Surround Sound on Retro Video Game Consoles

TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
Morning all, new poster here,

I'm working on building a fully-functional and automated way to display and play all my retro video game consoles. I don't currently have it built, but it should look something like this picture, with all original hardware and all the consoles routed through analog switch boxes into a single AV upscaler that takes care of the analog-to-digital conversion. So everything you see here would ultimately be output to a couple of HDMI runs, and would be left setup 24/7

I was looking into getting an AVR, and at first I only wanted to add extra HDMI inputs and maybe to power a 2.1 setup. But then I realised that surround sound audio was available in certain video gaming consoles going back to the early 90s, and I thought it would be very cool to try experiences such as original 4.0 Dolby Surround on the Super Nintendo and original PlayStation 1.

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I did look into getting an original 1990s Dolby Surround setup with a stereo integrated amplifier hooked up to an original (late 80s/early 90s) Dolby Surround sound processor. But then I was told that if I found a modern receiver that could decode Pro Logic 2, then such a receiver would also be backwards compatible with Pro Logic 1/Dolby Surround. So theoretically I could have my cake and eat it - OG Dolby Surround on the SNES/Playstation 1, Pro Logic 2 on the Playstation 2 and modern Atmos gaming on my PC and Xbox Series X, all through a single AVR (I considered having both an old 80s/90s receiver and a modern Atmos receiver in the same setup, but I thought this would unnecessarily complicate things).

I was talking to Gene recently about Yamaha receivers that can span this 30 year gap, and the Yamaha Aventage range was mentioned, specifically the RX-A2050, RX-A2040, RX-A3050 and RX-A3040. These first generation atmos receivers all can decode Pro Logic 2.

Which brings me to my question - will content mixed with Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro Logic 1 and/or Dolby Pro Logic 2 in mind sound the same when played back through one of these modern receivers? As long as I have my speakers laid out in the correction configuration, should my 1980s Dolby Surround SNES games sound comparable to the same sources when upmixed in a modern receiver (as compared to using an authentic 1980s Dolby Surround receiver)?

Many thanks, appreciate any advice and thoughts
 
BMXTRIX

BMXTRIX

Audioholic Warlord
There is nothing that will actually be 'upmixed' in a modern receiver unless you specifically set it to do so. Receivers are often (and should be left) to 'automatic' mode. They will detect the format of the incoming surround sound signal, and will process it as it comes in for playback as originally intended. At least, that's been my experience. I haven't specifically played around with the older consoles like you are working with, but it is definitely the way I would go if authenticity was my goal.

The modern receivers will upscale/convert analog video to HDMI for a one-wire connection to the display, but you definitely will need something on the back side which can handle the massive switching duties for all the different consoles that are involved.
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
There is nothing that will actually be 'upmixed' in a modern receiver unless you specifically set it to do so. Receivers are often (and should be left) to 'automatic' mode. They will detect the format of the incoming surround sound signal, and will process it as it comes in for playback as originally intended. At least, that's been my experience. I haven't specifically played around with the older consoles like you are working with, but it is definitely the way I would go if authenticity was my goal.

The modern receivers will upscale/convert analog video to HDMI for a one-wire connection to the display, but you definitely will need something on the back side which can handle the massive switching duties for all the different consoles that are involved.
@BMXTRIX Oh yeah, I'm on top of that - I have a bunch of good analog matrix switches daisy-chained together at the back of the setup, so they all go to a dedicated upscaler with a HDMI output. So the signal is already HDMI by the time it hits the AVR.

I may have used the term 'upmixing' incorrectly there. What I was trying to get at was this - let's say that instead of 40 video game consoles, it's just a single Hi-Fi VHS player and I'm using it with an Dolby Surround VHS Cassette tape. Assuming I have my 4.0 speakers setup in right configuration (so in this case, three fronts and two rears for the mono), does it essentially matter whether I'm running the VHS player into an authentic 1980s Dolby Surround receiver (like this one), or whether I'm using a 2015 Yamaha receiver in its backwards-compatible Pro Logic 2 mode? (and if I have a modern 7.1 speaker setup in the room, I'd just mute any extra speakers I'm not using)
 
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snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
The upmixer from Dolby, simply known now as Dolby Surround is the greatest so far. I’m not sure why anyone would want to use pro logic 1 or 2 unless they wanted to torture themselves. Any speaker layout works with DSU. We suffered with those inferior versions for far too many years. lol :)

OK just to be honest, a few people here have mentioned they liked to upmix 2 ch music with PL2/x/z because the center channel was more adjustable in music mode than with DSU. I don’t think anyone misses PL2 for upmixing movies or tv or games though.
 
