Originally Posted by Otto Pylot
That's a nice critique of the Audyssey system and something that I agree with as well, even though you put it more eloquently, and politely, than I could. I've been struggling a bit with the eq settings on my V371. Do you mind if I ask what your settings are and what do you use as an audio source to "check" your settings?
I'll get to the settings I've used thus far in a minute, but first, a bit about tweaking in general and Audyssey. It's very hard to give advice on EQ settings because it depends entirely on the speakers you have, flooring material, size and shape of the room they're in, personal preference, furniture in the room, and perhaps most significantly, whether the system is set up for one listener or several. The more carpeted and/or fabric surfaces, the less you have to tweak, because those surfaces absorb frequencies that can otherwise cause unwanted reflections. The less tweaking needed the better, because you're basically applying a digital filter that changes not just the sound shape but quality. My system is set up for a solo listening position. I sit 6.5' from my fronts and center, 5.5' from my surrounds, and 8' from the sub. A solo position setup affords me the luxury of aiming the fronts and surrounds straight at my head. Just sitting on axis to the fronts and surrounds can make a huge difference in whether you need to do a little tweaking, or a lot.
As for my EQ settings and testing gear, my way is keep it as simple as possible, and just use my ears. My apt is very small and mostly carpeted. Due to my sitting position, distance from my speakers, the way I face my speakers, and how well my speakers and amp match, I have no problems with unwanted reflections or muffled frequencies. Honestly, the only thing I've done so far is drop the 63Hz band on my sats to 0. For the center and surrounds, that is because they can't actually play that low and I want to achieve some level of cutoff vs them trying to play full range. My fronts with their 5.5" mids and large ported cabinets actually can play that low, but I prefer not to have them overlap the sub, which can create muddiness in the bass. I set my sub cutoff at 100Hz, and volume at 40%. So far I have yet to encounter any sound sources where I need to do further adjusting. When I stream net music I just put the receiver in Straight Enhanced mode, which makes compressed music sound fuller without unbalancing the frequencies.
The last thing you want to do is start bumping EQ bands until you hear some frequencies more than you should and/or more than the recording (if it'as a good one) intended them to be. Now there's times I think I want to bump the 16kHz band on my sats a bit, but then I find it's the audio source, eg: the way a given TV broadcast varies from one commentator to the next as far as their mic setups, speaking voices, etc. It's also that in going from Ti to soft dome tweets, there's some adjusting to the softer vs harsh highs. I DO find when there's good source material that these tweets are plenty capable of good clarity and range in the highs though. I can't stress this enough, DO NOT and I mean DO NOT ever use a worst case scenario to adjust your EQ, you WILL regret it. Listen to a large variety of source material, set your speakers on axis if you can, and get your distance, positioning, etc dialed in before you do ANY tweaking. Also take into account how the very BEST source material sounds and know that if it's already satisfactory, any tweaking may compromise that. I use my system for multi purpose use. I know full well that means some small compromises here and there, but the goal is to achieve an overall average that is acceptable.
Here's the thing with Audyssey, and this is not to be taken for granted. It tends to take into account more than just room config but also average human hearing science. Problem is, not all human ears hear the same, there can be quite a difference. From what I've read, Audyssey strives to account for anything that might be keeping you from hearing certain frequencies as well as others. In doing that however, it can't help but color the sound. Not one concert/movie is going to be recorded the same or sound the same. They all have little nuances in soundstaging. Even just using dynamic volume leveling can drastically change the way they were engineered to sound.
I'm not saying all movies/concerts are recorded well, certainly not, but even when you go to a concert that is immaculately mixed and amplified, chances are you are still going to notice minute differences in how well you can hear some frequencies vs others just due to the venue, your positioning, the audience, etc. There are so many factors that add up to natural sound which Audyssey attempts to compile and digitally restructure in an attempt to perfect something that can't really be perfected. It's a lot like the way a lot of retro audiophiles still prefer the analog sound of records to digital music because digital music erases so much of that analog warmth. I'm not THAT into analog, I still think a good digital recording gives you much better dynamic range and clarity, but the fact is it's really hard to get a sound that has the best of both worlds. I firmly believe too much tweaking, manual or not, only leads to a more digital sound. A lot of it depends on you, the listening environment, and your gear though.