Foobar2000 is an exceptionally capable media player for Windows OS. Modifying the user interface is straightforward and there are plugins that extend functionality. Today I am going to show you how to format your stereo music for surround sound playback.
1. Install Foobar2000. (Choose a portable install if you don’t want to affect your file associations)
2. Install Channel Mixer 0.9.6.7 (or newest) by skipyrich. Available at: http://skipyrich.com/wiki/Main_Page
2a. To install, you can use Windows Explorer to drag and drop the plugin .dll file into Foobar2000’s ‘components’ folder or via the ‘Components’ section of the configuration panel.
3. After restarting Foobar, you can press CTRL+P or mouse to File->Preferences to reach the configuration panel
3a. Expand ‘Playback’ tree to ‘DSP Manager’
3b. Double-click ‘Channel Mixer’ so it appears in the ‘Active DSPs’ windows
3c. Select ‘Channel Mixer’ and click the ‘Configure Selected’ Button
4. This is what you should see:
‘General’ tab: Select the number of speakers the system has.
If you have a 5.1 select ‘6’. ‘Bypass’ is basically a cancel switch for the settings you have made.
-> Stereoimage width: adjusts the sound stage to be wider (more dispersed) [higher number] or narrower (focused) [lower number]. The slider adjusts in increments of 0.4 if you give it the space. For this setting, and all others I will explain, adjust it big both ways before you get more precise with the adjustments.
- Off- does not upmix the source.
- Copy – sends the signal at the front verbatim to the back. This is easier than Surround.
- Surround – most customization.
-> Center/Subwoofer/Rear in Front: Like stereoimage width, try to sweep big changes before narrowing down to what sounds best. Adjust one bar at a time until you are ready to fine-tune.
Also, you might need to come back to the ‘Subwoofer’ slider after going to the ‘Subwoofer’ tab.
-> Rear: I adjust the ‘Rear’ settings alongside the ‘Rear in Front’ to find the best rear-speaker volume and envelopment.
-> Invert check box: switches the rear and front LR speakers
(Unless you have venue-grade or floor-standing rear speakers with big woofers, you can skip ‘Add low Freqs’)
‘Downmix’ tab: I don’t know, I don’t use it.
‘Subwoofer’ tab: I cannot give much advice here, since I do not have a dedicated subwoofer. If the system has any bass capability at all, you can fiddle with the settings to achieve at least a small improvement. The pictured setting works best for me. UPDATE: I now have a powered sub, and I still get the best sound from the settings above. Just select your own desired volume. EDIT: In the comments, a reader mentioned that sending “All Channels” to the subwoofer will send ALL the audio to a subwoofer. The short fix is to ensure that you use a low-pass filter for the .1 channel. If you want more information, read the comments below before you continue elsewhere on the web.
‘Delays’ tab: Delay helps with realism, I think. I recommend you to prefer the ‘Distance (m)’ setting unless you have some reason to use ‘Delay’. The distance you will measure is from the speaker to your listening position. Receivers often use a setting like this; you may not need to use this tab at all.
‘Profiles’ tab: This is a spot to save and import configurations. Keep a backup of the good settings. (Useful profiles may be for different delay settings for your computer chair and one for when you are lounging elsewhere in the room.) They are saved in XML.
Another plugin of note is the WASAPI plugin, which is only for Windows’ OS equal to or greater than Vista SP1. It will bitstream the processed audio. Quality when using WASAPI is improved (to me) but there are drawbacks- Any WASAPI enabled program, while active, will hijack the Windows audio system and competing programs will be unable to access the system audio. Also, strange sample rates like 22000 Hz will refuse to play. However, you might want to give it a try. To combat being unable to play unsupported sample rates, you could use a built-in Foobar plugin called ‘Resampler (PPHS).’ Still, that is an inelegant solution, especially if your music library has varying sample rates like 48k, 96k, …
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You may be interested in Factors That Affect Sound Quality, another post by me.