I am not able to report on the full IAP experience, but based on what I found, I’m confident the addition of height speakers would only further enhance the result.

Set up
The IAP can accept analog or digital PCM sources, up to 7.1 via analog or HDMI. There is no codec support, so all sources must be provided as PCM. Not a problem for my Oppo BDP-93.

Connecting the IAP to a computer via USB enables firmware updates and speaker setup. The firmware update process is the easiest I have encountered, easier than the world famous Oppo BD players, where even with automatic Internet download, you still have to click a few buttons and reboot, and perhaps reload some settings. Here, you double click the file, it loads in seconds, and you’re done. All settings are retained. Well done!

The speaker setup tool is similarly slick, but thus far only works on a MAC. I was easily able to enter all the settings from my SSP-800 (level, crossover frequency/slope, delay, PEQ) into the IAP. I had to translate distance to delay, but a future version will allow a choice of distance and units. When finished, I ran electrical EQ sweeps of each channel with REW to see if things matched the SSP-800, and I did have to make one minor change to the Q of one of the EQ bands, and I also needed to select “Order 2 Alt” for the crossover slope as that perfectly matched the 12 dB/octave Butterworth high-pass filter type used by the SSP-800. With the EQ and gain plots now perfectly superimposed, I was ready to listen, explore, and A/B against my current processor for reference.


Processing
The IAP is classified as a surround upmixer in that its primary mode of operation is to extract from the source; it does not generate room reflections like Audyssey DSX or Yamaha DSP modes. Rather, it is more like Pro Logic IIx, Logic7 or Neo:X which also extract from the source to create their effects. But there are significant distinctions with IAP. Whereas these other surround decoders can “steer” signals from certain channels to other channels, the IAP avoids that as a general rule. The main exception being the extraction of a steered center output from stereo content. The degree of steering is completely adjustable from Off (phantom center) to 100% (all steered to the center speaker) in some two dozen steps. Because the IAP uses frequency-selective steering, it performs this task with minimal impact on L/R imaging. As with PLIIx Music, I set the Center to 1/3d of the way from phantom, just enough to fill in the combing notches caused by phantom center, nicely improving the naturalness of vocals.

For 2-ch sources, the IAP also offers an option called “Matrix Decode” which takes advantage of surround encoded content (e.g. Dolby Surround or PLII) and steers surround effects to the rear speakers—and does an excellent job of it, too. Unless the content was surround encoded, which nowadays is old movies, I recommend leaving Matrix turned off just to make sure no unwanted surprises happen.

This is where IAP steering activity ends.

When PLIIx or Logic7 are used in a 7.1 system with 5.1 content, they steer correlated signals in the content’s Ls/Rs channels among the 4 surround speakers. In contrast, IAP takes a less active approach. It maps the Ls signal equally to both the Ls and Lb speakers, and Rs comes likewise from the pair of surround speakers on the right. In a directional sense, IAP is simply maintaining the 5.1 mix with no added interpretation.

With stereo content, the trusty legacy surround modes do quite a job reallocating sounds to the surround speakers, widening the L/R soundstage and contributing notable surround effects. IAC does none of this—the L/R source remains solidly in the L/R speakers (and in C to whatever degree you desire).

Whether the source is stereo or 5.1 discrete, the IAP is clearly taking a purist approach in preserving the original mix.

So if the IAP is not doing any of the unusual surround steering, what comes out all the surround speakers? I’ll call it ambience. Anything that was not correlated in the source content. Direct sounds like vocals or percussive transients are not present, but their reverb and ambience are extracted and presented among all the speakers, from what I can hear, rather uniformly but decorrelated to make sure they cause no obvious localization. In a basic sense, this is actually what most prior surround processors intended to do, but wideband steering with relatively simple control logic just could not get there. IAP raises the art and finesse of the process to a level I have never experienced.

The IAP offers various adjustments for its processing toolchest, and you can build multiple presets to save different settings and call them up instantly. You might like to use a different preset for 2-ch music than for 5.1 movies, for example, or for classical vs. pop.

