Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Mar 30, 2023 at 8:05 AM Post #115,051 of 152,363
2023, Chapter 4
Mortal Syn?

If I end up dead, this is why.

Melodramatic? Sure. But we’re talking about a product that lobs an arm-sized wrench into the works of an audio treadmill that has ground along for decades, dictating what standards Must Be Followed and when you Must Upgrade for the good of god and country (and sales).

So when I say, “Hey, we got this surround thing here, it works with everything, and it won’t ever be obsolete,” that’s gonna make some waves.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “You’re doing surround?”


And gaming.

And headphones.

Oh and it’s a DAC and has a mic input.

And what’s more, it’s designed to be super-easy, around the screens and systems most people use, not around the assumption you’re cool with finding room for 13-34 speakers and running apps for room correction and pulling new HDMI cables whenever they decide to change the standard.

Oh yeah, and it can simply add channels, while not processing the mains at all.

Oh yeah, and the main channels are discrete.

Oh, and it’s $399.

Sigh. Yeah, they’re gonna kill me.

It’s a Syn

This crazy do-all product I’m talking about is called Syn, and it’s by far the craziest thing we’ve done. Read on to get all the backstory, the tech details, the different ways you can use it, and more, but let’s start with a quick overview.

Syn is:

A surround processor. As in, use it to run front left and right, center, rear left and right, and subwoofer in a 5-channel plus subwoofer setup. Plug it in to the optical output of your TV, connect to some amps (or powered speakers), and you’re good to go.

A gaming rig. Add surround to your games with extra speakers, using the standard USB input or use gaming headphones with a microphone—mic input is standard on Syn.

A remote control DAC, preamp, and headphone amp. Syn is also a Hel-class ES9018 DAC with both optical and USB input, as well as analog input. The main channels are fully discrete and run 1W RMS into 32 ohms—oh yeah, and plugging in headphones also activates a crossfeed-like schema that can be switched on and off, and is continuously variable when on.

“Wait a sec!” you cry. “I thought you said you’d never do surround!”

Heh heh.

Close. I said we’d never do any standards-based surround.

And Syn supports exactly zero standards. Zip. Nada.

But by supporting zero standards, Syn works with everything. TVs. Computers. Games. Music. All. Of. It.

And by supporting zero standards, Syn never goes obsolete.

Stop. Read that again:
  • Works with everything
  • Never obsolete
Starting to see how dangerous this is?

Original Syn

For those who don’t know my complete backstory, it’s included surround in many shapes and forms—for, like, literally 30 years.

It dates back to the era right after Mike left Theta and formed a new company: Angstrom. Angstrom did one of the first high-end Dolby Pro-Logic surround processors, the Angstrom 200. It cost $3500 in 1995, or about $7K in today’s funny money. As far as I know, it was also the first upgradable Pro-Logic surround processor. Angstrom also did one of the first Dolby Digital processors, and, I believe, the first DTS processor, the Angstrom 205, which was $1500 or $2000 back in the day.

Super high-end stuff, especially for something (home theater) that most people thought was, well, kinda silly. And it was a totally different world.

How different?

So different the sources were laserdisks. As in those 12” shiny record-like things that cost a fortune and only played 30 minutes to an hour a side. (And were analog, heh heh.) As in, Dolby Digital was so new and shiny that it used a wacky RF-modulated digital signal from the analog laserdisc. As in, projectors usually had three CRTs in them, rather than a pixel array, and if you could get 480 lines of resolution out of it, especially if you could line-double it, you were at the state of the art of still-analog video technology.

The point is that I’ve been chasing the surround dragon for a long-ass time. I have my musty crusty cred in this space.

And—holy moly—I gotta admit, it was an absolute revelation watching Jurassic Park on the Angstrom 200 and actually getting a sense of the spatial presence of the rain, as well as the clearest, most natural surround I’d heard up till that time. It was amazing what Mike could do with DSP processing of the still-2-channel Dolby Pro-Logic, and it was a big leap forward.

