Saturday 12 September 2015

MEASUREMENTS: Sound Room Update, Digital Room Correction (DRC) and JRiver DSP Studio...

Many years ago, back in 1992 to be precise - the year Windows 3.1 was introduced, when the typical PC was running below 33MHz, and Mortal Kombat 1 was hot in the arcades - I vaguely remember reading this article from Stereophile and filed it in my memory banks as something from science fiction for another day (I heard my first MP3 compressed song soon after and thought it was amazing given the data compression!). In it, Peter W. Mitchell reportedly "heard the future" and was clearly impressed by the technical wizardry of what a "Digital Signal Processor" could accomplish. The power of the digital room correction was described as "mind-boggling". If you haven't thought much about digital room correction, I would highly recommend reading that article in its entirety and consider whether the arguments make sense to you. I don't recall reading anything further about AudioSoft or whether Snell eventually created this cartridge-based "black box" audio correction system, but as we fast forward to 2015, we are living the legacy of what was described.

These days, DSP techniques are commonplace. As digital has long supplanted analogue as the preferred method of encoding our audio and video media with high fidelity, it has all become data that we can examine and modify as we desire depending on the situation. Compress to MP3 for times we don't need highest fidelity? No problem... Resize from 1080P to 720P for the cell phone screen/storage? By all means!

Explicit uses for improving audio quality include audiophile offerings like DEQX and Lyngdorf (including McIntosh MEN-220), some products like the Devialet amps include their "Speaker Active Matching" correction filters, and the home theater crowd have been using Audyssey and the like for years.

It is interesting these days then that DSP room correction is primarily the domain of home theater and AV receivers, rather than high-end audio. In fact, reading certain "high end" audio forums suggest a stigma against DSP techniques to improve the sound of an audio system. Among audiophiles, it's not unusual to see suggestions around listening to tubes, turntables, and vinyl LPs as providing some kind of elevated audiophile experience, but I've ironically experienced the cynicism when you bring up the idea that digital room correction is important if not essential as a very desirable way of improving the high-fidelity experience.

I moved to my new home about a year and a half ago. When I first set up my sound room, I used the Behringer DEQ2496 to perform the "first measurements" to achieve a reasonably balanced frequency response in the listening sweet spot. While it did sound better, I knew that sooner or later, I was going to aim for the more powerful finite impulse response (FIR) filter way to do room correction; the likes of which introduced above by Mr. Mitchell to not just improve the frequency domain, but also the time domain.

This post will document what I did in my own sound room for stereo playback as a start a few months back. The goal is to achieve customized room correction and playback with my HTPC connected to the TEAC UD-501 DAC and also the ability to use this same filter with my Logitech Media Server to the Logitech Transporter if possible (note that this is limited at this point as I will discuss below).

I. Measurement Preamble & Subwoofer Calibration

So, out came the calibrated Behringer ECM8000 microphone (note I bought this years ago, see here for other options):
A view down the boom to the Behringer measurement mic...
Realize that for any room measurement, we'll be running multiple frequency sweeps, so it might be wise to have some ear plugs around especially if you intend to measure at louder volumes.

Sound room stereo sound system:
Digital source: HTPC --> TEAC UD-501 DAC USB, Logitech Transporter via ethernet
Preamp: Emotive XSP-1
Amps: Emotiva XPA-1L x 2 monoblocks
Speakers: Paradigm Signature S8 + SUB 1 powered subwoofer
Cabling: balanced XLR cables (MogamiMonoprice), Corning USB3 optical + powered USB hub, DIY Canare speaker cables

Pictures of the sound room:

A look at the back wall - combination Ikea Kallax (top) and Expedit (bottom, slightly larger) for the vinyl collection.

Notice that I have kept the layout the way I use it in daily life. For example, I still have that leather coffee table in front of my sofa even though it's not ideal and will add other surfaces for sound to interact with. But I do enjoy the occasional beverage when listening to music. Where else to put a nice glass of red or a shot of Macallan 21? :-)

I turned the volume to the usual listening level - around 70-80dB SPL with white noise estimated with my digital Radio Shack sound level meter. Many months back, I realized that deep bass from my subwoofer caused audible rattle from the doors of the storage cabinets in my room. I had to put some Blu-Tack to dampen the door of the glass cabinet behind the right speaker so it didn't rattle down around 30Hz. It's things like this you'll have to keep an eye out for in your particular room.