As with any signal processing tools, they can be adjusted to do more than you might like. The IAP ships with three canned presets, 1, 2, 3, each with progressively greater effect dialed in. At first I had to use preset 2 or 3 to get a sense of what the IAP was doing, since normal “surround upmixing” was not part of the equation. The more I listened and learned what was happening, the more I gravitated to preset 1, which I have since modified from the default (my settings: Center = 7; Depth/3D = 16; Immersion = 9; Brilliance = 16; Room = Off). It seems to me that the Immersion control was by far the most overt in its effect, with just a couple of clicks either way making an audible difference. With my version of preset 1, the obviousness of the overall IAP effect is most easily noticed when it is turned off. The sense of space reduces, and it’s as if the rear of the room has dried up. You are no longer sitting in a nice, cohesive acoustic space, but a small room with stereo sound piled up front. A reverse LEDE effect, if you will.

If a little IAP effect is good, then more should be better. No? What I found is that on certain recordings, the extracted ambience will build over a short time. When the Immersion level is set too high, it can overpower the normal reverb decay, essentially reversing the decay with a late surge, then decaying again. Such a non-monotonicity in reverb decay never happens in real life. [ETA: This has been corrected in subsequent firmware.] Just as with the surround effect in general, different people will probably feel differently about this, and may change their feelings about it over time or with their choice of music. No problem, the IAP gives you complete control, something other surround processors rarely offer.

The IAP fills the gap between direct stereo and PLIIx so successfully that I happily enjoyed it for hours without feeling “surround” deprived. And one thing is abundantly clear: I’d never opt for plain stereo again.

What abut 5.1 sources? With the excellent 5.0 recording of the Vänskä/Minnesota Beethoven Piano Concertos 4/5, I always felt the acoustic space was beautifully portrayed. Yet with IAP it becomes more seamless and more natural feeling. With the Reiner/CSO 3.0 SACD of Pictures at an Exhibition, the space feels a little vacant in the back. IAP fills it out subtly but effectively.

The above is but a fraction of what the IAP can do. Please read the manual for more insights. In my opinion, it’s all gain with no pain. In spite of my limited 7.1 use case, it brings appreciable value to the party.
Edited by Roger Dressler - 7/17/13 at 11:02am
post #9 of 28
Great writeup Roger!

How would it compare with something like Trifield, which I always considered the gold standard in synthesizing ambiance from two channel music sources?
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brucemck2 View Post

Great writeup Roger! How would it compare with something like Trifield, which I always considered the gold standard in synthesizing ambiance from two channel music sources?

The IAP upmix methodology also seems a little like the descriptions I recall for both Harman|Lexicon QLS-3D, and the Auro Technologies Auro-Matic Upmixer...?! cool.gif
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post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brucemck2 View Post

Great writeup Roger!

How would it compare with something like Trifield, which I always considered the gold standard in synthesizing ambiance from two channel music sources?
Thanks, Bruce.

It's been ~10 years since I've had the Meridian 861, so my memories of TriField are pretty faded. But they are different animals, that's safe to say. It was the 861 that first proved to me that music could sound good in surround. But as I recall, I preferred their MusicLogic mode over Trifield, for the way it preserved timbre in the fronts and how it treated the surrounds.

It was the limitations of both that drew me to support PLII at Dolby, which is to be sure a different set of tradeoffs.
post #12 of 28
Nice write-up Roger; some questions if you're willing:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

The speaker setup tool is similarly slick, but thus far only works on a MAC.
Meaning that if you're in the tiny minority that doesn't use an Apple computer, you're SOL as far as speaker set up? Or can set up be done from the front panel and/or remote?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

The IAP is classified as a surround upmixer in that its primary mode of operation is to extract from the source; it does not generate room reflections like Audyssey DSX or Yamaha DSP modes.
Are you sure? I ask because in the user manual (thanx for the link) it talks about the adjustable "Room" parameter: "With Room you can add a subtle reverb to emphasize immersion beyond the diffuse sound contained in the recording."

