Dirac Live vs Audyssey vs YPAO R.S.C.

Since more and more companies are switching to Dirac Live in their receivers – Onkyo and Pioneer being two of the latest ones to do so – I thought it would be important to compare Dirac to Audyssey and YPAO. I don’t see a lot of reviewers or sites fully explaining the pros and cons of each technology. I also rarely see reviewers fully understanding how to set up Audyssey correctly to level the playing field. Lastly, I have a few gripes with Dirac Live that I would like to see addressed before it takes over the world.

Room Correction Technologies

Room correction started out at simply correcting for frequency response anomalies due to speaker and room interactions. This can be something as simple as graphic EQ (GEQ) or something a little more sophisticated called a Parametric Equaliser (PEQ).

However, correcting only the frequency response of a system won’t result in great sound. This is because phase and time-alignment issues caused by crossovers, room modes and first-order reflections will smear the original sound as it hits listener’s ears. What is more, using frequency-based corrections such as GEQ but especially PEQ can make these issues much worse affecting a system’s imaging.

This is why – for example – you never see YPAO making pin-point accurate changes with its PEQ system. If it did, it would affect imaging and steering in multi-channel soundtracks.

So modern room correction technologies focus on both phase and time-alignment issues as well as the frequency response and take the loudspeaker system and the room as one system while doing so. To do this, they use a mathematical tool called convolution and affect the impulse response of the loudspeaker in both the time and frequency domain.

While diving into convolution as well as FIR and IIR filters is outside the scope of this article, I hope this gets you started if you are interested in finding out more.

Dirac Live

Dirac Live is laser focused on creating a clean impulse response at the listeners ears and I have to say it is the more advanced between the 3 technologies. They took their time to arrive at the algorithms they use to create the best imaging they possibly can and it shows. Let’s look at the pros and cons:

1Easy to create great sound – easy to use
2The best imaging between the 3 technologies at the least effort
3The standard frequency curve is good – without loudness compensation
4Great with a single subwoofer
1Still a lack of loudness compensation which in my opinion is critical to accurate cinema sound
2Still a lack of advanced base management with the integration of 2 or more subwoofers

So Dirac Live is simply excellent in creating pinpoint imaging and therefore helps with steering of multi-channel soundtracks. It is a truly impressive technology.

Dirac is also great in the subwoofer region – does as well as Audyssey and definitely much better than YPAO.

However, my main issue with it is the lack of advanced base management integrated into the package. It is something that equipment manufacturers have to integrate themselves – some do it more successfully than others. Secondly, and this is a huge one for me, there is no loudness compensation technologies like Audyssey Dynamic EQ / Dynamic Volume or YPAO Volume, which I think is absolutely critical for accurate cinema sound.

Instead, Dirac has gone towards creating a base “house curve” with a lifted low end and allows the user to do the same. This is a complete misunderstanding of how the human auditory system works and is going into the wrong approach. In fact, I find that a lack of research in this area is a step or two backwards compared to what THX and Audyssey has done. I would like to see them addressing it.

Read more about Loudness Compensation and why it is important here.

However, having said all that, loudness compensation is available as part of the THX or Dolby package in the form of THX Loudness Plus and Dolby Volume, which the receiver manufacturers could re-introduce and would be compatible with Dirac. This is what Onkyo seems to have done with the TX-RZ50 – bravo Onkyo.

Although the issue is that Dirac’s base curve is not quite there when loudness compensation is engaged and might need to be altered for it to work adequately. However, THX Loudness Plus is not quite as aggressive as Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume in its default setting so it might work without major issues.

Update 24 Nov 21 – looking at the manual for the RZ50, unfortunately Dirac Live is disabled when THX listening modes are active. This is very disappointing in my opinion. The search continues for a receiver that can engage loudness compensation with Dirac Live.

To help people resolve the above issue, I have created a brand new guide called Dirac Live Perfection: Loudness Compensation with Dirac Live. It is a few dollars more expensive than my other guides as it has taken a lot more work than the other guides. However, it will help those that are looking for a solution to the above issue.


YPAO R.S.C. uses a combination of FIR filtering, which is not shown on the front-end of the receiver and a layer of PEQ on top of that. The filtering is done to deal with room-modes, crossovers, phase and time-alignment issues. The PEQ is used in a broad fashion to correct the tonal balance between the speakers and the colouring introduced by the room. Let’s have a look at pros and cons:

1Easy to create great sound – easy to use
2Good imaging and steering
3The base frequency curve is good and suitable to use with or without loudness compensation
1Still not great with subwoofers

Yamaha’s approach to both the frequency response curve and loudness compensation / dynamic range compression is balanced. They don’t try and go overboard with either. Yamaha has weight to the sound and doesn’t try to overcorrect into too harsh or too mellow territory. Even their loudness compensation solution – YPAO Volume – is tuned conservatively to match most content: whether music or movies.

