Goodhertz Audio plug-ins (CanOpener and Mid-Side)

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by fjrabon, Aug 3, 2016.
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  1. fjrabon
    Just thought I'd create a page for the goodhertz line of audio plug in products, especially CanOpener and Mid-Side.  I mostly mean the desktop plug-ins, but we can also discuss the mobile aps as well.  
     
    The products I've purchased so far are: CanOpener for mac and iOS and Mid-Side (the full version, although I have used mid-side matrix, which is the free, stripped down version).
     
    To me, CanOpener was a game-changer product.  Before CanOpener, I only really looked for amps or DACs that had crossfeed built in, as to me, crossfeed is a necessity for long listening sessions.  All the other crossfeed DSP programs I had tried were complete crap.  So, I developed a prejudice for only using analog, amp/dac built in solutions.  I liked the crossfeed solutions built into the Grace m9XX and the upper tier Chord products.  However, I saw a few recommendations for CanOpener, and decided to try it out on their free trial.  I was almost immediately blown away with both the quality of the crossfeed (which makes sense because the product is marketed to be used for recording studios) and also the flexibility.  That was one thing that somewhat annoyed me with built in analog crossfeed, is that it was either on or it was off, there was no tailoring, despite that the crosfeed I'd want for different songs and different headphones and even different DACs and amps could differ.  So, this not only improved the sound I was getting, but also meant I didn't have to worry about limiting my amp/DAC searches to units with crossfeed built in.  CanOpener mostly fixed what is, to me, the fundamental problem of headphone soundstage.  That is, music is mastered with speakers in mind, and thus when you put headphones on, you have three distinct blobs of sound, a central blob, a left blob and a right blob.  With speakers the physical placement of the speakers in space allows your brain to turn these blobs into a coherent plane of sound, thus a realistic soundstage.  CanOpener doesn't get you ALL the way to Speaker soundstage, though, as I experienced it, it was still a bit "wrapped" around your head, as opposed to the mostly flat plane a good speaker setup presents.  And the soundstage was still a bit more narrow than a speaker setup could ideally produce.  That's where mid-side came in.  Mid-side allowed me to take that connected, realistic soundstage and then shape it, without disconnecting it.  
     
    I guess it's time for some pictures.  Here is a rough idea of how I experienced soundstage with the HD800 and m9XX:
     
    FullSizeRender-1.jpg

    In the first image, labeled "No Crossfeed" you see the "traditional" headphone soundstage as I experienced it, and this is with a very good soundstage headphone, the HD800.  With the HD800 I at least could experience the "blobs" outside of my head.  Like with a Grado SR series headphone you'd actually see those three blobs inside my head.  But it still wasn't really impressive to me, because even if it got outside of my head, it was disconnected an unnatural sounding.  This is why, for a long time I didn't really care about stoundstage.  Like I didn't care if the blobs were in my head or outside, if they were just going to be disconnected blobs of sound anyway.  Binaurally recorded music fixed this, but there's so little music I want to listen to recorded binaurally, that it mostly just served as a tease.  Then came the m9XX and its crossfeed unit.  The blobs were no longer distinctly disconnected.  You can see it didn't really completely come together, as there was a small gap in perceived soundstage, but it came really close.  And depth marginally improved as well.  This, to me, drastically reduced listening fatigue, and it also made me care about soundstage in headphones again.  With the m9XX crossfeed, there was a much more realistic sense of space and soundstage with a good soundstage headphone like the HD800, compared to, say, the SR80e, which even with crossfeed, all the blobs are still in your head.  
     
    Then came canopener.  A night and day difference between the perceived soundstage would be underselling the difference I experienced.  First of all, everything was connected now, completely.  While it felt like I had the band sitting around me, instead of fully in front of me, and the soundstage was a tiny bit narrow, compared to ideal, I much more quickly could get the "close your eyes and think you're there" feeling.  
     
    Then I pushed it a little further with the mid-side program.  The mid-side program allows you to individually control levels of the middle and sides of the mix, and also even give them different EQ settings.  The free mid-side matrix is good, but only allows you to control levels, not EQ.  And it also seems to have a rougher way of creating width.  It's a good starting point for free, but if you want to go fully next level with soundstage, mid-side is the key.  You can see that with this, I come startlingly close to experiencing a real quality speaker like soundstage with the HD800.  I can close my eyes, picture a band on-stage and within seconds feel like I'm there.  
     
    To give you an idea of the settings I use, I'll include some pictures:
     
    CanOpener
     
    Screenshot2016-08-03at01.14.34PM.png

    If I didn't use mid-side, I wouldn't max out crossfeed percentage like I do here, I'd probably just go 100%.  At 150% it starts to make the soundstage wrap around your head a bit too much and become a bit too narrow.  You get the benefit of much more accurate imaging, and much better perceived depth, and much greater coherency.  100% is a nice compromise.  I use most realistic processing.  It take a bit more processing power, but is definitely worth it if you have the power available, because it's a much more realistic sounding effect then.  
     
