Setting Up Dirac Live Loudness Curves on Denon / Marantz AVRs


While Dirac Live Perfection covers this process in more detail, and in general for all AVRs and DSPs that have Dirac Live built in, I wanted to go through some specifics for Denon and Marantz AVRs.

The articles cover the theoretical basis for applying loudness compensation curves. You may want to read them first.

The Process

Step 1. Dirac Live License

I would recommend you have the full-bandwidth licence for this, although if you are only worried about the low-end, you could get away with the limited-bandwidth version. Just be aware: loudness compensation happens across the full frequency spectrum so it is ideal to apply it full-bandwidth.

Step 2. Run Dirac Live

Run Dirac Live as you normally would. You can refer to Dirac’s user guide, which walks your through the process. Denon and Marantz also have Dirac user guide.

Step 3. Limit Your Curtains

When loading loudness compensation curves, there is an extra risk of damaging your speakers. You should not correct lower than what your speakers are capable of reproducing. You may need to look into your speakers’s manual, but for me:

  • My LCRs and surround speakers can only go down to 80Hz to I set the curtain to around 75Hz.
  • My subwoofer can reach to around 22Hz cleanly below which there is heavy filtering going on, so I set the curtain for 22Hz exactly. If you have a ported subwoofer, you should set this to the port tuning frequency. You should not be boosting the low-end below that.

WARNING: You can damage your speakers if you do not limit the curtains more aggressively when using loudness compensation curves. I could actually drive my REL subs into distortion which I had NOT heard with Audyssey. This is because Dirac can over-correct beyond the speaker’s limitations, especially when we are driving the speakers even harder than the default curve.

Step 4. Decide on Loudness Compensation Curves to Load

Dirac Live Perfection comes with a calculator and some pre-made curves for this, so you will need those.

While Dirac Live Perfection gives you step by step guidance about base curves and decisions on how to load those, I will give you some basic guidance here.

You have 3 slots on Denon and Marantz receivers. I recommend that you use the equivalent of -5 Reference Level Offset (RLO) for movies and -10 or -15 RLO for other content (such as TV shows, games, music), even if you use 0 RLO for movies with Audyssey. However, you may be able to get away with the more aggressive curves dependent on your setup. In the new version of Secrets of Audyssey, the requirement to use 0 RLO for movies is having addressed all pillars of reference playback including the last one: running speakers off an external amp.

Step 5. Switch Dirac Live into Legacy Curve Mode

Dirac Live 3.2 introduced a new easier way to adjust reference curves and the previous target curve mode now needs to be switched back to, to be able to load precision tailored curves. To do this, there are two little buttons above the speaker groups. You will need to click on the dot above each speaker group to switch back to legacy mode.

You can also do this for all groups at once by clicking the dot above the Dirac Live logo above the first speaker group.

Step 6. Load the Target Curves

I’ve decided to load the following target curves into my receiver for the sake of this article:

SlotLong NameShort NameCurve Loaded
1Movies -10 / Other: -20 to -15M-10/O-20-15Aud Ref -5
2Movies -15 / Other: -25 to -20M-15/O-25-20Aud Ref -10
3Movies -20 / Other: -30 to -25M-20/O-30-25Aud Ref -15

The idea with the naming is that you know what volume to use with the curve for movies and for other content. You can use the long name if you switch curves using the Setup Menu where the long name can be shown at its full length. With the Options Menu, you will only see “Movies -10”, Movies “-15”, etc.

If you need the full information in the Options Menu, which makes it a lot easier to switch these curves with the remote, then use the Short name. You can swap the -20-15 around if need be so the higher volume is first. It’s up to you.

Also, if you wanted to load more aggressive curves into each (-10 into -10 which would give you an RLO of 0 in Audyssey-speak), then go for it.

WARNING: You can damage your speakers if you listen to your system at high volume levels with an aggressive Loudness Compensation Curve loaded. You can also give yourself hearing damage, btw. Be mindful when using these curves as they aren’t automatic like they are with Audyssey.

Step 7. Update Surround Speaker Levels

Audyssey Dynamic EQ increases each surround speaker by 1dB relative to the others by each 5dB reduction in main volume when the Reference Level Offset is set to 0. This also includes height speakers that are behind your head. The lack of this is one of the limitations with Dirac, especially if the speakers are quite a way behind you , around the same distance as the front speakers. Dirac’s unity-gain calibration is not quite adequate for such a case.

However, one of the great things about the Dirac Live implementation on Denon and Marantz receivers is that each slot has its own speaker distance and level settings.

So switch to the first slot and update your surround speaker volumes in the Setup Menu (NOT in the Options Menu which applies it per source) so that each 5dB reduction from 0dB on the volume dial should increase the volume of any speaker behind you by around 1dB. So for example, for my curves above, these are the settings:

SlotLong NameSurround Speakers Volume Increase
1Movies -10 / Other: -20 to -1510/5 = 2dB
2Movies -15 / Other: -25 to -2015/5 = 3dB
3Movies -20 / Other: -30 to -2520/5 = 4dB

You can halve this number for speakers that are very close to you or more to the sides / just behind or above your head, or if you feel the full volume increase is too aggressive.

Switch to the other two slots and repeat this process. The volume changes should now stick as you switch your Dirac Live slots.

Step 8. Switch Curves based on Volume and Content

You should really switch the AVR into Relative Volume in the Volume menu if you haven’t done so already. Relative volume shows the volume compared to reference, and that’s what we have been working with in this article as well.

Each source can have a Dirac Live slot selected to be the one in use. As you switch sources, the correct slot loads. However, be careful with this, as the volume isn’t changed per source.

To use the curves correctly, decide whether you’re watching a movie or a TV show / other content and adjust your volume based on that.

For example, if you have Slot 1 loaded and you’re watching a movie, your volume should be around -10dB. However, you can lower this more if you want to. For a TV show or music, your volume should be around -20 to -15.

For Slot 2, in the example above, movies are at -15dB, while TV shows / other content at around -25 to -20. And so on, and so forth.

Dirac Live Perfection

Dirac Live Perfection gives a lot more guidance for the above and gives you the curve editor to tailor the curve to your liking. For example, you can use a different base curve, not just Audyssey Reference, and apply your loudness compensation curves to that either based on Audyssey emulation or the latest ISO standard.

Going Beyond The Above for Ultimate Accuracy

If you have an SPL meter, you can use EXTERNAL test-tones to measure the level Audyssey has set your speakers – which will be between 82dB and 85dB – and match Dirac Live to it exactly. That way, your loaded Audyssey emulation curves will match one to one and you COULD use the latest guidance in Secrets of Audyssey to set Dynamic EQ up and match Dirac Live to it using Dirac Live Perfection. I do find Dirac’s calibration to be a touch more aggressive on my Cinema 50 by around 2-3dB.

Btw, Audyssey uses the THX standard of 500Hz to 2000Hz range to establish reference level, so you could use similarly bandwidth-limited pink noise to do the same if you have the equipment to do so.

Please note that the internal test-tones are not (yet) run through either Audyssey or Dirac. Audyssey has asked Denon and Marantz to fix this in either a future firmware or hardware revision, so hopefully this will be fixed. However, because of this issue, at least currently, running the internal test-tones are a bit useless because both Audyssey and Dirac do internal calibration using their EQ on top of the speaker levels. So only external test tones should be used to establish reference level, not the internal ones. There are now paid ones out there you can get. You can also use REW through HDMI.

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