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Binlade95's picture
Last seen: 2 years 2 months ago
Joined: Nov 16 2020 - 11:21pm
Dirac Live 2.0 on a miniDSP. First thoughts.

I have been on a recent mission to improve the sound of a living room hifi.

I'd previously had a set of home built KEF Calinda type speakers that I'd been running via a behringer ultradrive xover and a the power amps from a NAD home cinema set up. It was loud, lively, musical but unsubtle. Terrible soundstaging and uneven bass.

Several iterations of kit later I have a pair of ATC SCM11s, an home bulit Avondale power amp and an Audiolab 8200q preamp. Still htough, the kit sounded brash on some recordings and muffled on others. Despite the huge changes to my amps and speakers, these chararteristics have been common to all setups. So, I figure, it's the room?

Fair bet it is since the setup is textbook bad. The speakers sit against the end wall but with one in a corner and the other in the middle of the wall. Both are 'too close' to the wall even for sealed cabs. However, we have the space we have and that is where they need to sit.

So, preamble over, I bought a DRC24, UMIK1 and Dirac license from miniDSP (incredible shipping BTW, 3 days from HongKong!). It's installed in the tapeloop of the preamp so can be easily switched in/out.

I've run a single set of 13 room measurementswith fairly rough/ready mic placement and tried out four target curves. The results?

Really intersting. All recordings now sound really good. Or, at least as good as you can expect a given recording to sound (rubbish in, rubbish out and all that). Certainly, all the 'cliche' test tracks sound tremendous.

No boominess in the bass, totally consistent with no nasty resonances. A bizare 'scoop' in the bass responce from 80Hz to 150Hz is gone (I've measured this on all speakers I've tried in this room/loaction). More interesting (to me at least) is that a fatiguing 'harshness' in the upper mid band is just gone. No apparent loss of clarrity, just less tiring to listen to (especially when turned up).

The surprise was the sound staging. The speakers have vanished and, for good recordings, there is far more space around the lead instruments. It feels a bit like a surround sound feature has been added but this is absolutely not a feature of DIRAC. Apparently it simply comes from improve time allignment in all the drivers.

So, I'm a fan? I think so. There are some downsides though:

1. The miniDSP itself is not really HiFi. Stick it in bypass and you switch it in/out of the signal path in your amp and you will clearly hear it's presence. Using my turntabhle as a signal source, the tone is significantly changed. It almost allmost feels a bit 'smoothed out' (bearing in mind this is bypass so straight through the ADC - DAC and out). It's not unpleasant but there is info being lost. Basically, it has a sonic signature of its own.

2. On some true golden recordings (you know, the ones you can somehow play on any system and sound good) the DIRAC Live is too much. It can somehow suck a bit of the life out of the recording. I guess this is the case where the recording is so good that it can tolerate or maybe even 'enjoy' a bit of 'room interaction' without becoming unpleasant. Miles davis 'a kind o blue' would be a good example of this.

On balance though, I'd have to say that the gains out weight the losses. Sure, it is not a purist setup, info is definitely lost. But, unless you have perfect listenting room, the sonic impact of these losses pail into insignificance compared to the sonic imperfections imparted by the room.

In short, it's a keeper for me. For the rare recording that doesn't get on with it, I can always switch the miniDSP back out. Only thing I would change is that I wish i'd known about it earlier so I could have bough a preamp with DIRAC built in (NAD C658 for example) instead of having a preamp, riaa_preamp, streamer and miniDSP.

Hope that review is useful to someone.



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