Home > The Soapbox > Listener Review of Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ

Listener Review of Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ

November 7th, 2008

Alex sent me his experiences with Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ. You listeners will note that this is in pretty direct conflict from my own limited experience at the SOTU event. I think this is great as Alex has really taken the time to test it out. I can’t wait to get a receiver with these features (including Dynamic Volume) and see how I like them in my room under extended tests. Feel free to share your own experience in the comment section.

Note – if you’ve read this before, check it out again. Listener Rick had something to say that I added.

I want to share with you my first experience with Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ. I was really curious of that feature so I upgraded my Denon 3808ci last night and tried it a bit with my blu-ray of Iron-Man.

I have a 5.1 setup, composed of Axiom speakers (M22v2, VP100v2, QS8v2, EP175v2) and they are all placed according to dolby reference, in a square but open room. (My QS8 are placed at ear level instead of 2-4 feet higher.)

After doing the upgrade, I had to redo the Audyssey calibration, which I did, and then I booted up Iron-Man on my PS3 to finally see (hear) what it is all about.

According to what I’ve read about Dynamic EQ, I was hoping/expecting that I would hear “more” sounds at lower listening level. I was at the scene were Iron-Man makes its first attacks against the terrorist and end-up chased by US Jets. At around -30db on my receiver, which is a bit low and I don’t hear speech that well at that level, I enabled/disabled Dynamic EQ.

The most obvious effect of enabling it was the bass. I got so much more bass!!! I think it’s a good thing overall but since I’m in an apartment, I don’t want that much subwoofer activity. When Dynamic EQ is disabled, I hear the subs only when big explosions or sounds effects occurs, but with Dynamic EQ enabled, there subs is “working” all the time.

To give another example, I went to -50db at the scenes when Tony Stark gets out with its first “hand build” armor suit. At the end of the cavern, his doctor friend is there lying and about to die. At that level, I was barely able to hear Stark talk to the guy and when Dynamic EQ was enabled, I was earring more of his voice, but mostly the bass frequency. He’s voice sounded so much more “bassy” and when after levelling up the level a bit more, the voice got “clearer”, like it’s supposed to sound.

The other thing that is really affected when enabling dynamic EQ, are the sounds coming from the rear speakers.

There again, I had a feeling of “too much” sound. There’s a scenes when Iron-Man dodges missiles from a tank, and then he shoots back a tiny missile which blows up the tank. At the point where Iron-Man dodges the missile, we hear the missile “passing” sound in the rear channel. Dynamic EQ disabled, we hear the sound of the missile passing approximately at the same level of the sound in the front speaker. When Dynamic EQ is enabled, the sound of the missile passing is so much louder.

Later in the same scene, Iron-Man is flying and chased by jet fighters. At one point they start to shoot at Iron-Man and the action scene cuts from camera in front of Iron-Man, jets shooting at him from being, to camera at a kind of “in the jet point of view” and still shooting. With Dynamic EQ disabled, we hear bullet sounds back and forth from the front speakers to the rear speakers. All the sounds are about the same level. When Dynamic EQ is enabled, the sounds from the rear speakers are some much louder.

To me, that was the most distracting effect of enabling Dynamic EQ. I don’t think it was meant to sound that much louder in the rear speakers and for me, it’s doesn’t sound good or natural. But maybe I’m biased, maybe I would hear the movie that way if I was watching it at reference level, which I can’t because it’s too loud (-20db is the max I can go. Higher than that, I can’t tolerate).

I’ve done the same the A-B comparison on higher level too and at -20db, the “unevenness” of the sounds was still present with Dynamic EQ enabled.

That said, I will probably play with it again, and with other movies. But for now, I don’t think I will use those new features often.

Later Alex added:

I’ve done some other tries yesterday with two others movies and I wanted to give you the heads-up.

I’ve wanted to test with a DVD this time, with a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1. I’ve used Star Wars Episode 3 (Sorry Tom, I like this one 😛 ), and I must say that the Dynamic EQ effect on this one was much more appreciable. Surround sounds would still get a major boost but this time, it wasn’t overpowering the front soundstage that much. When I disabled Dynamic EQ, the soundtrack seemed “dull” in comparison. In this movie, the music score is played in the rear speaker, so when Dynamic was enabled, the music was playing a lot louder and I liked the ambiance. When it’s disabled, I had to search and focus on the music to hear it.

That said, I don’t think that the fact that it’s a lossy dolby digital track as something to do with it. It’s probably just working better with the way that movie was mixed.

I then came back to Blu-ray and tried the same exercise with Hulk (the first Ang Lee one). With this movie, I had the same unpleasant experience than with Iron-Man. The surrounds sounds were full blown and really distracting. There’s a scene when the Hulk fights military tanks in the desert. At one point, the Hulk holds a tank by the cannon, spins on himself a few turns and then “launchs” the tank to crash in the dunes far away in the background. When the Hulk is spinning the tank around him, the sound goes from the front speaker to the rear when the tank is passing in fron of the camera… Then back at the front and then at the back… When Dynamic EQ is enabled, the sound on the rear speaker is so much louder than the sound in front, it’s simply ridiculous. It’s just unwatchable at that point.

So again, there’s more evidence that I have put 100 bucks in the fire.