Aside: I should probably disambiguate for those who haven’t grown up with surround. Dolby Pro-Logic is a matrix surround system with active steering. As in, at its core, it’s 2 channels. The surround channels are decoded in analog or digital, and then steered by changing the gain of the stage to increase apparent separation. Dolby Digital is a whole ‘nother ball game, an actual 5-channel discrete implementation. There are now about one billion variations on both themes out there, as well as the original Hafler matrix, etc, but we’ll talk about more of that later.

That taste of what surround could do led me to years and years of upgrading. First thru the Angstrom line with direct view TVs, then moving on to some of the earliest digital projectors (anyone remember Chisholm?), then on to another Mike venture, Theatris, with the first serious HTPCs (that predated Windows Media Center), with Sunfire and then Emotiva processors, moving from component video to VGA to DVI to HDMI—and then re-pulling HDMI when the standards changed, and then changing processors when we needed to do 1080p, and then 4K, and going from DVD to Blu-Ray to streaming to higher-res streaming to…

…and there’s one of the reasons I was never truly happy with surround: the endless cycle of upgrades.

The worry that this would be the year something went sideways and a bunch of stuff wouldn’t work. The entire arghishness of re-pulling HDMI for the third time, after thinking, “Well, this is the last time I’ll have to pull it,” the first time. The proliferation of standards, each promising higher and higher definition, better and better sound…and in the end wondering which one was best, and what was the difference, and why couldn’t I just sit down and enjoy something…

Aside: don’t get me wrong. There were some amazing highs. Seeing real 720p content after living on DVDs for years was a revelation. Seeing 1080p on a 1080p projector for the first time, for real, no kidding, was truly magical.


The upgrades.

The endless march forward.

The sudden incompatibilities.

The confusing standards.

The increasing complexity.


And, to be honest, the relatively disappointing sound. Yes, even from the highest of the highest end. And yeah, I’ve done the big dance, got out the laptop and microphones and did room correction and all that jazz, but again, I gotta ask, why does it have to be this painful, why does it have to be so hard, why does the number of speakers seem to grow every year…

…why isn’t there something simple, that just sounds good, that’s better than a soundbar but not as crazy as full surround?

That’s the thought that ate at me, as I upgraded my processor, settled on AppleTV for the main streamer (and upgraded that to 4K, etc), moved from a 1080p to 4K projector, went from some old PS Audio amps to Emotiva, experimented with different speakers, and so on and so on…

does it really need to be such a grind?

And so, on one fateful day early in the COVID adventure, when my latest processor stopped booting, I wondered:

Maybe I should just go back to stereo for the home theater.

But I also had another, much more interesting, thought:

Maybe it’s time to look into doing simple surround.

So, while I waited for a replacement processor, I reconfigured the system for stereo. It actually wasn’t too bad. And, in some ways, it was actually better. Pulling audio off HDMI and running it through a Gungnir and Freya S resulted in something that, at least to me, sounded more natural. Of course, it had problems, most keen of which was the soundstage collapse as soon as you weren’t sitting exactly in-between the two front speakers. Sad trombone. But not a huge surprise.

At the same time, I started looking at the oldest surround schemes out there—specifically, analog matrix surround. I could sum the channels and get a center. And subtract them to extract natural ambience. I could even filter and boost the low frequencies for a “.1” channel.

And I started building the first of several prototypes of what would become Syn.

I figured I’d probably never finish it, because the new processor would come before I got the prototype working, and I’d hook it up and it would sound just fine, and I’d be back on the upgrade treadmill, and that would be that.

But the new processor never came.

So I finished the prototype.

And it worked.

Syn Development

Was that first prototype great? Oh hell no.

It had plenty of problems. The center didn’t center as well as I liked, and the sub was wayyyyy off of a real .1 channel, it sounded a bit soft overall, it didn’t measure so hot…but the surround worked pretty good! It gave a nice sense of ambience. Enough that you could tell if you were in a cramped room, or in a giant echoing space colony like in The Expanse. It even pulled off a couple of localization tricks I didn’t think possible with such a simple device, like side-to-side movement behind the listening position.