Do you think that means adding generated reverb beyond whatever diffuse content was in the recording OR just boosting the level of recorded reverb beyond what it was in the original mix (i.e., changing proportions of direct vs diffuse)?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

For 2-ch sources, the IAP also offers an option called “Matrix Decode” which takes advantage of surround encoded content (e.g. Dolby Surround or PLII) and steers surround effects to the rear speakers—and does an excellent job of it, too.
Would this setting then use steering as part of the decoding process for PLII encoded content? IF so, then wouldn't this be the mode to compare with PLIIx? Would be interesting to see what this does with unencoded content, like typical CDs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

When PLIIx or Logic7 are used in a 7.1 system with 5.1 content, they steer correlated signals in the content’s Ls/Rs channels among the 4 surround speakers. In contrast, IAP takes a less active approach. It maps the Ls signal equally to both the Ls and Lb speakers, and Rs comes likewise from the pair of surround speakers on the right. In a directional sense, IAP is simply maintaining the 5.1 mix with no added interpretation.
So that makes it more akin to speaker remapping than surround processing, with the former trying to phantom image the 2 surround channels at idealized locations while the latter splits the 2 surround channels in order to stabilize rear-vs-side imaging in the surround field?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

Direct sounds like vocals or percussive transients are not present, but their reverb and ambience are extracted and presented among all the speakers, from what I can hear, rather uniformly but decorrelated to make sure they cause no obvious localization.
But "rather uniformly" implies that it is a more mono-ish surround field than what you would hear with current surround processing, like PLIIx. Is that a fair conclusion to draw?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

I have since modified from the default (my settings: Center = 7; Depth/3D = 16; Immersion = 9; Brilliance = 16; Room = Off).
Is the "Depth" parameter anything like the one on Meridian processors, which adjust the delay of the centre speaker relative to the L/R speakers?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

What I found is that on certain recordings, the extracted ambience will build over a short time. When the Immersion level is set too high, it can overpower the normal reverb decay, essentially reversing the decay with a late surge, then decaying again. Such a non-monotonicity in reverb decay never happens in real life.
Similar to the pumping that could be heard on older surround processing or something different sounding?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

The IAP fills the gap between direct stereo and PLIIx so successfully that I happily enjoyed it for hours without feeling “surround” deprived. And one thing is abundantly clear: I’d never opt for plain stereo again.
As someone who has been listening to stereo music in surround for the last quarter century, this processor feels almost like it was designed specifically around my personal listening habits. Well, all except that $22k price tag (mama mia that's a spicy meat-a-ball).
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

Meaning that if you're in the tiny minority that doesn't use an Apple computer, you're SOL as far as speaker set up? Or can set up be done from the front panel and/or remote?
Either front panel or remote work too. And that is still the mechanism for all the other settings, like speaker choice (5.1, 7.1), Preset parameters, etc.

Quote:
Are you sure? I ask because in the user manual (thanx for the link) it talks about the adjustable "Room" parameter: "With Room you can add a subtle reverb to emphasize immersion beyond the diffuse sound contained in the recording."
Correct. That's why I said "primary mode of operation." But yes you can add a layer of reverb. I have not really explored that as yet.

Quote:
Would this setting then use steering as part of the decoding process for PLII encoded content? IF so, then wouldn't this be the mode to compare with PLIIx? Would be interesting to see what this does with unencoded content, like typical CDs.
PLIIx starts from the perspective of passively matrixing sounds to every available speaker, then detecting correlations to steer certain sounds to the intended speakers and away from the others. That ensures there's always something in those channels. OTOH, IAP's matrix mode only directs sounds to the rear speakers when there is negative correlation (some degree of opposite polarity) in the source channels. So most of the time (like 99% with music CDs), the rears have nothing but the subtle ambience in them, whereas with PLIIx the surrounds are much more active.

Quote:
So that makes it more akin to speaker remapping than surround processing, with the former trying to phantom image the 2 surround channels at idealized locations while the latter splits the 2 surround channels in order to stabilize rear-vs-side imaging in the surround field?
Yes, I consider it a remapping operation.

