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Have you heard this Smyth Research Realiser?


Spychedelic Whale
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I have a Realiser. I am using it when watching bluray and it is worth every penny. I don't have a room where I can have a full sized surround installation. Like some other owners here I went to Los Angeles to have measurements done at AIX and Mi Casa Studio. It is an expensive equipment but you save on real speakers.

How the measurements perform on another person depend on head/upper body shape and outer ear, but I don't think it can be very bad. The thing is that if you are buying it you will want the best of it, otherwise it is a bit a waste.

I am not using it for music. Maybe sound engineers have an interest for it but I don't see the point for just listening music

It is bundled with the Stax 2050II system. They say it has optimal performances with the Realiser but you can use other headphones, although they consider electrostatic are the best match.

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I checked out the Realiser room at the AXPONA here in Atlanta and came away quite impress. It is the best surround sound stimulation I've heard. Their head tracking technology is nothing short of amazing. I wish they will make a unit with a retailed price of $1500. $2600 for the unit alone w/o the headphones is a bit pricey for most people including me. My HT system which consists of all very good used components (Sony STR-DA9000ES, and Paradigm Ref. Speakers) are almost identical in price. I talked to their rep and the price may go soon. They mostly target the audio professional for the most part.

Edited by purk
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I talked to their rep and the price may go soon.

Did you forget a word here? (may go up/down)

Actually they license their technology (SVS) so any company could buy the license, use cheaper hardware (or include it in A/V receiver, or other devices) and target a larger market.

I guess the rep was Lorr? He knows his subject very well.

The head tracking is excellent, especially for demo.

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  • 5 weeks later...

There is an AES paper on the Realiser - "Headphone Surround Monitoring for Studios" by Stephen Smyth, Mike Smyth and Ste Cheung which they presented at the 23rd UK Conference "Music Everywhere" in April 2008.

You should be able to get a copy from the AES or Smyth Research.

I have the complete set as I presented the paper before the Smyth one in the same conference.

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There is an AES paper on the Realiser - "Headphone Surround Monitoring for Studios" by Stephen Smyth, Mike Smyth and Ste Cheung which they presented at the 23rd UK Conference "Music Everywhere" in April 2008.

You should be able to get a copy from the AES or Smyth Research.

I have the complete set as I presented the paper before the Smyth one in the same conference.

Maybe this is the paper you're referring to? http://smyth-research.com/articles_files/SVSAES.pdf

I just read through it and would very much like to hear the system one day. I wonder though if - for multi-channel audio or movie soundtrack - you would not be better off with 7 virtual ideal point sources without speaker nor room coloration? In which case the "only" thing you really need is a set of personalized HRIRs which could be recorded in a reasonably dead sounding space. The loudspeaker response and residual room response would be equalized out of the HRTF because you'd perform both a measurement with in-ear mics and a measurement with a microphone at the head position.

Actually, for that matter, if you're able to get your personalized HRTFs for just stereo speaker positions (+/- 30 deg), then you could also apply these filters to your audio library, maybe it could even be done realtime with nowadays computers so you don't have to store your library twice with / without auralization filters. Nowehere near as practical as the Smyth system but nevertheless a way to get a feel for the power of this technology without having to spend so much money at first.

The other thing I thought surprising in the article is the mention that HRTFs interpolation is possible using only 2 angles (such as 0 and 30 for some interpolation at each angle in this range) without perceived loss in fidelity. I thought the brain was super-sensitive to very slight changes in head orientation and that it wasn't just a question of inter-aural time delay. So, I expected you litterally needed HRTFs with 1 degree step or so to perform some head tracking! That's pretty neat if not.

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  • 10 months later...

I recall some one who bough a smyth few months ago, Ric I believe, any impressions so far ?

There's one FS and I'm getting tempted but having only an HDMi input is really a killer.. Would work with the hdmi ouput from a videocard or I would need some sort of converter ?

Edited by Spychedelic Whale
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The one for sale in the earlier analog only version I think.

The lack of SPDIF/USB inputs, not being able to find a SPDIF to HDMI converter that worked audio only, having no intensions of combining with home theater, bypass functionality being analog only and stereo downmix (in my case stereo to stereo but must be done to sidestep effects) settings not retained in memory proved too much for me and I returned to the local reseller. I never got a reading of the quality of those traveling to LA so I never heard what it was capable of, but did enough that it is indeed as mind-blowing as the demos. Just be aware it's history is in video (thus the HDMI) and is further complicated if you have a head amp performing pre duty also. None of these complaints are about SQ and again all the rumors there are true, but I don't mind headphone listening and I would likely never have gotten over the fact the most expensive piece of gear in my system is also easily the clunkiest.

