Microphone Calibration – My experiences.

Just about every home theater receiver has some form of room calibration suite at its disposal. In the case of Denon and Marantz, it is provided by Audyssey. And Arcam comes bundled with a DIRAC room correction suite. These use a microphone and software to listen to how your speakers sound in your room, and adjust the audio signal to compensate for volume, or a correctable flaw in frequency response, and in some cases, even compensating for reflections, resonances, and time alignment.

At home I run a 2 channel set up. From my PC, I run a USB output to my DAC, then through my pre-amp, power amp, and bookshelf speakers etc. I have next to no placement options, very little space, and not many ways I can optimize my setup just by moving equipment. I have always wanted to find a way to correctly calibrate my system, but to get the level of correction I wanted, the required AV receiver would have run into the thousands (which I only use 2 channels of… what a waste). I’ve looked into, and researched components from MiniDSP to see if there was something I could put in line between my PC and my DAC, but I just never got around to buying anything from them.

So… further digging… there had to be a way to do this on a software level in real time. We had acquired a calibration microphone, I found some software that works with Windows (from Vista onwards it became easier to add processing to the audio devices), and ran through a quick tutorial (skimmed mostly) on how to use Room EQ Wizard. A free piece of software that is specifically designed to measure and make adjustments to speaker measurements. While the MiniDSP alternatives were designed to do exactly what I was hoping, none of their units had the ability to LAYER processing. I could take a few measurements, tell the software where I want it to correct and it would do so… up to a point. Only the much more expensive options had the ability to handle more advanced features like phase correction and finite impulse response.

So, over a couple of hours of plugging things together, mashing various buttons, and nearly blowing my speakers out, I had somehow come up with a correction filter set that made every sound open,clear and concise (as well as giving my lovely bookshelves some much needed beef). Sound staging was much MUCH better than before. Music was alive, video games had more impact and atmosphere (random adjectives to describe sound ultimately mean nothing, but it gets the idea across).

And then I turned the filters off… I didn’t realize how boxy my speakers sounded…. messy… muffled… They just sounded crap without it… I know I have a (not crap) half decent stereo set, especially for the purposes I use it for… It sounded “Great” without it… now I can’t do without it.

So if you want to get a fair bit more out of your audio system (if its main source is a Windows PC), we can do these calibrations and get a fair bit more out of your stereo.

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