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Comparison of DRCs: Dirac Live for Studio, IK Multimedia ARC System 3 and Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio edition

Xombul

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Interesting: as a REW+rephase user, my main criteria would be the possibility to use the correction file in a freeware convolver like Camilla DSP, Brutefir, APO... and Jriver.
This means an export file in *.wav format. I believe that Dirac and Math audio don't allow the export, what about Acourate, Arc, Audiolense...?
 
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dominikz

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This means an export file in *.wav format. I believe that Dirac and Math audio don't allow the export, what about Acourate, Arc, Audiolense...?
IME Acourate and Audiolense basically rely on applying the convolution in some external convolver (i.e. have no built-in app for this). All the others I tested (Dirac, Sonarworks, ARC System, MathAudio) use proprietary applications to apply the calculated corrections and provide no functions to export the filters.
 

Berwhale

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IMHO the easiest way to have ARC System 3 VST running systemwide is to follow the instructions from IK Multimedia available on this link.

Unfortunately the instructions for Windows are not complete. They tell you to install ASIO4ALL drivers, then neglect to tell you what to do with them. If anyone else is confused...

In the Pedalboard2 Audio Settings in Step 6 (Windows)...

1. Select 'ASIO' as the 'Audio device type'.
2. Select 'ASIO4ALL v2' as the 'device'.
3. Click on 'show this device's control panel' button to open the ASIO4ALL control panel.
4. In the ASIO4ALL Control Panel, enable both VB-Audio Virtual Audio Cable and your DAC:

1616528054353.png


5. Back in Pedalboard2's Audio Settings, map the outputs to your DAC and the inputs to VB-Audio Cable:

1616527908153.png


I also had issues importing the VSTs until I discovered that the VST2 DLLs had been installed in C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\VstPlugins on my system.

Unfortunately, I didn't get around to working all this out before my demo copy of ARC3 expired :(

For the moment, I have iLoud's T-RackS 5 metering plugin (which was free with my MTM purchase) working through Pedalboard2...

1616532689320.png


1616532702312.png
 
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Berwhale

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I'm a little bit hesitant to buy and run ARC 3 with a dependency on old software - VB-Cable dates from 2015 and Pedalboard 2 hasn't had any love since 2014 and seems to be defunct. I found that there's another way to get ARC running system wide in Windows using VoiceMeeter Banana and Cantabile Lite VST host detailed here: Using the ARC2 Speaker/Room Optimization VST with Windows Audio via Cantabile Lite and Voicemeeter Pro Inserts (Video) - Cantabile - Cantabile Community (cantabilesoftware.com)

I still haven't bought ARC 3 yet (i'm getting close!), in the mean time here's my desktop with VoiceMeeter Banana and Cantabile Lite configured to run the iLoud TR5 metering plugin with EqualizerAPO/PEACE working and MusicBee playing :)...

Screenshot 2021-03-23 232206 (Medium).png
 
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dominikz

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Would it be an idea to compare REW also which is free software? (https://www.roomeqwizard.com/)
(Saw your notes on this too late, sorry. So it could work but is not as easy.)
How do REW-generated filters implemented through a player like Roon or Jriver compare to the approaches in your review? Are the three you reviewed simply more automated, or is there more functionality?
Other than the automatic nature of these, do you get any audible difference between say DIRAC and REW? Other considerations?
etc... :)

Early on in this thread several users have asked about how these various 'automated' DRCs compare to filters generated by REW and loaded via EAPO or similar.
Since that time I've spent quite a lot of time fiddling with room EQ, DRCs and REW so I'd like to share some of my thoughts on the subject.

First of all, a big thanks to @thewas whose suggestions and kind proposal to generate some REW filters for me pushed me in what I feel is a simpler and more efficient direction for in-room measurements and room EQ generation: using MMM instead of averaging of multiple sweep measurements as baseline for room EQ. :)
I know, this is probably obvious to many here, but I intuitively thought for some reason MMM would be more complicated to do, and the results less repeatable - which both turned out not to be the case :facepalm:

Anyway, this was my non-EQed in-room response measured with MMM:
1618772209629.png


This is repeated measurement with one of the filters generated by @thewas applied:
1618772256394.png

Looks much nicer and sounds great!

Here's one for my nearfield setup (also compared to no EQ):
1618772404729.png

Same setup with Dirac Live correction:
1618772440819.png

We can see a lot of similarity visually, and truth-be-told both sounded great to my ears.

This motivated me to experiment with other room target curves (though I limited EQ correction to the bass range only), using cut-only filters and to also compare individual corrections for each speaker vs correcting a summed (L+R) response with a single filter. Here's an example of this:
1618772683835.png

In practice I found both approaches sounded pretty good - though it is interesting to see how EQing individual channels can manipulate phase enough to generate cancellation dips when both speakers are playing at the same time. This may be where phase-aligning the individual speaker response (or using linear phase filters) could help!

