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15 Aug

It’s obvious I’m wasting my time in attempting to impart some information needed to work on the quadraphonic matrices, so I might as well call it a day now.

The planned final two ‘special’ releases will not be released, because I just can’t be bothered.




The Rolling Stones – Brussels 17th October 1973

11 Aug

Gathering Moss

The original master for this recording no longer exists, so like many of these live recordings from the past, the quality may not be up to what would be expected in an official release.

This concert has had a minor amount of correction/repair performed on the source that had no negative effect on the encoded information. This has been decoded using the SQd process.

This release is intended as a replacement for the poor quality version that is doing the rounds on various sites, and is released for FREE distribution only.

The Kings New DSP Gathers No Moss

10 Aug

For the last week or two i’ve been involved in matters of decoding, but not necessarily blog related. Then at the beginning of the week i was contacted by someone who i’ve gotten to know via the blog with regards a decoded concert he had acquired. Now it seems as though this decoded concert was being advertised as being ‘discrete’, but after hearing it he felt something was wrong, because discrete it certainly wasn’t.

He sent me an encoded track from the file that was said to have been the source of the decode, which i decoded and sent the files bask to him. Seems as though that was all he needed. He sent me the same track from this ‘discrete’ version so i could compare them. It was not nice!

I noticed immediately the Audio fingerprint of the particular method of decoding that was used, and it rather got me annoyed.

The thing is, throughout the week that feeling has grown, and to be honest, i’m pissed off! For too long people have been duped by people who are nothing short of incompetent. What i’m talking about is this useless piece of plastic:

Over on QQ, this unit is thought of as the best thing since sliced bread, and is said to be able to decode QS and SQ. Fact of life, it can’t. When this was first announced i tried to talk to these people because they didn’t appear to understand the issues in getting one unit to be able to do two totally different matrix systems, especially when one of them was SQ, because if ANYONE knows how to decode Ben’s child they’ll understand the special requirements needed.

But they weren’t for listening and tried to ‘put me down’ by stating (and here’s that phrase again) “We’ve Been To University”. Yea, right!

This unit is based around an “Off The Shelf” Stereo Digital Sound Processing IC. It’s said to be based on the principle of Sansui’s original work on the Variio-matrix decoder. The fact it is based on Sansui’s work doesn’t mean that the new DSP IC is actually a QS decoder. It’s basically  the logic section as there would be no use in producing anything that can decode something specific like QS.

But then they announced that it will also decode SQ. That was when i knew they didn’t have a clue. Unfortunately, the nobody’s at QQ saw this as the answer to their prayers and didn’t like the fact i wasn’t just questioning the units ability to decode SQ, i point blank said it was impossible, because they don’t understand exactly what is needed.

Anyway, those Australians have sold god knows how many of this piece of crap to really gullible people.

Remember, this unit uses an Off The Shelf Stereo DSP. And there’s the reason why it’s totally incapable of decoding SQ. The IC would have been created for use in today’s Hi-Fi equipment, which means it processing a stereo signal and outputting four (or more) channels.

So, why can’t it decode SQ?

Simples! (copyright Alexander Meerkat)

Due to the way the rear channels are encoded, the SQ encoded signal needs to be decoded in a very specific way. In fact it’s so specific i can’t imagine any other use for for particular circuitry needed, it’s that specific. And if it’s not done in that particular way, it’s not decoded!

For there to be any chance of the DSP used in the Aussie Box, it would require external decoding hardware that would feed FOUR channels into it. And being a Stereo DSP, it’s never going to happen.

All this unit is doing is attempting to create a quadraphonic Sound-field, and failing. It’s very easy to hear the phase mess it produces (look back a couple of posts to find what i mean). I’ve had people complain about sounds appearing in wrong places, images are blurred and move when you move your head, etc etc. And what amazes me, some of the people who bought into this have Tate SQ decoders!! I can’t believe they are willing to let the best SQ hardware decoder gather dust whilst listening to the Aussie Box.

So, why have i finally decided to publicly speak out? It’s because there are a growing number of substandard decodes being made at particular download sites, and these are giving people a completely wrong idea of what Quadrophonie is about. This isn’t the last i’ll be mentioning this bloody awful box, but in the next day of so i will be making available my decode of this particular concert, which i would like to be made freely available anywhere where concerts are made available.

