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 Post subject: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 27 May 2020, 13:11 
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Hello.

I've had a little read around with regards making bit perfect captures of AC-3, DTS and Digital audio tracks on Laserdisc. I saw mention of the ESI U24 XL being a good choice for the job, as well as a few other internal cards (no use to me, I don't have a desktop computer). I was going to get an ESI U24 XL when I spotted a bargain deal for a Zoom U44.

This thing looks like it is more than capable of doing the job. Just wanted to post about it here to raise awareness and also see what anyone else thinks? It's a bit much buying one new, but if you can find a good used one for a good price, this thing looks like it has serious potential.

When it arrives, I'll try out capturing an AC-3 track (True Lies) and a random Dolby Digital track and report back. Anyone else tried the Zoom U44 or similar?

https://www.zoom.co.jp/products/product ... -interface
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 02 Jun 2020, 17:40 
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No replies? It's dangerous to go alone. So I'll take this! ** Zelda treasure chest opening SFX **

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The Zoom U-44 arrived in today's post.

If I get a chance later, I'll try and do a bit perfect capture of True Lies AC-3 or maybe a Digital Stereo track. Hopefully this thing works. So far, Reaper likes it.

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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 02 Jun 2020, 20:29 
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I hope it works for you. That’s 10x what you need for the job and it makes no mention of supporting DD/DTS that I can find so it may not even work. Hopefully it will. All you really need is a digital input. That’s it. You don’t need four high spec mic preamps, etc.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 02 Jun 2020, 21:04 
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For DTS you probably will need to decode it externally on a pro DTS decoder and have it output 3X aes/spdif each digital coax carrying a pair of channels in pcm then use DTS encoding software on PC and encode it back to DTS.

You can technically mod any dts decoder to have 3x digital coax out if you know what you are doing or you can buy an old pro DTS decoder for cheap but it’s likely going to have digital coax in XLR.

It looks like a complicated and expensive project. Most games and cable TV had only Dolby Digital back then. That’s why capture card manufacturers didn’t bother to implement DTS.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 02 Jun 2020, 21:09 
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Just ran a quick test there. It confused me for a moment as the SPDIF setup was a bit funky. I just captured the Digital Stereo track successfully from the True Lies AC-3 LD as shown below, note the playback device is just my internal computer soundcard. I have to switch between devices manually at the moment as I think it will only output via the SPDIF Output when working with SPDIF connectivity to the audio interface. You can also use the device as a DAC/headphone amp of sorts which doesn't really help here for what I'm looking to achieve but I figured to mention it anyway.

The AC-3 capture has not been successful just yet. The clock won't sync at 44.1 sample rate, it will at 48,000. Only thing is, all I get then is the AC-3 tone and that is all (this is LD Player > APD-2 > SPDIF OUT > U-44). I'm pretty confident it can do it, I just need to figure out where I am going wrong.

I don't think I have any DTS discs in my collection, though I didn't really get this device solely for that, I got it so I can backup the digital tracks when capturing my LD collection to play back on my NAS.

As for the device, I got it used for an absolute steal (about a fifth of the RRP, slightly less tbh). Right place right time kind of deal. I also have some Phono/XLR cables some place and a couple of MIDI instruments I would like to connect to it to record music and backup my vinyl collection. Otherwise I was going to go with the ESI U24 XL when a good deal came up.

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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 02 Jun 2020, 21:25 
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It’s likely you’ll need some other software than what came with it to record anything DD/DTS. The main purpose of this unit is home recording of sound (as in analog sound).

EDIT: it seems neither Logic or Final Cut will decode 5.1. Even for these programs you need to demux it. Most people extract images and then decode them with Compressor if they record 5.1 at all. Hopefully Audacity can do it.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 02 Jun 2020, 22:30 
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DISCO! I sussed it out! A bit of reading at trusty Doom9 pointed me in the right direction.

I was getting confused that all I was capturing in Reaper was the AC-3 tone. This is the audio container tone apparently (excuse my ignorance if I phrased that wrong). What I needed to do was capture the tone and then run it through Besplit to unpack it all to an *.ac3 file.

This is the output, captured at the correct sampling rate, with the correct SPDIF clock sync. Also, just to be absolutely sure my Zoom U-44 can do what I hope it can do, I swapped out the Toslink and used the digital coaxial input. This also proves (from another post I made here on the forum) that my suspected broken APD-2 Coaxial output port and cables do actually work. Hooray!

Here is the Besplit output from my 57 second True Lies AC-3 sample capture. As you can see, 5 channels, 384kbps as is expected and required by law!

[00:00:00:000] +------- BeSplit -----
[00:00:00:000] | Input : ac3test.wav
[00:00:00:000] | Source Sample-Rate: 48.0KHz
[00:00:00:000] | Channels Count: 5, Bitrate: 384kbps
[00:00:00:000] | Output : ac3test.ac3
[00:00:00:000] +---------------------
[00:00:57:216] | Writing ac3test.ac3
[00:00:57:216] +---------------------
[00:00:57:216] Operation Completed !
[00:00:01:000] <-- Process Duration

Here is the unpacked AC-3 file in all it's glory! I opened it in Audition 2020 CC in the hopes of getting the full file information, which indeed it gave me as you can see below. The only thing I messed up on was I set the L/R digital input to be the same inputs so it didn't record the other channel. I can fix that easily enough though when I record it again.