Speaking of subwoofer and bass, since my Paradigm Signature SUB 1 has built-in room correction DSP (implemented as parametric equalization), I ran the "Perfect Bass Kit" PBK-1 software to do some basic calibration. No need to talk much about this other than to show you that the software measures and adjusts the bass response. As you can see the calibrated curve in my room still isn't perfect, there is a dip around 65Hz which is partially compensated for with the "calculated" curve (I mentioned this back in the previous post last year as well):
A basic start.

Something else to consider is the DACs that will be used to play back the audio. One of the good things about the 3 DAC devices used in this post; the TEAC UD-501, Squeezebox Transporter, and the Creative E-MU 0404USB (used for measurements and in the calibration process) is that they're all of equivalent frequency response and general sonic quality. I set each one to utilize the default sharp linear phase filter to keep this consistent as well.

This is good because in means that I can measure the output from one to create the room correction filters, and the playback quality will be similarly accurate with the others. (In fact, both the E-MU 0404USB and Transporter use the same AKM4396 DAC chip.)

II. Acoustic Panels

In principle, remember that it's always best to optimize the sound quality of the room in terms of the physical characteristics before all the fancy compensation. Although digital room correction can do a lot to compensate, it cannot do everything. For example, it's essential to heed recommendations about a decent sized room and avoid cubical configurations where each side is equal in length due to exacerbation of room modes. Make sure you follow "best-practice" guidelines around speaker placements (check out the online calculator for some suggestions including RealTrap, Cardas, Rule of Thirds methods).

My room has a slight taper up front, and measures approximately 15'x20'x8'. As described in my previous post on the GIK Acoustics Freestand, I have a couple of these to the sides to balance out the strong first reflection from my glass cabinets. It's good to see the improvement in reverb time (RT60) which is one of the parameters you can't fix with DRC. Here's a good article summarizing things.

With these panels in place, the sub calibrated with PBK, here is the frequency and impulse responses in the room (HTPC playback using TEAC UD-501 DAC, 1/12 octave smoothing). I highlighted the fact that these are 1/12 octave graphs; more smoothing like 1/6 or even 1/3 octave will make things look much smoother than the blemishes I'm revealing here!
Frequency Response (1/12 octave smoothing)
Impulse Response
Far from great results... If we take ~67dB as around the average, we're seeing a good amount of fluctuation in the frequency curve on the order of +10dB and -15dB especially that left channel (green) with a particularly nasty suckout at 43Hz. Another thing you'll notice is that like most rooms, the Schroeder / Transition Frequency is around 200Hz. Below this we have more resonance effects which can cause rather gross bass irregularity, above ~200Hz, the more diffuse sonic reflections maintain a reasonably smooth frequency response. This is of course why it's more important to keep an eye on bass response with typical rooms and speakers. Large corner bass traps would be worth looking into for smoothing out the bass response.

III. DRC Designer

Well, despite the inadequacies, let's see if we can try to correct some of this at the listening sweet spot by calculating the room digital correction filter. The easiest and least expensive way I know of is to download and give the free DRC Designer a try! The web page already contains excellent screenshots and getting the program running should not be difficult (versions for Windows and Linux). The calculations themselves are done with the excellent (free) DRC program by Denis Sbragion. Check out the documentation page for technical details and a taste of the mathematical complexity inherent in the technique.

DRC Designer provides an easy way to record the sweep tones (and impulse response data) necessary to feed the DRC program for filter creation. It also allows you to easily "draw" the target curve of the frequency response you want to see in the room. It's great to see that DRC Designer can record and process up to 96kHz (which is what I've used). Of course the beauty of digital room correction is not only to improve frequency response, it also should improve time-domain performance... After correction, one should see much better looking impulse response results for the room including suppression of "undesirable" effects like pre-echoing and interchannel delay.

