Marantz SR5008

Simple Audyssey Tweaks For Your AV Receiver

Marantz SR5008 Audyssey is included in audio-video receivers made by Creston, Denon, Integra, Marantz, NAD, Onkyo, and Wisdom.  It makes speaker setup and calibration on an AV receiver fairly painless. For the most part, one simply needs to follow the manufacture’s instructions for speaker placement, speaker wiring, and peripheral connections. Then, connect a supplied microphone to the receiver, and follow Audyssey’s instructions. When Audyssey is done, it will have determined the size of each speaker, their relative distances, set crossover networks, and speaker volume. In the end, Audyssey calibrates your speakers to the room acoustics, and makes the appropriate corresponding settings to the AV receiver. Depending upon its settings, Audyssey can do much more (a topic leaving room for a future article).

With all this technology, it is easy to assume that when Audyssey is done working its magic, the setup process is complete. After all, the process is simple, thorough, and pretty automated. What could be wrong? Well, Audyssey is very good, but not perfect. Also, with all the technology provided by Audyssey, it is easy to conclude that there is no way to make manual adjustments to it, – an incorrect conclusion as well. To reach audio nirvana, you can do a few simple tweaks before you run Audyssey and some fine tuning afterwards. In most cases, the results will be worth the extra effort.

Note:  I have made every effort to keep the usual techno-babble in this article to a minimum, focusing only on ways to make adjustments to Audyssey, without destroying its core settings and algorithms (For those of you wanting additional, and more detailed information about Audyssey, please see the the websites listed under the Sources heading at the end of this article).

My Audyssey Experience

In fairness to Audyssey, my setup is a challenge. The speakers are configured in a 7.1 format. Nothing unusual about that, but the speakers are not matched. The two “front” speakers are Bose satellites; the “center” speaker is also Bose, a 501 floor speaker (yes audiophiles, I know the 501 is directional, but the “center” speaker is positioned to the right, off-center in the listening area, and in this case the speaker’s directionality works in my favor, – it is for a “right” channel); the rear surround speakers are Klipsch bookshelf speakers; the rear “center” speaker is an Onkyo, and the subwoofer is Polk Audio.

After running Audyssey, I fired up a blue-ray disc so I could “hear” how well the speakers were configured. A blue-ray was selected (a decent CD would also serve the purpose well) because the audio is less compressed (or not compressed at all) verses audio coming from satellite or cable. After pushing the proper remote buttons, and turning up the AV receiver’s volume, the sound coming from my speakers was disappointing. The “highs” blended into each other; and when a character spoke a word ending in the letter “s”, the letter’s sound was extended to a point where one might have thought steam was escaping from somewhere; the two “rear” surround speakers overpowered their “front” counterparts to a point where the “fronts” could barely be heard; and finally, the base was too booming from the subwoofer. I have used Audyssey on a number of receivers (and with better “matched” speakers than those listed above), obtaining, in varying degrees, similar results.  As I mentioned earlier, Audyssey is not perfect.

Some Simple Tweaking

Here are the simple steps to zero in your speaker configuration.

1.  Follow the manufacture’s suggestions on speaker placement, and pay particular attention to the placement of the subwoofer.
2.  Be sure your speakers are correctly attached, paying particular attention that the wire going to the “red” speaker attachment is the same wire attached to the speaker’s corresponding “red” attachment on the receiver. Ditto for the black attachments. Note: Should you wire your speaker incorrectly, newer versions of Audyssey will alert you during calibration by telling you which speaker is out of phase (wired incorrectly).
3.  Connect your subwoofer to the LFE (Low Frequency Effects) output on your receiver. If your subwoofer has a low-pass filter, turn the filter off. Receiver’s often have specialized subwoofer settings, be sure the only setting used is for LFE. On the subwoofer, set the “phase” control to “0”, or to its default setting, adjust the crossover setting to 120 hz, and turn the volume to the typical 12:00 position, or 1/2 the total volume level. During my setup with the Marantz, I forgot to set the subwoofer at 120 hz, and adjust the subwoofer volume correctly; consequently, bass sounded terrible, and I had to rerun Audyssey.
4.  Now, run the Audyssey program, follow the instructions for microphone placements exactly, and when done, check your results. You can do this by viewing (if available) a summary at the completion of the Audyssey program, or by entering the receiver’s Manual Setup program (where you can make the necessary adjustments as well).

In either case, look at the Speaker section. If you are using a subwoofer, for the most part, all speakers should be set to “Small”.

Now take a look at the Crossover section. Here, a lot of what you can do depends on the manufacture of your receiver. In some cases, you can set the crossover network for the front speakers, rear speakers, etc., while some manufacturers allow only one setting for all speakers.

For the subwoofer to take advantage of both base response, and the receiver’s Low Frequency Effects, the “sweet-spot” is a crossover setting of 120 hz.  On the other hand, the “sweet-spot” for your front left/right, rear surround, and other speakers is a bit of a moving target, depending on the speaker’s design, and how well each speaker’s crossover setting blends in with its peers in the speaker network, and the subwoofer itself.  Some experimentation here might yield very gratifying results.

5.  Here is how I tweaked Audyssey’s settings in my new Marantz receiver:

Audyssey had all my speakers set to “Small”, – the proper setting.

From my check of the crossover network settings, I found that my Bose “front” speakers had their crossover settings at 120 hz, my Bose 501 was set to 40 hz, my “rear surrounds” were at 80 hz, and my “rear center” speaker was set to 80 htz as well.  I entered the Manual Setup, found the Crossover Settings tab, and experimented with different crossover settings for the different sets of speakers (front, surround, etc.). In the end, I kept all of Audysseys’s original crossover settings, changing only the setting for my “front” speakers to 80 hz (Bose’s setting is 200 hz, while Audyssey’s is 120 hz). For my room, and my ears, with the  “front” speakers set now at the 80 hz. “sweet spot”, and after correctly configuring the subwoofer, most of the audio issues were solved.

As for the final issue, theoverpowering sound from the “rear” surround speakers, I went once again to the Manual Setup area, found the Speaker Volume tab, and simply dropped each speaker’s volume one decibel.

6.  In your AV receivers setup menu, you will be able to access some Audyssey settings. At the time of this writing, the most current Audyssey version is entitled MultEQ XT. It has three variants Audyssey, Audyssey Front ByPass, and Audyssey Flat. Audyssey is the default setting, and I recommend you do some research on the other two options before switching to them.  I have never found a reason to switch from the default Audyssey setting.

7.  While still in the Audyssey settings section, find the setting for DynamicVolume. There are settings for Heavy, Medium, Light, and Off. Use the Light setting. Dynamic Volume solves the problem of large variations in volume level between TV, movies and other content (between quiet passages and loud passages, etc.) by automatically adjusting to the user’s preferred volume setting.

Summary

Audyssey is very good, but not perfect.  Once Audyssey has run, you can go into your receiver’s Manual Setup mode and make adjustments to speaker size, speaker volume, and crossover networks. A word of caution about the subwoofer. It plays a key role in balancing your speakers. When set up properly as described, you should not make any changes “on” the subwoofer itself (your receiver literally controls it now).  All subwoofer adjustments should be made through the receiver.

Sources

A Guide to Audyssey Auto Calibration & Other Technologies | http://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=159948

A Guide to Bass Management (Part 1)  |  http://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=95817

Audyssey MultEQ FAQ & Setup Guide  |  http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/audio-processing/68407-audyssey-multeq-faq-setup-guide.html

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