Update: 18 Dec. Revised article.
Update 20 Dec. Added suggestion for resolving licensing issue.
Audyssey has introduced MultEQ-X, a PC based software program that connects to Marantz and Denon AVRs that currently support the Audyssey Mobile App.
The package is now available on the Microsoft Store and can be downloaded for your Windows PC – be it a desktop, a laptop or a surface.
The software seems to support all the AVRs that were compatible with the Audyssey App. The software will tell you whether your AVR is compatible with it when you try and connect to it. It will then ask you to buy a licence for that specific AVR under your Microsoft Store account. The licence is US$199 and can only be used for that specific AVR with that serial number. Each AVR you own or if you upgrade, you will need to pay the US$199 again.
Features (as of 16 Dec 2021)
MultEQ-X has the following features. I have bolded the ones that cannot be done in the Audyssey Mobile App currently or not in such detail.
- Allows you to take upto 32 measurement positions.
- It shows you the measured frequency response for the position per speaker which is more detailed than the mobile app which only shows you the accumulated response for the as-is / before curve
- It also shows you the accumulated response curve as you go with the ability to include and exclude measurements
- You are able to measure or re-measure an individual speaker separately (by right-clicking on that speaker in the measurement window and selecting “measure”)
- You are also able to delete a specific speaker measurement (e.g. you want to keep all speaker measurements for a particular position except for the centre speaker). Again, you access this by right-clicking on that measurement / speaker.
- You can specify both the low and high cut-off point for frequency correction on individual speakers as opposed to just channel pairs like in the Mobile App.
- You can add parametric EQ filters to each channel pair (but currently not to individual speakers)
- You can add parametric EQ filters to the combined subwoofer response (but not to the individual subwoofers).
- Enable / disable Midrange Compensation (but not change its shape or move it to your crossover point easily)
- You can apply the different high-frequency roll-offs
- You can add a tilting frequency response and specify the tilt in detail
- You are able to change the primary listening position after all the measurements have been done.
- Both the Audyssey Reference Curve and the Audyssey Flat Curve are fully customisable. The Mobile App was only able to customise the Reference Curve, but not the Flat curve.
- Specify Dynamic EQ offset, Dynamic Volume strength and LFC amount before you transfer to the AVR.
Audyssey said that more features are coming and they have a pretty aggressive rollout schedule. I will try and keep this list updated as things change but it is best to look at the Microsoft Store for the latest changes and hopefully Audyssey will have a product page down the line.
What I like
I think it’s great that Audyssey wants to release new features, improve tweakability and also give users what they want.
I think all the new features are very welcome and definitely gives you some more control. I especially like the feature of being able to see measurement results as you go, see the combined results and include / exclude measurements even down to speaker level. Bravo, this is excellent!
I also love that you can simply re-measure a speaker as opposed to the whole position. This is especially useful when a certain noise went off at just the wrong time and you simply want to re-measure that speaker.
I think Parametric EQ is also brilliant and I love seeing them add this. Also that the Flat curve can also be changed is a great addition.
Changing primary listening position can also be helpful for sure.
What I don’t like / Wishlist
Ok, so let’s get into what I am not super keen on.
Unfortunately, you cannot use your own mic. Lots of us have a calibrated UMIK-1 or UMIK-2, but those cannot be used. Audyssey wants to enable the Audyssey Pro microphones but these are both getting long in the tooth and are very difficult to find.
While I understand there are technical reasons for this, making yet another microphone available for users (for more money) might be a tough pill to swallow along with the next point: the cost and validity of the licence.
I am ok with the cost, but having to pay $199 for every single AVR you own or upgrade to is crazy. I kind of understood the reason for Audyssey Pro licensing – since you could make a business out of that and that had a better mic to boot. But this is an end-user licence. I think it would be a lot more generous if Audyssey enabled you to add 3-5 AVRs per $199 user licence and if you wanted a pro or business license, then that could be bought in packs of 10 additional licences or something along those lines.
Making users pay pro licensing might not fly with users in this day and age and might limit how many people are willing to pony up the dollars considerably.
I wouldn’t get this licence only for my current AVR as it will be upgraded again in a year or so. Having to pay yet another $199 when I upgrade does not seem very enticing. I’d rather stay with the mobile app which is licensed across all AVRs for a one-time fee.
One way Audyssey could resolve the licensing issue is by allowing licenses to be moved between AVRs once a year for example. This way those of us who are serial upgraders – as most pro users are – would not feel like we are burning $200 a pop without even the new user we are passing the AVR onto benefitting.
What Users Want
If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you know that I prefer the “reference approach” for rendering movie soundtracks and that approach very heavily involves Dynamic Loudness Compensation and Dynamic Dynamic Range Control, both of which Audyssey has technologies for (Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume) and are market leaders in.
The issue I see with Audyssey is the approach Audyssey has taken in resolving user complaints about the sound quality issues. I do think the base Audyssey algorithms need updating instead of users having to mess with a pro tool, the target curve or choosing to disable Dynamic EQ and Volume.
What are the issues that I think are pressing?
