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Guide to Dolby Headphone on your DAP

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Dolby headphone is a technology developed by Dolby Laboratories which creates a virtual surround sound environment in two channel stereo headphones. This guide is a follow-up to 5.1 Headphone experience in the Computer as Source forum. It describes a step-by-step process to create music files with virtual surround sound encoded into them. That means devices without Dolby Headphone, such as your portable, can have the same large sound stage and fuller sound as using Dolby Headphone on your computer.

Basically, this guide is 2 completely independent steps. Step 1 sets up a signal processing path in Foobar and Step 2 sets up the converter to re-encode your music with that signal processing path. If you're a tweaker you can test different settings in Step 1 until you find the settings you like best. The settings below are only how I do it. It's definitely not the only way and maybe not the best way. You'll find many options and opinions in the thread linked above. As long as you can set up the signal processing in Foobar, Step 2 will work with any of them.

Dolby Headphone on your computer operates on the decoded music and leaves the original music file unaltered. Since your portable doesn't have Dolby headphone, the surround information must be encoded into a new music file just for your portable. Your original file is still unaltered but now you'll have a second, altered, version with the virtual surround information encoded into it. These new music files are just for headphone listening so you'll want to make sure to keep those files separate from your main music library.

Since you're creating a new music file, it is strongly suggested that you use a lossless source. Despite that warning, this guide will work with any music file that plays in Foobar and with high quality lossy formats you may never notice any difference with lossless. Just be aware that re-encoding lossy files may result in sound artifacts.

  • foobar2000: Any recent version should work but why not use Version 1.
  • DolbyHph.dll: The Dolby Headphone DSP. You probably already have a copy on your computer but if you don't, there is a link in the original thread.
  • Dolby Headphone wrapper: The interface of DolbyHph.dll to Foobar.
  • Surround sound mixer: There are several choices but this is the one I use.
  • Noise sharpening: Enhances high frequency detail (optional).
  • LAME: for MP3 encoding but you can use any encoder that works with Foobar and is compatible with your DAP.

Set-up software
  • Install foobar2000 if not already installed.
  • Unzip foo_dsp_dolbyhp.dll, foo_dsp_upmix.dll and foo_dsp_delta.dll and put the dlls into the Components folder (Program Files\Foobar2000\components).
  • Place DolbyHph.dll and LAME.exe in the Foobar 2000 folder (Program Files\Foobar2000).
  • Start Foobar (shut it down and restart it if it was already running).
  • File>Preferences (Ctrl+P) to bring up Preferences.
  • Click on Components in the left pane and verify that the 3 dlls above are listed.

Step 1 -- Set up Signal processing
  • File>Preferences (Ctrl+P) to bring up preferences.
  • In the left pane click on DSP Manager. If not visible, click the + next to Playback to expand.

  • With Active DSPs pane empty, enter None in the Presets section and click Save.

  • In the Available DSPs pane, click Noise sharpening and then click the <= button to copy it to the Active DSPs pane.
  • In the Available DSPs pane, click 2ch to 6ch (double center) and then click the <= button to copy it to the Active DSPs pane.
  • In the Available DSPs pane, click Dolby Headphone and then click the <= button to copy it to the Active DSPs pane.

  • In the Active DSPs pane, click Noise sharpening and click on the Configure selected button.
  • Set Effect strength to 35% and click OK.

  • In the Active DSPs pane, click Dolby Headphone and click the Configure selected button.
  • In the Location:, click the ... button and find the location of DolbyHph.dll. (Program Files\Foobar2000)
  • Under Room model: Choose DH2 - Live Room.
  • Leave Amplification at 100%, do NOT check Dynamic compressor and click OK.

  • Enter Dolby Headphone in Presets, then click Save.

  • Click OK to close Preferences.
Load some music into Foobar's playlist and start playing.
Ctrl+P to bring up preferences. Use the Presets pull-down to select None. Click Load. Note the difference in sound between the Dolby Headphone DSP setting and None. If you like the None setting better then there is nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Replaygain is optional but highly recommended to prevent clipping during signal processing and encoding. Replaygain does not alter the original music file but saves a tag with information about sound energy and peaks. If you decide to use replaygain set it up as follows:
  • In the playlist, select the music that needs replaygain.
  • Right click and select ReplayGain (hold shift when right clicking if you don't see ReplayGain).
Depending on the music selection and how it is tagged, select the appropriate setting. Track gain treats each track by itself (good for mixes) while album gain treats the selection as an album (tracks in an album have the same relative gain). Album gain saves both track and album gain information.

Step 2 -- Set up converter
  • In the playlist, select the tracks to be converted.
  • Right click the file in the Foobar 2000 playlist and select Convert and then click on the 3 dots (...).
  • In the Output pull-down select the format you use on your portable (for the purposes of this guide, I'll convert to MP3 but any output format will work).
  • Click the 3 dots next to the pull-down to adjust the settings for this Output format. I use V2 for MP3 (LAME). You may be asked to locate LAME.exe so just find it in the Program File\Foobar2000 directory and click OK.
  • In the Output Path section choose your desired method for specifying an output location. Start with "Ask each time before starting conversion" or you can set a location in "Specify folder".
  • In the "When file already exists section", choose Ask.
  • In the "Output files section" click the button for Convert each track to an individual file.
  • If your music is properly tagged then in the "Name Format" box you can type %album artist% - %album%/[%discnumber%.]%tracknumber% - %title%. This will create a new folder with the name of the artist and album and all the tracks in it. Feel free to create your own naming format.
  • Click on the Processing tab at the top.
  • If using replaygain, check the Replaygain processing box.
  • Click on the button with 3 dots (...) on it.
  • In the Source mode pull-down choose either track or album depending on the music selection and your preference.
  • In the Processing pull-down choose apply gain.
  • In the Preamp section set "With RG info:" slider to -2db. This compensates for the slight signal boost of the 2ch to 6ch component. Click OK.
  • Check the DSP box.
  • In the Presets section use the pull-down to select the Dolby Headphone setting you created earlier.
  • Click Load and you should see Noise sharpening, 2ch to 6ch (double center) and Dolby Headphone in the Active DSPs section.
  • At the top of the window in the Preset section (above the tabs), type in a name for these converter settings. This will add a selection directly off the right click>Convert menu so you can quickly convert any files in the playlist with a couple of clicks.

Clicking OK in the convert window starts the conversion process for the selected files. By default each CPU core converts a track simultaneously so conversion speed depends on number of cores and processor speed.

Transfer and play
After conversion, add the files to your portable using the normal method for your DAP. I prefer to deactivate any sound enhancement settings on my player since they may not play well with the virtual surround, but that's up to you.

I got so used to the virtual surround experience on my computer and missed it on my portable. To me it's worth the time and disk space to keep a separate music library just for my portable headphone listening. It takes a while to get everything set up but after that it's only a few minutes per album to encode. Depending on your portable, you may not even need extra disk space as you can direct the converter to write the new files directly to your portable. Give it a try and you may not be able to go back to normal stereo.
post #2 of 5
Really interesting, thanks for sharing. Very cool!
post #3 of 5
Very very nice guide. Thanks for this.
post #4 of 5
Yes thanks.

I tend to use Dolby Headphone without any upmixing (it suite my headphones). It's very much like listening to stereo speakers.

I used to have a Xonar D2 that would included a program that would encode mp3s with Dolby Headphone. Missed having it so this is nice.
post #5 of 5


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