Wait. Stop. Let me describe what this “EZ surround” started as. It was:
  • A matrix surround (difference for surround, with a couple of phase tricks, no delay)
  • A summed center (just a simple sum)
  • A filtered or unfiltered subwoofer output (second-order slope)
  • A switch to turn processing on and off
  • Analog input only
  • Master volume, center level, surround level, sub level, and the 2K “presence” band off of Loki (so I could finally tone down some of the aggressive dialogue mixes that sound like people are yelling at you thru traffic cones)
  • A discrete gain stage and buffer based mainly on Loki Mini
  • A quiet power supply based mainly on Lokius
And yes, I said matrix surround and summed center. No steering. All analog sum and difference, analog filtering, analog everything. Hell, it had inductors in the presence channel!

Aside: for people who know surround, this is prehistoric stuff. They wouldn’t expect it to be satisfying for serious home theater applications. And they would be wrong. At least in my opinion. As I’ve said before, I may be completely insane.

But it did sound good enough that I proceeded on to a second prototype.

And this is where things get weird. Because pretty much all of Syn was developed by listening, identifying real sonic problems, and addressing them. And I’m not talking about the subtleties of high-end audio, I’m talking about “not being able to solidify the center of the soundstage so actors talking stay on the screen,” and “getting rid of the honky traffic-cone dialogue some mixers seem to love so much,” and, “how do we apply each of these so they sound natural and blend well,” and, later, “applying the same lessons to headphones and optimizing for their own peculiarities.”

I mean, I can go on as to how, in engineering terms, once you have sums and differences, you can apply them elsewhere, not just as outputs, and you can control the levels of sums and differences, and you can apply frequency shaping to those same signals, and that’s how Syn works, but really, that will be boring for the vast majority of people, so leave me to be excited about it.

The next version added a control and subtracted a control.
  • Gone was subwoofer level. All powered subs have level controls. And once you set it, you’re pretty much gonna forget it. So bye-bye.
  • New was “width.” This allowed me to pull out the common content from the main channels and better define the center.
And, with that, things got very interesting. The Width control allowed me to really center things up. Small tweaks on the surround made it more realistic. Going to a 3rd order filter on the sub with a lower crossover frequency and higher gain made it sound a lot more like a “.1” sub-bass channel. Tweaks to the Presence control allowed a really nice blend between center and mains.

And, maybe most importantly, I gave this prototype 3 modes:
  • Stereo, which was no processing at all.
  • Process, which just created the center, surround, and sub channels without affecting the main channels.
  • Shape, which enabled the Width and Presence controls, which affected the main channels and derived channels too.
Switching between these three modes was a convincing demonstration that hell yeah, this cool little device was absolutely doing some amazing things. Nobody wanted to go back to stereo once they heard what it could do.

I started getting excited. This was good enough to go beyond my room. This could be a real product.

But…I was still learning.

One of the key problems with the first prototype was still a problem: soft sound and poor measurements. And yeah, I know some of you poo-poo the whole measurement thing, but the first and second prototypes of Syn were really too bad. I mean, Magni+ manages about -110dB THD+N. The first and second protos of Syn were like -80dB. Not the end of the world, but not great. It should be better.

Turns out that one of the key reasons for poor performance was the current feedback stage. You see, for maximum performance, a current feedback gain stage needs a relatively small feedback resistor. Unfortunately, a small feedback resistor works at cross-purposes to the Width and Presence controls, which actually need something bigger to work against.

A big problem? Turns out not. Because, at that time, I was experimenting with getting higher performance out of Magni+. I’d re-discovered the voltage feedback gain stage we’d used in the Magni 2 Uber. And it provided for higher feedback resistor values, without affecting performance.

Aside: R&D is almost never wasted. Although the voltage feedback Magni+ prototypes never made it to production, they ended up being the basis of the third Syn prototype. And Syn’s development taught me things that we’re incorporating into future products right now. Don’t be afraid to go down some wacky trails—you may be surprised where they lead!

And so I did a version with voltage feedback. Which solved our performance problem, in a really big way. Syn measures spectacularly…but, more importantly, the new topology also allow us more granular control of Width and Presence, which makes them easier and more pleasant to use. And the soft sound was gone!

But I was still still learning. The third version of Syn was sounding really good, but it was just an analog product. And some of the more interesting things it did were on outlets it didn’t have.

Like headphone output.

