I just got divorced

I have an all PS Audio rig: P15 power plant, DirectStream DAC, BHK Preamp and 250 amp powering a pair of Focal 1038be speakers. It is all connected with an Audioquest mill.

After months replacing my old gear and fine-tuning speaker placement, and limited by the mandate of no room treatments except for moving what is already part of the room, I came to realize that as good as my system sounds, it will never reach Nirvana status.

The problem was I wanted to marry Nirvana but speakers can be placed as ideally as possible following home restrictions and never reach the SQ of fine headphones. Or so is my opinion.

Years ago I had Stax electrostatics and blissed for hours until I wore them into the scrapheap. They were followed by iconic Sennheiser HD650s, very good cans but not exceptional. It did not matter for years because by then I was serially dating speakers and headphones were relegated to the midnight owl.

Three months ago, I started dating a pair of Audeze LCD-Xs. At first, I thought “What cans require equalization to sound their best?” Retailers will tell you they don’t but reviewers and many users will vehemently disagree. I use them with the jack on the BHK Pre, which I understand is how the PS Audio gang voiced the headphone amp of the unit. It makes for a fine coupling.

But for my love of learning I would have never bought them. However, I’ve always wanted to learn how to equalize and good tools are so readily available. The challenge was finding a good quality equalizer that worked systemwide on my PC. Roon did not fit the bill, nor did it sync up outside of Tidal and Qobuz, which increases the ongoing cost of musical enjoyment and, regardless of the millions of tracks claimed, limits my particular choice of music.

Fortunately, I had a copy of JRiver 24, which can install its WDM driver as the audio system default. All computer devices can send their output to it. From there it goes back to JRiver and you can use the program’s equalizers or my favorite equalizer plug-ins, the Voxengo GlissEQ and CurveEQ, to perform whatever corrections are necessary. JRiver then sends the output to the desired driver.

To say I’ve been having a blast is an understatement. To say that learning how to equalize has brought me closer to Nirvana than any activity previously undertaken is understanding how good it feels to learn, feel accomplished and know that I don’t have to travel 3 hours in heavy traffic to L.A. to get a realistic feel of a live symphonic performance.

The icing on the cake is that, as in Roon, although not quite as seamlessly, I can stream through my favorite streamer, Amazon Music HD, and switch easily to JRiver to play my own ripped music collection, equalizing tracks as needed.

Knowing how to equalize feels like being an orchestra conductor. Bring up the violins, tone down the basses, blast away on the brass. On a rig like PS Audio’s, which sports great instrument separation, the power is in the fingertips and mouse. I could use a baton when no one is looking but that would feel too much like eating Chinese food.

The journey of discovery never ends. The engagement and monogamous marriage with one particular headphone did not happen in Vegas, but Palm Springs is a suitable location. I’m sure the joy of discovery is what drives most of us audiophiles to lengths our spouses often think obsessive. My response: “It’s my hobby. Who would want to be with someone who is not obsessive (I prefer to call it passionate) about one’s hobby? Indeed, who would want to marry someone without a passion?

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Love this. Well written and as A told Armando in a separate email, I have always wanted to build a seamless sounding EQ that could be programmed to enhance individual tracks and then remembered. Love the image of the conductor.

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I had exactly the same dream.

Meanwhile as the setup got better I just need the options I have for leveling the speaker towards room or equipment changes, but wouldn’t need a different EQ for tracks anymore. I just use one bass level adjustment here and there between two bass heavy/shy tracks or albums.

But you could be the first manufacturer caring for a high end compatible analog adjustment option also when passive speakers are used :wink: Now that you don’t even plan a DSP bass for your upcoming speakers.

A wonderful story, well told.

Learning to EQ is both a skill and art, at least for me.

I think room treatment and EQ are essential to getting great sound.

The problem with all the nay sayers is that they have no idea how lousy their system actually sounds (they’ve bought good gear and then fail to get anything like the best from it - a bit like buying a GT3 and not tracking it).

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I invested in the NAD C 658 for the home office and M33 for the living room. Both have DIRAC included. I look forward to getting experience with it.
Listened to John Darko‘s Jules Standen interview:

My dad has an analog parametric equalizer on his old Luxman Studio Edition set. It’s wonderful to be able to compensate for room issues and hearing deficits, I get my hearing analysed to be able to compensate a little. The NAD‘s each have 5 parameter banks, so I can switch to more common curves when in groups and back to my best personal settings when alone without any hassle.

