audyssey

Mid-Week Poll: Do You Use Auto Room Calibration for Audio?

It used to be that the idea of calibrating a sound system was a mystical science that few attempted beyond flipping between preset modes on a stereo or surround sound receiver. These days, the process is a little better understood. All home theater receivers feature built-in calibration test tones, and many today offer auto room calibration programs such as Audyssey MultEQ or its competitors. Have you used these features to calibrate your home theater audio? If so, what results have you gotten?

Getting good audio in your 5.1 or 7.1 (or greater) home theater is a lot more complicated than just cranking up the volume. At a minimum, you need to make sure that all of your speaker channels are matched to the same volume level, which means using a sound level meter or an automated calibration program. The layout and nature of your room may also play a big role in creating sound reflections that will muddy your audio.

Auto room calibration programs such as Audyssey MultEQ will not only set the volume for each of your speakers, but will apply equalization to the signal that attempts to “correct” for deficiencies in your room. How well this works is a topic of some controversy in audio circles. Some users swear by it, while others believe that it does more harm than good.

I’ve attempted to use Audyssey MultEQ in my Denon receiver a few times, but I’ve never been satisfied with the results. The audio sounds too tweaked and flat to me. I prefer to calibrate manually using a sound level meter without any EQ. To be fair, however, my receiver is a few years old, and I believe that Audyssey has made improvements to its more recent chipsets.

How do you calibrate your audio? Or do you at all? Are you satisfied with the sound in your home heater?

Do You Use Auto Room Calibration?

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24 comments

  1. Alex

    I tried, but unfortunately Audyssey doesn’t seem to play all that nicely with soundbars, and nothing sounded right.

  2. Boston007

    Yes I have used my Audyssey device that came with my Oknyo and it’s worked really nicely. I’m using a 5.1 setup.

  3. Perry Creason

    I recently got a Yamaha RX-V675 7.2 channel and found that it included a calibration included. It replaced an older Yamaha that I had not calibrated beyond just using my ears. Wow! This system sounds great and I am very satisfied with the calibration results that it performed.

  4. Dave T

    I have a cheap-ish Pioneer 5.1 receiver that has auto-calibration and the improvement is palpable. In fact, when I changed carpeting, upgraded my sides/rears, or move furniture around, I re-calibrate to bring the good, balanced sound back. $200 amp sounds like a million bucks to my ears.

  5. Ramzy F

    Running XT32. Its an outstanding starting point. I’ll slightly tweak the intial settings. I find it especially useful on the bottom end. For example, the opening scene of DKR features very deep bass effects for the plane and constant pound from the music. With XT32 off, it sounds like my speakers are strained/distorted/muddy, basically obnoxious bass. With XT32 on, the bass is clear, deep with a chest pounding feeling but without overpowering the rest of the soundtrack.

  6. Hey Josh –

    IIRC, you have added some pretty extensive acoustic treatments to your room, correct? That would mitigate the need to use Audyssey to a pretty large degree. The vast majority of room problems are in the bass region, and a good EQ can tame some of those peaks and valleys. If you’ve got a great number of bass traps – and your speakers are a good distance from the wall – Audyssey may not do all that much for you.

    I think Audyssey can do a pretty good job in compensating for the following problems, based upon several decades of helping people set up their AV systems:

    Correcting for the bass bump that comes from speakers being placed in cabinets, corners, or right up against the wall. This is particularly true for center channel speakers, where placement above or below the screen (many times in a cabinet or on the floor) results in a mid-bass boost that severely muddies dialogue reproduction. In my experience, an improvement in dialogue intelligibility has been the main benefit of Audyssey calibration.

    Correcting for improper speaker placement. Based upon my reading of most A/V sites and forums, there seems to be this idea that most people would understand what to do with a sound level meter. The vast majority of consumers just set the speakers up wherever they think they look nice and hooking up the speaker wires is the full extent of the “setup and calibration.” Running Audyssey is a HUGE improvement over doing NOTHING :)

    Correcting for subwoofers turned up WAY TOO LOUD. I still am amazed at how even high end a/v shops have the subs thumping away at outrageously over the top levels that not even remotely the filmmaker’s intent.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I have bass traps in the front corners and some panels on the side walls and back. I don’t know if that qualifies as a “great number.” :)

      While we’re on the subject, I’ve had a bear of a time calibrating my subwoofer level. I get completely different (like, up to 15 dB different) values when using the test tones in my receiver, the Spears & Munsil calibration disc, and the Disney WOW calibration disc. And that’s after compensating for the fact that Disney WOW is designed to calibrate for 85 dB reference while the others are 75 dB. My other channel levels are all close between the three sources, but the sub is consistently different depending on which test tones I use.

  7. My Samsung home theater came with a calibration device and my 5.1 sounds quite nice. I’m far from an audiophile, so I’ve never really tried to tweak in manually since I was happy with the calibration results.

  8. Ross Gauthier

    I’m on my 4th receiver now. I started using room calibration with Yamaha receiver but was never really blown away. I currently am using an Onkyo 609, it only has 2EQ but the sound is much better than anything I was getting out of my old Yamaha. I have 10 ft ceilings in an open room. I’ve tried to manually set it up but found without Audyssey my Paradigms sound very flat and lifeless. I also had a very hard time with my 2 subs. When I used my meter my subs were way too low.

