Audyssey has sent over a MultEQ-X licence for me to review the product. Thank you, Audyssey.
I have written about MultEQ-X before. You can see all the previous articles here.
Installation was pretty straight forward. You go to the Windows App Store, search for MultEQ-X and download the application. Once you log in, you can buy licence tokens for the AVR(s) on your network.
You must make sure that your PC is connected to the same network as the AVR before your AVR will show up.
I did the review using a Marantz SR6013, which is now a few years old. It doesn’t have speaker memories, and has a limitation with MultEQ-X in that you cannot delete and re-measure speaker positions, only measurement positions. However, I managed to work around this by appending additional measurements and disabling / enabling certain speakers for those measurements as you will see shortly.
For this review, I decided to give MultEQ-X a real workout first off the bat. I created a new 10-position microphone pattern over two rows of seating.
The reason this is very challenging is that one row is right against the back wall with the front row in front of it in the back part of the room. So calibrating one row well can compromise the other row, certainly in the bass frequencies.
However, to make this a little bit more fair, I had prepared my two REL Predator subwoofers with Multi-Sub Optimiser (MSO) with two settings:
- A completely flat frequency response in the front row
- A frequency response that is equalised across the whole space / both rows
Then I ran the following 10-point calibration with the flat frequency response loaded with Audyssey seeing the 2 subs as 1 through the MiniDSP’s MSO calibration.
Once the calibration ran, I got Audyssey to calculate the filters. However, on the subwoofer channel, I disabled Audyssey filter calculations below 80Hz so I could switch between my two MSO calibrations, as those differed under 80hz mostly.
This is exactly where the first advantage of MultEQ-X shows: ultimate flexibility. While on the mobile app I cannot set the filter range on the subwoofer from the bottom up (only top down), here, I could tell Audyssey exactly which range I wanted to be filtered. Brilliant!
The second thing I really loved was how I was able to see the measured frequency response as MultEQ-X was taking the measurements and how that was affecting the overall response.
Calibration Take 2
In my second calibration, I decided to change the centre channel position so I went back into MultEQ-X, opened my previously saved project and added further measurements. Except this time, I disabled all speakers on those measurements, except the centre speaker. While on the previous measurements, I disabled the centre speaker. This way, I could switch between the two centre channel positions if I wanted to for comparison purposes by uploading the correct MultEQ-X project to the AVR. I really enjoyed not having to re-take all the measurements just because I moved one speaker.
What I was also able to do was customise both the Reference and the Flat target curves. In my case, I decided to put High Frequency Roll-off 1 onto the Reference Curve while put High Frequency Roll-off 2 onto the Flat curve. This way I could compare them.
In addition, I could do a full-range correction for the subwoofer on one curve while leave the 80hz cut-off on the other one. This way I could switch between front-seat and all seat priority using the Reference vs Flat curves while adjusting the MiniDSP accordingly and see if I preferred full-band correction for my front-seats subwoofer calibration or an 80hz cut-off. This is actually pretty handy for an older AVR that doesn’t have speaker calibration memories like the new units do.
So I guess what everyone wants to know is whether I could hear better sound quality with MultEQ-X versus the on-board or Mobile App calibration routines. The answer is yes.
I have tried the above microphone pattern with the Mobile App before and it just didn’t sound very good, frankly. However, with MultEQ-X, the frequency response seemed more balanced and it was the best result I had achieved in my home theatre between the two rows of seats thus far.
Additionally, the flexibility to tune Audyssey to my MSO calibration also provided heaps of flexibility without having to upload separate settings to the AVR when guests would come over. Really, it was the best and most hassle-free configuration on the AVR I had achieved to date.
I do have to touch on usability. Is MultEQ-X as user-friendly as the Audyssey mobile app? No, it isn’t. It is meant for power users who are willing to dig into the documentation and pay close attention to what they are doing. Ultimate configurability is the name of the game here.
There is very little handholding and in fact you can break things – including your speakers – if you are just clicking buttons willy-nilly. Although, thankfully the application warns you of any such possible mis-steps, which is good.
Issues / Bugs Encountered
Now, I do need to talk about the issues I have encountered. I don’t know if this is only an issue on older AVRs, but there doesn’t seem to be validation (such as checksums) that the data is transferred to the AVR accurately, at least not for the speaker configuration data.
How do I know this? Well, due to some packets getting dropped on my network, MultEQ-X managed to disable speakers (in my case the subwoofers) and put incorrect distance measurements into the AVR, even though it reported that all data was successfully transferred.
While preparing to publish this article, Audyssey has suggested that the speaker distance issue could have been due to this particular issue, which is a problem with the AVR and not MultEQ-X. It is entirely possible. Could the disabling of the subwoofers be some other kind of error? It is also possible.
However, if indeed it was a network error, then you could do the following to get around it, which is what I did
- Make sure your network isn’t overloaded
- If you are running a mesh network like I am, you may need to disable all nodes except for one and have both the AVR and your laptop / PC connect to that one node
- Reboot your router before you start calibration / data transfer
- If the data transfer is going very slowly, abort it, resolve your network issues, restart the AVR and try again
- If you are still having issues, connect to the AVR to the network using an ethernet cable
Additionally, the following may help:
- Put the AVR into the speaker configuration (how many speakers, what type, power amp assignment) that you want to use manually before you start calibration as opposed to letting MultEQ-X configure this.
While I felt MultEQ-X is really really good, I would like to see the following features if possible:
- It would be helpful to see how the resulting filter calculated for a speaker will affect the responses in the individual seating positions – as opposed to only the average of those positions. It might allow me to fine-tune things evens more.
- Being able to put weighting against the measurement positions to say which ones are more critical as opposed to others. This might allow Audyssey to fine-tune the sound prioritising the important / main seats. For example, in my theatre, I might experiment with higher weightings for the front row seats (or the seat where my partner sits who is a music teacher and has golden ears – I hear the complaints if the sound is less than ideal.)
- Additionally, as I said in a previous article, I would like to see a higher precision applied to the centre channel where most of the dialogue is. This could be a higher bit-depth for the filters, higher sampling rate or even somewhat better correction such as phase alignment across the whole frequency spectrum. I feel that the new Denon and Marantz units could handle the load, especially the higher-end units.
If you are not a power user, I would recommend you go buy the Audyssey app, and Secrets of Audyssey, and go calibrating. I can guarantee you that you will achieve excellent results.
However, if you are as picky as I am, and want the absolute best sound quality, then you will need MultEQ-X.
Additionally, if you have multi-row seating, I recommend you get a MiniDSP, use MSO and overlay Audyssey using MultEQ-X. It is most certainly the best result I have achieved in my own home cinema to date.
Recommended with a rating of 4.5/5