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VBAP Panner

Ardour's VBAP panner is currently in development, and its semantics may change in the near future, possibly affecting your mixes. Please do not rely on it for important production work while the dust settles.

VBAP is a versatile and straightforward method to pan a source around over an arbitrary number of speakers on a horizontal polygon or a 3D surface, even if the speaker layout is highly irregular.

Basic concepts

VBAP was developed by Ville Pulkki at Aalto University, Helsinki, in 2001. It works by distributing the signal to the speakers nearest to the desired direction with appropriate weightings, aiming to create a maximally sharp phantom source by using as few speakers as possible:

  • one speaker, if the desired direction coincides with a speaker location,
  • two speakers, if the desired direction is on the line between two speakers,
  • and three speakers in the general 3D case.

Thus, if you move the panner onto a speaker, you can be sure that only this speaker will get any signal. This is handy when you need precise 1:1 routing.
The drawback of VBAP is that a moving source will constantly change its apparent sharpness, as it transitions between the three states mentioned above.

A horizontal VBAP panner has one parameter, the azimuth angle. A full-sphere panner offers an additional elevation angle control.

More elaborate implementations of VBAP also include a spread parameter, which will distribute the signal over a greater number of speakers in order to maintain constant (but no longer maximal) sharpness, regardless of position. Ardour's VBAP panner does not currently include this feature.

Speaker layout

Each VBAP panner is specific to its speaker layout—the panner has to "know" about the precise location of all the speakers. A complete VBAP implementation must therefore include the possibility to define this layout.

The VBAP panner with 5 outputs

Ardour currently uses a simplified approach: if a track or bus has more than two output channels (which implies stereo), it assumes that you have N speakers distributed in a regular N-gon. That means that for irregular layouts such as 5.1 or 7.1, the direction you dial in will differ a bit from the actual auditory result, but you can still achieve any desired spatialisation.

Experimental 3D VBAP

The VBAP panner with 10 outputs, in experimental 3D mode

For tracks with 10 outputs, Ardour will currently assume a 3-dimensional speaker layout corresponding to Auro-3D 10.1, which is a horizontal 5.1 system, four elevated speakers above L, R, Ls, and Rs, and an additional "voice-of-god" speaker at the zenith.

N:M panning

The VBAP panner in 4 in, 5 out mode

For tracks and busses with more than one input, Ardour will (for now) assume that you wish to distribute the inputs symmetrically along the latitude around the panner direction. The width parameter controls the opening angle of the distribution sector.