Note that subjective preference plays a significant role here in that the target curve can be customized for what sounds best to you. I like the built-in "B&K3" setting and usually listen to this even though I will calculate the flat and "B&K1" filters as well as the Harman curve (BTW: You can read more about speaker tests from Sean Olive and his presentations for Harman on his Audio Musings blog.). For those who want more historical background, have a look at Brüel & Kjær's research on room response preferences back in 1974 presented at the AES - here's the paper. A nice demonstration of research correlating objective performance with subjective preference.
Harman Synthesis Curve - see here for discussion.
The curve above (LCR+Sub) can be grossly drawn as something like this with DRC Designer:
A custom curve loosely based on the general shape from Harman...

Here's the "B&K3" curve that's built into DRC Designer as a default which I normally use:

To keep things simple, I basically used the E-MU 0404USB as both playback and 96kHz recording device with DRC Designer using the ASIO driver (single-ended output to the Emotiva XSP-1 preamp and recording from the Behringer measurement mic with 48V phantom power through the E-MU's input channel 1 - left channel):

Running the room measurement through DRC results in the creation of FIR filters as .wav files in 32-bit floating point, 96kHz format. Notice the convenience of being able to generate filters of various strengths - I normally just use the "normal" filter:

IV. DRC Filter in JRiver DSP playback

Armed with the .wav filters from DRC Designer, we now put the FIR filter into JRiver Media Center for playback through the excellent 64-bit "DSP Studio". Most of the time, I'll use JRiver running on my HTPC connected by USB to my TEAC UD-501 DAC. It's all quite straightforward, just point the JRiver convolution DSP to the correction file and turn it on. When playing music, JRiver will calculate how fast it's able to run the DSP - I've noticed that on my system, it will stutter or slightly 'crackle' if the results is <4x realtime (notice in the picture below, I'm achieving 7.6x)...

You could have fun also with the upsampling DSP. With the processing speed of my HTPC's Pentium G3220 processor, the most I can do is upsampling to 192kHz plus using convolution DSP for the 96kHz filter (complex 130k taps created by DRC Designer). Upsampling with room correction to 352/384kHz can be done with a faster machine but my fanless, underclocked to 2.8GHz, and undervolted G3220 will stutter under this load. I suspect experimenting with the filter length will help. (Feeding 384kHz into the TEAC DAC will turn off the internal upsampling digital filter so all digital filtering will be done by the computer.)

These days, I mostly use eos (other options include Gizmo / JRemote) as my Android controller app for playing music off the HTPC running JRiver.

For me, the main feature added to JRiver 20 has been the ability to apply DSP processing to a DLNA stream; great for those with hi-res capable DLNA renderers. As a Squeezebox user, this allows me to use Whitebear Media Server to act as a bridge between JRiver and the Squeezebox system. In doing so, music can stream from JRiver, utilize its DSP processing, and the "room corrected" audio data sent over to my Transporter in the soundroom. Remember to tell JRiver to apply DSP to the network stream (Tools --> Options --> ... Add or configure DLNA servers... --> Audio-Advanced --> ... DSP Studio...).

Sadly, I would not get the Squeezebox system to play either 24-bit or even 16-bit streams if I set the "Format" (in the DLNA Servers panel) to one of the PCM options... The only streaming option I can see that works are unfortunately the MP3 variants. Clearly this is suboptimal. I can confirm that the DSP is doing its job, but clearly transcoding everything to MP3 is not good. I see from this discussion with the developer of Whitebear that "Squeezeboxes don't play 24 bit audio natively". Alas, I haven't even been able to stream 16-bit PCM. Has anyone had any success with lossless transmission to their Squeezebox running the JRiver DLNA DSP setting with Whitebear or even the LMS UPnP/DLNA plugin?

As a side note, if I were running LMS in Linux, I would have no hesitation trying out Brutefir for the Squeezeboxes. Would love to know if anyone has ported this to Windows.

V. Confirmation

So, does this all work? And did the sound change for the better (at least at the measured sweet spot)?