Recently we've also added a single sub (SVS SB-1000) to the Revels, and again I used REW to generate room correction EQ.
Here's an example of correction with the target set to the -0,8dB per octave downward slope (total of -8 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz):
Revel M16 + SVS SB-1000 - In-room response with and without REW-generated filters.png

Using REW to integrate the sub in the first place simplified the process tremendously :)

Conclusion
Here's what I take away from all my experiments with room correction to date:
  • It is a pretty complicated topic with a lot of different approaches and schools of thought - I'm sure it may be intimidating to many trying it for the first time. This is where I feel automated DRC solutions come in really handy, especially those that are relatively simple to setup and use.
  • Looking at just the audible results, I still feel one can get really good ones with most DRC solutions I tested if applied correctly. REW + EAPO is no exception, and REW generated filters are actually what I ended up using - though I'm applying them in my modified Fire TV stick with V4A rather than in EAPO.
  • I love the flexibility of using REW, and if setup properly I don't really hear nor see any downsides to it vs any alternatives I tried. Phase/time correction that some others employ wasn't really audible to me in my system. However, I do feel phase corrections may help with cancellations that can happen when channels are not phase aligned; or to help with subwoofer integration - but haven't really verified this yet in practice.
  • What I found worked best for me with REW was:
    • Use MMM to take the in room measurements of each individual speakers and both playing at the same time.
    • Generate cut-only filters, and only correct below the room transition frequency
    • It may take some time to find a bass target that matches the speakers, room and individual preference. I found I liked several, but settled on either the -0,8dB per octave downward slope or, now with the sub, the B&K curve
    • With the above approach I found it was equally quick and easy to get great sounding results in both my nearfield and main system
Anyway, although I'm sure all this is old news to many, I hope some may find it interesting :)
 

Robbo99999

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etc... :)

Early on in this thread several users have asked about how these various 'automated' DRCs compare to filters generated by REW and loaded via EAPO or similar.
Since that time I've spent quite a lot of time fiddling with room EQ, DRCs and REW so I'd like to share some of my thoughts on the subject.

First of all, a big thanks to @thewas whose suggestions and kind proposal to generate some REW filters for me pushed me in what I feel is a simpler and more efficient direction for in-room measurements and room EQ generation: using MMM instead of averaging of multiple sweep measurements as baseline for room EQ. :)
I know, this is probably obvious to many here, but I intuitively thought for some reason MMM would be more complicated to do, and the results less repeatable - which both turned out not to be the case :facepalm:

Anyway, this was my non-EQed in-room response measured with MMM:
View attachment 124824

This is repeated measurement with one of the filters generated by @thewas applied:
View attachment 124825
Looks much nicer and sounds great!

Here's one for my nearfield setup (also compared to no EQ):
View attachment 124826
Same setup with Dirac Live correction:
View attachment 124827
We can see a lot of similarity visually, and truth-be-told both sounded great to my ears.

This motivated me to experiment with other room target curves (though I limited EQ correction to the bass range only), using cut-only filters and to also compare individual corrections for each speaker vs correcting a summed (L+R) response with a single filter. Here's an example of this:
View attachment 124834
In practice I found both approaches sounded pretty good - though it is interesting to see how EQing individual channels can manipulate phase enough to generate cancellation dips when both speakers are playing at the same time. This may be where phase-aligning the individual speaker response (or using linear phase filters) could help!

Recently we've also added a single sub (SVS SB-1000) to the Revels, and again I used REW to generate room correction EQ.
Here's an example of correction with the target set to the -0,8dB per octave downward slope (total of -8 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz):
View attachment 124839
Using REW to integrate the sub in the first place simplified the process tremendously :)

Conclusion
Here's what I take away from all my experiments with room correction to date:
  • It is a pretty complicated topic with a lot of different approaches and schools of thought - I'm sure it may be intimidating to many trying it for the first time. This is where I feel automated DRC solutions come in really handy, especially those that are relatively simple to setup and use.
  • Looking at just the audible results, I still feel one can get really good ones with most DRC solutions I tested if applied correctly. REW + EAPO is no exception, and REW generated filters are actually what I ended up using - though I'm applying them in my modified Fire TV stick with V4A rather than in EAPO.
  • I love the flexibility of using REW, and if setup properly I don't really hear nor see any downsides to it vs any alternatives I tried. Phase/time correction that some others employ wasn't really audible to me in my system. However, I do feel phase corrections may help with cancellations that can happen when channels are not phase aligned; or to help with subwoofer integration - but haven't really verified this yet in practice.
  • What I found worked best for me with REW was:
    • Use MMM to take the in room measurements of each individual speakers and both playing at the same time.
    • Generate cut-only filters, and only correct below the room transition frequency
    • It may take some time to find a bass target that matches the speakers, room and individual preference. I found I liked several, but settled on either the -0,8dB per octave downward slope or, now with the sub, the B&K curve
    • With the above approach I found it was equally quick and easy to get great sounding results in both my nearfield and main system
Anyway, although I'm sure all this is old news to many, I hope some may find it interesting :)
Nice dedication to your testing and the follow-through to round it off with a conclusion!