Though I had a better experience with the Star Wars DVD, it still a pain in the ass for me to have to check if it works well with a movie before deciding to enable Dynamic EQ. I prefer leaving it off all the time and just don’t bother with it. Dynamic Volume seems to work well though, but I didn’t bother testing this features a lot since I won’t use it often, if at all.

In the end, these types of features aren’t always useful for everyone in every situation. Generally speaking, I turn all of these sorts of things off (though, as I said in the podcast, Dynamic EQ and Volume are two that I think I might use). Thanks Alex for sharing your experience.

EDIT: Here’s an additional comment from Rick:

I was listening to the podcast tonight and heard your impressions of the new Audyssey features. I got a Denon 1909 a few months ago and it has MultEQ, and both Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. I don’t expect you to post my impressions too, but I thought I’d pass them along to you. Like Alex, I’ve found that I have mixed feelings on both features. I really wanted the Dynamic Volume for TV watching, because like you and Dina, I hate the excessively loud commercials. I have to say that it does a pretty good job of taming the wildly varying volumes. I don’t really find myself adjusting the volume (or muting the commercials) nearly as often. In watching TV though, I find I might actually like more compression (and I’m on the highest level).

Watching movies is a different story–I want the full dynamic range there, and so I don’t use the Dynamic Volume. I use Dynamic EQ all the time, because I find I generally like the effect. It does add to the bass and also to the surround levels at lower volumes, which is a good thing most of the time. When I’m watching movies, I often have my system at around -15, and the effect is still present, but not as pronounced as at lower volumes. My major complaint is that I sometimes find that these features obscure the dialog of TV shows especially. I think it is because many of the background sounds are boosted. Now, in fairness, I have also read (and found myself) that the impact of these features is extremely dependent on your Audyssey calibration. I’ve redone the Audyssey setup several times. Sometimes the result is extremely bassy, sometimes it’s been better. I may redo my calibration again to see if I can get the dialog issue to work better. Anyway, I think these are both great features on paper, and while the implementation isn’t perfect, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by them. I really kind of expected them to be kind of gimmicky, but I use them both because they seem to actually work.

Anyway, hope you find my comments interesting too. I also hope you find an excuse to get a new receiver with these features soon!

I hope I do too Rick.

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  1. flamingeye
    November 9th, 2008 at 14:41 | #1

    did you play with the user settings? You can go into DEQ & adjust it to how much you want it to effect or control the dynamics , maybe you should try setting it on the lowest setting & see if that is more to your liking

  2. alexend
    November 10th, 2008 at 11:01 | #2

    FlamingEye, you can adjust Dynamic Volume but not Dynamic EQ.

    That said, this week-end I watched Transformers and The Matrix Reloaded on Blu-ray (TrueHD) and they worked fine with Dynamic EQ enabled.

    So it shows again that it’s not a systematic problem. It really depends on the content you are watching.

    That said, I would still really like to know and understand why, in my case, Transformers, Matrix, Star Wars works, but not Iron-Man and Hulk.

  3. November 10th, 2008 at 11:14 | #3

    Note – additional comments added to the above post.

  4. flamingeye
    November 10th, 2008 at 15:45 | #4

    I stand corrected , I must of miss-read it in the manual thinking you could also do it to the DEQ
    thank`s for clarification , you would think they would allow you to adjust it too considering all the variables from one HT to another

  5. Chris
    November 10th, 2008 at 17:49 | #5

    I would agree with Rick’s evaluation of Dynamic EQ (I generally don’t use Dynamic Volume, so I can’t comment on that).

    I think the main problem with Dynamic EQ is that it increases subwoofer and rear channel volume far too agressively as I turn down the volume.

    I tend to listen to movies and TV at around -20 to -18 on my Denon 3808CI in a relatively small room. (Although TV tends to be more variable, depending on channel and show.) Things tend to sound pretty good with movies and Dynamic EQ enabled. But some TV shows are already running the sub and rear channels hot, so sometimes Dynamic EQ has the sub and rears set too high on TV sources.

    With video games on the PS3 (using HDMI for audio), the volume tends to be too loud, and I crank the volume down to somewhere in the -40 to -35 range. At this volume, the Dynamic EQ is WAY over the top. The subwoofer and rear channels are hugely overpowering, which makes me reach for the volume button to turn down the volume. When I turn it down enough to get the sub and rears at an acceptable level, the center channel is at a whisper and completely inaudible.

    My guess is that Dynamic EQ applies some correction curve based on volume selected and volume of the source material, but does not really take into account the volume in the room.

    I could easily be wrong about the reason behind it, but Dynamic EQ definitely seems to get worse and worse as the system volume is turned down.

    Sadly, my $100 3808 upgrade is starting to look like wasted money.

  6. alexend
    November 11th, 2008 at 15:14 | #6

    Yesterday I tried 4-5 other movies on Blu-ray. Everything seemed to be fine with those too.

    Then I retried again with my blu-ray of Hulk (the first one, not the Incredible Hulk, which works fine) and though I found that the surround sound are pretty loud compared to the rest, now I am more convince that it’s related to the way they mixed the sounds on this movie (same thing with Iron-Man). The other movies sound great to me so I don’t think there’s a problem with Dynamic EQ anymore. 😛

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