Using Room EQ Wizard, applying the DSP in JRiver 20 on my HTPC and playing back through my TEAC UD-501 DAC, this is now what the room frequency response looks like (using the "normal" strength filter based on the "B&K3" target curve, again 1/12 octave smoothing):
A marked improvement compared to the pre-DSP frequency curves! From 50Hz up, I'm achieving +/-3dB. Below 50Hz, I still have a bit of a dip at 43Hz but it's not nearly as bad and I'm seeing about +/-5dB.

Here's the left channel before & after applying the DSP... Note that the "with DRC" amplitude is different but I tried to keep it reasonably comparable to the "no DSP" curve:
Massive difference!

And here's the impulse response after applying the room correction filter (right & left channels overlaid):

Notice that the initial impulse for both speakers are time-aligned now. As you can see, early first reflections are still there and these need to be dealt with in physical room treatments as suggested above (like removing the coffee table). And here is the before & after for the left channel again:

Clear improvement in both frequency response down to 15Hz and cleaner impulse response results.

Remember, I used the E-MU 0404USB for initial playback and recording of the sweep tone, but for verification purposes, the REW measurements above were done with the TEAC UD-501 playback with filters applied in JRiver. As I mentioned above, I know that the TEAC DAC, the E-MU 0404USB, and Transporter all have very similar frequency response and utilize sharp linear phase digital filters. As a result, the calculated filter should be usable interchangeably with the DACs without concern as demonstrated here.

Folks, now this is significant audible difference; and a change for the better. The frequency response is now much smoother across the audible spectrum. The difference is especially notable in the lower frequencies - for example, just listening to the amplitude consistency with the bass line at the start of Rebecca Pidgeon's old-school audiophile demo track "Spanish Harlem" (off The Raven, 1994) there is a clear evenness to the amplitude of each note. Likewise, there are clear benefits to modern dance/electronica/pop like the Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow" (from The E.N.D., 2009) where the plunging bass remains tighter and more controlled. Furthermore, as you can see, the frequency response now is similar to the "B&K3" target curve used which has a gentle gradient in the treble range which sounds less harsh and improves long-term listening especially with poor or "tinny" masterings.

Sure, you can accomplish a similar feat with graphic and parametric EQ, but well implemented DRC is also about optimizing the ability of the sound system's imaging and soundstage rendering (time domain characteristics). With good recordings like say the Ray Brown Trio's Soular Energy (DVD-A rip 24/96) or Al Di Meola et al.'s Saturday Night In San Francisco, the speakers literally disappear into the soundstage and instruments have an improved dimensionality about them horizontally and in apparent depth. Placement of instruments sound more defined and consistent in space, timbral quality more natural (or at least more true to the recording quality). While already good, QSound effects like Roger Waters' Amused To Death or his live In The Flesh become even more convincing in simulating the 360-degree surround. Check out HAL 9000's voice ("Stop Dave...", "I'm afraid Dave...", "My mind is going... I can feel it...") on "Perfect Sense", disk 2 of In The Flesh.

Even with mono recordings, the precision of the central image becomes more clearly defined in space. Channel amplitude balance overall has improved through the audible frequency range. I can imagine some people not liking this level of "focus" if they've been listening to channel asymmetry and liking it all along!

VI. Conclusions

Let's go back to where we started with Peter Mitchell's Stereophile article:
"In my judgment, acoustic environment correction is the single most important advance in audio since the CD - perhaps the most important advance since the advent of stereo."
Yes, I concur. In the last number of months of switching back and forth between DRC-enabled and DRC-disabled listening, there is no question where my preference lies. In the face of the significant improvement to fidelity that can be achieved, that people would spend hundreds if not thousands on things like audio cables, various power supply / outlet tweaks, and supposed jitter reduction devices which in my opinion at best may make minimal audible difference (if we even accept that they do make any difference at all!) is rather amazing. Performing room measurements like these do take some time and require some technical know-how (carefully done, no digital clipping...), so it's not as straight forward as a "plug and play" purchase. I must say though that DRC Designer was very easy to use and provides a good start. I'd certainly be tempted to purchase something like the miniDSP products if a box that just "did the job" is what's needed although there will still be some room measurement work using a PC.

