Do serious audiophiles use room correction?

David Matz -- Wed, 12/23/2009 - 21:23

I hate to stereotype audiophiles, but the ones that seem to enjoy room correction products prefer the cold, clean, and hard sonic signature, in my experience.  Seems like they prefer solid state over tubes, cd's to vinyl, possibly don't believe in cables, etc.
Looking at the reviewer system section, none of the TAS star writers or editors use room correction such as Audissey, Rives, Copland, etc.  Why is that?  Does adding this to the system "kill" something in the system, or is it just not "retro" enough for the serious audiophiles?
 
Thanks

Sam -- Wed, 12/23/2009 - 21:53

LOL curiousmind.....u want to add more multithousand dollar components in the mix?

firedog -- Tue, 01/12/2010 - 10:28

Sam-

FYI, there is freeware that can be used in conjuction with a PC based system to do room correction. Then all one needs to spend is enough for a good microphone and some cables.

There is also the KRK Ergo RC preamp/DAC which does a pretty good job in 2.0 or 2.1 systems. It uses Lyngdorf technology, but can be had online for $500. Not as fancy or configurable as the expensive systems, but will do about 90% of what they do in the way of basic RC.

These systems are less elegant than TACT/Lyndorf and similar preamp systems, and the software only solutions require quite a bit of the user's time. But they do work.

firedog -- Thu, 12/24/2009 - 07:36

Yes, I think you are stereotyping.

I like the sound of LPs and tubes, and have been known to switch cables for better sound.

I use TACT preamp for room correction, as I've found that RC is the only way to prevent my bad room acoustics from severely degrading the sound.

I have Sonus Faber speakers, hardly known for their cold and sterile sound. The corrected sound of my system isn't cold or hard, but it is clean, tight, and warm compared to the warm, fuzzy, bloated sound I had before room correction was applied.

As far as the reviewers go, I think many of them have special listening rooms that have been optimized with room treatments (read "room correction devices"), so electronic room correction isn't necessary.

In addition, the use of RC components does "lock you in" to those components, which isn't a viable alternative for a professional reviewer. In my case, I might prefer a different room or one with acoustic treatments, which would enable me to try a tube pre-amp. But it just isn't a viable option.

I think if you read the reviews of RC components here, you will see that they are often given quite favorable reviews. The TACT 2.2XP RC preamp got an Absolute Sound "Golden Ear" award, for example.

For some reason that escapes me, some audiophiles feel "room treatments" are fine, but "room correction" isn't.  With both methods the idea is to "correct" the sound percieved due to less than optimal room conditions. Both methods "change" the sound produced by the audio system.
 
So as far as I can see, there is no particular logic behind the thinking that accepts "treatments" but rejects "correction"- other than just a bit of Luddite style prejudice.

BTW, companies like Meridian (and others) use RC in their components. Would you say the Meridian people aren't serious audiophiles or aren't selling equipment to serious audiophiles?
 

Steven Stone -- Thu, 12/24/2009 - 10:17

 I've either reviewed and/or used the following systems with room correction:
 
Sigtech
Meridian
Lexicon
Tact
Lyngdorf
 
In every case I preferred the sound with the room correction on rather than off.
 
But room correction is something to be used AFTER all possible physical room correction remedies have already been implimented.
 
 
 
 

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound, EnjoytheMusic.com, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

Robert Harley -- Thu, 12/24/2009 - 16:23

I agree with Steven Stone that room correction is generally beneficial, but that it should be used on a platform of optimized loudspeaker placement and room treatments. You can't put a room-correction system on a poorly set-up system and expect miracles. The less it has to do, the better.
 
It's an interesting question: is the most realistic reproduction realized with minimal signal path (vinyl, tubes, no signal processing) or with radical digital manipulation to correct for problems introduced by the room (and loudspeaker)?
 
Reviewers can't use DSP room correction because it would significantly skew the listening impressions of every piece of gear under evaluation. Robert E. Greene, however, uses room correction on  a regular basis (but turns it off to report on how a product sounds).
 
Firedog is also correct that most reviewers have rooms that have been optimized acoustically and thus benefit less from room correction.
 