However, the biggest issue with YPAO is that it is still not great at calibrating subwoofers after all these years. I would recommend Yamaha get in touch with Audyssey for a crash course as it’s starting to border on ridiculous after all this time. YPAO regularly gets things wrong with subwoofers and over or under-corrects. Therefore great subwoofer positioning is required to get the most out of YPAO. The only saving grace here is that YPAO allows you to copy one of their frequency curves to a manual slot while keeping both the FIR filters and the PEQ filters. In the manual slot, the PEQ filters become editable and with proper equipment allows you to correct issues in the subwoofer calibration.

To get the very best out of YPAO, refer to YPAO – The Lost Manual.

Audyssey XT32

Audyssey’s heritage comes from THX (Tom Holman eXperiment), Tom Holman being one of the founders of Audyssey. Audyssey is based on very sound research that takes into consideration the need for impulse response, tonal characteristics as well as the science of cinema sound and that of the human auditory system.

However, where Audyssey has fallen down has been with the design of the algorithms that balance imaging with frequency based corrections and that the system was designed with the reverberation characteristics of their single test-room.

This unfortunately makes Audyssey less user-friendly to set up and requires careful setup of room, and careful choice of microphone positions. To add insult to injury, the default microphone positions provided in almost all the manuals result in an unideal sound. Let’s look at pros and cons:

1Great sound – but only if set up correctly
2Great imaging and steering – but only if set up correctly
3Very much aiming at reference – but only achieved if Dynamic EQ and Volume are engaged
4The most advanced Loudness Compensation and Dynamic Range Compression algorithm on the market – besting even THX and Dolby.
5Unparalleled base management – phase and time-alignment of multiple subwoofers
1To get great sound requires work- work that most people won’t or can’t actually do:
– careful setup of room
– careful positioning of microphone
2Ultimately, tries to present itself as user friendly but isn’t quite there at the level of YPAO or Dirac Live as mishaps in setup can result in harshness and fatiguing sound.

I am 100% on board with what Audyssey is trying to achieve: reference sound based on sound research. What I have found with Audyssey however is that they didn’t improve their algorithms when users faced issues. Instead, they came up with the Audyssey mobile app that allows users to create their own house curve. While this is useful if you are unable to get great sound in your room, it kind of ignores the problem. The main issue being that Audyssey’s ultimate search for reference sound requires it to tackle the white elephant in the room: RT60. That is that reverberation characteristics of the listening space will alter the energy in the high frequencies and therefore how sound is perceived.

Having said this, if the room is set up correctly, and microphone positions are carefully chosen Audyssey can sound almost as great as Dirac Live can – and offers a more complete package. However, I think very few people have ever heard Audyssey at its best. This is why I have written Secrets of Audyssey so more people can experience it. If you have an Audyssey receiver, I would highly recommend you get and follow the guide to the letter.

Which Technology is Best?

I am afraid there is no perfect technology. Each needs improvement.

Audyssey needs to keep improving its research and algorithms, especially when it comes to reverberation characteristics of listening spaces. Also, the balancing of imaging and frequency response should not have to be so hard with regards to microphone positioning or need Audyssey Pro and 10+ mic positions.

Dirac Live MUST implement some sort of loudness compensation and dynamic range compression to be taken seriously by the home cinema semi-pros and pros. Also, base management needs (much) more work.

Yamaha must lay down its pride and have a chat with Audyssey or alternatively, get someone who understands base management and correction. YPAO R.S.C. needs to do much better with subs and not just yearly incremental improvement otherwise it will never be taken seriously.

A Note on Reference Mixes

This likely requires an article of its own, but it needs to be mentioned. Unfortunately, more and more movie companies are putting out sound mixes – especially on streaming services – that are mixed for TVs and sound bars. This is at a time where more and more people are getting high-end home cinemas installed. Unfortunately, these new mixes are heavily dynamically compressed to the point that they are difficult to listen to on a large system.

Disney and Apple are the main culprits here, but Netflix has done similar mixes also. Unfortunately, this new state of affairs is completely unacceptable – especially as physical media is slowly going away. However, Disney has put these mixes on physical media as well, which is borderline criminal. All the hard work that the movie industry – as well as Dolby and THX – did from the 70s onwards to standardise cinema sound is being thrown out the window so that watching movies on TVs is acceptable.