I appreciate that people like to do this, for me listening to music at home is meant to be a relaxing pleasure and once set up properly I have no desire to change anything. I just want to select music to put on a record and press play. I’ve never used equalisers and wouldn’t know how to.

It is not that you keep tweaking. Once set up, I can enjoy what you mentioned Steve. And if I don’t like it, I can simply switch Dirac off, even have all analog inputs routed all analog to the outputs.

I never did like the DSP programs on my Yamaha, where they try to simulate ambient in concert halls and such. But I am told Dirac is different it is designed to help compensate the room issues and all equalizing is applied without phase shifts.

So I am curious, also with Dirac I can find out exactly which frequencies are problematic at which place in the room. Than I can close the curtains, move chairs around, move the speakers a bit to see if the sound spectrum improves, than when all is set within the limits of the interior design commission as you call it I will see if the DSP equalizing will improve it a little more.

Dirac makes it visible and relatively easy to do.

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Those that have not experienced well done DSP performed on a computer early in the digital chain are missing out. Technology has advanced, a bunch.

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The problem is you need a computer in the digital chain. In 12 years of streaming I’ve managed without.

I have programmable EQ available in Devialet Expert for all sources (and it can be switched on and off from the remote) and slightly more limited EQ in Roon. I’m happy without the hassle. I have measured the room with REW.

I don’t see it as a problem but we all have to make our own choices.

And I would argue you have many computers in your digital chain but they are purpose built and inflexible.

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The computer is only to process the measured values and allow you to set the curve, which is where you can decide to get bit more bass or try to compensate for weakness in your hearing. Then you upload the dataset to the Dirac enabled devices where you can store up to 5 datasets in the case of NAD.
No computer involved during playback.

But I can understand if you do not want that hassle certainly with Deivalet.

Devialet Expert has something called “Sweet Room” - a room correction module for Expert using a nine-band parametric equalizer. You can put two pairs of settings (you set left and right channels separately) on a SD card and it plugs in the back together with your normal configuration. For each band you set the frequency, Q factor and ± gain. You put your settings in a .txt file and copy to your system SD card. You don’t need to reboot when you change the card. You can use the remote to switch between the two pairs of settings or turn it off. You can name them and it shows on the display. It’s a case of measure and adjust until you get what you want. I may give it a go eventually. It’s not something you want to do too often, like once ever.

Steven, that’s much the same functionality as in my DEQX (Digital Crossover and Equalisation) has, i.e. upto nine parametric equalisers with Q and Gain settable. Because of all my room treatment I actually have some low frequency boost (about 3db at 60 hz, I sit in a null!) and high frequency boost (I’ve a lot of absorption so have about 5.5db at 20k). I also set an equaliser at around 2k so that I can adjust middle. After several hours/days/years of fiddling I now have great sound to the point that an adjustment of just 0.01db at any of the settings is readily audible. I can hear the difference made by any cable and the regenerators’ clean function. The good thing about this is that it’s absolutely free and is part of the processing that the crossover software does, much as Devialet’s speaker compensation facility will be a part of standard processing.

Room equalization is difficult, but then so is acoustic treatment. I recall in one of his videos Paul say that EQ works best on the bass. He did not say it, but I assume the higher frequencies are more responsive to acoustic treatment.

Using REW, I’ve tried full FR EQ with poor results. On the other hand, when I had my Martin Logan Expression 13s, with built-in bass DSP, correcting bass issues was more successful.

We used to have a dedicated sound room built in our rather large and tall Chicago basement when we lived in the Windy City. We went all-out with double walls and ceilings for stiffness. Having downsized homes to avoid the soup line, I’m relegated to working acoustics with what’s in the room already, or what I can successfully argue would meet both acoustics and aesthetics.

Acoustic treatment is hardly a slam dunk, even with all that we know today. I’ve done it in two previous houses, again with mixed results, probably due to cost constraints and underdeveloped skills.

Even with an unlimited budget, it’s a miracle that all the saints reputed to have performed miracles would find a difficult task. Chicago Symphony Hall was renovated six times to correct acoustic design deficiencies with quite mixed results, and they hired well-paid professionals.