You see, the Width control worked both ways. I could both subtract the common content, or add it. Adding it narrowed the soundstage. Which sounded neat through headphones. But you needed a headphone output.

Adding a headphone output wouldn’t be a problem, since it was essentially using a headphone amp stage as the main gain stage. So that was cool. And then you could narrow the width for headphones right on the device, and that would be great for late-night listening. Which was all cool.

But…there was even more. Not only could we blend the channels to narrow the stage, we could also filter that blend, so it acted more like crossfeed, which is a way to make headphones sound more like speakers…

My head exploded.

So now this would be a surround processor…and a headphone processor.

Oh boy. Now things were getting interesting.

But that was just the start. Because if we really wanted to blow up some heads, I knew what we needed.

We needed digital input.

As in, we’d add an optical input and a DAC, so you could just plug it into your flatscreen and be done with it, because all TVs these days have optical out, so it was a universal socket without the craziness of HDMI, and it was something used by relatively normal humans, not ones who could explain the difference between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 and what CEC and ARC are.

If we added optical input, we could have a device that, with one common digital cable, could be plugged easily into pretty much any flatscreen, and simply create a surround system.

And a headphone processor system.

And a headphone amp.

And a remote control preamp and DAC.

That was…nuts.

And, of course, for the digital side, we’d want to start with a DAC that would be easy to drop in. Something good. Something like the new ESS Hel or Fulla would be perfect. Of course, they had more stuff on them than we needed—not just optical, but USB and mic input as well. I mean, why would you want USB on there, unless you wanted to just use it as a USB DAC? And why would you want a mic input?

I was musing on this, and busily ripping parts off of a Hel layout to use on the as-yet-unnamed product, when Tyler stopped me.

“Wait a sec,” he said. “If you leave the USB on, you can connect it to a computer.”

“Of course,” I said. “Or a tablet or whatever—”

“No no no no,” he interrupted. “A computer. Like for games. Games in surround.”

I looked doubtful.

“Leave the mic input on it too,” he told me.


“No. Leave it. Surround gaming. This’ll be great.”

I shook my head. It wasn’t too much trouble to leave it in, and it was always good to have a USB input anyway. So I left it in.

“You know this makes the name obvious,” I told Tyler, a bit later.

“What is it?” he asked.


Tyler nodded, getting it instantly. That was gonna be the name that we used for an above-Hel product we never did. Now we had something above Hel.

So the next prototype was what started looking like the Hel we have today. It had a couple of hilarious problems, almost all caused by supply chain problems:
  • No 5V supply, because the part we were going to use became unobtanium. We pulled 5V off the USB, so you had to plug in to both USB and analog/optical to get it to work at all. We replaced it with a different part in the next design.
  • Old-skool microprocessor that also became sketchy to get. We replaced it with a 32-bit Microchip part in the next design.
  • Regulators not being available in our preferred footprint, replaced with universal regulators.
  • Op-amp swaps on the DAC side. Hilariously they sounded better.
  • Switches that didn’t actually work with the new buttons we had planned.
  • A microphone input on the back panel. Tyler will never let me live that one down.
  • Lots of little back and forth tweaks on the blending of various controls—a ton of stuff was tuned by ear over several revisions.
  • A headphone processing section that actually wasn’t processing anything until I fixed some bad layout.
But…plugged into a flatscreen TV, it gave quite credible surround with the twists of a few knobs. The crossfeed-ish thing worked well enough that headphones sounded, well, broken, when it was turned off. It sounded good as a headphone amp. It was easy to use. And it worked with pretty much anything.

What was most interesting, though, were the reactions of Tyler and Alex.

Tyler and Alex are normal doods. They are not crazy audiophiles like me and Mike. Sure, they enjoy great sound, but they are rather diffident about a lot of the products we make. You know, like you or I might think about a $300 espresso tamper or $1500 chef’s knife.