I too found that EQ'ing each speaker individually with REW resulted in more cancellations and dips in the final response rather than just EQ'ing both speakers together. I've yet to try the MMM method, and after ditching my roomEQ attempts (using REW) for a "pure" Anechoic EQ of the Listening Window.....I'm now thinking I should try the MMM method, as I found just using Anechoic EQ produced audibly better results throughout the room rather than RoomEQ based around static measurements in a 50cm box at my listening position. I should try MMM. (I will leave the Anechoic EQ present above the transition zone, so MMM will just be relevant for me below the transition zone).
 

tw99

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I'm interested to try MMM but haven't found a really good tutorial for it, any pointers/tips ?
 

Erici

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thewas

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@dominikz, am really glad you liked my approaches and EQs, also thank you for mentioning them. Funnily today I was also experimenting with MMM mono corrections in the bass region as my main setup room has unfortunately a too large LR asymmetry there.

What I found worked best for me with REW was:
  • Use MMM to take the in room measurements of each individual speakers and both playing at the same time.
  • Generate cut-only filters, and only correct below the room transition frequency
  • It may take some time to find a bass target that matches the speakers, room and individual preference. I found I liked several, but settled on either the -0,8dB per octave downward slope or, now with the sub, the B&K curve
  • With the above approach I found it was equally quick and easy to get great sounding results in both my nearfield and main system
Full agreement to those, just one addition which I realised today on my too much bass absorbing main position. Instead of bumping the bass with positive filters it worked for me better to copy the above modal loudspeaker as a target and lower its level so no positive filters are needed.

In practice I found both approaches sounded pretty good - though it is interesting to see how EQing individual channels can manipulate phase enough to generate cancellation dips when both speakers are playing at the same time. This may be where phase-aligning the individual speaker response (or using linear phase filters) could help!
I also had hoped so but my experience with FIR solutions like Acourate and Dirac is that new L+R summation dips still appear as the phase rotations due to the room assymetries cannot be really reversed, same like SBIRs, so the only way still is to optimise as much as possible the room and placement let DRC do the icing on the cake.
 
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dominikz

dominikz

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Nice dedication to your testing and the follow-through to round it off with a conclusion!
Thanks!
I too found that EQ'ing each speaker individually with REW resulted in more cancellations and dips in the final response rather than just EQ'ing both speakers together. I've yet to try the MMM method, and after ditching my roomEQ attempts (using REW) for a "pure" Anechoic EQ of the Listening Window.....I'm now thinking I should try the MMM method, as I found just using Anechoic EQ produced audibly better results throughout the room rather than RoomEQ based around static measurements in a 50cm box at my listening position. I should try MMM. (I will leave the Anechoic EQ present above the transition zone, so MMM will just be relevant for me below the transition zone).
The approach to use MMM as basis to EQ bass response below the transition frequency and to use anechoic measurements to EQ above it seems like a pretty safe bet to me! I'd say MMM results have quite a good agreement to how I perceive in-room bass so I found MMM really practical and quick to get good sounding results.
I'm interested to try MMM but haven't found a really good tutorial for it, any pointers/tips ?
In REW I'm using the settings posted by @QMuse from the first link in the post by @Erici, and I use the microphone in upright/vertical orientation (i.e. pointing to the ceiling), doing spiral movements in diameter of approx. 50cm around the listening spot, in maybe 30cm vertical area. I try to hold the microphone as far away to the side of my body as possible to somewhat reduce the effect of reflections.
I stop at 30-40 averages typically. This is usually more than enough to get a stable and static response.
Also make sure to load the 90 degree microphone calibration file in REW, as it will impact the HF part of the measured response.
@dominikz, am really glad you liked my approaches and EQs, also thank you for mentioning them. Funnily today I was also experimenting with MMM mono corrections in the bass region as my main setup room has unfortunately a too large LR asymmetry there.


Full agreement to those, just one addition which I realised today on my too much bass absorbing main position. Instead of bumping the bass with positive filters it worked for me better to copy the above modal loudspeaker as a target and lower its level so no positive filters are needed.


I also had hoped so but my experience with FIR solutions like Acourate and Dirac is that new L+R summation dips still appear as the phase rotations due to the room assymetries cannot be really reversed, same like SBIRs, so the only way still is to optimise as much as possible the room and placement let DRC do the icing on the cake.
Thanks for your comments - very interesting!
 

txbdan

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Good research. I think some of the timing/phase magic happens in higher frequencies as well. With Dirac Live, I prefer it on/correcting for the full frequency range. I find it tightens up the imaging.
 
