The Science of the Room with Paul Hales - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Speaker designer Paul Hales talks about the flaws inherent in broadband room EQ used to "correct" sound systems in home theaters, direct vs. reflected sound, speaker directivity and sensitivity, dynamic range, standing waves, the difference in behavior between low frequencies and higher frequencies in a room, the problems of an overly damped room, the concept of directional bass, answers to chat-room questions, and more.

 

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post #2 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 12:28 PM
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Great episode. ..can't wait for next week....
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post #3 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 12:36 PM
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Well done, Scott. Hales speaks very eloquently and you did a great job of maintaining the conversational thread.

I continue to be astonished at how relatively quickly Audyssey has established itself in the hearts and minds of consumers. Having now owned two systems with Audyssey implementations, my jury remains decidedly "out" on its actual effectiveness. Your interview effectively raised many of the questions about its approach to acoustic solutions.

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post #4 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 01:14 PM
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This was a fantastic HT Geeks. FINALLY you have a guy on who knows about high dynamic speakers. After years of screwing around with low sensitivity speakers in my home theater and getting ho-hum results I finally figured out that the secret has been lieing in the cinema all along. High sensitivity speakers and clean high power is the only way to experience reference level theater like dynamics at home. Everyone seems to think if a speaker sounds good with music it will sound good with movies but thats not the case. Paul even eluded to the fact that music has way less dynamic swings than a sound track. Ive been a fan of Paul Hales for years, ever since he worked with QSC. BTW Scott I was very surprised you didn't know QSC made speakers. Come on Bro!!

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post #5 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 02:00 PM
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Since the early sixties and my investigation of all things electrical, vacuum tube amplifiers have been left in the wake at the sacrifice of full bodied sound, whatever the content. The digital limitations in sampling rates and bandwidth have given content sharpness leaving much of the content to mix itself once in the audible media. Positioning, distance from other items and walls, wall and window treatments, floor coverings and the contents of the listening area that can't be adjusted. ( fireplaces, doors, ceiling height) Sound bars can go far to make up for missing content effects when the environment doesn't provide it naturally. Beat notes,sub-harmonics are difficult to capture and even harder to reproduce. Few have the time to really "tune" their environment to get the best from what they have.
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post #6 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 04:14 PM
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Very interesting listen. I will do some AB testing with Audyssey EQ on and off this weekend to see what I think, particularly from different seats and using different material. I have a moderately treated room and controlled directivity speakers. In my prior AB testing from the main listening position, I found that the high frequencies were slightly boosted with Audyssey on, which makes sense based on the episode. I found that I preferred that sound with the one song I used for testing. However, thinking about it now, one song is probably not enough for a representive sample. I certainly do not need any more room treatment and may be able to buy a cheaper preamp, like the new Outlaw audio model that does everything except room correction if my Onkyo ever dies.
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post #7 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 04:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedirun View Post

Very interesting listen. I will do some AB testing with Audyssey EQ on and off this weekend to see what I think, particularly from different seats and using different material. I have a moderately treated room and controlled directivity speakers. In my prior AB testing from the main listening position, I found that the high frequencies were slightly boosted with Audyssey on, which makes sense based on the episode. I found that I preferred that sound with the one song I used for testing. However, thinking about it now, one song is probably not enough for a representive sample. I certainly do not need any more room treatment and may be able to buy a cheaper preamp, like the new Outlaw audio model that does everything except room correction if my Onkyo ever dies.

Awesome episode... I will be referencing this video to fellow AVSers every chance I get.
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post #8 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 04:53 PM
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Hales' problem with the system that had bass so smooth and consistent from seat to seat that it was no longer directional seems to be a case of the crossover set too high. If he wanted the drum whacks to be heard from the front speakers rather than the subwoofers, setting the crossovers lower would have kept those sounds in the L/C/R speakers rather bass managing them into a mono subwoofer feed. I don't see how he can blame improved seat to seat consistency and/or smoother low frequency response.

He also makes fun of that system's calibrator swinging his head from left to right, saying "none of our clients listen like that", asthough he didn't understand that the calibrator was merely checking the response in adjacent seats. Apparently Hales has a special place in his heart for that particular tech and his work.
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post #9 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

Hales' problem with the system that had bass so smooth and consistent from seat to seat that it was no longer directional seems to be a case of the crossover set too high. If he wanted the drum whacks to be heard from the front speakers rather than the subwoofers, setting the crossovers lower would have kept those sounds in the L/C/R speakers rather bass managing them into a mono subwoofer feed. I don't see how he can blame improved seat to seat consistency and/or smoother low frequency response.

problem with that is the front speakers were probably incapable of going low enough to produce the drum sounds, as are most ultra high efficiency theater speakers.