Although obviously DSP cannot fix everything wrong with a room's acoustics, I do believe it is potentially beneficial no matter how great or expensive your hardware is already. Remember, the most important piece to the audio system really is your room and given that every room is different, DRC provides an extremely powerful method to take that into account... Think of it as the icing on top - and it can truly be a delicious addition to the cake.

DRC Designer has been impressive already (major kudos to Denis Sbragion and Alan Jordan), but given what I've heard so far, I went ahead and purchased AudioVero's Acourate. Lots of positive comments on effectiveness and quality of support (there are of course some other software options like Dirac Live, Audiolense, MathAudio Room EQ). Going over some of Mitchco's articles over the next while will be fun :-). Even more challenging, getting multichannel correction going with playback through the HDMI output to the AV receiver (once I get my Onkyo TX-NR1009's faulty HDMI board repaired under "extended warranty")...

This should be a good autumn season with stuff to experiment and play with. I hope the discussion in this post presents an example of a "real life" sound room with all the limitations as we make our domestic places more conducive to high-fidelity playback... With the ultimate goal of maximizing enjoyment.

As always... Hope you're all enjoying the music!


  1. Hi Archimago
    Good work on this. You will get an improvement, if you use a software, that calculates not only the sweet spot, but also multiple mic positions (and you can play with that positions to your need).
    Looking forward to maybe some further work on this with comparing other software, that you mentioned above.
    Yes, Acourate has some good reputation in this field (but I haven't tried it yet).
    I am working with Dirac for some time now and got good results (with DiracLive Software Plug-In and also with miniDSP DDRC-22 hardware, where the DD version (Digital In - Digital Out) is great.
    I have also played with some other hardware but the critical point with all programs is
    1. Chosen appropriate microphone positions and even more critical
    2. chosen a "good" target function.
    It takes a while to "play around" with both points and you can get results between more worse than without to nice improvement to really great sounds (where the speakers totally disappear).
    Good luck

    1. Thanks for the suggestion about multiple mic positions. That's one limitation of the basic DRC Designer workflow. Hopefully in the next little while as work settles down and especially into the cooler months, I'll get the opportunity to really get to know Acourate and its intricacies!

  2. IIRC, you have set the target curve, and taken before and after measurements, using ungated frequency responses? That is a mistake IMHO.

    It is fine below the transition frequency of a few hundred hertz, but above that range it is not the psycho-acoustically correct approach.

    An example: let's say that your speakers are superb in anechoic FR above say 300 Hz. Psycho-acoustically we can detect and appreciate that excellence distinct from the delayed reflections. Now you add DRC and muck up the first-arrival sound by correcting the summed sound.

    I hope I am wrong and somehow DRC is working with the anechoic response above 300 Hz, but I see no mention in your article?

  3. Frequency "Defects" due to reflexions
    Hi Tnargs.
    You "fear" is right, when it comes to parametric filter corrections, that is done in some / many home theatre processors or "cheap" / regular room correction software / hardware.
    But in sophisticate software / hardware solution, (as for example Acourate (from what I have read), or DIRAC (I am 100 % sure)), they can clearly distinguish between direct sound and reflexions.

  4. Hi tnargs, as Juergen mentions, the best DRC/DSP software packages use frequency dependent windowing (FDW) so that the window is longer at low frequencies, but above Schroeder basically working with the direct sound. There is a long thread at REW Forum that discusses this and the latest version of REW has FDW analysis built in: Feature Request: Frequency Dependent Windowing See attached slide in the first post.

    Acourate uses FDW for both amplitude and excess phase correction and is user adjustable. Further, Acourate uses a proprietary psychoacoustic filter that alleviates the need for averaging multiple mic measurements at different locations. Acourate only requires a single mic position to measure and calculate the correction FIR filter. How good is it? Below are six REW measurements I made of my right speaker across a 6’ x 2’ grid area at the listening position (essentially where my couch is) with the Acourate designed FIR filters engaged in JRiver’s Convolver in which I looped REW’s test signal through using JRiver’s ASIO input. Seems to work pretty good:

    6 fr measures across 6 foot by 2 foot grid

    Acourate has many useful advanced features like digital XO, driver time alignment, and individual driver linearization. Having tried several DRC/DSP software packages over the last 5 years, I feel Acourate is state of the art. Archimago links to a basic Acourate tutorial above and I wrote an advanced article about it here: Advanced Acourate Digital XO Time Alignment Driver Linearization Walkthrough

    Archimago, again another great article! I look forward to seeing your results with Acourate!