Quote:
But "rather uniformly" implies that it is a more mono-ish surround field than what you would hear with current surround processing, like PLIIx. Is that a fair conclusion to draw?
Not mono-ish, but evenly balanced. Today I did a test you suggested, I connected my 6 main speakers (all but the C) to the height outputs L/R/Ls/Rs/Lb/Rb and activated the 7.1 + 6H speaker config. There was no "steered" direct sound of the recording. The sound is very immersive (fancy that!) but one can still identify that front sounds are up front and rears are to the rear (with 5.1 sources), yet they are all amalgamated by the removal of direct sounds, and by the spreading and decorrelation of the ambience. It's a very seamless bubble of amorphous sound, especially coming from a bunch of direct radiators.

Quote:
Is the "Depth" parameter anything like the one on Meridian processors, which adjust the delay of the centre speaker relative to the L/R speakers?
I am certain is it not. Yet I am not certain what it actually does. eek.gif

Quote:
Similar to the pumping that could be heard on older surround processing or something different sounding?
Sort of a pumping effect, yes, but not so abrupt as we normally think of for logic pumping. Today I received new firmware that completely fixed it! (I also noted this in my original post.)

Quote:
As someone who has been listening to stereo music in surround for the last quarter century, this processor feels almost like it was designed specifically around my personal listening habits. Well, all except that $22k price tag (mama mia that's a spicy meat-a-ball).
The cost is indeed a mouthful. It appears to be first-rate software running on a no-compromises hardware platform, if that's any consolation. wink.gif
post #14 of 28
Thanx for the detailed reply Roger.
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

Thanx for the detailed reply Roger.
Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, it's a distant second to actually hearing it.
post #16 of 28
Roger, did you try this at all with movies? I find this unit to be very interesting. It is far out of my reaches monetarily but I find it quite fascinating.
post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

Roger, did you try this at all with movies? I find this unit to be very interesting.
Very little. Mainly to see what comes out the height speakers, and I think without them, the result will be too subtle for movie users. What with all the attention one has to pay to look at the video and understand the story, such signal processing will be pretty tough to notice. Again, with several height speakers I think the ambience bubble would be more effective than the basic 7.1 case I used.

If I have another chance to test the IAP, I will take it to a room with a couple dozen speakers and see how it fares when fully let loose.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post

Very little. Mainly to see what comes out the height speakers, and I think without them, the result will be too subtle for movie users. What with all the attention one has to pay to look at the video and understand the story, such signal processing will be pretty tough to notice. Again, with several height speakers I think the ambience bubble would be more effective than the basic 7.1 case I used.

If I have another chance to test the IAP, I will take it to a room with a couple dozen speakers and see how it fares when fully let loose.

Good to hear, that is actually kind of the response I was looking for.

I will never own a dedicated room (more cleaning than I want to do on the weekends) and therefore will be limited to the 5.1 or 7.1 setup and didnt really know if such a processor would even have any benefit to those that could not continue to add speakers to replicate the venue...

I stumbled on this the other day as I was trying to find audio processors that focus on the audio....just like the Parasound P7....

I have a theory that with the way technology is advancing I would be better off by having something like an Oppo 105, Parasound P7, and maybe a SpectralCal Colorbox.

This way when the HDMI format changes I am only looking at changing one thing...not an entire system...only issue is the P7 has NO EQ and when my system will be residing in a multi-use room that would be a bit of an issue, especially below 1khz.....
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I was trying to find audio processors that focus on the audio....just like the Parasound P7....
What processing does the P7 do?
post #20 of 28
None, analog pass through with gain
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanFrancis View Post

None, analog pass through with gain
You mean like a multi-channel analogue switcher?

Strange to call it an "audio processor" if it doesn't do any audio processing.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

You mean like a multi-channel analogue switcher?

Strange to call it an "audio processor" if it doesn't do any audio processing.

yes I am sorry I should have been more clear.

I would like to see something like a P7 WITH an Audio Processor in it.

This way you could have your video processing separate since you never seem to know how long before a new HDMI format is goign to be.