Then again you have the Chicago Auditorium Theatre, a large historical landmark known world-wide for its acoustics. Engineered by the iconic team of Adler and Sullivan, you could hear SQ ooze from practically every nook and cranny in the house.

They got it right the first time. Talent counts, even though as the premier building designers around the start of the 20th Century, they were probably not cheap.

So those are the reasons why I’m calling it a day with fine-tuning speaker EQ and focusing on headphone EQ. My hearing is hardly perfect and recording engineers, ruled probably by economics, often miss the mark on many fine performances.

They probably think themselves conductors, which in a very real sense they are. It’s no accident that the Chicago Symphony has won the most Grammys. They could not have done it without the recording team from London/Decca.

Some recording engineers are brilliant and help musicians sound their best; others need my very amateurish but getting better EQ help.

Point is that eliminating to a great extent the physical environment in which speakers live helped me to marry Nirvana, or a reasonable facsimile.

I love PS Audio gear because it got me closer to my beloved Nirvana without much equalizing. My rig just sounds real and musical from the get-go. Still, there are incredible performances that need a little help.

Paul’s thoughts about track-specific EQ is also one of my dreams. Even though many tracks can share the same EQ, or no EQ at all, to sound their best, for those of us adventurous and perhaps foolish enough to venture into EQ, a product that would apply pre-determined EQ settings for the next track up would be “Heaven Sent” (one of my favorite Americana genre Parker Millsap songs and a pretty good test of musical reproduction.)

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I enjoy reading your posts, and the wisdom that you share. Thank you.

May be one day, just like face and voice recognition, someone will come up with a device or a piece of software that can that embed previously done room acoustic analysis with track analysis and give the playback system the EQ formula. This would even be better done when a track’s recording session data is embedded within the playback file. Such as recording mic calibration, placement, players exact location on stage, recording space spatial analysis, etc. I hope this is not too loony :smile:

Thank you. At 72, I may not live long enough to see your vision, but it’s a very attractive one.

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I’ve done two rooms in my house. I’ve always had my own built active system. The first room was only about 18’ * 12’. I had a 4-way system and adjustments tended to be just altering the level of a particular set of drivers. As I added more absorption I’d need extra power to the tweeters but I’d hear the benefit of extra detail. Without a form of EQ one quickly finds the bass starts to overpower the rest of the frequency range because it’s extremely difficult to absorb bass (especially in such a small room).

HiFi is my hobby (I love cars also but you can’t really drive them these days with so much traffic about).

I then extended my house so that I had a 30’ * 20’ room (unfortunately ceiling height is only 8’).

I moved all the gear and absorption into the new room but couldn’t get decent sound (the bass in particular was terrible). I got an acoustic guy in with his fancy gear (plus an iPhone app) and he measured reverb times and recommended some massive RPG bass traps. They made a huge difference and shortened reverb times to a sensible limit.

I then repeatedly adjusted the parametric equalisers in the digital crossover and found that any cable such as a power cable or speaker cable, if changed, alters the sound. I’m not a fan of classical and mainly like female vocals or jazz.

All the people that tell you not to put a lot of absorption have to say that because without EQ you’ll quickly end up with a mess.

I’ve said it before on this forum that I think people should start off with the best bass trapping that they can accommodate and then add panels to absorb treble and use EQ to counteract the changes as absorption is applied.

My 2p worth.

:pray:t2: I wish you many more years in good health and happy days. My brother turned 72 in January. Luckily he still works and is definitely motivated. He does his daily walks religiously while I sit and listen to music. My be I should follow suit :grin:

I’ve heard it’s similar to other systems and seemed to me like manual 1970s equalisers with added Q function. It is one of the benefits of integrated systems like Devialet that they can add things like this as software upgrades and at no additional cost. They have their speaker matching system, which is a sort of digital version of servo control, that is very effective, and also a phono equalisation software system.

Paul thinks component systems are better even at modest budgets, even though he accepts cables only degrade systems, they never improve anything, but the ability of companies to implement these functions with no extra boxes and no extra cost is a real bonus.

In my book, the best free upgrade was Auralic Lightning Server, which turned a USB drive into a network drive.

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