This is an extra release and doesn’t mean i’m continuing, by the way. There’s still two more to go before closing time, one here and one on the classical blog, both on the same day.

You can’t correct a bad start

4 Aug

As part of this, rather extended, look into decoding the matrix systems i thought i’d touch on an area where most are unaware that can seriously affect what is to be decoded.

And, when it comes to transcribing the LP, that is the cartridge and phono pre-amp.

Poor performance in this area can seriously hinder the ability of any decoding process, whether it be hardware or software. The main issues are channel seperation and, our old friend, phase.

Over the (too) many years i’ve been a Hi-Fi-olic i’ve been overly fussy over the quality of cartridge i used to play my album collection, even before i started as a trainee in the electronic business, which actually made me even more fussy. The main area that used to really bug was how some cartridges weren’t capable of producing a reasonable stereo stage, often producing something that fitted inbetween the speaker, but never quite making it all the way.

Of course, this is down to the cartridge having poor seperation between the two channels. What is shocking is that this issue continues to this day, which i guess if your just playing standard stereo albums, and your happy with you hear, then it doesn’t matter.

But what if your playing matrix encoded albums that are being put through the relevant decoder? There are many cartridges that fail to approach what is generally considered to be the minimum acceptable level of 20db, some i’ve measured actually fall to no more than 8db as the frequency reaches it’s resonance point.

If you think back to the encode equations i included a post or two ago, it’s obvious that, being mathematically based, the decoder expects to see an unadulterated signal to work on, but the effects of reduced seperation causing various levels of signal cancellation between the two channels can but only affect the decoders ability to do its job.

This effect becomes even worse if the channel seperation reduces (as it does with two catridges i have here) with increasing frequency then the effects become worse, especially when it comes to harmonics. Could this beone reason why one person suffers more issues with decoders containing gain (pumping) logic circuitry than other?

Having had a little experience in software decoding these albums i can firmly state that it definitely affects the quality of decode possible.

So, what’s the best to use?

Back in the day, and after trying many cartridges, i finally found one manufacturer who was capable of producing cartridges capable of producing a fully wide, stable stereo image. And that was Audio Technica. And the cartridge that changed my world was the (not so humble) AT-15SLa. Yes, a CD-4 cartridge.

At the time i noticed an improvement in the width of the stereo stage, decoding of matrix albums, as well as overcoming some issues i had playing CD-4 albums.

Coming up to date, and having tried aa few other manufacturers cartridges, i’m back using the great, great grandson of my original AT, that being the AT-440ML. This cartridge is capable of superb >20db seperation and, ‘when correctly loaded’, a remarkably flat phase response.

Many people have had issues with AT cartridges, complaining they sound bright, etc. But that’s because just plonking them into an arm and expecting them to work perfectly just won’t work.

Firstly, the arms height needs to be adjusted so it’s level with the LP being played, as well as the cartridge needing to be correctly aligned in the arm. And next, THE most important part…..

The Pick-up pre-amp. This area is responsible for interfacing and amplifying the low level signals from the cartridge so that it can be used. And it’s in this area where many a crime is committed.

This pre-amp (often called RIAA pre-amp) is there to correct the frequency response back to ‘normal’ after it had been altered during the master cutting stage.

And here, i must correct myself because it’s not just the frequency that requires correcting, but (you knew it was coming, didn’t you) also its phase.

A poorly designed phono pre-amp that only had its frequency in mind can cause havoc with the phase of the signal. A properly designed pre-amp will ensure that both its frequency and phase response comply with the RIAA specifications, ensuring an accurate (as possible) conversion.

Back in the day there was much talk of correctly terminating the cartridge to the pre-amp. The standard input impedance for a moving-magnet cartridge is set at 47k ohms. But in reality that can be the wrong impedance to get the best out of a particular cartridge. Take the Shure range from the 70’s and 80’s. We were told they worked best being loaded by ‘a total’ of 470pf to get them to sound better. Nowadays i think it might have been ‘the easy way out’ because a reduction to almost zero capacitance and a reduction in the impedance might have given results.

So, back to the AT-440ML. This family of catridges were originally designed for use in JVC’s CD-4 system, and they (basically) remain very true to the original design, so much so in that the AT-440ML is today used by those with CD-4 albums today. It works very well into the 100k recommened input impedance of the demodulator.

