Update 15 Oct 22. Updated with more detail at the end of the article under heading “Sound United Responds?” regarding an alleged interview with Sound United by Audioholics.
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Sound United (now operating under its new parent company, Masimo) decided to do the unthinkable: implement Dirac Live in addition to Audyssey in their latest crop of Denon and Marantz receivers.
The update will come as an optional, paid upgrade sometime in the first half of 2023. However, not a lot of details are known at this point – and it is very possible that some of the exact features are still in flux.
However, the rumour is that Sound United is planning to allow Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume to be overlaid over Dirac Live.
Which AVRs are Affected?
Denon is releasing the following AVRs with Dirac Live integration:
Price check above Denon AVRs on Amazon.com (links to Denon store on Amazon).
Marantz is releasing the following AVRs and separates with Dirac Live integration:
Price check above Marantz AVRs on Amazon.com (links to the Marantz store on Amazon).
Why is This So Critical?
If you follow this blog, you might be wondering if they have read some of my previous articles on the subject, such as the below. Even if they haven’t, it is clear that these ideas are being actively discussed in the industry and aren’t only my pet-peeves.
- What Sound United and Audyssey need to stay ahead
- MultEQ-X Features and Thoughts
- What Onkyo, Pioneer and Integra need to stay competitive
To summarise, I clearly stated my opinion that Audyssey’s core technology needs an overhaul as it’s been leapfrogged by Dirac. In contrast, I strongly believe that Dirac needs a Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume equivalent or it won’t appeal to anyone but the enthusiasts and early adopters.
This is because loudness compensation and dynamic range compression (DRC) are critical for the mainstream market – but at the very least a state of the art DRC solution. As it stands, neither company has the knock-out technology.
The first company to solve the issues will hands-down win. So I am absolutely hoping that Sound United is smart enough to enable Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume to be active while using Dirac Live. They will literally bring back the enthusiasts who left Denon and Marantz due to Dirac Live implementation on other AVRs and will keep the mainstream, easily influenced masses on their platform.
I also have a hunch that if implemented alongside Dirac Live, Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ will finally get its day in the sun, due to Dirac Live being a much better base than Audyssey’s own technology. Although, if I was Sound United, I would change the default Reference Level Offset (RLO) of 0 to 10 on all inputs, just to make it fool-proof. This is because some users simply turn on Dynamic EQ, think it’s too aggressive (which it is at an RLO of 0) and then turn it off. Additionally, as I stated in MultEQ-X Features and Thoughts, there are other tweaks that could be done to how Audyssey handles relative surround volume levels to make this less of an issue in setups where the surround speakers are much closer to the listener than the front speakers.
The State of Dirac Live
The unfortunate reality with other AVRs implementing Dirac Live at the moment is that they lack technologies for low-volume listening. Even Onkyo’s THX Loudness Plus implementation in their latest Dirac Live receivers was a massive miss: THX Loudness Plus cannot be enabled with Dirac Live being active. What’s more THX Loudness Plus has not been updated for Dolby Atmos and DTS X as far as I know – so only the core 5.1 or 7.1 stream is played back when it is enabled.
Receivers implementing Dolby Volume also generally don’t tend to allow Dirac Live to be enabled with it.
This is not a massive issue for enthusiasts who tend to listen at higher volumes approaching reference levels. However, it is a massive usability issue for the mainstream, due to loud explosions, and missed dialogue – at the very least on disc media – or properly mixed streams on streaming services. The mainstream will migrate back to Denon, Marantz or Yamaha after a while due to annoyance with this, even if they were to take a chance on Dirac Live.
What’s more, Dirac is not focused on resolving this issue for now. They are hard at work implementing Spatial Room Correction.
Spatial Room Correction will absolutely revolutionise home cinema audio. It uses multiple speakers to actively cancel out first reflections and massively widen the sweet spot without much room treatment. Make no mistake, room treatment will still be necessary because of DSP and power amplifier limitations in AVRs, but perfect frequency response will be achievable with much less effort than with today’s room correction technologies.
Sound United’s Plans
Now the question really becomes if Sound United’s new Denon and Marantz AVRs are being prepped to allow for both “standard” Dirac Live and some future update with Dirac’s Spatial Room Correction – at least in the critical modal region. After all, having 4 independently driven subwoofer outputs would certainly point towards this goal. The question is whether Dirac has figured out a way to implement this at the DSP power Denon and Marantz will be including in these new AVRs.
Should they plan this from the get-go, along with Audyssey and Dirac technologies to be used at the same time, Denon and Marantz will certainly deliver a knock-out blow for other mid-range AVR manufacturers and they will either have to follow or up their own game – maybe even welcome back Audyssey into the fold.
However, since we don’t know the details of the integration yet, I am holding my money until things crystallise more. But it’s certainly an exciting time to be a home cinema enthusiast.
Sound United Responds?
There’s an article on Audioholics which seems to include a Q&A section with Sound United. However, as of 15 Oct 2022, I can’t see this stated clearly in the article.
Allegedly, Sound United will
- Implement Dirac Live only for 2023 with bass control coming in 2024
- Will allow you to save Audyssey calibration in one memory slot and Dirac Live calibration into another
- Will not enable the Audyssey mic to be used with Dirac Live – you will need a UMIK-1. This is in contrast to Onkyo allowing you to use either the receiver mic or a UMIK-1. Food for thought then!
- Will NOT allow you to overlay Audyssey Dynamic EQ or Dynamic Volume over Dirac Live.
In my opinion – and if that interview is for real – this is a huge miss on their part and a rather lazy implementation. The only way you can emulate Audyssey Dynamic EQ over Dirac Live then will continue to be the Dirac Live curves and related calculators included with Dirac Live Perfection – Loudness Compensation with Dirac Live.
While I am flattered this is still the only option – and why I did all the hard work on data crunching and the calculators – I would much prefer this was resolved and put to bed once and for all. But here we are again: what a major letdown!