    I even tried running Audyssey and engaged Dynamic EQ. I think I had it engaged for about 20 minutes then shut it off. I found it extremely fatiguing. I don’t like refrence bass and surround activity while listening 20db’s bellow refrence.

    Now I run Audyssey, set it it to flat, change the crossover’s to 80hz and that’s about it. I almost picked up another Onkyo which features XT32 but passed. I only paid $300 for my 609 and I’m still enjoying the sound.

  9. Pedram

    There should be an option for “I just did it by ear”.

    My setup doesn’t have an auto calibrator, but it does have test tones which basically sound like a the crowd roar from a stadium. I just listened to those and adjusted the speaker volumes until I had things sounding they way I wanted. No equalizer adjustments, just volume.

    I’m not sure if that qualifies as calibration, but short of getting a new piece of equipment, that seems to be my only option.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      That would fall into the category of “I’ve never attempted to calibrate.” Your ears aren’t good at judging the volume of pink noise. You should try to pick up an analog (not digital) sound level meter. It shouldn’t be too expensive. Hold it at the listening position where your head would be, pointed straight up. Use “C” weighting and “Slow” response, and adjust your levels at the receiver so that they hit 75 dB.

  10. Dustin

    I’ve gotten good results for the most part. When calibrated however, it turns my subwoofer as far down as it will go, like -10, I bring it back to 0 which feels about right.

    I might be able to do better with a sound meter, but I want to get more acoustical treatments before going more in depth with a manual calibration.

    • If your receiver is adjusting the avr trim to the sub at -10, then your sub gain is too high. When running auto calibration, lower the gain until the trim is +/- 3dB from 0. That is, somewhere between -3 to +3, which usually yields the best and most accurate results in terms of bass.

      This is a process that has to be repeated until a satisfied goal is achieved, making the sub one of the more difficult aspects in a system to calibrate. Well, that, and various other factors that must be taken into account.

  11. Bryan

    I’ve had very good results from a combination of MCACC in my Pio SC-25 and a Velodyne SMS-1 (since MCACC doesn’t EQ the sub). I tried Audyssey in the Onkyo 601 and 805, and was never satisfied with the results. I appreciate that my EQ solution allows for manual adjustments, something that the Audyssey implementations I’ve tried in the past never allowed.

  12. Jeddick Reinhold

    Always. But I do tweak the levels afterward. FWIW, there is a good Audyssey FAQ and set up guide at AVS Forum. I’m personally convinced that most people who don’t get good results aren’t doing the calibration properly. :-)

  13. I have in the past. My last system had the option – it worked great – there was a window a/c unit on one wall that put off a lot of noise, so I calibrated with the a/c running, and it worked great.

    My new(er) system doesn’t have the option, so I calibrate manually. It was a bit more trouble, but I got similar results. Of course, in the new place, i got central air, so not as much noise. I would prefer auto, but its not that much trouble to configure it by hand. The auto was nice though when you had different size speakers for front and back, but with the manual, i can set the rear speakers to as loud as I want (I normally crank the rears up a bit more – not much, but enough so that i know they are there without having to rest my ear on the speaker.

  14. Jeff Shultz

    Josh

    I’m an analog audio fan, both 2 channel and Multi channel. I have heard the sound of other setups using this auto calibration ‘wizardry”, and I prefer the results of my method: use a good SPL meter and a wide range test tone disc and move speakers and subs a bit until I can both hear and see good results. Old School lessons are still valid.

  15. Kyle

    I would if I could, but my receiver’s auto-calibration only works if you have a full set of surround speakers, which I don’t.

    I figure for plain old stereo, going by ear is good enough.

  16. Josh Zyber
    Author

    One of the reasons I ran this poll was because I’ve been a little disatisfied with bass integration in my new home theater and had been debating whether to give Audyssey MultEQ another shot. Well, I did so this weekend. I think that the fact that my new theater room has better treatments and flatter acoustics than my old apartment home theater probably helped the auto-calibration. The speaker distances and channel levels are really not that much different than what I’d calibrated manually.

    The EQ and custom crossover frequencies, I think I’ll need to get used to, but I’m not opposed to them right off the bat, as I had been before. My system sounds a little different, but not necessarily better or worse. I need to give the new settings a little time to settle in before I decide if I want to live with them permanently. (Of course, I wrote down all my old settings just in case.)

  17. Scott H

    I have a pioneer 1018 VSX receiver that I got when I moved into my apt 4 years ago. I have a 5.1 system, I set the front speakers at 10ft from the sitting area pointing in at the center of the couch, center channel is 9ft while surrounds are 3 or 4ft from center seating. Front and rears set on stands, center is below tv. After having waited till the parking lot was mostly empty, I ran the automatic calibration tool that came with it. After having done that I put in DVE to further calibrate my system with my sound level meter. Having done that I think my system sounds great and also think that the auto calibration tool worked well to set my HT to sound the best within the room I have it. I also set my sub on a auralex platform as to not disturb the couple living below me.