His opinions do make me wonder about spending the extra money to get an AVR with Audessey XT32 though.

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post #10 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Kini62 View Post

His opinions do make me wonder about spending the extra money to get an AVR with Audessey XT32 though.
I think his opinions are of earlier versions of Audyssey. Went through this same thing at the recent Pioneer Electronics event that Scott Wilkinson attended, where the hosts still thought Audyssey was correcting peaks & dips in the highest frequencies, when that no longer happens with XT32.

In the big Audyssey thread, a couple of folks did electrical measurement from the RCA line level outputs on their receivers, and it turns out that XT32 does most of its correction below 300-500 Hz (where the room dominates what you hear) and much less correction above that range (where you're hearing more direct sound from your speakers). In fact, the higher frequency correction seemed to be a gentle tilt to bring the frequency response in line with their target curve and keep the sound consistent from speaker to speaker.

Personally, I would buy a receiver with XT32. Better to have the option and not use it than never have had the option at all. Just my nature, I want to know what I'm missing. Worst that can happen is that you end up not liking it and turn it off. But at least you will have arrived at that conclusion based on what you heard with your system in your room. Better than taking someone else's word for it, no matter how impressive his credentials.

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post #11 of 165 Old 06-25-2013, 10:21 PM
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I agree with Sanjay, even though I have mixed feelings about the results I get with Audyssey XT32. Better to have it to test and use "to taste" than not to have it at all. Furthermore, the Audyssey setup does a very nice/convenient job of profiling speakers for distance and crossover points, aside from its application of digital EQ.
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post #12 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 12:48 AM
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post #13 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 03:05 AM
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Great show Scott and Paul, very informative and helpful.
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post #14 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 04:41 AM
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Interesting show, thanks.

I'd like to hear a response from someone at Audyssey though. smile.gif

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post #15 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 05:47 AM
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After reading toole's book a few months ago (the one the guest recommended), I was finally able to free my mind from all the audyssey marketing, that their solution was somehow magically making the room disappear. There was no question that the main speakers sounded better without it once I allowed myself to take their uncorrected response seriously. I've since moved on to other tools that allow me to set a much lower cutoff for the EQ. I don't apply any correction above 800hz...although this interview has me thinking maybe even that is a little too high.

Audyssey seems like it has a solid algorithm behind it, but even the highest end version is so inflexible and opaque. Who knows what it's doing at the high end, when it doesn't give you any feedback whatsoever?

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post #16 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 08:08 AM
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Paul / Scott,
Great interview - Thanks!

My 2 cents worth; everyone who is about to build a room should at least consider the points made; before planning their treatments.

My "take-aways":
- Do not be in a big hurry to "over-treat" your room until you have done ample homework.
- For small rooms. it's probably best to concentrate your worries on those frequencies below 300 Hz
- I was a bit surprised that bass trapping did not get at least some comment (IMO bass-trapping a small room is almost a best-practice)?
- And I will admit, I have a new homework assignments; to read O'Toole's book, and check out Sean Olive's material

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post #17 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 11:07 AM
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My room is treated with DIY cylinder bass traps- 16" for low frequency and 9" placed at reflection points. It is staged for my two channel hi-end stereo and not for my HT 3.1, which I have temporarily shoehorned in the same room. The bass trapping for HT should be pretty good, but the early reflections from the main speakers (not to mention positioning) are not well treated. I can bypass the FL/FR in Audyssey (I believe), so I'll mess around with the bypass and with Audyssey turned off entirely, etc as a learning experience for when I have a more ideal room. I'd be surprised to find that active EQ is a net positive for HT. No way on earth I'd do such a thing to my stereo.

Proper speaker positioning, in my experience with hi-end two channel, is the most important factor in achieving excellent sound. I plan to apply this lesson to HT someday. Additionally, there is little substitute for genuine hi-end gear. The D/A conversion and related analog stage of the prepro alone is going to have an enormous impact on HT sound quality. Not to mention power supply design. There are no shortcuts around these things, but I many of us are not in a position to afford the best gear or allocate the space for ideal positioning. The question then, is whether or not a practical, real world HT benefits from Audyssey.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by cuzed2 View Post

My "take-aways":
- For small rooms. it's probably best to concentrate your worries on those frequencies below 300 Hz

- I was a bit surprised that bass trapping did not get at least some comment (IMO bass-trapping a small room is almost a best-practice)?

