Can Dirac Fix My Home Theater?
You’ve owned a number of AV receivers over the years. You’ve upgraded speakers, TVs, amps, and just about everything else. You may not be an Internet expert, but you are certainly more knowledgeable than most. But you’ve always had to live with some compromises. You’ve never had a dedicated room that therefore never been able to add acoustic panels, light control, or other of the “more extreme” accouterments that are common in home theater. You’ve experimented with different room correction programs (specifically Audyssey) but they’ve never really done much to fix the acoustics of your room. But now Denon and Marantz have released their Dirac upgrade for their newest AV receivers. Now you can have Audyssey and Dirac in one box! Is this finally the answer you’ve been looking for? Can Dirac fix your home theater acoustics and fulfill the promise of “room correction?” Let’s discuss.
Room Correction is Woefully Misnamed
The people that create a thing and the people that name that thing often seem to be completely different people. Nowhere in home theater is that more apparent than in the naming of “room correction” software. If you think for just one moment about how room correction works, you know that can’t do what it says on the tin. Room correction programs analyze how the sound bounces around your room and makes changes to the output of your speakers to try to minimize any problem areas.
Right there it is clear that the only thing it is “correcting” is your speakers’ output. A better (if less exciting) name would be speaker correction. Or equalization. But that is something that has been around for a long time so why would people pay extra for it?
Yes, room correction does take how the sound is interacting in your room into account when it applies its EQ. But it isn’t actually making any changes to the room. It is only modifying the sound coming from the speakers. Once the sound leaves the speakers, the “room correction” program can do nothing else to the sound.
Is Dirac Better?
We can’t deny that Dirac is currently the new hotness. People online have been raving about it for a while. Now that it has come to Denon and Marantz (as well as Onkyo and Pioneer), we expect that to die down a bit (enthusiasts stop liking a thing when everyone knows about it). But the real question is if Dirac will be any better at fixing your room’s issues than Audyssey or any of the other room correction programs.
The sad answer is, “No.”
Dirac and Audyssey (and YPAO from Yamaha) all work with the same technology. This means that they really aren’t as dissimilar as they are similar. While each targets a specific curve, if they are manually set to the same curve, they sound nearly identical. None are really any better because they all are limited to modifying the output of your speakers. Our own Andrew has tried both and he prefers Audyssey for what that’s worth.
What’s the Solution?
We hate to say it, but there isn’t an EQ solution for your room acoustics issues now or likely in the future. The real solution is to fix your room with acoustic panels and proper speaker and subwoofer placement. Yes, we know there is always talk about other electronic means of room correction. These are usually highly expensive, experimental, dependent on building a room around them, and vaporware. With art panels, movie poster panels, and other methods of hiding acoustic panels in your room, we’ll still be recommending treating your room physically.