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Thanks.

Not a very uplifting impression for sure .

This one has the HDMI input and it's firmware is upgradeable, the last one solved the preset issue it seems.

"For presets, PRIR and HPEQ files are automatically saved to non-volatile memory when loaded,

and preset erasures are also non-volatile. Parameters remain volatile until a preset is saved."

If there's no way of using the computer with the hdmi then it's mostly a no go, what a same.. but would you say the limitation of using its dac was noticeable ?

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Most settings are non-volatile such as the PRIR and HPEQ. Others like the stereo downmix are not. So as I had my setup at the time (not using bypass because of analog limitation), if I wanted to use the speakers after using the Realiser, I'd have to turn on, go into downmix settings, step L channel from 0 to .2, .4, etc. up to 1, switch to R channel and repeat. I wasn't going to subject my GF to that as she thinks the steps are too many already. She's probably right. Also keep in mind in my case the signal was already stereo to begin with. This could be fixed in a future firmware though.

But that's my situation. From Smyths perspective (and I'm sure their users who are mostly discussing DVD/Blu-ray audio) I'm in an extreme minority situation. From mine - wanting a standard audio digital input and have a head amp that's also a pre (as many are over a certain price point) - it seemed less so.

And that dual perspective probably explains it all. From a technology perspective that they could bring a functioning consumer product to the door at a mere $3K price point is pretty incredible. From an audiophile perspective it's a $3K box that's very unpolished. And that's a personal pet peeve. Most others are likely more forgiving there.

While I did tests with a DAC in front (to feed Realisers AD best SQ) and then in back (to bypass its DA), I don't feel I really had a strong enough PRIR to comment on ranking against various DACs. It should also be noted the Realiser is limited to 16/48 (though can input higher) unless you use both digital input and out (the TOSLINK as the HDMI out bypasses the effects always).

I am definitely curious where their tiny team goes in the future, but as my speaker setup improves I may just end up personally listening to speakers when I want that and headphones when I want that.

Little of this may apply to others.

Edited by blessingx
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I just want to correct a few things. The Stereo Down Mix is not volatile. I am not sure why you have to reset it every time. Either that changed in the new firmware, or you are not saving your settings properly. Pres "!" and then Save System Config. After that all you have to do is press the "Mix" button and you are good. I have mine set up with way for two channel speaker use.

Second point is about the HDMI. The choice for HDMI over Toslink had nothing to do with video, at least not that I am aware. The Realier can only except decoded PCM, and Toslink can only trasport two channel PCM. HDMI can transport multi channel.

As for the computer (HDMI) > Realiser, that should work. It is a question of setting up your computers audio output settings correctly. I have a Mac Mini plugged directly into the Realiser and it works just fine.

Edited by TruBrew
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I just want to correct a few things. The Stereo Down Mix is not volatile. I am not sure why you have to reset it every time. Either that changed in the new firmware, or you are not saving your settings properly. Pres "!" and then Save System Config. After that all you have to do is press the "Mix" button and you are good. I have mine set up with way for two channel speaker use.

Second point is about the HDMI. The choice for HDMI over Toslink had nothing to do with video, at least not that I am aware. The Realier can only except decoded PCM, and Toslink can only trasport two channel PCM. HDMI can transport multi channel.

TruBrew, great to know about the Stereo Down Mix (if indeed it is in place with current firmware). As I no longer have the Realiser I can't confirm firmware versions, etc., but it's certainly possible I did something wrong. That save method though matches every other system setting which did take. Also when discussing with Smyth I'm surprised I wasn't corrected then, but nevertheless that's great it's there. Please correct anything else I may have had wrong.

As for a video focus, apologies if I was confusing or misleading. I meant that not in recent HDMI inclusion (which is great), but other digital inputs exclusion. I know of no other non-video audio component that features only a HDMI digital input. A minority of computers have HDMI output and this may be the year when more DACs (M51!) have them (some just 2-ch), but considering the percentage of DACs and CDPs that don't (99%?), the number of quality 2-ch recordings (99%) and the 'relaunch' of Smyth (after a few years of near silence) in the audiophile space, it seems the recent HDMI addition (and not also traditional audio digital inputs) is expecting video equipment connections (Blu-ray player and TV). Much of this also may depend on the subtle, but important sales pitch difference of 'multi-channel' or 'speaker' emulation. I'm also possibly adding the weight of the diagrams of their site, the demos, founders history, HF thread, etc.

