Following up on this article on getting Media Center to use FFDShow Audio instead of the default Windows 7 codecs let’s take a look at some of the settings available in FFDShow Audio Decoder.
Let’s start with how to check if FFDShow is in fact being used or not. The simplest way to check is to enable the system tray icon which will appear any time the FFDShow Audio Decoder is being used and also allows easy access to configuration options. To enable this feature enter the properties for FFDShow Audio Decoder from the start menu and select “Tray, dialog and paths”. Here you should see an option to set no icon or a choice of two different styles of icon to be displayed while FFDShow is running.
FFDShow has a large number of settings editable from this properties window. Most of them will be a matter of taste per user but there are a few common tweaks that most people are interested in. The first is expanding stereo audio in surround audio for files that don’t natively support surround such as MP3. To do this select the Mixer settings on the left and in the Output speakers configuration dropdown box select your speaker setup. If you have a subwoofer you should also enable the LFE checkbox. At the bottom there are two checkboxes to “Expand stereo to center” and “Expand stereo to surround”. Checking these options will enable surround sound for any audio file encoded in stereo format.
In this window it is also possible to do what is called “normalization” across the channels. This will even out the output of each of the channels to an equal level so one channel is not drastically louder than the others at any point.
Another popular feature is the ability to normalize the overall volume output, similar to what some televisions are capable of. This can reduce louder portions of a movie or a change in volume between commercial and show. To enable this select “Volume” from the left, make certain the volume box is checked and also check the “Normalize” checkbox. The Max. amplification box allows the setting of the maximum difference in volume, anything outside this range will be altered.
Also included is a built in equalizer similar to what can be found in many audio applications or home theater systems allowing the level of certain frequencies to be raised or lowered. This can take some experimentation and always dependant on the preference of the user.
The last feature to be covered here is another simple one, allowing the swapping of channels between speakers. This setting allows for the permanent reassignment of a channel to a certain speaker. This is similar to the options set in the mixer, however these settings don’t detect the original audio channels and always assign the change. The mixer will only up mix from stereo audio sources.
FFDShow is a powerful tool that can provide anyone with the best listening experience but this is a subjective decision so it requires everyone to tweak the settings a little differently. With a little time and playing anyone can find the right sound for them. With these tips and this guide on using FFDShow Audio Decoder in Media Center you’ll be on your way to a better sounding Media Center in no time.