    Cheers, Mitch

    1. Thanks for the comments guys!

      Very much appreciate the articles as well Mitch :-). I really gotta find the time to get going with Acourate...

  5. Hi Archimago,

    You've exceeded yourself once again. Congratulations on an excellent write up (and thanks to the constructive comments from the other contributors too).

    After humming and hahhing for a while I have just taken the plunge into room EQ. I was inspired by Mitch's invaluable contributions in Computer Audiophile, and his assertions that room EQ offers the promise of so much improvement. I'm inclined to believe that room EQ offers a lot of bang for the buck, and I have very little philosophical worry about EQ'ing causing more harm than it solves. Heck, it can be done for very little cost, and if it doesn't work out it's easily reversible.

    Related to your article, I have been following the 'Big Sound' series of articles on Tyll Hertsen's InnerFidelity site. In amongst those articles, Bob Katz dabbled in headphone EQ, and that piqued my interest. It turns out that EQ'ing headphones can be done with little or no cost, and to wonderful effect as well. Using the free Equilibre VST plug-in along with JRiver, I got my HD800's sounding a whole lot better than they already do for the sum of $0, and a couple of hours set up using widely available target curves (B&K and Harman), and the response curves Tyll has plotted for a whole range of headphones ( here: ). There's a little bit of study and effort required, but it is much less than room correction, or so I thought:

    The comments in those articles led me to a company called Sonarworks. They're a Latvian based company (Think ex Soviet Union, on the Baltic Sea, just north of Poland), and they offer very attractive packages for each of room correction and headphone EQ. They're well worth checking out, and amongst their offerings, they can provide custom curves matched to your exact headphones, which of course requires that you send your headphones into them for measurement. My HD800's are on their way to Riga in Latvia right now. Ease of use and accuracy are the USP's for Sonarworks. For sure, they warrant serious consideration for anyone thinking about room correction, and likewise for headphone EQ too, though I do admit that I got very pleasing results for free using Equilibre plugged into JRiver, plus a little bit of time.

    Trying out their speaker correction software took me a little longer than the 15 minutes they said it should, but I finished it within an hour. As a further test, I repeated the process the following night, taking a little bit less time, and getting very similar results. I have to admit, it's a very impressive piece of software. Listening, has opened up the sound for me, getting rid of some heavy bass that I knew existed. I'm only on day 2 of my efforts so have yet to develop a long term view, but I'm sufficiently happy with it to feel comfortable recommending it in the wake of your article. For sure, anyone else thinking of room correction (or headphone EQ) should investigate Sonarworks.

    Your musings regularly contain reflections on the music you're listening to. Right now I'm tuned into an album called Primrose Green by the American singer songwriter Ryley Walker. Every artist should be their own person, but I'm sure he'd forgive me if I mentioned Nick Drake. Wonderful.

    Thanks and regards.


  6. Oh man, it's always great to read your articles!

    I think we both share the same point of view, that the future of audio is more software based than hardware based. Just look at speakers. Basically, they're the same thing over the decades. It's not difficult to find audiophiles that are happy with it's 20/30 years old speakers! Of course, improvements were made in materials and construction techniques, but if you pick an top of the line speaker, you will not have to worry for decades! Almost the same can be said about modern amplifiers and digital sources. The quality is so high that you'll have a hard time making blind tests (assuming that you are in a well treated room).

    So, i think that we are slowly hitting a wall, where no HUGE changes can be heard by swichting a cable or na amp in na truly high-end system. That's why people burn so much money in tweaking gear, because they don't know what to do anymore to improve the already amazing sound. But sometimes people forget about room treatment and/or room eq.