Don't forget absorption of the early reflections (floor, side walls, and even ceiling). Agree about bass trapping.

Here is a link to consider:

http://www.barrydiamentaudio.com/monitoring.htm

^Never met Barry in person, but had many online discussions. Great guy.

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post #19 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by jh901 View Post

My room is treated with DIY cylinder bass traps- 16" for low frequency and 9" placed at reflection points. It is staged for my two channel hi-end stereo and not for my HT 3.1, which I have temporarily shoehorned in the same room. The bass trapping for HT should be pretty good, but the early reflections from the main speakers (not to mention positioning) are not well treated. I can bypass the FL/FR in Audyssey (I believe), so I'll mess around with the bypass and with Audyssey turned off entirely, etc as a learning experience for when I have a more ideal room. I'd be surprised to find that active EQ is a net positive for HT. No way on earth I'd do such a thing to my stereo.

Proper speaker positioning, in my experience with hi-end two channel, is the most important factor in achieving excellent sound. I plan to apply this lesson to HT someday. Additionally, there is little substitute for genuine hi-end gear. The D/A conversion and related analog stage of the prepro alone is going to have an enormous impact on HT sound quality. Not to mention power supply design. There are no shortcuts around these things, but I many of us are not in a position to afford the best gear or allocate the space for ideal positioning. The question then, is whether or not a practical, real world HT benefits from Audyssey.

I've definitely had setups where certain parts of it were beneficial, but I always had to take the good with the bad. With an energy RC-micro setup I used to have, it balanced out the midrange to sound much more natural and flattened the sub considerably. But of course it also overextended the satellites and the sub at their low end, giving the midbass a very hollow sound as the sats struggled, and added tons of distortion to the sub. Also had a several budget to mid-tier 2-channel tower setups, that had considerable boundary gain, and rearranging wasn't an option. Audyssey tames the boundary gain well, and then proceeds to mess up the midrange and higher.

Most of what audyssey does isn't controversial, it's just that you have no facility to stop it from taking those extra few steps and going too far, even in a modest HT. For someone who doesn't have an SPL meter and test disc to set gain, delays, etc....then it's better than nothing I suppose.

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post #20 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 11:20 AM
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I'd like to hear a response from someone at Audyssey though. smile.gif
You'd have to go to the "Ask Audyssey" section of their site to hear directly from their CTO (he used to post at AVS years ago).

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post #21 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 12:09 PM
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Great podcast! Maybe this explains why I seem to like audyssey better when I calibrate a single position... because It's doing less? I don't want to ever be without Dynamic EQ/VOL and volume though, I can't say enough good about it.
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post #22 of 165 Old 06-26-2013, 08:35 PM
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Great podcast! Maybe this explains why I seem to like audyssey better when I calibrate a single position... because It's doing less? I don't want to ever be without Dynamic EQ/VOL and volume though, I can't say enough good about it.

This goes back to what I always say, "there is only one sweet spot, it's not called a sweet area".

Audyssey averages the room response in order to make "every seat is a good seat", the lawof physics just don't work that way.

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This goes back to what I always say, "there is only one sweet spot, it's not called a sweet area".

Audyssey averages the room response in order to make "every seat is a good seat", the lawof physics just don't work that way.

I also found it nearly impossible to measure multiple seats without going considerably off axis on a speaker or two for any given measurement. Of course audyssey doesnt know it's off axis, it just measures less high frequency response for that channel. So you're introducing the potential to correct a problem that doesn't really exist, based on aberrant measurements. What does audyssey do with those measurements? Who knows! Best case scenario it considers that measurement an anomaly, worst case it over-boosts high frequencies at the MLP. Better to just not EQ directional high frequencies in the first place...but of course, that's not an option with audyssey.

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post #24 of 165 Old 06-27-2013, 07:43 AM
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Wow, a Paul Hales sighting! Great stuff.

I was reading his old interview in Stereophile only a few days ago. I've only got through the beginning of the above interview but plan to see the whole show.