Something like a video processor with a digital audio out to the audio processor with a high quality DAC would seem to fit the bill....the IAP looks like it would be something that fits that bill.

Edit: There is the ADA TEQ 8 for room EQ....But not sure if it can handle audio from a turntable without a phonostage and such...
Edited by Kimeran - 7/30/13 at 2:31pm
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I would like to see something like a P7 WITH an Audio Processor in it.
OK, that makes sense.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

Something like a video processor with a digital audio out to the audio processor with a high quality DAC would seem to fit the bill....the IAP looks like it would be something that fits that bill.
Video processors from companies like Lumagen and DVDO have a separate "audio-only" HDMI output that can be connected to an audio processor. Aside from the IAP, there are other pre-pros that don't do anything with the video signal: Classe, Bryston, Meridian, ADA, etc.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

There is the ADA TEQ 8 for room EQ....But not sure if it can handle audio from a turntable without a phonostage and such...
It has standard line-level RCA inputs, so you would need a phono pre-amp.
post #24 of 28
Ah, Thanks for all the info.

I am a long way from really taking my theater experience to the next level, I just really enjoy reading and researching this stuff.

I am a bit of a DIY person but I also like the consumer market stuff as they do have things that I cannot do myself.

For Instance, My current plan of attack is something along these lines....

Currently in Progress
-The hunt for a nice quality vintage turntable such as: Pioneer PLC590, Thorens TD160 TD125 TD124(long shot), Technics SP10, Linn(long shot), Garrard(long shot), there are some others but I dont remember them off the top of my head.

Build new speakers based on the Synergy/Unity design by Tom Danley
-Current Plan for this is to have the two-way Unity Horn on top with a 15" driver below it styled after the famous JBL 4343 with blue baffles. This will alow me to save a little money on the cost of drivers by having one 15" compared to two.

Build Subwoofers
-3 x Sealed 15" subs. I chose 3 total cabs to go along with Earl Geddes research of having one sub possibly close ceiling, one by the display, and one possibly by the seating position(if this isnt possible it will the opposite side of display)

Get some proper amps
-I am a big fan of McIntosh stuff for several reasons, their known reliability, they hold their value better than most other audio gear, they have the power, and I like the blue meters. I will probably go with 2 channel and 3 channel amps....debating on a 5 channel instead of the 3 to power zone 2(patio speakers)

Get a high quality preamp with HT bypass
-unfortunately you just cant build a preamp that I have seen that allows for HT Bypass....I have build a bottlehead quickie already and would like to build more of their stuff but there just arent many reasons to have something like that for anythign other than a dedicated music system....I wont use a HT Pre/Pro for this as I want the tube sound with my music and I really like the sound that a tube preamp with SS amps can do.

Finally I will look at getting the High Quality HT Processor/ SSP and room correction...this is at the bottom of my list because currently the videa and HD formats are changing so fast that by the time I got the rest I would need to upgrade this part again...by tackling the music side of things first I will be able to keep that stuff for hopefully the rest of my life....

Edit: This just occured to me, but with the way this IAP works, would it really be neccesary to have the center channel match the LR channels?
Edited by Kimeran - 7/31/13 at 10:16am
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

This just occured to me, but with the way this IAP works, would it really be neccesary to have the center channel match the LR channels?
Only as necessary as having the L speaker match the R speaker.
post #26 of 28
Dear Kimeran, Sanjay,

The center channel should roughly match the sound of L and R within its frequency range. You may use a smaller center channel with bass management routing its bass to L/R or sub.

Christof
post #27 of 28
Thanx Christof (and welcome to the forum). In this day and age of good quality bookshelf speakers, I took the lazy approach by simply used three of the same speakers up front. This way I didn't have to wonder whether the speakers matched or not.
post #28 of 28
The bubble you mentioned above, when listening only to 6 heights, is rendered in the horizontal case over the horizontal loudspeakers (with adjustments to minimize interference with the original signals).

This increases immersion and depth also for movies in 5.1/7.1, even when "only" a 5.1/7.1 setup is used.
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