    I'm a fan of good software for fine tunning our system. I haven't tried the ones you used, but i will look for it (actually, i have to finish the room treatment first).

    As always i'm enjoying good music (Brahms symphonies right now)! Enjoy some good music too!!

    Best regards!!

    PS.: You mentioned vinyl and tube lovers, and one thig that i don't get is that these "old school" audiophiles forget that their systems (especially high-end-top), from the turntable to the cable's geometry and speakers are designed, simulated and engineered and tuned-in by... softwares... in a PC... in digital domain obviously.
    So, if it is applied in the manufacturing process, why not apply it to your room? Or we must accept that analog audio is perfect and magical? We all know that nothing is perfect (and much less, magical)... so, why not?

    PS 2 (and i will stop writing after this one ;)
    What are your thoughts about the use of DSP to acheive multi-ch áudio from a 2 ch file for example? I've been reading a lot about this in forums, but didn't find anything rock solid. Do you know something interesting (or, in other words, something that doesn't sound too artificial)? Have you tried it?

    Ok, i'm done writing ;)

    Great article!!!

    1. Thanks VK. Yup. Totally agree. So many people IMO try this and that based on subjective audition of gear that is already just *excellent* already. No doubt the most "limited" piece of equipment is almost always the speakers, yet we know that even the sound of those are dependent so much on the room they are situated in!

      As you allude to, the only way to make this better (hopefully) is really to put our energies in to the room treatments and of course things like this with the software side to accommodate and accept that there are imperfections idiosyncratic to our particular situation.

      And the amazing thing I hope is that people will recognize just how much difference this all makes! Surely, both objectivists and subjectivists can appreciate that this just plain sounds different - and hopefully when done right, CLEARLY BETTER!

      Now as for DSP of 2ch --> multichannel. I've got reservations about this one but I have come across amazing results online. For example, a couple years back I downloaded someone's DTS conversion of Little Feat's "Waiting For Columbus" which used the "SPEC" method or something like that. Sounded about as good as an official release I thought! Anyhow I see this as a web site:

      Might be worth looking into...

  7. Hi Archimago,

    You've excelled yourself yet again. An excellent article. Thank you.

    This is a bit of a convoluted story starting with headphone EQ, then moving on to room EQ. I guess the whole room EQ thing for me was inspired by Mitch's excellent work on Computer Audiophile (Thank you Mitch if you read this). I gave up on it though. It was a little complicated and something I decided was best left for another day (Like most, I have a day job that occupies a lot of my time and energy).

    I've been following the very interesting 'Big Sound 2015' series of articles on Tyll Hertsens Innerfidelity. One article in particular piqued my interest, which was where Bob Katz EQ'd a pair of HD800's ( . It's not at all difficult to do, and for an outlay of $0 to download a VST EQ plug-in, and a couple of hours work, you can get any headphones sounding way better than they already do, including the HD800's. I used the frequency plots that Tyll makes available here:, and followed the process described by Bob. It is well worth the effort, almost a 'must do' I'd say.

    In going through the various comments on the EQ article, a couple of mentions was made of software called Sonarworks. Aside from their headphone calibration software, they also provide a room correction package. These guys get great write ups, and for sure I was impressed by the headphone package. I have downloaded the trial of their room correction software and it is amazing (Okay you can maybe notch down the superlative a little bit, but it is very very good). They claim that you can adjust speakers in around 15 minutes. That's a bold claim, but from a standing start I managed to do my speakers / room in less than an hour. I reckon my system sounded good anyway, but the Sonarworks package took it to great. I'm going to dabble with DRC, but for a relatively trouble free approach to room EQ, Sonarworks takes some beating.

    My headphones all now sound way better than they did before, thanks to using an EQ plug in and the data available from InnerFidelity, and pretty soon, my room is going to sound way better too (It already does, but I'm not done tweaking yet).

    There's no doubt that to fiddle with cables without getting your room sorted is like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. To those who are not sure whether they should take the plunge, I would say that now is a great time to do so.

