Recent advances by leading technology companies are changing how audiophiles and general home theater enthusiasts approach audio performance in their homes. While frequency equalization provides a degree of control over sound characteristics and room equalization (EQ) solves some issues with reverberations and frequency response, a far more robust and effective solution is penetrating the market and delivering truly optimized listening experiences for any listening environment: room correction.
Before diving into the key differences between room EQ software and room correction software that are now available, let’s discuss the role played by room acoustics software.
Every room has unique acoustics and these acoustics introduce a variety of distortions regardless of the audio equipment being used. Room acoustics software – like room EQ and room correction – can be used to reduce these distortions and improve audio clarity by altering the output of speakers to perform precise measurements of a room’s shape, size, furnishings, reflective surfaces and listener locations.
Common Causes For Issues in Room Acoustics
The major sources of distortion that affect the listening experience and can be addressed by room acoustics software are:
Frequency Response: Describes a given speaker’s frequency range (20Hz – 20kHz for example), and how the speaker increases or decreases the loudness of certain frequencies. For most situations, the ideal frequency response is ‘neutral’ or ‘flat’, where the speaker does not affect loudness of individual frequencies.
Impulse Response: This is the output produced by a brief input signal such as a single note of music. Poor impulse response can result in a muddy sound where notes linger too long and blend together.
Phase Alignment: Determines whether multiple speakers play the same sounds at precisely the same time. Proper phase alignment lines up the peaks and troughs of the crossing sound waves so they don’t cancel each other out.
Room Resonances: These are standing waves that primarily affect bass performance, which result in pronounced or ‘boomy’ bass notes due to a room’s architecture and geometry.
Speaker Driver Alignment: Affects the timing of sounds from an individual speaker’s woofer and tweeter.
Cabinet Diffraction: This problem occurs in a narrow field around the speakers and it can cause a perceived change of location for instruments and voices. It’s also called “early reflections”.
Room Reverberation: This issue introduces spectral change and spaciousness to sound. It’s also called “late reflections.”
The Differences Between Room Correction and EQ
With the need for acoustical correction established to create a more conducive listening environment, the next points to establish are the differences between room correction and equalization.
Many popular manufacturers offer room EQ that can adjust for reverberation and frequency response. These solutions generally do not offer no solutions to improve impulse response, phase alignment, room resonance, speaker driver alignment or cabinet diffraction, which are the other room-related sources of distortion that impact the listening experience.
A growing number of high-performance manufacturers, such as Dirac and Anthem, have begun offering room correction, which addresses multiple sources of distortion and imperfection through advanced algorithms. A key differentiator of this type of acoustical correct is impulse response optimization, which results in a clearer, more accurate sound since each note lasts precisely the intended amount of time.
Some room EQ solutions attempt to correct for impulse response by cutting off notes prematurely or starting notes early, but the result is often unnatural-sounding audio that doesn’t line up as intended – ultimately diminishing the listening experience.
Addressing the concerns of the niche audiophile community that digital processing affects the “warmth” of analog sources, developers of room correction technologies point out that virtually no modern audio is recorded using analog equipment.
Therefore, from the outset, regardless of what medium a consumer purchases, if room correction has any effect on the perceived warmth of a system, it’s likely to be heard as a positive effect, not negative, because all of the room-based distortions are eliminated state room-correction developers.
It used to be that room correction traditionally required a fairly technical process, but new solutions are making it much simpler and faster for integrators to use. For example, through Dirac Live’s advanced algorithms and a redesigned user interface that guides users through the process, what used to take a full day or more can now be completed in as little as 10 minutes.
This enormous savings in time, not to mention frustration, helps integrators save money and increase the profitability of installations.
The Future of Room Correction Technologies
Currently, room correction’s available on a number of popular home audio products and AVRs, and it is most effective in environments with basic dimensions and standard seating positions, like living rooms or home theaters.
Companies are also exploring ways to apply its room correction technology to more dynamic and complex spaces such as kitchens where there’re more reflection points and more widely varied seating positions than a home theater.
When mass-market consumer products begin integrating room correction an entire home could be blanketed with acoustically perfect sound. We also hope to see room correction solutions for tube amplifiers, which will offer audiophiles complete optimization of their high-end two-channel music systems.
Furthermore, although the industry’s made significant progress with room correction in the last 20 years, there’re still acoustical challenges that’ve yet to be solved. Fortunately, as a research-driven company, Dirac is actively exploring the market for solutions for standing wave cancellation and multi-sweet spot creation, with bass management being incorporated into more and more systems via the Dirac Live Bass Management module.
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