Oscillator Or Joystick Ambisonic Pan-Rotate

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Oscillator Or Joystick Controlled Ambisonic Panner Unit

b format ambisonic
        joystick auto pan


15-DEC-2003:: Created

30-JAN-2007: Added diode limiters to the X-Y control inputs.

LM13700 VCAs are used in a configuration identical to that shown in the Nat Semi data sheet that produces minimal distortion. It is not perfect but then VCAs never are. Two VCAs are used in inverse polarity for each of the X and Y multiplier sections to guarantee zero output for zero control current. This ensures that change of control voltage amplitude will only result in increased gain and not an imbalance in the B format signal. (This could happen if one VCA was used as a four quadrant multiplier) The reversible quadrature oscillator from the frequency shifter project is used to provide the sine-cosine control voltages for automatic rotation of the output signal. An X-Y joystick with circular outer restraint is used to provide manual sine-cosine voltages for manual signal rotation.

Controls and Inputs: Mono to B-format Section

Mono source input 1/4 inch jack unbalanced mono
B format output 5-pin XLR unbalanced
LOG CV input 1/4 inch jack mono

LOG manual control ordinary pot
LIN CV input 1/4 inch jack mono
LIN manual control ordinary pot
Oscillator LOG/LIN switch toggle
Oscillator range switch toggle
Oscillator direction switch toggle
Joystick - oscillator select

Pan-rotate control joystick
Pan-rotate CV input, 1/4 inch jack stereo, shield GND, X control ring, Y control tip, +/- 1V

Soundstage Rotator

As above except...

B format input 5-pin XLR unbalanced
B format output 5-pin XLR unbalanced


Each section has a 4-LED indicator where the relative brightness of each lamp represents the direction of the panned sound under any of the three control mechanisms.


In the mono to B-format section a mono line level input from a synth, recorder playback or other source can be fed into the mono input. The rotated B-format signal appears at the B-format output. In the soundstage rotator a B-format surround signal is fed to the B-format input and appears rotated at the B-format output.

Joystick Mode

The rotate mode switch is set to Joystick. The sound can be panned around the extremity of the soundstage by moving the joystick in a circle around the outer extreme of its travel. The sound can be panned from one side of the stage to the other by moving the joystick from side-to-side crossing the centre position. In the exact centre position the sound will appear to be coming equally from all directions. Any other intermediate positions will result in a valid ambisonic B-format signal represented by the joystick position.

Oscillator Rotate Mode

The rotate mode switch is set to oscillator. The ACW-CW switch is set in either position depending on the clockwise/anti-clockwise sense of rotation required. In this mode the sound is continually panned around the soundstage at a frequency set by the oscillator. For conventional operation the oscillator will be set to the LOW position for slow rotation. In the HIGH position the sound will be spun around at audio frequency so that unusual rotation-modulation effects can be created. The oscillator has two modes of control those being LOG or LIN. In the LOG mode the direction is set solely by the ACW-CW switch and the speed is set in a logarithmic sense by the manual LOG control. Alternatively the oscillator can be controlled in this mode by an input voltage which obeys the 1V/octave synth control law. The voltage is fed into the LOG CV input which overrides the manual setting control. This gives the potential to create unusual synth sounds. The fine tune control allows setting for 5V CV = A440.

In the LIN mode the direction of rotation is controlled by both the ACW-CW switch and the LIN control. In the centre position the LIN control gives zero rotation. Provided that the ACW-CW switch is in the CW position, turning the control clockwise will start the sound rotating in the CW direction and turning the control anti-clockwise will start rotation in the ACW direction. Changing the ACW-CW position changes this direction. Control of the frequency on this control is linear in nature. This mode can also be controlled by an input voltage fed into the LIN CV input. A +5V input is equivalent to advancing the manual control fully clockwise and a -5V input fully anti-clockwise.

External Rotate Mode

The voltages normally created by the oscillator or the joystick can be fed from two external sources of +/1V. For correct Ambisonic panning the vector sum of these two voltages should not equal more than 1V.

Soundstage Rotator

This section takes a B-format input and rotates the whole soundstage in any of the ways described for the other sections.



The sheet shows the standard 1V/octave exponential converter circuit and the through-zero quadrature voltage controlled oscillator. Both of these circuits are described fully in the frequency shifter project. The low range of the oscillator is lower frequency in this circuit so that slow rotations can be achieved. On low range the oscillator takes some time to start up as the integrators slowly attain their sine-cosine relationship.


Here we have four precision current sources to drive the OTA current inputs. The upper sources have a gain adjustment pot which is not strictly necessary. The matching of the OTAs within one package is sufficient that 1% fixed resistors here are perfectly adequate. This is shown in the full B-format panner, sheet ambisonic_panner02-02

One extra transistor on each current source section provides a larger mirrored current to drive four front panel LEDs. The relative brightness of these LEDs shows which quadrants are currently operating and hence can be arranged to show the current pan direction. This is essential for oscillator mode but is also useful for joystick mode. For a mono signal all the LEDs are off.