    Your blogs frequently finish with a summary of your recent listening experiences. In return, I'll mention that I spent a good few hours listening on Tidal to the album 'Primrose Green' by Ryley Walker. I believe that every good artist should be measured in their own name, but mention of Nick Drake will give you a measure of this guy. Superb!

    Have a wonderful weekend.



    1. Hi Bob, been away… totally agree on the calibrated cans approach, I have calibrated several of mine using Head-fit. Works very good. I really enjoy binaural recordings, but listening to "regular" recordings over headphones doesn't do it for me. I prefer speakers given a choice.

      Have you checked these binaural mics? 3Dio, Free Space Binaural Microphone I have the original Free Space and it is the best binaural tech I have heard as Jeff has optimized the ears HRTF much like how Uli applies a psychoacoustic filter in Acourate is my understanding. You can purchase just the ears too: Silicone Ears

      Re: room eq complicated – it is, but worth it in my opinion. Overlaying my target response, and using REW’s new frequency dependent windowing and psychoacoustic filter (thank you for making this feature request to John), with the actual measure at the listening position matches the target almost perfect: Feature Request: Frequency Dependent Windowing

      It will be interesting to get Archimago’s take on the effort versus sonic benefit.

      Cheers, Mitch

  8. Hi Archimago,

    Thank you for writing about DRC in both this article and the Acourate article. I am the author of DRC Designer. I wrote the program in order to minimize the configuration difficulties of the open source DRC package, and hopefully make the process more accessible to people who don't have a strong technical background. Learning enough to properly configure the DRC package can be a rather long road for people who don't already have a strong understanding of room correction technologies, so I thought it would be a worth-while effort to simplify the process.

    Regarding the comments about Frequency Dependent Windowing and psycho-acoustic targets, the open source DRC package incorporates both. Under reasonable configurations, DRC uses a sliding window so that the room is corrected at lower frequencies and only the direct sound is equalized at higher frequencies. Rest assured that even though it is free, DRC offers top class room correction performance.

    Having said that, and having written DRC Designer, and having tried a number of hardware and software room correction solutions, I also use and highly recommend Acourate. There is a learning curve to getting the best out of Acourate, but the level of control offered, the ability to implement digital crossovers in a reasonable manner, the visual feedback via the test convolution features, and the excellent sonic results make it a great bargain in the overall effort of getting better sound.


  9. .. additional post to turn on notification - so I can read any follow ups.

  10. Hi Archimago,

    I found your blog because of a link to your article on MQA at Linkwitz Lab. I rejected the 'subjectivist' approach years ago when I couldn't tell the difference between most things recommended in the magazines.

    I own a pair Orion 3.3 dipoles designed by Siegfried Linkwitz and built by someone else (I am not a DIYer). About 8-9 years ago, I learned how to use REW software and bought a Behringer Feedback Destroyer EQ unit and their ECM8000 and did the basic frequency curve measurements per Sean Olive's blog and Floyd Toole's book. After I switched to the Linkwitz speakers with the outboard ASP and all its wires, I retired the FBD Eq. I have a Classe CP-800 preamp that has a few filters for EQ and a DAC inside.

    After reading your article I am interested in going beyond just the frequency curve measurements. I am non-technical so I wanted to ask your opinion about using something like DiracLive. The learning curve looks pretty steep on the Acourate and the DSP Program. I mostly stream music via a Sonos Controller (still have but haven't been using the Squeezebox because I have Sonos speakers in rooms outside the listening room). JRiver looks like a nice option, but I am unclear on how I would be able to use room correction for streaming music in my system. Mitch's book looks interesting but is fairly involved also.

    I hope this isn't too long or difficult to provide a directional answer. Right now I only own a MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini. I'm okay with buying software and even a PC, but I wonder if Dirac might get me to a good place. I remember reading Sean Olive's blog about how bad some of the room correction products were and it scared me off...

    Many thanks for any direction you may be willing to provide.


  11. Thanks, Archimago! With this, your BrutefirDRC post, and a YT video on DRCDesigner, I was able to get digital room correction working on my Squeezebox server. I'm using a miniDSP Umik-1 USB mic for the measurements. I can already hear the improvements to soundstage stability you mentioned. No going back now.