The Evolution of Bass

In recent months we experienced the happy convergence of having three formidable THX Certified subwoofers in house for testing, including M&K’s beastly X15+, all of which tied in perfectly with technical editor Thomas J. Norton’s overview of the latest version of Audyssey’s room EQ processing, MultEQ-X.

Bass reproduction has come a long way since the early days of the home theater boom. And when I say boom, I mean that literally: Back then, subwoofer setup was a painstaking process, one that required extensive experimentation with room positioning, along with lots of careful listening and adjustment, to get your system’s bottom end to sound like something other than a bloated hippopotamus.

The addition of accessible room EQ solutions like Audyssey to A/V receivers and preamp-processors went a long way toward taming the bass beast. Now, all you had to do was plug in a microphone that came packaged with your AVR, move it to a few measurement positions around the room, permit the Audyssey processing to make its calculations, and, like magic, your system’s bloated — or anemic — bass would snap into shape, improving the sound of movies and music.

Early versions of Audyssey weren’t perfect, and the effect could end up being sonically disappointing. But later refinements, plus the addition of the Audyssey Editor app with its ability to restrict processing to a specific frequency range, made the solution at once more flexible and tweakable.

As Audyssey evolved, serious competition arrived in the form of Dirac Live room correction, which has made its way into multiple products Sound & Vision has recently reviewed — products from NAD, Monolith by Monoprice, Onkyo, and Rotel. I had the opportunity to personally check out Dirac Live when I reviewed Rotel’s RSP-1576MKII surround sound processor in 2021 and was very impressed with its straightforward interface and ability to adjust correction curves to fine-tune the results I was getting. My system literally never sounded better!

Reading Tom’s review of MultEQ-X and looking over its interface, it occurred to me that this PC-based software (Dirac Live is also a PC-based app, though it’s available for Macs as well) could very likely bring the same benefits as Dirac Live to my Marantz AVR-driven setup, which is compatible with Audyssey MultEQ-X.

Of course, Anthem A/V receivers and preamp/processors include that company’s excellent ARC Genesis room correction. And Trinnov Audio’s Optimizer is another impressive room EQ solution, though it’s currently found only in Trinnov’s stereo and surround sound processors like the $18,000 Altitude16 that earned Sound & Vision’s Overall Top Pick of the Year award in 2021.

Will the Optimizer ever make its way into receivers? Hard to speculate on that, but in the meantime, between Audyssey MultEQ-X and Dirac Live — as well as Anthem’s ARC — A/V enthusiasts wanting to fine-tune the performance of their systems by eliminating what is perhaps the greatest obstacle to high-quality sound, the listening room itself, have multiple options to pursue. And a great thing about all of them is that they are incorporated in relatively affordable and accessible products.

John_Werner's picture

While I enjoy a good bottom as much as anyone...what I really dream of is a true reinvention of the AR turntable range. Actually it could just be the XB and EB 1. Two turntables that really that could cover a lot of potential buyers. Why the AR range? Well, I have a real love for the suspended sub-chassis w/ the tonearm also being suspended. Is there any turntable like this today? I realize the Linn LP-12 has a suspended platter, but what about a suspended tonearm? It appears that turntable has a separate arm board which I can not tell if it is suspended. Anyway it costs so much that for many of us it is not affordable. Well, I got this out and forgive me if it wasn't exactly sub-woofer related. But hey, perhaps it is. The isolation from the room and the bass was the hat trick of that AR.

singleton's picture

Dirac Live room correction, which has found its way into many devices, brought about significant rivalry. Product reviews from NAD, Monolith by Monoprice, Onkyo, and Rotel have recently appeared in Sound & Vision. I became interested in this issue because by chance, while reading articles about getaway shootout, I saw that information.