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I am investigating the possibility of doing live surround sound performances in small spaces and want to find an affordable mixer that accommodates such a thing. I know Yamaha has one but it looks more than a little out of my range. :rolleyes:

 

So, what I was wondering is what, if anything, has anyone here used or at least encountered for this purpose. Thanks!

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I'm with Phil. While it is possible, it will not be cheap. It will have little or no real world advantages in a live music setting. In a theater, action can take place behind the listener. It is very rare that a performer on stage wants to be only heard behind the audience. It would require a true 5.1 system with speakers in the corners and center stage. Running cables and power to all corners will be a PITA at the very least. I'm not sure if Yamaha actually has a certified surround mixer for live music. I'll bet it is possible with a Venue or similar board but that will be WAY out of your budget. Is this for live music or a production of some kind?

 

It can be done and one of my friends did this as an install in a high school theater in Michigan but it was a permanent install and it wasn't cheap.

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What I am envisioning is a small room type setup, like a coffeehouse, and the ability to pan front to back or have depth in the sound space. Also, the ability to throw things around in the room like Pink Floyd used to do would be nice - a sampled sound moves from the back of the room to the front, and so forth.

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OK, I have to ask.... and maybe this is just my ignorance to live surround... but why couldn't you just do it with a standard live sound mixer with 4 prefader aux's? You would have to have some sort of sourround decoder, but with even a simple home theatre surround decoder, it could be done.

 

Here's what I am thinking - Start by getting fromt he outs of the surround decoder and input each channel of the 5.1 to a single channel on the mixer. Send the front Left and right to the main stereo busses (L/R) and send to the L and R fronts. Then for center and L/R rear, you could just aux out from an aux bus, and mix to taste. Shoot, you might even be able to do this with a mixer with 4 sub groups, or some sort of matrix config.

 

and although it might take a little trial and error and teting to "mix to taste" you could easily adjsut the ouputs from the mixer to the individual channel speakers as needed.

 

All in all, it could likely be done for less than $1500 if one was on a small enough budget...

 

So where am I wrong?

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I don't think you are wrong at all, the only down side would be that any panning during the performance would have to be done live, manually, but the teck. Unless you had an automated board, and again, that is lots of dough.

So this system would not reproduce pre-recorded surround unless you took a surround sound 'receiver' and routed each preamp output of each output channle to channels of the mixer and then sent them, as you say to either a group or an aux.

Could be done. I suggest lots of tylenol for the gig, though!

An interesting thing to try, but I would certainly have a clear purpose in mind. I would not say this is the sort of thing you would do with a conventional rock band.....in a small space the wash off the stage is probably going to overpower any subtle effects of the surround sound.

Just my 0.02 dollars worth. cheers!

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OK, I have to ask.... and maybe this is just my ignorance to live surround... but why couldn't you just do it with a standard live sound mixer with 4 prefader aux's? You would have to have some sort of sourround decoder, but with even a simple home theatre surround decoder, it could be done.


Here's what I am thinking - Start by getting fromt he outs of the surround decoder and input each channel of the 5.1 to a single channel on the mixer. Send the front Left and right to the main stereo busses (L/R) and send to the L and R fronts. Then for center and L/R rear, you could just aux out from an aux bus, and mix to taste. Shoot, you might even be able to do this with a mixer with 4 sub groups, or some sort of matrix config.


and although it might take a little trial and error and teting to "mix to taste" you could easily adjsut the ouputs from the mixer to the individual channel speakers as needed.


All in all, it could likely be done for less than $1500 if one was on a small enough budget...


So where am I wrong?

 

Completely wrong...

 

A surround sound decoder has absolutely nothing to do with live surround sound. The only purpose is to decode surround information that has been previously ENCODED during the recording process and this is done (primarily) to save storage space or to be backwards compatable with processes such as "Dolby Stereo" which resides on only 2 channels but hides surround and center channel information in left+right and left-right matrix. I don't see anything that indicates that the OP intends to play back his performance.

 

A live performance consists of discrete channels being combined to create a mix. This mix is typically left and right though sometimes a center channel is included for coverage or localization purposes. This is done through the routing paths and the center channel is usually derived as a function of left-right (w/ a LCR mains routing) or discretely via a seperate bus assignment (individual channels not of varying proportion to the L/R).

 

To do 5.1 properly and without creating a cluster-f*ck out of the primary audio path, a proper 4 channel console with PROPORTIONAL routing is necessary. Look up Pink Floyd and see how they did it. Even with a big budget, it was a challenge to do well. In a small room, the potential for really negative artifacts greatly overwhelm any real benefits IMO. Then there's the cost, time, complexity, and the need to figure out what to do to get desired results.

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I don't think you are wrong at all, the only down side would be that any panning during the performance would have to be done live, manually, but the teck. Unless you had an automated board, and again, that is lots of dough.

So this system would not reproduce pre-recorded surround unless you took a surround sound 'receiver' and routed each preamp output of each output channle to channels of the mixer and then sent them, as you say to either a group or an aux.