But not Syn.
  • Alex took one home, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, and put it in his system. As soon as it was up and running, he came back into the office, looking actually excited. “I’m beginning to see what you mean about surround,” he exclaimed. He went out and bought better surround speakers. He actually teared up a bit when I asked him to bring it back for tweaks. Syn had become something I couldn’t pry out of his hands.
  • Tyler took one home and used it for gaming. He raved about both the surround and the ability to focus the soundstage with headphones. Like Alex, he would only give up the prototype reluctantly and with great prodding when I needed to make some changes.
  • Both of them used it for music, which I dismissed until very late in the game. My reaction when I actually tried Syn with music made both of them laugh their asses off.
Two guys, who, when offered Folkvangr or Mjolnir 3, just kinda shrug. Threatened with losing their Syns, they get really agitated.

Aside: There’s something here, guys. Or at least I think so. Again. May be nuts.

And that brings us to pretty much the final prototype, which cleaned up a bunch of things, fixed the stupid stuff, and finally got the remote control code working.

Aside: and yes, I know, the remote doesn’t control everything. You still need to use the “wife remote”, “husband remote,” or “kid remote” for setting Surround and Center levels, and for tweaking Width and Presence. But those should be set and forget. The remote covers volume, mode, input, mute. That’s it. Why? Not because we hate you, but because the master volume is via a motorized pot, not by a cheap volume chip. The Surround, Center, Width, and Presence all use Alps pots too, just not motorized (no space, no budget, no way, no how). Hell, the main gain stage is discrete. This is a super high end device in a lot of ways!

The remote made Syn a legit replacement for my processor. I could adjust volume without leaving the couch, and do the “wowie” demo of going through the modes without getting out of my seat.

Suddenly all my friends were interested. They hadn’t wanted to get into the impenetrable surround world full of standard and acronyms and on-screen interfaces and remote controls with 10000 buttons…but faced with a tiny device and a few knobs, all of a sudden it was different.

And, one evening, I finally decided to try Syn with music.

Silly, right?

I mean, how good could it be?

I mean, it was a surround processor.

It was a gaming rig.

And here’s what happened. After listening for a half hour, I came shooting out of our media room, loudly pronouncing to Rina that “stereo was for children!”

She laughed. “Oh, you used it for music, huh?”

“Yeah!” I said. “And it sounds amazing!”

“Welcome to the party,” she told me.

“Wait a sec,” I said. “You’ve been using it for music?”

She nodded and giggled.

“With both Shape and Process on?”

“Of course!” she said.

I stopped. I goggled. I didn’t say anything for a long time. Finally I managed, “How did I miss this?”

“Because you’re an idiot,” she said, and went back upstairs.

I went back and listened for hours. Switching from Stereo to Process to Shape instantly was revelatory. Process was very interesting, because in that mode, it doesn’t change the main channels at all. It just adds a center, surrounds, and sub.

Aside: yes, you heard that right. You can add center, surround, and subwoofer output to a stereo signal—without affecting the main stereo channels.

Shape processes the main channels, as well as the center and surrounds. Shape is still very transparent, but Process was frequently the winner with music, since it doesn’t mess with the main channels at all. But sometimes Shape was better.

I reported my musical findings to Tyler and Alex, and they both laughed.

“Wait a sec,” I said. “You guys have been using it with music?”

“Of course!” they said. “It’s really great for that!”

Hmm. Suddenly I felt like the guy who missed the invite to the hottest party on the block. They saw my reaction, and laughed harder. What, you just been using it for movies? Stuck in your surround world?

Well, ah, yes.

And that pretty much brings us up to date, other than metal. You remember the fuss I made about Magni+ and Modi+’s new “recurve” chassis, right? Well, now recurve has hit the midi-sized packages with Hel.

You may also notice the name is on the top, not on the front.

Why? Simple. Too much stuff on front. The name doesn’t fit.

Lots of firsts for Syn!


Okay, I know a ton of you are super confused right now, despite the plethora of words above. You just want to know what the heck Syn is, what it does, and whether or not it’s worth getting. So let’s talk about that.

Syn is what we call “The Unifier,” because it really brings everything together.
  • It can be the centerpiece of a home theater surround system
  • It can bring surround into your desktop gaming world
  • It can be your headphone amp go-to with unique processing
  • It can be your remote-controlled DAC and preamp
  • And…it can be all of the above
At it’s heart, Syn is a universal matrix surround processor with special controls, tweaked by listening. It’s also a headphone amp with a discrete gain stage and crossfeed-like processing. It’s a DAC with USB and optical inputs. And it has UAC1/2 autoswitching and mic input for gaming. Oh yeah, and it’s also a remote control preamp.