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Couldn't one mimic the phase alignment buy just moving the speakers?
 

jlo

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The approach to use MMM as basis to EQ bass response below the transition frequency and to use anechoic measurements to EQ above it seems like a pretty safe bet to me! I'd say MMM results have quite a good agreement to how I perceive in-room bass so I found MMM really practical and quick to get good sounding results.
I did some comparisons between anechoic measurements and MMM with same speakers and I think that you can safely use MMM above transition frequency : in most cases, MMM is very near PIR prediction combined a slope depending mostly on distance and directivity. Some more infos about MMM can be found in the loudspeakers.audio FAQ
 
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dominikz

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I did some comparisons between anechoic measurements and MMM with same speakers and I think that you can safely use MMM above transition frequency : in most cases, MMM is very near PIR prediction combined a slope depending mostly on distance and directivity. Some more infos about MMM can be found in the loudspeakers.audio FAQ
Thanks, this is very interesting - but also surprising to me. Your results from anechoic room first show that MMM results are comparable to on-axis/LW response, but then show that MMM in live rooms are comparable to anechoic - meaning also comparable to LW. But from various measurements on this site we actually see more similarity between MMM and PIR - which is logical.
My expectation would be that measuring with MMM in an anechoic chamber would give results similar to LW (due to lack of reflections), but measuring the same speaker with MMM in a typical living room should be similar to PIR.
Could you share some more information on your test and your interpretation of results? Thanks!
 

jlo

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Could you share some more information on your test and your interpretation of results? Thanks!
You're completely right, I should be clearer...When I say anechoic, it is not precise enough : which anechoic measurement? on axis, LW, PIR ?

The measured loudspeaker has a quite flat frequency response and its directivity index is reasonably well controlled
- MMM in anechoic is very near LW (also near ONaxis) : this is expected
- when I use my online target calculator, for the rooms I measured in (at about 3m in a room of 50m2, with loudspeaker DI at 700Hz=4 and DI 10kHz=7), I get about -3dB, which is not far from what we have in last graph of this page.
For this room size and mid distance, those values can be expected : we are more or less in a direct field measurement.
I cannot say it is surprising but it would be interesting confirm doing further tests with other loudspeakers and in smaller rooms to be more in diffuse field conditions.
 
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Blaspheme

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So this raises a concern ...

There is a ton of amplification of that "null" around 67 Hz. In my limited testing of the latest version of Dirac, I noticed the same. My Purifi ampifier ran out of amplification power and started to distort! Even my 1000 watt amplifier was struggling. Did you notice a problem like this? It only shows up if you turn up the volume.

I wanted to confirm this but have not had a chance.
Now you need a pair of big Krells. Enough current to really destroy your drivers.

Seriously though, this certainly is an issue in my limited experience. If you play comprehensive test tones post-correction—and zero in on the problem frequency—you can really hear/feel the struggle that results from pouring power into the null. So if you don't enjoy your drivers rattling, and distortion going off the chart, you end up limited in terms of SPL. On the plus side, I did benefit from a more visceral understanding of room modes.
 
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dominikz

dominikz

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Now you need a pair of big Krells. Enough current to really destroy your drivers.

Seriously though, this certainly is an issue in my limited experience. If you play comprehensive test tones post-correction—and zero in on the problem frequency—you can really hear/feel the struggle that results from pouring power into the null. So if you don't enjoy your drivers rattling, and distortion going off the chart, you end up limited in terms of SPL. On the plus side, I did benefit from a more visceral understanding of room modes.
Agreed, that's a very large part of the reason why I ended up using only subtractive EQ to bring the peaks down in my living room system.
However, in my nearfield setup I have a huge bass null and there I have no problem boosting 8-9dB - at 70cm listening distance loss of maximum SPL is less of an issue and regained LF response is more than worth it IMHO
 

andivax

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I am using KRK Ergo room correction system (Lyngdorf based) 4096 points, both frequency and time domain 20-400 Hz.
In comparison with Sonarworks it is heaven and hell. Sonarworks bottom end is weird (definitely something wrong with phase). BTW Sonarworks sounds weird with Sennheiser HD650 in comparison with other software like Morphit or Realphones.

Ergo hardware is not in production anymore and it's Firewire which is unhandy.
Looks like I need to try Dirac Live.

As far as I like external processing for room correction looks like I need DSP with Dirac inside.
Can you point me on good value/money product?
Ideally it must contain both analog and digital in/out since I am using RME UFX II and Adam S3H studio monitors.
As far as I understand hardware solutions has less resolution in comparison with software. Am I right?
 
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