This sheet shows the VCAs which provide the X-Y multiplication of the mono input signal. The basic VCA configuration is identical to that shown in the Nat Semi data sheet which gives reasonable distortion performance from cheap devices. The current sources based around Ux and Qx give 400uA into the upper amplifier for +1V and 400uA into the lower amplifier for -1V input to the linear control voltage input. The choice of this architecture, using two OTAs per package to implement the two four quadrant modulators for X and Y is deliberate. It is possible to perform the same function with just one OTA running at a mid current value for zero output, with current values above and below giving +ve and -ve outputs. This has disadvantages though. The zero point depends on the transconductance of the OTA which is temperature sensitive, the OTA provides a noise and distortion contribution over all of the operating range, and the input control voltage amplitude has to be carefully controlled and symmetrical so that the current never hits zero. In this method the OTAs contribute no noise or distortion for mono "W only" signals as they are both off. The zero 'mono' point depends only on the op-amp offsets in the current sources. The X-Y control input voltages can never saturate the current sources unless they are excessively miscalibrated.


This sheet has the auxilliary circuits common to all sections. Standard regulators provide regulated +/-5V rails and two op-amps create +/-1V rails to power the joystick tracks. U11 sums the current outputs from the OTAs and a gain trim allows the overall gain through the system to be set to unity.
Four, six-diode limiters have been added here to limit the possible excursions of the X and Y control voltages to about +/-1.5V. This is only needed for the X-Y voltages fed from the external input socket, but all the X-Y signals are fed through them anyway due to the wiring method chosen previously. It can be useful to use a pitch CV to control the X-Y panning, and as these are naturally about 5 Volts in my system, it is all too easy to feed in control voltages that risk damaging the OTAs. The signals after the diode limiters are buffered to ensure that the different input impedances of the upper and lower current source circuits do not produce different current gains in each section.


This wiring diagram shows the link from the circuit board to the front panel equipment. The joystick is a Farnell part FC 000-000 (TBA). This part must be modified slightly for correct ambisonic operation. In its original form the ends of the track are reached before the stick actually reaches fully left or right, front or back. This is deliberate on the part of the manufacturer so that the ends of both tracks are still reached when the joystick is in any of the fully diagonal directions, despite the circular physical limit. In unmodified form, this joystick would give Quadraphonic style panning, with the magnitude of the vector sum of the X and Y control voltages exceeding 1V in the diagonal positions (if |X|=1 and |Y|=1 at the same time, then |r| would = 1.41)
The easiest way to prevent this is to wrap just enough heatshrink tube, fish tank air tube, or some other material around the stick where it normally meets the circular physical limit. The trick is to get this material onto the stick evenly without resorting to sawing the joystick's knob off. There is another way which works well by chance in this implementation. If the front panel joystick hole is 13mm the same thing is acheived, though the accuracy depends on the ability of the machinist who is drilling the front panel.

It would be perfectly possible to feed the joystick tracks with actual +/- XY audio signal and avoid the use of VCAs entirely for the manual panning. I decided against that, fearing excessive noise from wiper movement in what is quite a cheap pot with a small track arc. For static panning purposes though, this might be entirely acceptable and much simpler.




Here we have a total of eight OTAs in four packages. Each requires its own offset adjustment which is tuned for zero dc output offset first and then by ear for minimum control voltage feedthrough. Each package of two amps has a gain trim which sets the overall gain through the system. Matching between the amplifiers in each package is sufficient to allow one trim per package.

ambisonic panner02-04

U11 sums the current outputs from the OTAs and buffers the W and Z signals to the output unchanged.


This is the wiring diagram for the soundstage rotator section.

Insides of the Ambisonic Rotate Unit,Top View.

ambisonic joystick
        auto pan-rotate


Inside the Unit, Front View.

ambisonic auto b
        format panner

Ambisonic Panner Example Soundfile

Here is an example soundfile where the theme tune from "Super Chicken" is played on a midi controlled analogue synth programmed in cubase and controlled via Oakley Sound mididacs. There are three parts being played and mixed down live with no multitracking as such. Part one is the bass being played on the hammond organ emulator. This is panned dead centre and as such will appear to come from all speakers equally. Part two is a popcorn voice doing the melody running through the panner running in auto mode rotating clockwise slowly. Part three is a cheesey filtered sawtooth doing super-chicken's clucks which I manipulated manually using the A+D pan-rotate. The B format was UHJ encoded in the A+D encoder rather than processed offline digitally (for now). The result was mp3ed using lame with variable bit rate, which is what you have here.

Super Chicken Theme In UHJ Ambisonic Surround Sound

XY Plots

An unexpected bonus of having the fast oscillator driven rotate mode is the attractive lissajous curve type plots that you can see if you feed in a sine wave and adjust the rotate oscillator frequency. The X and Y outputs are fed to the X and Y oscilloscope inputs. The patterns rotate and become stationary when the two frequencies are integer fractionally related. These pictures are with 1kHz on the audio input and oscillator frequencies as shown.

<1Hz Slow Rotation (1/4 second exposure time)

slow ambisonic pan display



10:1 ambisonic panner lissajous


200Hz 1000Hz lissajous figure xy


flower pattern lissajous figure
        4:1 ratio


propeller shaped 3:1 lissajous


clover leaf lissajous figure 2:1


lissajous curve 667:1000 ratio


1:1 ratio lissajous figure with
        quadrature phase shift


kikusui oscilloscope lissajous

1500Hz Looking spookily, but not quite exactly like the Ambisonic logo.
Explain to me how this perfectly shows four cardiod patterns pointing at right angles.
I'll be expecting a highly complex and rigourous mathematical proof, preferably with
lots of Laplace transforms or something in it.

ambisonic logo lissajous figure


lissajous curve 1:2 ratio


lissajous figure 100:234 ratio



lissajous figure 1:3 ratio


oscilloscope xy display lissajous
        figure 1:4 ratio


oscilloscope xy display

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