Syn has the following inputs:
  • USB digital input (USB-C)
  • Optical digital input (TOSLINK style)
  • Stereo analog input (RCA)
  • Microphone input (1/8” electret)
And outputs:
  • Main L/R (RCA)
  • Front (RCA)
  • Surround L/R (RCA)
  • Subwoofer (RCA)
  • Headphone (1/4 TRS)
Syn provides the following remote controls:
  • Input Select—USB, Optical, Analog
  • Mode Select—Stereo, Process, Process&Shape
  • Mute
  • Master Volume
Syn provides the following setup controls:
  • Center Level
  • Surround Level
  • Width (add or remove L+R content from mains with special mix, frequency shaped on headphone only)
  • Presence (increase or decrease 2kHz band)
Does this help?

It might be best to break this down by how you’d use it.
  • Surround. If you want surround in your living room, your media room, or your home theater, Syn delivers universal matrix surround that is easy to use, works with everything, and won’t go obsolete.
  • Gaming. If you’re looking to extend your gaming desktop to surround, do gaming on the big screen, want an exceptionally focused headphone experience, with the capability to use electret microphones, Syn delivers on all counts.
  • Headphones. If you want an all-in-one headphone amp and DAC that has special processing capabilities for headphones—and can take you far, far beyond the desktop in the future—Syn gets you both great digital and discrete analog performance.
  • Music. If you’re looking for an inexpensive remote preamp/DAC—that can do a lot more if you want—Syn is a really mind-expanding option.
Aaaaandddd…now we get to the thorny side of things, because some people have done surround and know a thing or two about it, and they want to know exactly how Syn does these “works with everything” and “won’t go obsolescent next year” tricks.

Here’s how: it’s simple old-skool unsteered analog matrix surround (with some tricks of our own, developed mainly through listening and tweaking it for a couple of years.)

Because it’s matrix, it’s not violating anyone’s patents or intellectual property. Matrix surround is old as dirt. Want to do it super cheap? Wire up a couple speakers out of phase in series behind you, and another speaker to the left and right positives in front of you. Literally. It can be that easy. It won’t be great (hell, how do you control volume, much less mix/tweak/etc?) but it will work. Ish.

Because it’s analog, it works with everything. Literally everything. Got a stereo signal? Syn will process it into surround. You can run in analog or digital. Two channels get turned into 5. But all analog.

And no, no steering. Analog VCAs sound like butt. Digital stuff is beyond Syn’s ken, and also may be patented.

And no, no delays. Analog delays sound like butt. Digital delays may be fine, but they really aren’t necessary to decode the natural ambience in every stereo signal.

Surround wise, Syn supports every standard by supporting none of them. Have a 1958 stereo jazz recording? Syn’ll get 5 channels out of it. Have a downmixed-from-DTSOLBY ULTRAMAX stereo signal? Syn’ll get 5 channels out of that too. And everything in-between, from 1980s CDs to the PCM stereo optical output from every flatscreen on the planet.

So yeah, works with everything, won’t go obsolete.

“But of course there are downsides!” someone says. “I mean, it can’t compare to 11.1 and 32.2 and ATOMS and all those other crazy surround standards out there, right?”


If you want things like 16 channels, height speakers, room correction, precise localization of the tiny bit of content actually mixed on an object-based sound system, and the prestige of reciting the latest acronymic surround standards to your friends, Syn ain’t gonna compete.

But if you want something that you can plug in to an 85” TV, add a 5-channel amp and powered sub to, and enjoy the hell out of every show you watch (including knowing instantly if you’re in a tiny spaceship or in a yawning void) without worrying about what format it’s in or if it might go bunk next year, then, well…

…Syn may be for you.


Here’s the thing: Syn is interesting enough that I’ve wondered if I’ve been doing surround wrong for the last 3 decades.

I’ve wondered if all us surroundaholics haven’t taken a wrong turn onto a weird Heinleinesque road-city that you can’t get off of, that just speeds ahead every year with new formats and more speakers and different cables and new gear and new resolutions and you find you can never go back and the end-game is sitting there with 120 speakers and the ability to point at the one firefly that is 17” above and 48” to the left of the screen and then you realize…I’m looking at a ****ing flat screen, and now I don’t believe the story anymore.

