Among all the audio-related things I saw or heard at CES 2016, one of the most exciting was the forthcoming update to miniDSP’s DDRC-88A ($1000) Dirac Live processor. By merging the powerful hands-on tools and controls of miniDSP’s own DSP plug-in with Dirac Live’s automated room correction software, the company has significantly expanded the capabilities of the 8-channel DDRC-88A.
Automated room correction is an essential component of modern home theaters and AV rooms. Basic systems set speaker distances, levels, and crossover points for speakers and subs. More sophisticated solutions (like Dirac Live) work to mitigate peaks and nulls in the bass region, phase-related issues, group delay, and other acoustical anomalies. I use the DDRC-88A whenever I review speaker systems; not only does it help me tackle room-related issues, but I also get to see the graphs of the measurements.
MiniDSP’s software plug-in (not Dirac Live)—in particular the software found in the nanoAVR—offers audio enthusiasts a powerful array of manually adjustable DSP processing and routing tools. Indeed, I first learned of miniDSP at an AVS meet-up featuring a subwoofer showdown, where I used it to dial-in my DIY subs. You can use miniDSP’s software to route audio, apply crossovers, tweak EQ, adjust delay and levels—it’s very powerful and flexible, but until this update to the DDRC-88A was announced, it was not usable in conjunction with Dirac Live.
While there is some overlap in capability between what the miniDSP plug-in and Dirac Live do, each software solution offers capabilities the other is lacking. However, with this update to the DDRC-88A, what miniDSP has done is combine the capabilities of the two software solutions. What does this mean to an end user? It means you can do a lot more with Dirac Live and the DDRC-88A than you could before. For example, you can perform bass management within the DDRC-88A, with full control over crossover points as well as slopes for each speaker.
With the DDRC-88A update, not only can you tweak and route audio prior to Dirac Live processing, you can also control what happens to the audio after Dirac. For example, you could use one channel of Dirac to process audio and then split the signal up into two or three channels for use with an active speaker. You can also take the Dirac-processed LFE channel and send it to multiple outputs. The output stage supports crossovers (with adjustable slopes), parametric EQ, time alignment, and phase inversion.
This update is something I’ve wished for on many occasions, and I suspect anyone familiar with miniDSP’s products will agree it is a dream come true. Now I can start daydreaming about what could be done with a stack of DDRC-88As and some DIY ingenuity.
The new capabilities will be available soon in the form of a firmware update. Pricing and release date have not been set, but I can't wait.