Getting Started With Ambisonics (Tutorial)
What You Will Need
To start creating your Ambisonics sound scenes you’ll need a panner (encoder) and a decoder. You will also need a DAW capable of handling enough channels on each track to match the order you’re working with. I recommend Reaper because it handles up to 64 channels, allowing you to work in seventh order Ambisonics. It’s also very reasonably priced!
If you are completely new to Ambisonics you’ll need a panner. I have made a free first order Ambisonics panner to get you started: a1Panner. If you are looking for something that will give you even higher quality spatial audio you can go for the a3Panner and a7Panner for a maximum of third and seventh order respectively.
Once you have your encoder/panner you’ll need a decoder that is at least the same order as your encoder, otherwise you won’t benefit from the spatial resolution available.
If you are decoding to headphones then you can use the a1Monitor, a3Monitor or a7Monitor, depending on what order you are working with. There is no point in having a higher order decoder than you plan on doing most of your work with, unless you know you will be moving to higher orders later on.
Here I will take you through everything you need to do to get a minimal Ambisonics project up and running with Reaper. I are assuming you are using the aX Plugins but the same steps should work for most Ambisonics plugins.
- Download your aXPanner and aXMonitor from the download section of this website or the order confirmation email.
- Unzip the files and run the installer. The plugins are installed in the VST3 system folders.
- Rescan the plugin folder in the Reaper.
- Start a new Reaper project.
- Add a new track using Ctrl+T shortcut, by double clicking the track area to the left or from Insert>Track in the menu.
- Click FX to open the plugin list window and search for your aXPanner.
- Click on ‘Routing’ on the track to which you just added the aXPanner.
- Change ‘Track channels’ to match the number of outputs from the aXPanner:
- 4 for first order (a1Panner),
- 16 for third order (a3Panner)
- and 64 for seventh order (a7Panner).
- Now, to add the binaural decoder, click FX on the Master track and add your aXMonitor.
- In the aXMonitor user-interface, select Binaural from the dropdown menu.
- Ensure the Master track has enough channels by clicking on ‘Routing’ and checking the ‘Track channels’ matches the track with the encoder/panner. If not, change it.
- Add mono or stereo audio to the track by dragging and dropping or using the menu Insert>Media File.
- Make sure you are listening with headphones!
- Start playback and you can start controlling the position of your sound in 3D!
- Important: When Rendering your project you should remember to disable the aXMonitor to get the direct B-format signals. Otherwise it will be statically decoded to binaural.
Note: Different Ambisonics plugins can use different Ambisonics formats. The aX Plugins all use the AmbiX (SN3D/ACN) format used by Google for YouTube360. If you’re mixing and matching panners and encoders from different companies just be sure that the formats match or use an appropriate converter.
If you prefer, you can go to YouTube and watch a video that takes you through the steps required to set up a project in Reaper (starting from Step 6 above).