When the technology first became available, I was convinced that it was the future of audio, and that every serious hi-fi system would use correction. Although capable of impressive feats, DSP room correction isn't a universal panacea.

ScottB (not verified) -- Thu, 12/24/2009 - 18:50

 I used room correction (Meridian room correction) for about 7 years, and more recently had my room comprehensively treated with passive room treatments by Performance Acoustics Labs (http://www.performanceacousticslabs.com). As SS and RH say, there is no question that, both in theory and in practice, room treatments can achieve better results than electronic room correction alone. But electronic correction can still be very worthwhile. I recall, when I upgraded to Meridian DSP 7000 speakers some years back, that the combination of the powerful DSP7K bass and my untreated room's bass modes made some music almost unlistenable. The Meridian room correction made an immediate, and very significant, improvement.
 
To RH's point, I've been all over the map on the purist vs. interventionist scale, and I'm not sure I can draw any permanently valid conclusions. Sure, my current "purist" Berkeley/Spectral/Magico/treated room system is by far the most realistic sounding system I've ever had - but then, I'd expect so, given the financial investment. And there are recordings which still cause me to slightly regret the lack of (gasp) tilt tone controls in my previous Meridian gear.

bobolaclune -- Fri, 12/25/2009 - 17:34

The fact is that most people who consider themselves to be Audiophiles shouldn't take the risk of having themselves subjected to psychiatric evaluation. The number of logical inconsistencies that they seem comfortable living with would ensure that the vast majority of them would be diagnosed with some form of mental illness if not an outright evaluation of delusional thinking. Hanging metallic objects on the wall, extensive (and often incorrectly positioned) room treatments , strange frequency generators .... any number of zany solutions are considered acceptable options to handle room issues but scientifically implemented RC is not ?
I am complete agreement with Firedog. RC makes a huge positive difference . If you start from the viewpoint that the Room is the single biggest component you have , this makes complete sense. Most of us have some sub-optimality in our listening rooms, ranging from size , over/under damping, open doorways , and the like. I use a Lyngdorf TDAI-2200 in my system (RC only) which is Lamm-Raven-Weiss-Revel in a large well-damped room and the difference is night & day in favour of the corrected room.
As an aside , I have experimented with KRK's Ergo system which uses Lyngdorf's correction engine and for $600 , can give an unqualified thumbs-up so that audiophiles can at least get an idea of what RC sounds like without going down the megabuck route.

firedog -- Tue, 01/12/2010 - 10:37

Bobolaclune-

How would you compare the sound of the Lyngdorf 2200 to the KRK Ergo? Both with RC and without (as DAC/preamp).

I thought the ERGO was quite good sounding, especially for the price. But I haven't compared it directly to a TACT or Lyngdorf. What differences do you hear when you compare it to the Lyngdorf?

zead (not verified) -- Sat, 12/26/2009 - 10:37

 
 The Shit Works! Plain and simple

Audioguy51 (not verified) -- Tue, 01/12/2010 - 17:51

Of course room correction works and works well. "CORRECTION" is the key word here.
Acoustic modeling is "correction". You try to correct for a poor or suboptimal room electronically.
Dont get me started on how an amplifier "sounds" LOL
Tony

Nyal Mellor, Acoustic Frontiers (not verified) -- Wed, 01/13/2010 - 15:28

Room correction has its uses, particularly to correct modal resonances problems in the bass region. If one has, say, a 10db peak in frequency response at 60Hz due to a room mode, the needed movements of speaker or listener will be large, in the order of feet rather than inches. In many cases rooms simply aren't big enough to allow this degree of flexibility with placement. In these instances intelligently designed and implemented DSP room correction e.g. via use of high Q parametric filters can be extremely effective.
My principal issue is that most room correction products are designed to be as plug and play as possible and hence cannot be hand tuned. They therefore rely on the correction algorithm to identify and implement correction filters. The user often has no choice in where these are applied and to what extent they are applied. Another issue is that most room correction products operate over the full frequency range. Above around 300Hz (the transition frequency) room correction products are actually correcting the loudspeaker's response. Users should at least be able to specify a cut off frequency beyond which the correction algorithm does not operate.

