View Single Post
Old 04-27-2008   #16
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 68
Default Re: Audyssey Announces Dynamic Volume

Okay, this is a biggie, so here we go. I am completely sold on Audyssey, and I would never go back to system without “room correction” capability. My own experience with it appears to be backed up by the extremely positive reviews in TAS, Stereophile and elsewhere. So, until a better one comes along, I am more than delighted, I am ecstatic about Audyssey. I think it’s a major breakthrough.

I am a curmudgeonly audiophile and classical music “nutcase”, rather than a videophile, though my system includes a Sony SXRD rear projector (very nice, I might add). I have been an audiophile for over 40 years since I built my first Dynakits. My own 2-channel sound system was in the $50,000 cost range before I upgraded to high-res, multichannel home theater. Now I have 7 very revealing Martin Logan ‘stats – Prodigy’s, Clarity’s, Script’s and a Stage – plus a JL fathom f113 sub. Amplification includes Krell KAS-2 monoblocks, a Bryston Powerpac 120 center and Parasound A23’s. My choice of processor was the Integra DTC 9.8, which I use with an Oppo 980H via HDMI. I bought the Integra+Oppo before the estimable Kal Rubinson’s review of them appeared in the January Stereophile. Part of the reason I chose the Integra is that I was curious and intrigued about what Audyssey could do.

I have heard a lot of great systems over the years, some costing much more than this, and, to be sure, there is probably something better somewhere than what I have, but I myself have never heard better music reproduction anywhere, period. My frame of reference is the sound of my beloved Philadelphia Orchestra in Verizon Hall at our Kimmel Center. When I played my first SACD’s of some live concerts I had actually attended, I was convinced that this was way beyond anything that the high end audio brotherhood had produced in terms of faithfulness to the original musical performance. “Holy S__t”, I said, “this is finally close to what I have been searching for all these years.” That opinion has strengthened upon listening to many other hi-rez recordings.

My room is about 24 x 17 with a high, sloping (not cathedral) ceiling. It is relatively free of slap echo, glare, standing waves and most other major acoustic aberrations. I chose this house because of this room and had it customized to be my music room. For 18 years, I though it was a damn good sounding room. Other audiophiles did, too. But, along came Audyssey, and my system sounds much, much better with it than without it. Now, to be fair, part of the credit must also go to hi-rez audio (SACD, DVD-A), to multichannel and to HDMI, which eliminates all unnecessary a-d, d-a conversions.

With this as a background, let me now comment on a few of points raised by others in this forum.

Wes says,
“I agree the Audyssey is very expensive and doesn't work very well! Classé and a few other companies evaluated the Audyssey but they decided to Pass.

My own opinion is that Audyssey works very well indeed. I have personally lost a lot of respect for Classé. Late last fall, prior to my Integra purchase, I had been impressed sonically with their SSP-600 processor. I corresponded with one of their principals about why there was no HDMI input on the processor. I got a lot of mumbo jumbo back from him. Their HDMI input/output was going to be on their DVD player, not the processor. Basically, he said I did not need HDMI on the processor and that, anyway, there were no HDMI 1.3a chips in existence yet to take the sound off of the data stream. So, I should just buy their processor anyway. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Integra had already been shipping for months, had full HDMI 1.3a support and was about $5,000 cheaper.

My hunch is that much of the high end is badmouthing HDMI, Audyssey and a lot of other technologies embedded in chips they cannot get or have not been able to do the engineering for. This is being done to sow disinformation and to cause market confusion in order to buy time. Otherwise, their lowly, Japanese mass-market, home theater competitors might blaze even more sonically superior trails into their high end audio turf. Plus, unlike the Asians, the high end does not like non-proprietary, standardized solutions. If they do use them, the high end cannot get enough product differentiation to charge the high prices they want to. I have no proof for any of this, only high end behavior. But, neither does Wes have proof for Classé’s or anybody else’s alleged contention. And, by the way, Wes, have you ever actually heard the Audyssey yourself in a decent system?

Wes continues,
“I think that one is better of (sic) spending the money in treating the room properly and get a better on (sic) investment.”