Aside from being a general audio-enthusiast from way back. I'd hugely admired the last iteration in Hales speakers line up, the Transcendence line of speakers, before he folded that company. One thing that Paul's speakers just nailed were a sense of timbral accuracy and a smoothness and lack of grain. I thought the big Transcendence 8s put out maybe the best sound at one CES show, despite being a far less costly flagship speaker than most of the competition. I also lived with the Transcendence 5s for a while and loved their gorgeous midrange. Though I felt they were just a bit dynamically reticent, in terms of "feeling" the instruments throughout the whole range. I talked with Paul about that and it he acknowledge he'd began to feel the same way and was starting to investigate higher dynamic range/horn designs. Looks like he continued that path, successfully. That said, the first Hales surround home theater series of speakers, demonstrated at a CES though I don't think ever making it to the market before Hales folded, were memorably fantastic, basically recreating that smooth, luscious, clear Hales sound for movies.

When it came to designing my home theater the Transcendence speakers and that CES demo remained in my mind. I managed to track down a pair of Hales Transcendence T1 monitors for L/R duty and an incredibly rare Hales Transcendence matching center channel speaker (a massive beast - subwoofer barely required). They produce an absolutely glorious, rich, smooth, timbrally accurate and organic sound for both music and movies in my room. I do sound effects for movies and television and it's such a joy to, at the end of the day, be able to enjoy my home theater without feeling my ears are being assaulted. Other people who are not listening to movie sound tracks all day no doubt DO want to be kicked hard by their home theater system, and now it looks like you can get that with newer Hales-designed speakers. but the Hales are perfect for me. They are one of the prizes of my system. In fact, I was so worried about what I'd do if the speakers blew or broke down that a couple years ago I tracked down the last remaining T1 monitors as a back up, which happened to be owned by Paul Hales, using them in his office.
He sold them to me.

It's always interesting to see what Hales is up to and I can only imagine how spectacular the results must be with Paul's ear for timbral accuracy combined with super high sensitivity speaker dynamics.
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post #25 of 165 Old 06-27-2013, 08:50 AM
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Extremely interesting! I've never really thought of EQ'ing in those terms, but it definitely makes sense. I will have to do some AB comparisons to see which I like better, Audyssey or Non-EQ'd.

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post #26 of 165 Old 06-27-2013, 11:11 PM
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KINDA MAKES YOU WONDER WHO IS INVENTING ALL THIS AUTOMATED EQ,,,,SOUND ENGINEERS ??? AND WHY ??

A FEW YEARS BACK , ANOTHER VERY KNOWLEDGABLE MEMBER CALLED "SAC" ON THE (HTS) FORUM HAD THE SAME THOUGHT,.. ABOUT NOT BEING A GOOD IDEA TO "EQ" OVER 250HZ, ...i HAD EVEN POSTED A THREAD ASKING THAT VERY QUESTION !
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post #27 of 165 Old 06-28-2013, 12:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post

Wow, a Paul Hales sighting! Great stuff.

I was reading his old interview in Stereophile only a few days ago. I've only got through the beginning of the above interview but plan to see the whole show.

Aside from being a general audio-enthusiast from way back. I'd hugely admired the last iteration in Hales speakers line up, the Transcendence line of speakers, before he folded that company. One thing that Paul's speakers just nailed were a sense of timbral accuracy and a smoothness and lack of grain. I thought the big Transcendence 8s put out maybe the best sound at one CES show, despite being a far less costly flagship speaker than most of the competition. I also lived with the Transcendence 5s for a while and loved their gorgeous midrange. Though I felt they were just a bit dynamically reticent, in terms of "feeling" the instruments throughout the whole range. I talked with Paul about that and it he acknowledge he'd began to feel the same way and was starting to investigate higher dynamic range/horn designs. Looks like he continued that path, successfully. That said, the first Hales surround home theater series of speakers, demonstrated at a CES though I don't think ever making it to the market before Hales folded, were memorably fantastic, basically recreating that smooth, luscious, clear Hales sound for movies.

When it came to designing my home theater the Transcendence speakers and that CES demo remained in my mind. I managed to track down a pair of Hales Transcendence T1 monitors for L/R duty and an incredibly rare Hales Transcendence matching center channel speaker (a massive beast - subwoofer barely required). They produce an absolutely glorious, rich, smooth, timbrally accurate and organic sound for both music and movies in my room. I do sound effects for movies and television and it's such a joy to, at the end of the day, be able to enjoy my home theater without feeling my ears are being assaulted. Other people who are not listening to movie sound tracks all day no doubt DO want to be kicked hard by their home theater system, and now it looks like you can get that with newer Hales-designed speakers. but the Hales are perfect for me. They are one of the prizes of my system. In fact, I was so worried about what I'd do if the speakers blew or broke down that a couple years ago I tracked down the last remaining T1 monitors as a back up, which happened to be owned by Paul Hales, using them in his office.
He sold them to me.