Could be done. I suggest lots of tylenol for the gig, though! QUOTE]

 

 

And this is my point... unless this is LIVE music (at which poine you have say "What's the point?).

 

Lets assume for a sec its something easy like DVD-Audio... if we have seperate outs from a DVD player for each of the 5.1, then run each output from the DVD player to the mixer. Channel assignments might be somethign like 1 for center, 2 and 3 for front L/R and 4 and 5 for rear L/R and 6 for sub. Maybe we would use the front channels assigned ot the mains bus, and then aux 1 for center, aux 2 and 3 for the rears and aux 6 for sub. because the audio is already panned on the prerecorded disc, then there would be no manual panning necessary (except to seperate the mains mix) and mixing would be simple enough - just adjust aux levels to get the correct "feel" of the surround.

 

I think the bigger PITA would be the outboard processing for delay, EQ and maybe reverb for each individual channel.

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Sounds like a pita.

 

However,

 

If you are basically talking about creating living room music on a some home theater 5.1 system, (which sound groovy and all but maybe not my thing...)

 

....why not just get a multichannel sound card and use some 5.1 capable software like protools along with a USB controller?

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Yeah, what scarecrowbob said. Without getting into whether it's a good idea or not, the way to do this on a low budget is with a laptop computer running a DAW with a good surround mixer. It could be automated for a canned show, or mixed in realtime with the surround panner.

 

I never use the surround feature, but I think the Samplitude Pro software I use for audio editing will do that. If it's for live sound, you'll want a fast computer with a low-latency ASIO interface, and enough output channels. It won't be cheap, but it's a lot less expensive than a hardware surround mixer.

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A Pro Tools setup that supports surround sound (non PTLE) is also very expensive. I really don't think a standard USB interface can handle anything more then 2 channels. A true 5.1 card and the computer and software that can handle LIVE surround mixing without hiccups is still going to be very expensive. Why not just dual stereo? L & R at the stage R & L in the back. Still a PITA and not worth the hassle but it is doable.

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Then there's the cost, time, complexity, and the need to figure out what to do to get desired results.

 

So maybe you have a big budget ;)

 

Generally speaking it takes double the size of a mono system to do stereo and 4 times the size to do quad. Are you still in?

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So maybe you have a big budget
;)

Generally speaking it takes double the size of a mono system to do stereo and 4 times the size to do quad. Are you still in?

 

:thu: So you are saying that all he needs are 4 of those Phonic systems and he's golden? That's what, $1,200? ;)

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I don't think so. Surround is not the same as rear speakers. I just don't think audiences will care about the sound at that level. In a movie, you expect surround. Live, mono mix is best, with maybe a little stereo panning of toms to give the kit a larger feel. But even that has its down side.

 

KISS. It's always a good idea.

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I don't see the issue. Simply set up two typical PA systems, implement a routing scheme between them, and mix away; fading and panning to taste. Surround doesn't have to be 5.1 or certified or digital to be effective. What some find to be too complex, involving too much effort, or unnecessary, others will find rewarding.

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What I had in mind is Orb/Tangerine Dream type music performed by two or three players witht he outputs of their submixers fed into something that then enabled the sound to move through the soundspace either controlled via MIDI or just through the patches.

 

Now, it could work just by criss-crossing, though it wouldn't allow full A/B L/R translation. I think that would be fairly inexpensive, considering it could be done with stuff acquired cheaply on eBay. The heart of it would be something like a Lexicon MP400, though any two matched stereo effects generators might serve. Considering some synths have multiple outputs and routing, like Wavestations, this could serve, as well.

 

As you see, I am on a low budget. ;)

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I don't see the issue. Simply set up two typical PA systems, implement a routing scheme between them, and mix away; fading and panning to taste. Surround doesn't have to be 5.1 or certified or digital to be effective. What some find to be too complex, involving too much effort, or unnecessary, others will find rewarding.

 

my point exactly - I don't even think you need 2 PA's

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I don't see the issue. Simply set up two typical PA systems, implement a routing scheme between them, and mix away; fading and panning to taste. Surround doesn't have to be 5.1 or certified or digital to be effective. What some find to be too complex, involving too much effort, or unnecessary, others will find rewarding.

 

It does have to be well executed and tasteful to be appreciated by most however. This is where I have my doubts.

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It does have to be well executed and tasteful to be appreciated by most however. This is where I have my doubts.

 

Agreed. And that holds true for the acoustic soloist at the bagel shop all the way through to a multi-sensory production in a purpose built venue.

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Agreed. And that holds true for the acoustic soloist at the bagel shop all the way through to a multi-sensory production in a purpose built venue.

 

Yes, but the acoustic soloist has a better chance of pulling it off. Since I also work in the film business, (as does Todd here on the forum, who might want to give his perspective as he works more in post than I do), I have a little more insight into how difficult it is to generate a good surround track in a studio environment and how often it takes many tries to get from concept to something that is acceptable (not even "good") with the best of tools and talent. Try recreating this in a live environment with inadequate (read as piss-poor) tools and talent and the odds are really against the successful execution.

 

I do think it would be an enlightening excercise and may result in developing the smarts and approach for a better mix however.

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