Issues I Want to See Fixed
- Audyssey needs to look at impulse response / phase shifts and focus on correcting those. This is what Dirac does and is ahead of Audyssey in terms of imaging and a more natural and open sound. While some of this performance difference can be clawed back with better room treatment, better speaker setup and careful positioning and design of the microphone pattern – and lots of trial and error – I am hoping this can be made easier for people out of the box. While I see how MultEQ-X is trying to give you the tools to achieve this quicker, I am also wondering if it’s raising the barrier for people as opposed to lowering it.
- If correcting impulse response is not possible, Audyssey needs to allow the Yamaha approach: which is limit MultEQ filters above a certain frequency and design broad PEQ corrections instead – automatically instead of having the user enter them. This would stop some of the artefacts that can happen when Audyssey is overcorrecting the mid and high frequencies – but without correcting the already present phase shifts / impulse response issues which could then be amplified. At the moment, if you limit MultEQ above a certain frequency, you get no correction whatsoever, not even broad timbre matching. I think this is a bit of an issue.
- I would like to see Audyssey measure RT60 in the room and adapt the target curve according to it using psycho-acoustic principles.
- I would like to see Audyssey tackle Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume being too aggressive in some cases. It would be great if we could configure these in a bit more detail – without also lowering surround envelopment. At the moment, if you apply a -10 offset to Dynamic EQ for example, that offset affects both the frequency response and the surround speaker volumes. I would like these two to be separately configurable – even if only in the back-end.
- I love the fact that you can now add PEQ filters to the channel pairs. However, I think this feature is more useful when adding it to individual speakers, especially if we could add it to the subwoofers separately. As is, this doesn’t quite replace a miniDSP used with Multi-Sub Optimiser, which requires each sub channel to have its own PEQ filter bank (not just the combined filter bank). However, this is definitely going in the right direction and could allow you to adjust combined subwoofer response after Audyssey has done its thing – even if seat to seat variation cannot be reduced effectively.
Audyssey’s main focus has not been on home theatre over the last 7-10 years while the competition has moved on. I fear that by listening to what users want, as opposed to looking at what the competition is doing, they might be missing both the boat and the point. I keep wondering if Audussey feels their CORE technology is the best and it doesn’t need improving. I would respectfully disagree.
Yamaha has moved on with 64bit precision EQ – as opposed to Audyssey’s 32bit precision – and has delivered a more open and natural sound as a result. What’s more, high-resolution bitstreams don’t need to be downsampled to 48Khz to apply YPAO R.S.C. to, while for Audyssey to be applied, that downsampling needs to happen.
Moreover, Yamaha’s approach to correcting mid and high frequencies is not a bad one. They correct the general timbre of the speakers using broad PEQ without altering the general sound of the speaker. As alluded to earlier, the issue seems to be that if you cannot correct impulse response / phase shifts, such high-resolution per note filters that Audyssey applies can at times amplify the issues inherent in the system (content, speakers, room). This can introduce harshness in some instances unless careful setup is followed. I can see how MultEQ-X will assist with this, but I would prefer if the root cause was also worked on, not just band-aided. That way all users could enjoy improved sound-quality out of the box!
Yamaha is fast catching up to Audyssey with regards to both Dynamic EQ with its YPAO Volume and with better subwoofer integration with each iteration. Yamaha already had Dynamic DRC and it works quite well – even if not as high tech as Audyssey Dynamic Volume.
As pointed to earlier, Dirac delivers subjectively better imaging and sound quality in their core technology more seamlessly than Audyssey and does so out of the box.
The issue with Dirac is that they are slow in delivering peripheral technologies which are CRITICAL for reproducing movie soundtracks accurately in a home. These are proper base management, Dynamic Loudness Compensation and state of the art Dynamic Range Compression, all of which Audyssey does much better.
However, Dirac is catching up and if they were to implement these technologies, they would suddenly be ahead of Audyssey in terms of overall sound quality out of the box. This isn’t exactly great for Audyssey!
What’s more, it only takes one AVR manufacturer to enable THX Loudness Plus or Dolby Volume on top of Dirac Live (with possibility to overlay over ATMOS and DTS:X please) and it’s going to cause great competition for Audyssey – and Sound United.
Also, even in terms of subwoofer equalisation, state of the art has moved on with the freeware tool Multi-Sub Optimiser. It can actually resolve seat to seat variation much more effectively than Audyssey can. Audyssey’s approach of simply time and level aligning subs then applying EQ to the combined response was state of the art 10 years ago. It isn’t today! I would like Audyssey to tackle this and keep ahead of the curve.
So I think Audyssey has their work cut out. Audyssey seems to be going down a bit of a rabbit hole: while they are trying to give users more tools, I think they are missing the reason why users want what they want and not going back to improve their original research and core technology. Unfortunately, this could well result in them losing their leadership, unless they can pull some rabbits out of the hat as they improve on MultEQ with this new software package.
I think people want to implement their own house curves because Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume can sound unnatural after Audyssey has over-corrected the mid-range and high frequencies without having tackled impulse response and phase shifts. Again, while this can normally be remedied with very careful setup, and some trial and error, it isn’t always easy. I am hoping this could be automated better by updating the core logic within Audyssey, as opposed to simply giving users yet more tools.
Ultimately, I want to commend Audyssey for being more open to feedback as a company recently and trying to give users the tools to eek the best performance out of the current technology.
But I am very much hoping that they will also commit to improving their core technologies and give more users great sound out of the box.