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Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
Well, if you aren't going to go with TVs of the different eras as well and compromise the "authenticity" of the video, go ahead and get the latest version of dolby surround with a new receiver and compromise the audio "authenticity" as well for surround processing and speaker placement in one system. Or, get real serious about it and have five rooms set up for the 80's, 90's, 2000's, 2010's and the 2020's. Whatever you do, have fun with it.
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
(Assuming I have the ability to output said VHS player to a mo
Well, if you aren't going to go with TVs of the different eras as well and compromise the "authenticity" of the video, go ahead and get the latest version of dolby surround with a new receiver and compromise the audio "authenticity" as well for surround processing and speaker placement in one system. Or, get real serious about it and have five rooms set up for the 80's, 90's, 2000's, 2010's and the 2020's. Whatever you do, have fun with it.
@Trebdp83 I mean, I would be up for that. I might have to move in with you though, when my wife kicks me out.
 
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Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
Would be a cool house, with different decade systems and decor, could charge admission.
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
The upmixer from Dolby, simply known now as Dolby Surround is the greatest so far. I’m not sure why anyone would want to use pro logic 1 or 2 unless they wanted to torture themselves. Any speaker layout works with DSU. We suffered with those inferior versions for far too many years. lol :)

OK just to be honest, a few people here have mentioned they liked to upmix 2 ch music with PL2/x/z because the center channel was more adjustable in music mode than with DSU. I don’t think anyone misses PL2 for upmixing movies or tv or games though.
@snakeeyes I'm sure it is, and it's not that I have any great affinity for Pro Logic 1 and 2 - it's more that I want to use original gaming console hardware with the original discs/cartridges. I'm a bit confused now though.... what would actually happen if I took my HDMI-modded Super Nintendo (that was designed for 1980s 4.0 Dolby Surround), and plugged it into something like a modern Denon AVR (that supports 2014 Dolby Surround but not any form of Pro Logic)???
 
S

snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
@snakeeyes I'm sure it is, and it's not that I have any great affinity for Pro Logic 1 and 2 - it's more that I want to use original gaming console hardware with the original discs/cartridges. I'm a bit confused now though.... what would actually happen if I took my HDMI-modded Super Nintendo (that was designed for 1980s 4.0 Dolby Surround), and plugged it into something like a modern Denon AVR (that supports 2014 Dolby Surround but not any form of Pro Logic)???
Like was mentioned, upmixing isn’t authentic to any original format. You can turn it off to hear original format.

I can tell you that you aren’t missing anything but if you can find a used Yamaha 2050/3050, the manual does seem to indicate it can do multiple Dolby decoders.
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
Like was mentioned, upmixing isn’t authentic to any original format. You can turn it off to hear original format.
@snakeeyes Okay, so it seems that the ideal solution for me would be to get one of those first-gen Yamahas that Gene mentioned. That way, I can easily run Dolby Content (Xbox Series X, PC etc.) at 4k60 in a 7.2.1 configuration.

And then, if the mood strikes me to play one of the old SNES games , I can switch the AVR to Pro Logic 2 mode which is backwards compatible with the original 4.0 Dolby Surround format (which I think was discrete front left and right, and a rear mono signal on the two rear speakers... and I think one of the front channels could be used to carry a centre channel on its inverted phase). And that should be pretty close to the original experience.

Have I got that (sort of) right? :)
 
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snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
I could be wrong in some certain scenarios, but anything 4.0 that I’ve ever played with the upmixer off has come out as 4.0. Such as doors albums recorded in 4.0 on Blu-ray audio disc.

Of course I’m the type to upmix with DSU to engage my full set of speakers. Why let them take a break? :)
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
I could be wrong in some certain scenarios, but anything 4.0 that I’ve ever played with the upmixer off has come out as 4.0. Such as doors albums recorded in 4.0 on Blu-ray audio disc.

Of course I’m the type to upmix with DSU to engage my full set of speakers. Why let them take a break? :)
:D

And do you have to mute the speakers you're not using or do you literally just switch off the upmixer?
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
Just turn off the upmixer

on Yamaha you select the “straight” button on remote
Awesome.

This will be fun to test out; have confirmed the Super Nintendo, Sega Saturn, original PlayStation 1, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 all had games mixed with Dolby Surround in mind.

Haven't found any console that listed Pro Logic 1 on its specs sheet incidentally; seems the PlayStation 2 jumped straight to Pro Logic 2. **shrugs**
 
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snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
Awesome.

This will be fun to test out; have confirmed the Super Nintendo, Sega Saturn, original PlayStation 1, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 all had games mixed with Dolby Surround in mind.