Robert Harley -- Wed, 01/13/2010 - 17:32

The new Holm DSP room correction system allows you to specify the frequency above which it doesn't affect the signal.

firedog -- Wed, 01/13/2010 - 19:00

I believe TACT is also adding this feature to its new software

Nyal Mellor, Acoustic Frontiers (not verified) -- Thu, 01/14/2010 - 12:38

Or use a professional DSP parametric EQ, of which there are many available e.g. Behringer, QSC, etc

Tom Martin -- Wed, 01/13/2010 - 21:31

We've tested quite a few room correction products. A few comments on adoption based on that testing and inspired by Nyal's point.

First, lots of room correction product is available integrated into receivers, down to $500 and below, so I suspect usage is actually much higher than we may think. Second, I have found that implementation in receivers is generally quite easy, and I applaud the designers of these systems for making RC so painless to implement. Third, the results from these systems is generally impressive and immediately noticeable by most listeners. I can't think of a single technology that more obviously, positively and affordably impacts the listening experience -- and we've said as much. My system 2 uses Audyssey room correction, as does the reference system in the Austin lab. In response to the OP, the resulting sound is rarely cold, clean and hard -- not sure where that comes from.
 
I suspect adoption in the traditional high-end of audio has been slowed by several factors. Unlike bobolaclune, I don't think this has anything to do with audiophiles being crazy; instead, I find most people shy away from room correction for understandable reasons:
 
-- RC is under the radar: very few manufacturers make high-end RC gear, so there are few reviews, and what is out there is minimally marketed
 
-- RC changes the block diagram of the audio architecture in difficult to understand ways: 'where does RC fit in the signal path?' and 'what is optimal?' are reasonable questions that are not uniformly answerable or well understood (a problem with file-based audio as well)
 
-- RC can seem proprietary (high switching costs): to get RC with some companies, you also take their amp or preamp or D/A etc, which is not the conventional model in audio
 
-- RC adds digital processing: there is uncertainty about the intrinsic quality of this (and possibly confusion about the magnitude of the gain vs any possible loss)
 
-- RC's goal is difficult to understand and badly articulated: if we are "correcting" what target are we correcting to? Why is that "correct"?
 
-- Lack of control: I fear I can't easily adjust it to fit my realism triggers and inhibitors
 
-- Limited dealer penetration: if I can't hear it, it is hard to get inspired (which is strange, because RC is about the easiest product to demo in all of audio)
 
-- Cost: room correction (seems to) add to what is already an expensive hobby
 
None of this is an intrinsic flaw of RC, but if one were to outline a business plan for getting adoption, it would address many of these issues.
 
 

CEO and Editorial Director, Nextscreen LLC

Nyal Mellor, Acoustic Frontiers (not verified) -- Thu, 01/14/2010 - 12:45

Thanks for your comments Tom;

My experience with room correction products is that blind reliance on the room correction algorithm can be dangerous. I've measured a few rooms with Audyssey and it never quite gets it as well as someone who is looking at a RTA and can manually adjust the filters. The results have been variable from a sound quality perspective, sometimes it does a good job, sometimes its better without the room correction on.

For that reason I believe that for high end and reference level systems room correction products need to be a) user adjustable (or at least dealer / installer adjustable) and b) installed professionally by someone who has the right measuring equipment and acoustical knowledge. Much the same way as many video projectors can be calibrated and the settings manually adjusted and stored by an ISF certified technician.

firedog -- Thu, 01/14/2010 - 12:53

Of course, some of the newer higher end products such as TACT and Lyngdorf have user adjustable correction curves and filter settings, as well as parametric EQ. That computing power and software flexibility is a good part of what you pay for, as opposed to less expensive solutions.

tkfc -- Thu, 02/04/2010 - 15:32

One of my good friends uses the DEQX processor in his system, and it makes a HUGE difference (mostly positive) in the sound of his system.  I would say the only minor loss is a hint of resolution.  And I mean only ever so slight loss of resolution.  Everything else improves.

Keith Forrest
TheAVLink.com
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