Music in the Round #49 Page 3
I have little to tell you about Dolby IIz, or Audyssey's DSX or Dynamic Volume, because they added little to my musical enjoyment when I tried them or heard them in demo with this product. They work, and I encourage you to sample them for yourself. I'm somewhat undecided about Dolby Volume and Audyssey Dynamic EQ. Both will adjust tonal and channel balance to compensate for the changes in auditory perception associated with changing sound levels. While they work pretty well, I tend to listen to music at comfortably high levels. As a result, neither is really necessary for my serious listening, and with either of them engaged, I was bothered by what sounded like a relatively obvious "loudness" effect, boosting the high and low frequencies as I adjust the volume level. On the other hand, both help to mellow out the sound for casual background listening; and for TV viewing, they help create a "you are there" perception without making a lot of noise. I generally prefer Audyssey Dynamic EQ, if only because it lets me retain Audyssey RoomEQ; Dolby Volume automatically defeats all Audyssey processing. Too bad.
About the much-discussed relay clicks that the Integra DHC-80.2 often makes when changing inputs or signal formats: Reading the Internet forums, you can get an impression that this is a disturbing and, for some, fatal flaw in the design. But when I heard those clicks for myself, I was amazed that anyone would make such a big deal about them. Perhaps it's a sign of my age that I find the sound of relays reassuring, especially when they make ticks as soft as these. But don't let me tell you what to like. Go to a showroom and hear them for yourself.
When I compare the Integra DHC-80.2 to the Marantz AV7005, which was featured in my March 2011 column, I have to admit that both are similarly good-sounding with both analog and digital sources. The Marantz has the more stylish appearance and easy Web control access. On the other hand, I'm happier without the trap door behind which the Marantz's controls are hiddenI like to have all information displayed at all times. Also, if you want remote Web-based control for the Integra, there's an app for that called oRemote. However, the Integra's $800 higher price gets you direct DSD decoding (if that floats your boat), as well as MultEQ XT32, which enjoys a distinct advantage over the MultEQ XT included in the Marantz. In fact, I think MultEQ XT32 is so effective that it negates the need for Audyssey's expensive standalone processor boxes.
Like the DTC-9.8, the Integra DHC-80.2, at $2300, redefines value in a multichannel preamplifier-processor for the serious music lover or home-theater fan (though I've discussed none of its video capabilities). It incorporates the current state of the art in features and applications, and would not be out of place in any system. I can hardly wait to see what Integra comes up with next.
MultEQ Pro and Con
I'd hoped to conclude my review of the Integra DHC-80.2 with my experiences in applying MultEQ Pro to this already very capable device. However, I was frustrated at nearly every turn. After obtaining the requisite "key" code for the DHC-80.2, I discovered that the old RS-232 connection was no longer effective, and that the only communication access for Audyssey was network-based. Okay, I was game for thatI have both wired and wireless options. After clicking on "Integra AVR Interface 2" in my laptop computer's Pro application, I was asked to enter the Integra's IP address. I entered the one that enabled this same laptop to access the Integra directly, but it failed. Using either my laptop or my main PC, I tried fiddling with the DHCP protocol, I tried rebooting every device that could be booted. No joy. Either I was told there had been a communications time-out or I got no response at all.
Through Web forums I learned that while others have had success, my failure was hardly unique. Audyssey and Integra were pinged, and the suggestion was to run an ALL-CLEAR, which wipes out any previous Audyssey data in the Integra as well as everything else. After I'd applied this electroconvulsive therapy to the Integra, I could access it from MultEQ Pro and was able to sail through a 13-point setup routine. The recommended crossover frequencies were 50Hz (L/R) and 40Hz (center and surrounds).
The results were audibly inferior. There was no bass. I could feel the subwoofer cones moving, and MultEQ Pro graphs assured me that the subs' frequency response was flat down to 16Hz. Interestingly, if I bypassed MultEQ Pro, the bass still sucked. On the Web I learned that Mark Seaton, of Seaton Sound, described using a system that included two or more properly EQ'd subs, but there was a significant phase difference between the subs and the main speakers. Result: a big suckout centered on the crossover point. Cause: Audyssey never pings both the sub(s) with the main speakers. Solution: Seaton suggests increasing the Distance setting for the sub(s), as that's the acoustical equivalent of varying the relative phase of the subs vs the main speakers. Unfortunately that didn't work for me, but I did confirm the lack of bass by measuring every speaker's frequency responseand, indeed, there was plenty of bass when every speaker was identified as Large.
It seemed obvious that my next step should be to try to change the crossover frequencies in MultEQ Pro, but again, I couldn't access the Integra from the MultEQ Pro app. After another ALL-CLEAR purge, the results, with all crossovers set to 80Hz, were strange. MultEQ Pro had set both subwoofer distances to 12', the default distance for unmeasured speakers, when it had earlier set them to 22.6' and 12'. The sound was not improved.
After a third ALL-CLEAR and another complete calibration, MultEQ Pro recommended different crossover frequencies: 60Hz (L/R), 20Hz (center) and 80Hz (surrounds). The sub distances were slightly different, 19.6' and 8', but now the subwoofer frequency response, as asserted by MultEQ Pro and confirmed by the XTZ analyzer, was flat from 45 to 115Hz, but elevated by 10dB from 20 to 30Hz. Even worse, when the subwoofers were measured along with the L/R speakers, there was a 20dB suckout centered at 60Hz. Unacceptable, technically and sonically.
All things considered, I cannot know whether these issues are a consequence of lingering communications problems or something else. I wish I had measured the results of the original MultEQ XT32 calibration I'd done with the Integra DHC-80.2, which I found satisfying, but I'd expected even better results with MultEQ Pro. I'm still a big fan of MultEQ Pro, as these disappointing results are uncharacteristic. Surely something has gone awry and we should expect timely action from Integra and/or Audyssey.
More on MultEQ Pro next time.