Logitech Z506 5.1 channel speaker system

Upmix your existing 2.1 audio files to 5.1 surround

Disclaimer: The following notes are from my own experience and experiments and is not a paid endorsement.

First things first, what is 2.1 and 5.1?
"2" refers to two channels - Left and Right.
"5" refers to five channels - Front and Rear Left, Front and Rear Right and the Center.
".1" is your sub-woofer also known as LFE (Low Frequency Emitter)

Now, for this technique to effectively work, you're going to need a 5.1 speaker set. Assuming you've made all of your connections properly, you will notice that when you play any of your music on your computer, only the Left and Right and Center speakers are being used (along-with your sub-woofer) while the Rears stay quiet. This is mostly due to the audio files being encoded in 2.1 format.

For foobar2000, the top two things that caught my interest were:
- It's a free player with a ton of options!
- The steps to setup the 5.1 upmix are very straightforward

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foobar2000 for upmixing to 5.1 surround

Sound mixer console

Why can't I easily find audio in 5.1?

Interestingly, when music is recorded in a studio, it is recorded in 8, 16, 24 or even 32 channels. Each channel (or a group) is dedicated to the individual audio sources being recorded; however, when a file is mastered and rendered, most studios opt for the common 2.1

It has to do with 2.1 (stereo) being super popular. From your headphones to your computer speakers and from YouTube to many other online streaming services, content is mostly offered in 2.1

5.1 channel surround

So what can foobar2000 do?

First of all, for all audiophiles out there, it's important to remember that foobar can't re-write music. It is only creating a 'fake' 5.1 surround effect using the existing stereo data.

To do that, it takes the Left and Right channels and duplicates them to the Rear Left and Rear Right while 'widening and spacing' the sound. This creates a 'fake' virtual surround sound effect while utilizing all of your speakers during playback.

foobar2000 player interface

Enough with the theory! Tell me what to do!

Download the foobar player from its official website here and then install it like any other software.

Once completed, you're going to need "foo_channel_mixer.dll" for this effect to work. It's an application extension.

foobar2000 components folder

Ok, what next?

Navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\foobar2000\components

Paste the .dll file you just downloaded in this folder.

foobar2000 preferences DSP manager

Preferences: DSP Manager

Now open foobar2000

Navigate to File>Preferences>Playback>DSP Manager
Move the DSP called "Channel Mixer" from the "Available DSPs" section. It should now show up under the "Active DSPs" window.

Select "Channel Mixer" and click on "Configure selected"

foobar2000 channel mixer dll - general

Under the "General" tab:

1. Select "6" in the "Output channels" option
2. Check all 6 boxes in front of L, C, R, RL, LFE, RR
L - Left
C - Center
R - Right
RL - Rear Left
LFE - Low Frequency Emitter (Subwoofer)
RR - Rear Right

I've set my Stereoimage width to the default "1.00" but you can experiment with different settings.

foobar2000 channel mixer dll - upmix

Under the "Upmix" tab:

1. Choose "Surround" in the Mode option

You can experiment with all other settings based on what sounds better to you depending on your speaker set and placement setup.

foobar2000 channel mixer dll - subwoofer

Under the "Subwoofer" tab:

1. Check boxes in front of "Use subwoofer" and "Bass redirection"

Under Bass redirection, make sure you choose the "Leave satellites intact" type.

This will leave the default Left and Right channels intact thus giving you the original clean sounding audio while adding the 'fake' surround in the Rear Left and Right.

Animated sound waves

Final thoughts

If you've followed all steps correctly, you should be hearing your audio from all speakers now. 
Remember, you are free to tweak these settings as per your taste & preferences, keeping in mind your speaker set and placement.

Although I've been building a new collection of 5.1 mixes, this little trick has helped me better enjoy my main collection that still remains 2.1 

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