The correct solution would be to implement loudness compensation and dynamic range compression within the streaming applications – as opposed to nuking the original soundtrack for the movie. The other option is to offer two mixes: one for TVs and soundbars, and one for dedicated home cinema systems.

Otherwise, this is going to be slowly swinging the other way and getting the other half of their customers upset. If you are as unhappy with the sound quality of content on Disney+ as I am, please put a complaint in directly to Disney. If this is not resolved by them within the next few years, I will stop my subscription and boycott content that is not mixed to an appropriate quality. I would encourage you to do the same.

Otherwise, this is going to result in the Wild Wild West of cinema sound before standardisation, and will throw us back 40 years. I am surprised that we even have to call this out for a studio as well regarded as Disney but there we are. I am very worried what they will do with all the 20th Century Fox content they have acquired. Let’s hope they heed our complaints and do something about it.

15 thoughts on “Dirac Live vs Audyssey vs YPAO R.S.C.

Add yours

  1. G’day Roland, interesting take on yamaha ypao and the others, I’ve found with my 3070, it’s better to run ypao around 2.00am, I use all 8 positions too, when there is next to no external ambient noise, It makes a big difference, ypao hears your room accustics better, therefore better sound quality results, I think ypao is more acute than people think, and might be where some of the problems with ypao starts, also with subwoofers, after setting subs as yamaha says prior running ypao, then running ypao, I by-pass hight measurements, go to results, to see what ypao is doing with subs, say with front/rear configuration like mine are, if ypao is turning up rear subs say +3Db, then front subs down – 2Db, I go to subs and turn down gain or up depending on results, it’s a little hit and miss as to how good you adjust gain appropriately, although I run ypao again, check sub results, I’ll do this a number of times, if need be, until ypao is showing subs front/rear are both set at 0.0 Db, I’ve not spent money on sound test equipment and I’m using what’s at hand, to the best of my knowledge, but once I achieve ypao f/r subs 0.0Db, I believe the subs are then gain matched at the subwoofers, it makes a big difference to ypao bass management and the extra effort is well worth it, I hope this might help those that don’t have sound gear for external testing, depending on ypao solely like myself, another trick I use when running ypao and part of my bass management, I open my house up windows/doors, it makes a big difference getting bass good, afterwards when I close house up some what, if bass becomes a little to much, I just adjust bass accordingly if need be, but living in the tropics it’s normally opened up and why I run ypao at 2.00am.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Stephen. I’m sure this is going to be useful for those that don’t have the right equipment. Ultimately, I do want Yamaha to step up their game – although they are getting better and better. At the moment, it is not the most user friendly to set up subs with YPAO unfortunately. But indeed, careful setup – and a quiet environment – goes a long way to getting great results. 🙂

  2. Very education and helpful! Would be great if you would also include Sony’s Digital Cinema Auto Calibration IX in this discussion or is it purposefully left out as not even in in the same league or is a different thing all together? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ken,
      When this article was written, Sony’s DCAC was still in its previous version, and frankly very poor.
      V9 is still a bit light on any sort of proper room equalisation, but it is very good at virtualising speakers, which is what they’re focusing on.
      Ultimately, they are still poor with regards to calibrating subwoofers or applying EQ to equalize speakers. So it is recommended to use the same speakers across the whole room to match timbre as much as possible.

      I think we’ll cover their solution over the next year so subscribe if you haven’t yet.

  3. Hello Roland,

    Do you have an opinion on Sony’s new 360 spatial sound mapping technology in their new line of receivers? Do you think that it is superior to Audyssey in terms of enveloping sound and image and if yes which are the cons and pros of the two technologies?
    Any opinion will be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Patlaka,
      Well, they are slightly different… Sony’s 360 spatial mapping technology is an additional technology on top of their new Auto Calibration function (D.C.A.C. IX)

      D.C.A.C. IX is analogous to Audyssey and Dirac. I haven’t evaluated it as Sony hasn’t released these receivers outside of the US yet, but from what I can see, it doesn’t do as detailed frequency (Audyssey) or phase (Dirac) correction. Now this can be both good or bad. It does phase-align speakers which is important, but that is not phase-aligning frequency bands as Dirac does (Audyssey doesn’t do detailed phase alignment of frequency bands either).

      Sony’s auto calibration is still behind with regards to subwoofer integration so you need to use a MiniDSP with two subs and MSO, then overlay D.C.A.C. IX if you can. This will likely give you much better performance.