So maybe it’s time for some new thinking in surround.

New thinking that doesn’t feed the nervosa of endless upgrade cycles. New thinking not based on knowing the latest acronyms and wondering which is best. New thinking based on how actual, normal humans enjoy doing things, and on the realities of the things they use.

New thinking, maybe, like this:

The Simplicity Principle
Want simple surround? Everyone has a flatscreen with optical out. Make it plug into that. Keep the number of channels at a level where normal humans won’t run screaming. Give ‘em a few knobs that work well, rather than 7-level-deep menus and apps. Make it so all they have to do is add a 5-channel amp and a sub, or 5 powered speakers, and get great results. Easy is fun. Easy is good. Easy is the right way.

The Sanity Principle
Want to get real about surround? Keep it sane. Start with the reality that you’re looking a flat screen. Design your surround to enhance ambience, not pull people out of the action with bolt-on 3D effects in a 2D world. Keep going by making it work with everything forever. Or as close as you can get. No roadmaps. No .1 releases. No 4K but not 120Hz but maybe tomorrow and 8K but not 60Hz and maybe next year. Off the treadmill is the place to be.

The Quality Principle
Want surround delight? Design by listening! And take a clue from the doctors and do no harm (to the main channels.) Listen for what’s wrong and tweak. Design specifically to address shortcomings in common mixes. Don’t give 64-band EQs on 32 channels and presets and delays and microphones and downloadable room correction software they have to run on a laptop. Get it as right as possible, then give people a handful of controls to create amazing sound.

The Reality Principle
Let’s be brutal. Nobody cares about how much time you spent tweaking your home theater. They care it goes loud and goes boom and maybe that it has a sense of space and maybe that the person in the middle of the screen sounds like they’re talking out of the center. Add a couple of beers and they may not even care about anything except the boominization. That’s reality. Sit down. Enjoy a show. Or some music. It’s not a career. There is no test. There are no prizes.

Too much? Maybe. But I really think there’s a better way. I don’t think these roads need to keep rolling. Perhaps you do too.

Syn-ing Off

There’s a great scene on the Amazon show Upload.

In it, the protagonist is talking to a billionaire dood about how they were working on making uploading technology easy and cheap, unlike the very expensive simulation they’re currently residing in. And how he would have done it if he hadn’t had a really weird car accident.

Totally deadpan, the old billionaire dood goes, “Oh, so you were murdered.”

Now, I’m mainly kidding that if I end up dead, Syn is why. But surround is a big industry. Big names. Big licenses. Big roadmaps for What You Need To Buy Next. Big incentives to keep that treadmill going.

And here we are, saying, “Nah, works with everything, never obsolete. Surround set free!”


Hmm. We’ll see. If I’m around this time next year, just put it down to paranoid musings. If I’m not, well…
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Mar 30, 2023 at 8:09 AM Post #115,052 of 152,363
One cannot rule-out Jason waiting until 11:59PM California time to announce Syn. He does derive an enormous amount of pleasure in taunting us. :unamused:
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Mar 30, 2023 at 8:26 AM Post #115,055 of 152,363

I'm impressed. I have no need as I don't game and don't really watch much TV, but it sounds like a real game-changer w/ a very viable market and a great way to sell multiple GHorns! :D

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Mar 30, 2023 at 8:26 AM Post #115,056 of 152,363
Welcome to the place where it may seem like the inmates are running the asylum at times but actually, we're just lacking adult supervision.

Bit of a mixed metaphor but this is what happens when you throw the baby out with the bathwater… into a pool party. With BBQ (which kind will remain debated 🤣).
Mar 30, 2023 at 8:44 AM Post #115,060 of 152,363
I have 2 amps, 4 speakers .... and one sub, the cheap Yamaha soundbar can use a center, DAMN IT !
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Mar 30, 2023 at 8:56 AM Post #115,063 of 152,363
Dude! Impressive device with a boatload of capabilities at a sane price. Congrats.

Not for now, perhaps down the road the need for one will arise.

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