But what of it’s use as a stereo cartridge? You’d say, well it states it works well into 47k, so what’s the problem? Well, they WOULD say that wouldn’t they. Whose going to buy a cartridge that needs a non-standard input?

Whilst modifying my RIAA pre-amp i decided to look into what the AT-440ML needed the ‘see’ to work at its best. Cutting a long story short i ended up at an impedance of 39k with zero capacitance. With that i was able to get a nice, respectable, frequency responce along with a phase responce of 0 degrees, leading up to -6  degrees at resonance, with channel seperation never falling below 20db, even at resonance. A very respectable result.


For those thinking about delving into their pre-amps to do a bit of modifying, note that i used see word ‘see’ when describing the input impedance. That figure that is ‘seen’ does not necessarily mean the the resistor used at the very input of the pre-amp needs to be changed to 39k because that resistor can be anything from 47k upwards, depending on its configuration.

Ideally, when designing an RIAA pre-amp, it would be ideal if its input impudence is >1M ohms, so that it has no affect on the value of resistor used to set it’s impedance. But some designs can have an impedance of anything from 100k up to 1M, so the value of resistor chosen to set the circuits impedance needs to be calculated to ensure the circuit supplies the required impedance.



Somethings should remain dead

2 Aug

Ok, so whose responcible for this. What next?  The 8 track?


Steve Hackett – Till We Have Faces

29 Jul



The Importance Of Accurate Decoding: SQ

26 Jul

Lt = Lf + (0.707 -j Lb + 0.707 Rb)

Rt = Rf + (-0.707 Lb + 0.707 j Rb)

It looks so simple, doesn’t it, and yet this frightenly complex little (encode) equation can cause nightmares when it comes to decoding it…, and i speak as one of those who have been affected!

SQ was but just one of Benjamin Bauer’s inventions, and it’s fair to say that it was the more popular of the two competing PAM systems during the 1970’s. But it’s not perfect by any means.

Unfortunately the one point that CBS used in early advertising against the Sansui QS system was also it’s (never mentioned) Achilles Heal, and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago it was finally dealt a blow in the name of depth, separation and imagery.

So, let’s look at what a correctly decoded SQ signal looks like:

Front Left’ = Front Left + 0.707 -j Rear Left + 0.707 Rear Right

Front Right’ = Front Right + -0.707 Rear Left + 0.707 j Rear Right

Rear Left’ = Rear Left* + j Front Left

Rear Right’ = Rear Right* + -j Front Right

* = as part of the decoding process the levels of the rear channels are automatically returned to their ‘pre-encoded’ level

And this is what you get when it’s not decoded correctly: (Assuming correct usage of +-90 degree phase shifting)

Front Left’ = Front Left + 0.707 -j Rear Left + 0.707 Rear Right

Front Right’ = Front Right + -0.707 Rear Left + 0.707 j Rear Right

Rear Left’ = j Front Left + 0.707 Rear Left + 0.707 j Rear Right

Rear Right’ = -j Front Right + j-0.707 Rear Left + 0.707 Rear Right

This is just one of many variations of what has been done, sometimes there’s only one of the phase shifts used, and there’s even been times when there’s been no phase shifting done at all!

The situation above is that the rear channel information is being output from both the fronts and rears, and at the same levels. This causes a somewhat foggy phase mess where sounds may come from the approximate direction it is supposed to come from, but can move from the rears to the fronts, or visa-versa, with the movement of the head of just leaning to the front or back.

I’m sure, buy now, you’ve noticed the elephant in the room. The major drawback to SQ is that the front channels receive no processing at all, so what you hear is the entire four channel encoded stereo information. And it’s this that limits SQ’s ability to produce a clean image with good levels of low level detail and separation.

Every single decoder from the basic 10/40 type to the king of SQ decoders, The Tate, suffer in this respect. There was nothing that could be done about it, so it was NEVER discussed. Even in our technically enlightened times there’s no way of dealing with the problem using hardware.

But, as previously mentioned, a few years ago i stumbled upon a way of dealing with this issue, and although the process is only working at 50% of its capacity, the difference it makes is quite remarkable, allowing SQ decodes to be heard without the limitations that have been accepted as the norm since it was released 47 years ago.

Oh, and the process is called “Phoenix”, and has come into use with all of the other matrix decoding process’s, with differing levels of improvement, to boot.


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