    So why did I use 150% if I said that 100% is the best compromise?  Because the issues that 150% creates can be fully undone with mid-side, without undoing the benefits of coherency and depth 150% gives you.  So if you are gonna use mid-side, in addition to CanOpener, go with 150%, if not go with 100%.
     
    One other thing, the stereo spectrum vizualizer is new, and so great.  It's fun in and of itself, but also useful to see what frequencies are where in the music.  The "ideal" soundstage is something like a flower, where the bass, ie stem of the flower, is dense in the middle.  This gives the music a very solid sounding foundation.  Then the midrange is a bit wider, this keeps things focused, but gives a bit greater sense of space.  Then the highest frequencies are much more spread out, to give a sense of air.  Luckily most modern recordings follow this pattern, but some older music especially deviates from this (especially 60s era british recordings, when they really didn't understand what the point of stereo even was, since they were culturally mono, but had to make stereo recordings for america).  But if you're noticing some music deviates from this, it will probably 1) irritate you and 2) you can use canopener to fix it.  Some recordings have the kick drum panned hard one way or the other, which I find extremely irksome.  But with canopener, just slide that mono-below control, and now your bass is centered again, and much more pleasant (yes, I'm looking at you early beatles recordings).  If you like The Beatles and listen to headphones, canopener is basically a must own app for just them alone.

    Mid-Side
     
    Screenshot2016-08-03at01.14.57PM.png
     
    With mid-side the first thing I do is set the width at 115%.  While this may not seem like much, for the purposes of listening to music, rather than studio music creation, it's enough.  I am usually between 110% and 140% depending on the music and the headphone.  With the HD800 I almost never need more than 120% width.  I use the natural setting.  So, this adjustment alone gets us really close, except the sides are a bit too close, which gives the "curved" soundstage effect that headphones produce.  With CanOpener on 150% crossfeed, it sounds like the band is playing AROUND you (which can admittedly be cool on its own, but doesn't sound realistic).  With CanOpener on 150% and mid-side on 115%, it sounds like you're listening to a gently curved stage, such that the left, right and center are equally distant.  I then use the Mid and Side specific EQs to pull and boost some presence frequencies, which has the effect of "straightening" the stage, such that the far left sounds farther away, as it should.  Basically I have a slope EQ adjustment from 8kHz-20kHz that is bumped by 1dB in the middle, and pulled by 2dB on the sides.  Those numbers are very subtle, but when it comes to soundstage, subtlety makes all the difference.  From headphone to headphone you can adjust those settings a bit, and even album to album if you want (in my experience live recordings can do with a bit less).  
     
    Anyway, if anybody else has any testaments to these or any other GoodHertz products, fire away.  Or feel free to ask any questions!
     
    derekphone, moleman183, ilcg1 and 4 others like this.
  2. munce31
    This is really interesting.
     
    Thanks for sharing.
     
    I've been experimenting with the two tools in Audirvana as well and getting some good results. 
     
  3. pieman3141
    What order of plugins do you have this in?

    I'm using Canopener > Midside > TDR Nova EQ > DAC. Is that the optimal order?
     
  4. fjrabon

    not sure, theoretically it probably shouldn't matter, but I go:
     
    Sonarworks -> mid-side -> Canopener -> DAC
     
    reason being that sonarworks has a "clip protection" function that I find when I put it at the front of the chain I never have to worry about clipping at all.  I like having canopener at the end because it allows me to see the visualizer as the finalized product, showing both tonal balance and spatial balance.  If you put mid-side after canopener, you can't "see" the effects of mid-side in the canopener visualizer, if you put mid-side before, you can.
     
  5. pieman3141
    Gotcha. Thanks! I've got two weeks to figure this out. Are you still using the same settings as in your original post? I'm running the HD800 S, and I think those are close enough to the HD800.
     
  6. pieman3141
    And by the way, you're right in that the overall effect is subtle. The HD800S fixes a lot of issues that the HD800 had, including the blobby feeling. These plugins give a better overall feeling.
     
  7. fjrabon

    I've been tending to use a bit more width in mid-side lately, around 125-130. I haven't changed my CanOpener settings in a long time, I think I've mostly settled on those, mid-side I'm still tinkering with a little. Mid-side is also much more subtle of an effect than CanOpener.
     
  8. yaccobo

    Thank you fjrabon for starting this thread, this is very useful info! I was wondering if you or anybody else had a chance to test the new Goodhertz Mid-side Matrix AU unit which seems to be a much simpler version of the original Mid-side plugin, and is available for free. I use HD800S headphones and simply replicated your mid-side settings that you posted in your original post . Before i spend $79 on the original plugin, I was wondering if in your experience the lack of EQ settings in the free version have a major impact on the quest for a more realistic soundstage. I am aware that this all boils down to a personal preference, but am simply not enough tech savvy and am too new to audiophile headphone listening to make a judgment if spending the money on the original plugin is worth the cost.

    Thanks for any thoughts!
     