It's always interesting to see what Hales is up to and I can only imagine how spectacular the results must be with Paul's ear for timbral accuracy combined with super high sensitivity speaker dynamics.

I spent many a Saturday afternoons as a young budding Audiophile dreaming of one day owning a pair of what I shall now call "The Legendary Hales Transcendence 8" my oh my !! what glorious sound, that still gives me a warm feeling when I reflect back on those days. While I do wish Mr. Hales all the best in his new endeavor's, should he decide to pick up where he left off with say a Transcendence 9 biggrin.gif I'd be first in line to buy them wink.gif
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post #28 of 165 Old 06-28-2013, 11:47 AM
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Mostly a very good interview. I've experienced Hales' ProAudioTech products in more than one occasion, and all lengthly listening sessions. I've linked to these sessions and products in many threads here at AVS. They employ the highly regarded two-way compression driver of BMS, and their cab build quality is superb.


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Originally Posted by Reddig View Post

High sensitivity speakers and clean high power is the only way to experience reference level theater like dynamics at home.

+1

Absolutely correct. The crest factor associated with many effects is quite demanding, experiencing these effects reproduced correctly, realistically, is exciting and contributes to the immersive component significantly.

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BTW Scott I was very surprised you didn't know QSC made speakers. Come on Bro!!

Really ... I was surprised too confused.gif

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Originally Posted by sdurani View Post

Hales' problem with the system that had bass so smooth and consistent from seat to seat that it was no longer directional seems to be a case of the crossover set too high. If he wanted the drum whacks to be heard from the front speakers rather than the subwoofers, setting the crossovers lower would have kept those sounds in the L/C/R speakers rather bass managing them into a mono subwoofer feed. I don't see how he can blame improved seat to seat consistency and/or smoother low frequency response.

+1

This anecdote was odd, and somewhat out of place. The psychoacoustic cues that contribute to this effect are well understood. Associating the visual cue with the visceral hit is a function of both time/signal alignment, and Xover/filtering.


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Originally Posted by jh901 View Post

I'd be surprised to find that active EQ is a net positive for HT.... The question then, is whether or not a practical, real world HT benefits from Audyssey.

In my opinion, Aud XT32, and the positive manner in which it addresses the response below the transition freq, out-weighes the theoretical mistake of EQ'ing the non-minimum phase range.


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Originally Posted by toddRiffic View Post

Maybe this explains why I seem to like audyssey better when I calibrate a single position... because It's doing less?.

I'm no Audyssey expert, I never read that section of the forum, but doesn't the multi-position measuring Audyssey uses attempt to differentiate between room effects and the native response of the loudspeaker above the transition frequency?


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A FEW YEARS BACK , ANOTHER VERY KNOWLEDGABLE MEMBER CALLED "SAC" ON THE (HTS) FORUM HAD THE SAME THOUGHT,.. ABOUT NOT BEING A GOOD IDEA TO "EQ" OVER 250HZ, ...i HAD EVEN POSTED A THREAD ASKING THAT VERY QUESTION !

The science involved is nothing new. EQ'ing minimum phase issues is prudent, and non-minimum phase issues is theoretically fraught with problems.

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post #29 of 165 Old 06-28-2013, 12:28 PM
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I still prefer my room correction (MCACC) over using none at all.
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OPPO BETA GROUP
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post #30 of 165 Old 06-28-2013, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FOH View Post

In my opinion, Aud XT32, and the positive manner in which it addresses the response below the transition freq, out-weighes the theoretical mistake of EQ'ing the non-minimum phase range.
That's been my experiene as well. When it comes to room correction technology, where I disagree with Hales is that he makes 'perfect' the enemy of 'good'. Automated room correction doesn't have to be without flaws, it just has to sound better ON than OFF. I'll take some improvement over nothing at all.

Sean Olive's room correction comparison a few years ago showed that some of these systems (e.g., Lyngdorf) were preferred to no correction while other systems were not. So improvements can be made using electronic equalization. Otherwise Hales wouldn't have user-programmable parametric EQ filters built into his power amps.

Sanjay
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