I would ask Wes how exactly does one treat a room properly? Do you just throw in resonators, traps, diffusers, etc. into the room willy nilly? Many audiophiles do this with decidedly mixed results. Or, do you take measurements with a calibrated microphone and compare them to a standard? Oddly enough, the latter is exactly what Audyssey does. How do you then get just the proper amount of dampening, attenuation, filtering, etc. to correct the measured sound? With room treatments, it’s trial and error. With Audyssey, it’s computed for you in 15 minutes or so. Changing components downstream? Just rerun the Audyssey calibration. Try it with room treatments and you will never be finished. If, and only if, you have access to the right measurement instruments and acoustic treatments and you know exactly what you are doing, perhaps you can achieve an even higher ideal than Audyssey can, but it is likely to be very time consuming and surprisingly expensive. Try hiring an acoustician to do it? Oh, yeah, that’ll be a whole lot cheaper than an Audyssey. Go ahead, just forget about the sophistication and computer power in the Audyssey and treat it yourself with a Radio Shack meter and by ear. But, how do you know it will be better than what you’ve already got? Finally, the real bonus is your significant other is really going to love all those sound treatment “objects” around the room in addition to 8 or more speakers and a big TV.

Seanthebrit says:
“However, in the more high-end set-up WHERE UPON the loudspeaker CAN ALSO have the added benefit of ideal --acoustic-- placement in the room, the EQ benefit (in my opinion/experiences) becomes a big, big loss in the terms of sonic purity....that elusive preference of a system's character is lost, with a 'sanitised' sound removing the uniqueness to a speaker/amplifier combination.....BUT ONLY IN THIS RARE SITUATION.”

In my own situation, my front speakers at least, were in an ideal location in an acoustically very fine room, same as they were in my 2-channel system days. It was the location obtained by the traditional high end method of moving the speakers around the room a little bit at a time and listening. The speakers were leveled and toe in was synchronized to the sweet spot with a laser. Distance to the front wall was synchronized to the nearest 1/16”.

However, the system now sounds more naturally realistic to me with Audyssey on than with Audyssey off in 2 channel or multichannel. It sounds better through the relatively inexpensive Integra controller with Audyssey than it did through a much more expensive and prestigious 2-channel line stage without Audyssey. I thought it sounded great before, but I think it sounds really great now.

By the way, are you talking about an outboard Audyssey processor or one built into a receiver/controller? I do not believe that the a-d, d-a conversions for an outboard Audysssey plus extra analog cables and connectors can do the sound any good at all. I strongly favor the built-in idea, which also combines the controller or receiver’s bass, polarity and speaker distance management needs in a single calibration sweep with the internal Audyssey’s. Plus, built-in is much cheaper. My Integra Controller, which is now upgradeable to Audyssey Pro, costs much less than the stand alone Audyssey unit.

Audyssey equalized systems are going to sound more alike and more standardized than non-equalized systems. You think this is a bad thing; I think it’s a good thing. When Dick Woodhams sounds the A on his oboe to tune up the Philadelphia Orchestra, there is only one sound at any given location in the hall. We may all hear it differently, but there is only one sound. So, why should each of our individual sound systems produce sounds that are different from one another? It’s not just that we just hear them differently. It’s that they actually measure differently and are different from the original in as many different ways as there are sound systems.

The room is an important part of this, and Audyssey helps to dramatically overcome many of the bad things rooms can do. But, Audyssey is more than a room equalizer. It is equalizing for the room, the speakers, the cables, the amps, the controller output stage – basically everything between the Audyssey chips and your ears in the rooms. None of these components is perfect either. The caveat is, try as it might, Audyssey is not going to be able to overcome really bad rooms or components, unfortunately.

We are still far from perfection, but getting closer. As we approach perfection more closely, the differences in sound from home entertainment systems are going to get smaller and smaller. The real questions are have Tomlinson Holman (an audio genius, in my book) and his team gotten the Audyssey standard room target curve right and does the system really accurately correct for the deviations without mucking up the sound? I think it does an unbelievable job. And, by the way, it is much, much more sophisticated than just being a parametric, frequency domain filter.

I really like the idea that Audyssey takes away some of our God-given, Constitutional freedom to listen to bad sounding systems because we are too lazy or too indifferent to go to hear live music and know that our systems are not accurate. Okay, audiophiles and reviewers each have an individual sonic bias. Subjective reviewers have reveled in amplifying the differences in component sonic signatures, preferring some without any control whatsoever on whether the stuff was faithful to the original, other than that they said it was. They have usually done this in less-than-ideal rooms with unknown and, often, uncontrolled acoustic characteristics. The Audyssey approach is really counter to that – “sanitized” as you say, minimizing the differences between rooms and even components. It may be the end of tweaking as we know it, don’t I wish. Well, you can always use Audyssey Pro and mess with your own chosen room curves.
fitzcaraldo215 is offline   Reply With Quote