  9. fjrabon

    Yeah, I used the free mid-side matrix version for a while. It works great. Mid-side full version is obviously more powerful and a bit more natural sounding (even before you use the EQ) and the differential EQ lets you shape how deep the sides and center sit in relation to one another. However, this is all extremely subtle and mid-side matrix gets you 95% of the way there. The matrix solves the one issue CanOpener has, the high is that it makes the soundstage a tiny bit too narrow at times. I don't remember what setting I used in matrix though. I remember they were pretty small/subtle.
     
    Yoga likes this.
  10. fjrabon
    so, I have messed with my settings just a bit, and based on a request thought it was time for an update.  first I'll just post the screenshots and talk a little bit about what the changes do (for my ears).
     
    ScreenshotatDec1913-44-48.png
    ScreenshotatDec1913-45-22.png
     
    So, first I upped CanOpener's angle all the way to 75.  To me this just gave the most depth possible.  The depth layers were both larger, and more differentiable.  Also, with just this adjustment alone, everything sat a bit farther away.  While I enjoyed the additional depth, the front layer was perceived just a little bit farther away from me than I ideally wanted.  It dulled some detail of things that I'm used to being front and center.  I like the singer's voice to be nice and crisp and hear every nuance of their delivery.  It also made the soundstage a bit less wide.
     
    So, that's where the second adjustments to mid-side came in.  First, I increased my width to 130%.  This returned the width back to what I feel is most natural *to me*, however, it also had the effect of exacerbating the feeling that the very center was too far away.  That's where the EQ adjustment came in.  If you'll notice, I now have the center EQ as a 3dB boost to 6kHz and up, gradually sloping.  This returned the center to "up front" with a slightly more than realistic amount of resolution and sparkle.  I also rolled off 8kHz and above by 3dB gradually sloping on the sides, which had the effect of making the sounds perceived as a bit less "around" me and more in front of me.  
     
    Now, much, if not all, of this is personal taste as to the specific amounts.  Some people *like* for the soundstage to surround them, rather than be in front of them.  My goal is usually to get the soundstage as in front of me as possible, as large as possible, and as connected an coherent as possible.  I want to feel as though I am watching it play out on a stage, in front of me from dead center of maybe row 10-15.  
     
    TO my ears, after this, a well recorded piece of music now sounds like the singer is front and center, and anything that is panned a bit is behind.  Also the drums and bass, sound a bit behind as well.  Lead instruments, especially if center panned, stand out more, but have a very defined place in the space.  However, even though these changes might seem like a large departure from my settings in the original post, the difference is quite subtle overall.  I have my original settings saved as a pre-set and switching back and forth is not a very large difference.  On some recordings I still prefer my original settings.  On some recordings I even prefer more subtle settings than these, and will often use one of Canopener's pre-set and turn off mid-side.  But I'd say 80% of my listening is now done with the settings in this post.
     
    Yoga likes this.
  11. Yoga
    Thanks very much - looking forward to trying these when the amp arrives!
     
  12. Hifihedgehog
    Help! I need the .ipa for CanOpener...
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/834663/help-i-need-the-ipa-file-of-canopener-for-ios#post_13241993
     
  13. buonassi
    fjrabon,

    First off thanks man, very good post. Your sketch about what it does to the sound in terms of image staging is pretty on point. Second, I thought I was the only one who thought that COS was well worth the 50 bucks. I just finished posting some initial thoughts about COS here:

    https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/o...r-plug-in-for-audirvana.845167/#post-13515066

    I really like the "standard" crossfeed realism with the "default" preset as I find it easier to hear smacks, transients etc, and it keeps the FR balanced. I run COS before the EQ in the signal chain and I don't know why - I've tried it both ways and can't tell if I'm hearing a difference or not.

    As stated, I plan on posting more about this wonderful DSP crossfeed tool. In the meantime, if you are interested in some EQ settings for the HE400i, I can gladly share hours worth of sinewave tuning. The issue is that everyone's ears create different peaks and nulls at certain resonances and it may not do it for you. Still, worth a shot if you have an EQ that can handle Q values as high as 13 and supports a minimum of 6 filters. Melda Production Mequalizer is a steal at $0 USD. At least I think so, sonically.
     
  14. derekphone
     
  15. derekphone
    Sorry for that accidental post...

    This is a great thread! Awesome work. Any updates on this? I resonated with your situation with the analogue crossfeed. I felt I needed it in the amp but what a pain to only look for amps with crossfeed. So I'm looking to find a software solution. I'm trying Out Of Your Head which I've only been playing with for a couple days. It's interesting. I've been hot and cold with it. Well never really that hot. WIshing it didn't sound so processed. I'm not sure yet. Definitely want to try others. Like mentioned, it seems a bit weird to record real life speakers in different environments. I feel like a lot of detail in the music is being lost. When I first heard crossfeed it was on the ifi Pro iCan. It was nice! Put a smile on my face. I do remember thinking it sounded a bit "processed" (not the right word, but it lost some clarity around sounds). I'm looking forward to trying Can Opener.

    I'll wait until I get my new gear next week to play with it. Is it easy to install? I don't know what VST and all those other types of plugins are. Is it as simple as installing a program?

    Also, I noticed you're using Sonarworks. I thought of that too. Could you talk about your experience with it? I'll be using HD650's.
     
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