Is Room Correction Actually Important for Your Home Theater?
I have gone on record many times saying that when I shop for AV receivers, one of the features I care most about is its room correction. But I am not you. How important is room correction for your home theater? When shopping for an AV receiver, should you pay more for better room correction? Let’s take a look at some common home theaters and discuss if room correction will make a difference.
What is Room Correction?
Nearly every AV receiver on the market these days comes equipped with some form of room correction. These programs are often married to an automatic room setup program. The auto-setup will set your distance and trim levels as well as your crossovers and speaker sizes (all of these can be adjusted by you afterward).
Room correction will then take measurements (usually using an included microphone) of your room and adjust your speakers’ response. “Room correction” is a misnomer as it doesn’t do anything to your room. It only alters the sound your speakers put out (by applying an EQ) to minimize the effects of the room on what you hear. But will room correction be important to you in your home theater? Well, that depends.
Large, Open Rooms
Have you set up your home theater in your living room or another open area? We often call these “cinema spaces” rather than home theaters as they are only part of a room. These rooms are usually very open and multi-use. They have lots of windows, hard surfaces, and many aesthetic concerns. These rooms tend to echo and really need as much help as they can to sound good.
Unfortunately, room correction can only do so much in any home theater. In an open room with many hard surfaces, there isn’t much a room correction program can do. Remember, any EQ it applies to the speakers will affect the sound at every seat. If a specific sound is loud at one seat and quiet at another, the room correction can do nothing. Anything it does will make things worse for one of the two seats.
Is Room Correction Worth It – Probably Not
Unfortunately, in a large, open room like the one we describe, we have to say no. Other than setting your trim levels and distances (which really isn’t your room correction), the program can’t do much in such a room. You’ll find yourself switching between the room correction enabled and disabled and not really hearing a difference. Instead, when you are shopping for your AV receiver, focus on other features that you need like HDMI 2.1 or enough amplifiers for all your speakers.
There are some features of some room correction programs that you might find useful, however. If you are worried about keeping people up at night, you may need some of the dynamic range compression they provide. If you feel like your bass is lacking at lower volumes, some room correction programs can help with that as well.
Dedicated Room, No Room Treatments
You consider yourself lucky. You have a dedicated room for your home theater. This room has a door and is used for only watching movies, playing games, or watching TV. You’ve got the big screen, your dream speakers, and even dual subwoofers. You even sprang for some fancy home theater recliners (even though you kinda regret it). The problem is that you didn’t know anything about room acoustics when you started shopping. So you didn’t budget for any room treatments. But your room is carpeted and your furniture is fairly plush. Surely that counts for something?
Is Room Correction Worth It – Maybe
In this case, we’d have to land solidly on maybe. The carpet will certainly help (mostly with the highest frequencies) but bass will still be problematic in your room. Without room treatments to reduce the bass waves interacting with each other, your room correction won’t be able to do much at the lowest frequencies. But, considering you’ve already invested so much in your home theater, getting some panels and bass traps to help out the room correction surely is in the works…right?
Dedicated Room, Fully Treated
You’ve gone whole-hog on your home theater. You’ve got the big screen, big subwoofers, and more speakers than you care to admit. There are acoustic panels that look like movie posters plus all the other acoustic treatments that are recommended. You’ve even DIY’ed some of them! You may have even bought a UMIK-1 and used REW to check the calibration of your speakers. You really care about this stuff and it shows!
Is Room Correction Worth It? YES!
Room correction was built for your home theater. You’ve done all you can do physically with the space to minimize the effects of the room on the sound. This means that your room correction program can have the greatest effect in your home theater. It will even out the little differences between the seats so that everyone has a better audio experience. When shopping for an AV receiver, the quality of the room correction absolutely should factor into your decision.
Room correction sounds like it should be able to fix all the problems in your home theater. That is simply not the case. We like to think of room correction as the cherry on top of the home theater sundae. The ice cream is the speakers, the acoustic panels are the whip cream and toppings, and the room correction is the cherry. You can have a pretty great sundae without that cherry. But without the toppings and whipped cream, you’ve only got a bowl of ice cream. Sure, it may taste great, but it’s no sundae!