Which I know I keep repeating ... is fine. I've stayed silent since returning the Smyth because I got a glimpse of what a game changer it can be and didn't want to exaggerate my disappointments... and I fear I've now been overly negative because design choices didn't match what I needed or expected in this 'space.' Someone in a different situation with a few thousand to spend on the Realiser or new DAC I'm still confused what I'd recommend.

I want to add an idea I had during my time with it, discussed with Lor and never had a time to test - taking secondary headphone readings as PRIRs, not HPEQs (the L/R readings would have to be worked out - possibly lifting off ears and slightly rotating). Maybe you'd never want your 009 or HD800 to sound like a T1or PS-1, but if you took your most resolving/expansive can, you may be able to emulate others. Thus a virtual headphone collection. Not the intended use (Lor looked confused why one would even want to try wink.png ), but I think it may be possible. What do you guys think?

EDIT: And there are actually two Realisers on sale over there at the moment (1 HDMI/1 not). When was the last time that happened?

Edited by blessingx
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I want to add an idea I had during my time with it, discussed with Lor and never had a time to test - taking secondary headphone readings as PRIRs, not HPEQs (the L/R readings would have to be worked out - possibly lifting off ears and slightly rotating). Maybe you'd never want your 009 or HD800 to sound like a T1or PS-1, but if you took your most resolving/expansive can, you may be able to emulate others. Thus a virtual headphone collection. Not the intended use (Lor looked confused why one would even want to try wink.png ), but I think it may be possible. What do you guys think?

I had that idea a while back and posted it on HF. Either people didn't understand what I was trying to do, or didn't know why I would want to do it. Basically I am saying it didn't go over well, if I remember correctly. It still seems like a cool idea to me, so let me know if you here more about it. Obviously their would be no need for measurements at different angles, because it would all be the same.

I do agree that Smyth's HDMI implementation is odd. I understand why they did it, but I am having trouble grasping how many people could actually make use of it. They don't want to pay for the rights to DD/DTS. I think the rationale is so that it never gets outdated. I am sure it also keeps costs down a little. Because of their decision the HDMI only accepts PCM. The problem is, no stand alone HDMI decoder unit exists. They have created a market for a product so small, no one will fill it. The PS3, and Oppo players I know will do it. I can also set my Mac to do it, but things like cable boxes, DVD players, Xbox360s are unusable. I don't get it.

This is the way I have mine set up. PS3/Mac Mini/ Xbox360(Stereo PCM) > DVDO edge > Realiser. The Edge is perfect because it takes care of all my video processing needs, but doesn't do audio. The PS# and Mac Mini are set to output Multi channel PCM over HDMI. The 360 is unfortunately stuck at stereo for PCM output. I don't use it much, so I don't think it is worth the cost and clutter of adding a pre/pro and 6 analog cables.

My apologies. I just read through an email I received while back from Lorr, and I made a mistake on my last post. The Mix Down is not a System Parameter, so not saved under the "!" button. It is a Preset Parameter, so you save it my pressing "Menu" > "P1" etc.

Edited by TruBrew
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One question for me is if I wouldn't get annoyed with the speaker style rendering after a while / for many recordings (I got used to headphone imaging over the years, I no longer have a speaker rig). I could see myself using it for movies but main usage would be stereo speaker emulation. For those who really favor speakers over headphones, it's probably a no brainer.

I'd try to get reference PRIRs from AIX or such place but it's also difficult to know if I'd be ok with the added coloration / loss of resolution. The coloration bit might be less of an issue for a reference audio rig. The loss of resolution is more concerning for the obsessive / compulvise audio maniac in me ;), for the same reason I don't use traditional equalization actually. Also, I have some high res music which sounds very good (may be mostly due to the mastering quality though), but it then feels bizarre to feed it to something that processes at 24/48 resolution, the PRIRs themselves being acquired at 16/44 resolution it would appear (I understand though it's most likely just fine given the tiny mics quality, room background noise and all).

Like others, I see this as another toy (in the sense of how I would use it, I consider it an amazing product in regards to the technology involved) and am unsure if I wouldn't do better looking into improving the audio rig instead (source or amp).

I'd be interested to hear others experience with 2ch audio.

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  • 2 months later...

This is starting to interest me but I'd only be using it for 2 channel.

What intrigues me is the possibility of speaker like soundstaging.

I don't have any room to map, in fact I don't own speakers. I'd have to obtain my HRTF's from somewhere...

Is anybody using this for 2 channel music successfully, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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I've said it before, I don't use this for 2-channel because plain headphones/amps sound better to me. It seems others are happy with it for 2-channel but I was not very impressed. This was using a room I recorded at Brooks Berdan in Los Angeles.

For movies it is unbelievable.

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