      Now, Sony’s spacial mapping uses their spacial mapping technology to create phantom speakers using more than one speaker in the system, to correct for unideal placement of speakers in the room, or even room reflections affecting steering (not frequency or phase response, that’s auto calibration). It can also create phantom speakers even when speakers are correctly placed so that it can steer the sound more precisely around the room.

      Look, I think this is definitely great for rooms that are not set up as a dedicated room with proper speaker placement and speaker matching. If you set up a system properly with room treatment and proper calibration, then sound can literally float between speakers so you can achieve this without spacial mapping.

      However, the above with Audyssey is hard work to get right so people who aren’t interested in all that might find that Sony’s approach is easier and more fun for their setups. Those who want ultimate reference playback will have to either mess with Audyssey or do Dirac with custom loudness-based curves. Sony’s approach – to my knowledge – doesn’t allow you to customise the curve, and they don’t seem to be doing loudness-based compensation.

      Now again, probably not a huge issue for most people’s setups. They will simply alter the volume per content. It might compete with Audyssey with regards to fun factor and general performance (minus the subs). It won’t compete with Dirac Live in terms of ultimate reference listening. That would need a lot more work on Sony’s part.

  4. Hi Roland,

    Thank you very much for the detailed analysis of the Sony’s new calibration technology and sound mapping.

    Actually, there is one model from Sony’s new line of receivers that is currently selling in Europe, the SONY TA-AN1000 model. You can check this link with offers from different sellers in EU: https://geizhals.eu/sony-ta-an1000-a2937386.html

    Unfortunately, it is not top of the line model, but is has the new calibration technology and sound mapping and I am wondering if at about 860 euros price is a good alternative to Denon 3800 or 4800. I’ve seen pretty bad measurements for the 3800 model on audiosciencereview forum by Amirm. Apparently, It has to do something with low quality DAC’s that are used in the 3800 series. Happily, the 4800 is ok in terms of DAC quality.

    1. Well, it’s difficult to know because Sony puts a lot of attention on the new ES line but it’s unlikely those improvements made it down to the lower-end units. Audyssey and YPAO have different levels too plus the hardware makes a big difference as well.
      Frankly, I was never a fan of Sony receivers and only this new ES line is promising. I wouldn’t touch their low-end AVRs, frankly. The 4800h would be a much better choice even sight unseen, even just the choice of Dirac down the line.

  5. > This likely requires an article of its own, but it needs to be mentioned. Unfortunately, more and more movie companies are putting out sound mixes – especially on streaming services – that are mixed for TVs and sound bars. This is at a time where more and more people are getting high-end home cinemas installed. Unfortunately, these new mixes are heavily dynamically compressed to the point that they are difficult to listen to on a large system.

    WTF! That reminds me of the crazy loudness war in the music industry at the end of the 90ies and the 00s, where they tried to make CDs as loud as possible and push them as near as possible to 0dbFS, of course with loss of all dynamics. Unfortunately, this trend has ossified in the industry, although it doesn’t make much sense at the present: almost no CDs are sold anymore, and mostly all music streaming services normalize loudness, with the effect that contemporary recordings sounds very dull and shallow compared to 80ies or early 90ies recordings. But I guess that is partially also to cater to cheap bluetooth boxes and smartphone speakers.

    Like you said, the correct solution would be to dynamically compress on the end-device, not on the recording, or at least provide different tracks. FYI, when watching Apple TV+ on Apple TV device, there always is an option to “reduce loud sounds”. I don’t know why they pre-compress the tracks additionally.

    1. Yes, I agree. This is very frustrating. As you rightly pointed out, Apple is trying to do the right thing, but they are dealing with other streaming services that are going the opposite direction. The biggest culprit is Disney, as they even nuke soundtracks on physical media which is unforgivable really. But the more people complain, the more things might change and they have to cater for both groups. Let’s hope that will be the case over time.

  6. Hi , I am just reaching out after looking through this. I have a Yamaha TSR 7810 and have been looking at the Pioneer LX505 with Dirac Live because I feel that YPAO is not freat for my dual SVS subs. Anyway in the comparison you mention that Loudness compensation is absent from Dirac Live, but it does now have it, and you even have an ad for it inbetween your explanation of the technologies here.

    1. Hi Owen,
      Dirac Live doesn’t have loudness compensation natively. It’s a hack using custom curves. So yes, you can implement it but it will require you to buy the guide and work for it!

Leave a Reply

Up ↑