Haven't found any console that listed Pro Logic 1 on its specs sheet incidentally; seems the PlayStation 2 jumped straight to Pro Logic 2. **shrugs**
I think Vice City on PS2 had Dolby. Flock of Seagulls. LOL :)
 
BMXTRIX

BMXTRIX

Audioholic Warlord
:D

And do you have to mute the speakers you're not using or do you literally just switch off the upmixer?
That was my point in the original response. If you are using a receiver which decodes the format that is being sent to it, and you have a full 7.2.4 setup, the receiver will still only send audio to the speakers which are asked for in the surround mix. It won't upmix to all the speakers you have unless you specifically tell the receiver to do so.

This way, stereo audio remains stereo audio. 5.1 remains 5.1 and full Atmos would make use of all the speakers.

I believe, if the receiver is left to 'automatic' for surround settings, it should pick the proper decoder as well and shouldn't upmix, but remain authentic.

You want the original signal to remain as 'untouched' as possible before going into the AV receiver so that it is getting a clean signal to work with.
 
TheRealOC

TheRealOC

Audioholic Intern
That was my point in the original response. If you are using a receiver which decodes the format that is being sent to it, and you have a full 7.2.4 setup, the receiver will still only send audio to the speakers which are asked for in the surround mix. It won't upmix to all the speakers you have unless you specifically tell the receiver to do so.

This way, stereo audio remains stereo audio. 5.1 remains 5.1 and full Atmos would make use of all the speakers.

I believe, if the receiver is left to 'automatic' for surround settings, it should pick the proper decoder as well and shouldn't upmix, but remain authentic.

You want the original signal to remain as 'untouched' as possible before going into the AV receiver so that it is getting a clean signal to work with.
@BMXTRIX Ok I just had a thought, what do you think about this...?

I'm actually setting up two rooms - a gaming room, which is what I've been talking about so far, and a small home cinema room (which is going to have a large TV, a modern AVR and either a 7.2.2 or a 7.2.4 speaker setup).

Now that I've actually looked into it, fewer than 100 games across PC and XBox Series X actually support Atmos and none on PS5, and none on the older consoles I like.

I have the opportunity to get this AVR (https://www.crutchfield.com/S-bv7q8jl0v3p/p_022RXA1030/Yamaha-AVENTAGE-RX-A1030.html) for a really good price - about €250 and it seems to handle every format except DTS:X and Atmos. And it could easily handle a 7.1 setup in the gaming office (both rooms are similar in size - about 12 feet wide x 12 feet long).

I'm thinking I could use the RX-A1030 in the gaming room for anything except Atmos (including Pro Logic decoding), and for the cinema room, I would just get the best AVR I can afford, and not worry about older formats for that room. And if I felt the need to actually game in Atmos, it would be a relatively simple matter to distribute the Series X/PC source data to the cinema room.
 
BMXTRIX

BMXTRIX

Audioholic Warlord
@BMXTRIX Ok I just had a thought, what do you think about this...?
I'm a big fan of enjoying what you have in whatever way makes you happy. Spending a ton of money doesn't make sense to get an authentic, but very outdated, experience. I mean, I love the old arcade games, but I'm not dropping tens of thousands of dollars to get original game consoles. The balance of money to happiness wouldn't work for me.

So, I'm thinking that if you are setting up two rooms, and you can pick up a slightly older receiver that does what you want for a great price, then setting that up is a great way to go. A really nice Atmos theater setup is also great, if budget allows for it. Tight room for a 7.2.4 setup, but as I said, you gotta do you.
 
panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Warlord
I went the lazy route when it comes to my retro games.

I currently have two ways of playing them as I don't use the original consoles just due to not wanting them to die.

  1. My Shield TV with RetroX installed. I can play anything from Atari to Dreamcast and everything in between. It also has cloud saves which is handy when going from one room to the other. I don't use this much, but my kids do. The Office setup is in my sig.
  2. My PC. I have Big Box by Launch Box installed along with a ton of emulators. I've got the same catalog as above with the addition of Wii U, PS3 and consoles of that generation. I've got my PS3 in use still, but I use the PC more due to how awesome the games look upscaled. The most annoying part is controller management. I could use PlayStation or Xbox controls for everything, but having the authentic-ish controllers is more fun. Lots of retro controls can be found with USB plugs now, but I've had some trial and error getting really good ones. Non issue if you use the original consoles.
I've never had an issue with the older mono or 2ch stuff not working properly. I have my PC upmix everything to Atmos and that works pretty well. If I turn it off, I can specify whatever channels I want to send to my AVR. The upmixer does a good job with the older stuff so it still sounds great. Games with Dolby Pro Logic or above encoding sound excellent.

It's a neat setup that keeps the kids happy and let's me preserve my physical copies.

EDIT: Forgot to add that this will be pretty sweet setup. Be sure to let us know how it turns out.
 
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kmidst

kmidst

Enthusiast
I'm really surprised that the SNES had surround sound. I wouldn't have thought RCA audio would have enough bandwidth for all that audio data.
 
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