From a series focusing on how Roon has changed my listening habits, my equipment choices, my demeanor and my relationships among other things. I suppose we should start with how Roon pushed me to change my listening Room.
As is the case for many of us, my listening room is the living room so it doubles as the tv room, and is propagated by such annoyances as furniture, doorways, family members and other obstacles to perfect acoustics. It is a rectangular room and my original setup with the speakers on the short wall and the MLP in the center of the room went out the window when we upgraded from a 2 seater Love Seat to a three seater couch. I was left with the speakers on the long wall and a short distance to the MLP with my head basically against the wall.
With my 20 year old New England style floorstanders this wasn’t too bad. They could be fairly wide and still have the oomph to cover the listening area. They also weren’t as susceptible to boominess if they got too close to the corners. When I switched to the KEF Q350s, the corner position became more of an issue so I negotiated for a 180 degree swing (which also had the added benefit of allowing me to spend a weekend re-running wires and (somewhat) resolving the rats nest that had developed behind the stands). It also moved everything to the back of the room so nobody (me) walked by the back of the stands and can see the mess everyday!
The 180 swap, while not fixing the room, did allow me to get the right speaker out of the corner and gave me a more even backdrop behind the MLP; not necessarily a good landing spot for the sound, but a more consistent one. The two mains were now pretty much on an even playing field with no major differences between them.
I quietly kept creeping the couch out from the back wall a little each day until it was “noticed”. SInce the room isn’t that wide, I couldn’t get a full 2 feet behind my head, but was able to get to 18-20 inches which while not ideal was workable.
There were some setbacks getting Audyssey rolling with the Marantz 7012 (and later 7013). Some buggy software implementation left me chasing my tail for a bit. Finally a hard reset to the AVR and a clean firmware update got everything working. There are lingering issues which I think are caused by overwriting settings on the avr too many times, so once I nail a setup, I log all the settings and do a wipe and then send the Audyssey settings back over. I tried at first to wipe and restore but that led to more quirks so a clean wipe seems to be required.
I tried multiple mic patterns and found the standard pattern to work the best in my room. A slightly tighter pattern than in the manual but your basic 3/3/2 pattern. My seating position is closer to the back wall than is ideal, so my “behind” positions were only slightly deeper than my baseline listening position.
I tried the single plane patterns multiple times and could not get a satisfying result from any of my attempts. In all honesty there is always the possibility that in numerous points during this journey I found a truly “flat” result and found it unsatisfying. I built this system out of components that were as flat and transparent as my budget would allow, but at some point in the chain the time comes to tune the sound to what you find appealing.
I found a number of different suggested mic patterns on the web, but other than the single plane ones, I found most to give me very similar results. I didn’t see any benefit from creating more variables to an already complicated equation. This is a process that can go on infinitely and at some point actually listening to music is the goal.
It was simple to get easily discernible results, but less simple to get an entirely satisfying result. Many attempts had no bottom end, some lost top end and most muddied up the middle. I started with a reasonable flat result file and tweaked the speaker set up using the Sumiko method. I was close already left-to-right but had been playing with distance from the wall to no avail. Using the Sumiko process I found the positions more objectively (or at least less subjectively). I also spent a good deal of time listening to different toe in positions with the Q350s to tune the mids. I found almost direct to MLP was my preference, although once I had them tuned in they were quite pleasant in a much larger arc allowing for a wider sweetspot, but I’m pretty petty when it comes to “my” seat.
With the soundstage dead on now, I went back through a bunch of audyssey files looking for the magic one; the perfect balance of high, low and mids. Ultimately, I was never able to get enough bass out of any attempts using the KEFs, even in their “ideal” positions. In the end I found my answer in a rather unorthodox way.
The file I ended up using was actually made using a different set of speakers (and quite possibly with the room in a mirror configuration!); in fact 2 of the best 3 were both made with my Elac’s. I’m sure someone with more knowledge about room correction will be able to tell me why they would produce better results than the KEFs, but it seemed to be more than a coincidence. I tried to reproduce the pattern I chose with the KEFS but the result wasn’t as good. I do not recommend such a random way of getting from point A to point B, but once you’re happy with point B (which seemed impossible for a long time) it’s no time to pull on the threads of common sense.
I played around a bit with editing the curves to warm up the bottom end a bit (and to pop a dead zone I have in the room around 300hz) but in the end decided to just use a little PE in Roon to get the sound a wanted. Just a little gain @300 and a 1.5 db gain around 90hz sweetened things up for me.
The last piece was finding the levels for my subs. After doing an old school crawl, I found the two locations I wanted were pretty close to where I already had the subs, so it was just down to finding the levels. Audyssey was of little help with this. I don’t know why it applies so much negative gain to the subs. With my old AVR I was running one sub at about 12 o’clock gain with 0-3db gain from the receiver. With the Marantz Audyssey had both subs basically set to less than 20% and still had them at -10db gain. I left the levels on the subs alone (where Audyssey wanted them) and I found some suggested level guidelines (>100Hz region to be around 9dB louder than the 1kHz region) and used a tone generator to tune in the subs. Once I did they blended in seamlessly across all different types of music. Before that I was chasing the levels song to song.
The end result is quite a remarkable difference; especially with a fairly modest system. It is something to sit back and get lost in the soundstage, to hear that snare dead center in the field and to have the speakers completely disappear.