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Audyssey Targets Custom Channel With Room-Correction

6/19/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Audyssey Laboratories has added its name to the short list of suppliers with room-compensation components that are equally at home in multiroom audio systems as they are in home theater systems.

The components are designed to remove distortion caused by the interaction of sound with a particular room.

Audyssey's eight-channel $2,500 sound equalizer connects to separates-based home theater systems, whether custom-installed or not, and separates-based multiroom audio systems. It's the first branded product for the company, whose MultEQ XT room-acoustics compensation algorithms were previously available only on an OEM basis to audio companies.

Audyssey room-correction technology is available in home theater receivers from Denon and in freestanding home speakers from Phase Technology. At least eight other audio companies will ship products between June and September based on Audyssey's digital signal processing (DSP) technology, including a car audio add-on from Alpine, the company said.

Audyssey's stand-alone sound equalizer delivers more sophisticated correction than A/V receivers incorporating Audyssey technology, the company noted, because the device can dedicate a DSP to room-correction algorithms, whereas in A/V receivers, the algorithms must share a DSP chip, the company explained.

Audyssey's component, which measures and corrects for distortion in the time and frequency domains, is particularly useful in custom-installed home theaters that incorporate a mix of freestanding, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers or that tuck front speakers inside custom cabinets, said chief technical officer Chris Kyriakakis, who co-founded the company along with industry notable Tom Holman and others.

The device also drives four separate rooms in stereo, and two devices can be installed to compensate for the acoustics of eight rooms in a multiroom audio system. It's designed for connection to systems with a preamp/processor and separate amplifiers.

When Audyssey technology is built into an A/V receiver in a home theater system, the technology is used only for home theater or music playback in the main home theater room, not for multiroom audio, Audyssey said.

The component also compensates for less-than-ideal placement locations and for boundary effects.

In recent months, a handful of other products have come to market with the ability to compensate for room acoustics in a custom-installed multiroom audio system. They're available from TacT Audio and Polk (see story, right).

Audyssey claims to offer more sophisticated room-correction processing than the competition. Its home component compensates in both the frequency and time domains, allows for microphone measurements at up to 32 spots in a room, applies correction to up to more than 1,000 points along the frequency spectrum per channel, and weights its measurements using fuzzy logic. The weighted measurements are used "to put more adjustment power where it's needed most for human ears" and to adjust for the most egregious problems common to multiple seating positions in a particular room, said Kyriakakis.

Some room-correction systems, he noted, capture data from multiple points in a room but then average out the measurements, so that if a 200Hz peak occurs in one part of the room and a 200kHz dip occurs in another part, correction isn't applied.

"We typically get within plus or minus 2dB of a target curve in the frequency domain," he said.

Many room-correction technologies, Kyriakakis noted, correct for room colorations by using parametric EQ in a limited number of bands, usually 10 to 20, each of which alters a wide range of frequencies and often creates distortions between the corrected bands. As installers narrow the bands to apply correction to a narrow frequency range, he noted, they often introduce a ringing sound. Parametric EQ often worsens time-domain problems, he added.

Audyssey said its improvements can be heard in the elimination of shrill vocals, a widening of the sound stage, vocals pushed out front and a more immersive surround-sound experience.

For its next act, Audyssey plans a version with balanced inputs and outputs for pro audio applications such as dubbing stages. A subwoofer-only version is also planned. Audyssey-equipped headphones are also under consideration but probably won't be announced this year, said president Michael Solomon.

To get the products into the hands of dealers and installers, Audyssey has enlisted an array of rep/distributors that take title to the product and target custom installers and a limited number of high-end A/V specialists who offer in-home setup services. No national retailers are planned.

To set the product up, installers need a $325 kit consisting of a microphone and microphone preamp dedicated to the Audyssey system, connectors, 75-foot cables and software for a laptop. Excluding cable hookup and installation time, it takes about eight to 10 minutes to measure response at seven spots, enough spots to correct for the acoustics of an 18-foot by 25-foot room, Solomon said.

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