The Zoom U-44 seems to be working perfectly and is recording Digital Stereo and AC-3 correctly. Hooray! :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 03 Jun 2020, 01:21 
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Does this happen in real time or is the software demodulating and decoding from a file you’ve recorded?
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 03 Jun 2020, 08:17 
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Reaper seems to be the only software that captures the track correctly. I then run the 'tone file' through Besplit to 'unpack' it and it in turn spits out a *.ac3 file which I then played back in Audition 2020 CC, just to see if everything displays right.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 03 Jun 2020, 08:43 
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Great!

Ripping (preserving) AC3/DTS soundtracks has been on my list of things to try for a while.

You could write a step-by-step "How To" to reproduce the parameters/command lines you had to use and post a few examples.

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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 03 Jun 2020, 09:01 
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Yep I will do this for sure. I am going to write about the Zoom U-44 on my blog and also document the capture process too.

The U-44 is expensive, though I got mine used and at a lucky price, it is a proper workhorse if you want to do more than just capture LD digital audio.

You could do MD, DAT, perhaps even SACD too? The only downside is a lack of phono inputs. It is XLR/TLS inputs only. You can also buy add on devices to plug in the expansion port but there is no phono add ons. I am going to try using RCA to XLR cables. Hopefully those will work.

Failing that I have a Yamaha Pocketrak W24 that can take care of that.

The really cool thing about the U-44 is that it can operate on 2 x AA batteries. The portability is a huge plus point imho.

It would be great if there was a pocket SPDIF recorder. You could just run it off the Zoom U-44 and leave the two devices in your AV cabinet to record while you watch the LD or go and do something else, without the need to have a laptop or computer or whatever cluttering the place. Just import the file in to your DAW at a later time.

It is a great device. Delighted the gamble paid off. I hope it helps someone else too.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 03 Jun 2020, 17:00 
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At $125 or whatever I wouldn’t describe that as expensive. Sound cards much below that aren’t worth the money spent to ship them.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 07 Jul 2020, 00:09 
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Finally finished my setup today with the arrival of a couple of DTS discs to test. Again, Cockos Reaper is the tool to use here for a bit perfect capture.

First I captured the signal in Reaper using the Street Fighter DTS Laserdisc as a test. A couple of minutes was enough for a test. The file needs to be captured at 44.1 (where AC-3 is 48) and 16 bit. The resulting file needs to be saved as a WAV file with the exact same settings.

I then ran the resulting WAV file through DTS2WAV. This decodes the file (which, if you play it back without decoding it, just sounds like the AC-3 signal noise I did in my AC-3 capture). It converts the DTS signal and all the padding, frames, data etc to a *dts file. The resulting file size is slightly smaller due to the corrections that WAV2DTS makes.

The result is a perfect *.dts audio file which you can either play back in VLC Player, or mux in to a custom MKV etc, whatever you want. You could do the same with a DTS audio album if you wanted to.

Regardless, the end result is that the Zoom U-44 works perfectly, so if you want something to perform bit perfect capture of AC-3 and DTS Laserdiscs, then you now know the Zoom U-44 is an option for you should you wish to buy one. :thumbup:

I won't post screenshots here as it is all pretty much the same as what I've posted prior. However here is the log from my Street Fighter test file, just to show you what you should expect to see spat out.

wav2dts sfdts.wav
FileSize : 35724726 bytes
Initial invalid bytes : 5386
Last bytes rejected : 174068
-------------   Valid Header
FrameSizeRead : 3585 bytes.
FrameSize14le : 4096 bytes.
FrameSize16be : 3584 bytes.
NumFrames     : 8678.
Channels mode : Surround.
SampleRate    : 44.1 KHz.
Done, created : sfdts.dts


I'll write this all up properly in a blog post at some stage, complete with audio samples, pictures etc.

Hope this helps someone anyway.
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 07 Jul 2020, 03:58 
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teddanson wrote:
Regardless, the end result is that the Zoom U-44 works perfectly, so if you want something to perform bit perfect capture of AC-3 and DTS Laserdiscs, then you now know the Zoom U-44 is an option for you should you wish to buy one. :thumbup:


Added on my shopping list.

New on Amazon US is $180 right now (but has been fluctuating between $130 and $200)
New on Amazon JP is $155 (out of stock).
2nd hand it seems to be going for $85~110 in Japan.

Julien
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 Post subject: Re: Zoom U-44
PostPosted: 07 Jul 2020, 07:15 
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Yep, I got mine used and unboxed to save money.

It is a superb device for AC-3 and DTS. Just ensure you use Reaper to capture the audio. The drivers are on the Zoom website as well as the manual so really buying unboxed you are not missing anything.

I never even plugged mine in aside from the USB cable, even then I used a USB A to C adapter. The device runs off of 2 AA batteries!

Only downside is how to capture analog tracks over RCA. Some sort of phono to XLR cables would be needed I think.
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