Dirac live room correction software

I've seen Dirac room correction software mentioned a number of times recently. In a recent forum, some people said it was used in the EARO room at THE Newport show, and they liked what they heard. Can anyone comment on how it sounds in their system and how it improved things? Did it adversely affect soundstage, transparency, etc.?
I installed the Direc Live software on my office-based stereo last month, and so I've had a little bit of time to get used to the effects. I've had no previous experience with DRC other than reading reviews for the Tact preamps several years ago which planted the seed, so I thought if there was ever a time when processing power and software could make this technology available (and upgrade-able), I'd try it out because on paper it seems to make sense. Well, I guess that time came. Cut to the chase- it is an improvement...at least to the extent that I'm in a very nearfield arrangement, with my mini-monitors on either side of a 27" computer monitor, with my ears approximately 30-36" from the speakers in a near equal lateral triangle. I'm not a pro reviewer, so I'll try not to mix BS with flowery English. The biggest difference I noticed was in the area of "focus". The software does you a nice favor, in that you can easily engage or disengage the filter with the click of a mouse, for immediate A/B comparison. There isn't so much a difference in timbre, or voicing as much as a higher sense of 3d placement within the sound field in front of you. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but there seems to be more space between the instruments and performers with the filter engaged, with more clarity and individual spatial placement resulting from the separation. The same is true of the micro-acoustic reverberation in natural space. String decays, on guitars and pianos and cymbal strikes seem much more realistic, because they're not stuck in a muddy mess. I think I've got a pretty good setup for an office, which I kind of felt was the bees knees, but when you do an a/b comparison....well good equipment just can't compete with poor room effects. I was particularly interested to see if poor speakers could become excellent just by correcting the room, but now things sound so good, I don't want to mess around experimenting when there's so much music out there to be heard. Now that I'm used to corrected sound, I'm in no hurry to tinker.

Unexpected bonuses: It was enlightening to see the graph of my speaker's output. Mine are a hybrid of home-brew based on the old Radio Shack Linaeum minimonitor. I replaced the front baffle, built a high-end crossover, dropped in a 5" Audax Aerogel driver in a sealed enclosure with plumbers clay dampening the aluminum case. I also have a powered sub. The graph showed that my sub's volume is probably too high, [I set it initially by ear, and most of my listening is pretty low volume level, so I probably boosted too much for the calibration-level tests] the graph showed there was a bump that disappeared at 100hz, where I had set my low-pass. I also noticed good smooth performance above my xover point of 5000, but attenuated about 5db. In future crossover designs I'll correct this, but for now it doesn't matter, because its all corrected in the digital realm. I'm really impressed with the resultant "sound". Especially since I've created filters for quiet listening and normal listening. On the weekends, or working late, I tend to crank to realistic levels, but during the workday, things are pretty quiet. I have to mention the neat trick I read about in one of the earlier DIRAC reviews, where I constructed a filter specifically for quiet listening, where I basically set the target at -20db, so that the filter could handle the entire spectrum of EQ mods without strain. For playback, I raise back up to zero with the preamp volume knob, which is a stunning effect, especially with a boosted bass and treble, to account for my ear's lack of sensitivity at low volumes [google the articles if you want a more technical description about how filters only cut, they don't boost].

Now the summing-up conclusion: I've been an audio nut for close to 40 years, and I've spent a fortune chasing this speaker or that preamp hoping for that "not too subtle" difference that will be worth the upgrade. Only a few times can I remember a "real" difference worth writing about, and this is my first-ever writing on anything audio. Truth is, when you get to a front-end rig that's over $3k, all the differences in sound will be small to minute, unless your spending goes exponential. This is my personal experience, and now that I have middle-aged ears, I'm probably not hearing all the best stuff anyway. I can say without reservation, that DRC is absolutely an improvement--even at a ruler-flat setting. Again with the cliche--a veil really seems to lift away and the muddiness that you weren't even aware of transforms into realistic clarity. (not like placing dimes or pebbles on your speakers, or coloring your CD's green at the edges, but non-audio friends even notice the difference) If you start tweaking the filter curves, it should be theoretically possible to replicate your favorite colorations from yesteryear, (I'm seeing an aftermarket biz opportunity in selling classic Marantz tube curves, etc) but I'm done playing. I like the realism of this new PC audio so much, maybe I'll just leave it alone and enjoy the music, which I'm rediscovering again in a joyous manner.

Office system: Levinson 37, 380s & 360s feeding BelCanto (B&O ICE) digital amp into self modified Radio Shack speakers and powered Yamaha sub. Computer is home-built quad core i7 haswell with passive cooling, PCI-e drive containing op system and audio software powered by a Mojo Audio Joule 3 linear power supply and feeding SPDIF coax direct from motherboard socket to the 360s via illuminations D60 with JRiver Media software. I'm running all at 24/96k, which is the Levinson's upper limit. The DIRAC software is currently limited to 96k sampling, but I understand a 192 version is on the way. I think the DIRAC Live is an excellent product, and even at low volumes, its a game changer.

I've skipped over describing the many hours of learn-by-doing. configuring computer; JRiver software, calibrating microphones, setting listener calibrations (painfully loud) but in the end there's no regrets. Bottom line- you should try this software, it makes more a difference in listening experience than anything in recent memory.
Purist, thank you for the nice review. It is very encouraging. It looks like Stereophile just released a positive review. I'm curious how time consuming and/or complicated it was to set up? I played around with a Behringer DEQ2496 a few years ago and found it painful to set up.
The latest Stereophile review was for the multi-channel version of Dirac Live. My system is just the old 2-channel.

In the grand scheme of things, setup wasn't too painful, but I guess I wasn't expecting the computer world to bring its worst attributes into the audio world. Too many configuration options for default software installs to anticipate properly. Sticking to the subject of Dirac Live, the setup was pretty much as described in Ken Rockwell's excellent write-up Rockwell-Review.
Things to look out for, were the options. For example, the default is for the "sofa" setup, and if you notice mid calibration that you wanted to select the "chair" setup, you basically have to throw everything out and start over. Also, a bit of confusion about saving "projects" versus saving "filters". It eventually sorted out, but you'll probably lose some valuable test calibrations in the process of creating multiple filters, due to that confusion. Losing filters is no big deal, because you can create them simply by tugging and pulling at the orange curve. The time-consuming thing is the multiple mic setups, so you don't want to corrupt those files. After applying some discipline (saving files often, with different file names) things became reasonable and salvageable.

Kind of crazy and unexpected, after I constructed my filters, the default device in Dirac was for the JRiver v19, rather than my Dirac-modified sound card....I didn't realize that mattered until many other things were tried. Fix was a simple click to activate the correct choice, but jeez- why wasn't the default the same device that I calibrated for?

Another time-waster was in the coordination of JRiver settings with the Dirac settings. Didn't quite think clearly through this but when you think of it, your "audio device" way back in Windows Sound settings has options for upsampling to 96k. The Dirac also has options for upsampline to 96k, and JRiver also has these options. The trick here isn't to process the processed processor files, so that your computer isn't working over-overtime trying to convert your music stream. I don't know if any of that made sense, but the advice here is to use as many "automatic" settings as possible, so that you don't have multiple devices trying to convert your data stream.- it doesn't work, and instead of the encouraging "streaming" light appearing on your Dirac filter UI, you'll instead see the "disconnected" light, which does not help your attitude when troubleshooting. (anticipation of breakthrough improvement is painful--you don't want it to take too long)

JRiver has lots of variables, such as "kernal streaming" or "direct sound" or "WASAPI", without a lot of explanation of the differences or potential incompatibilities. Not much input from the web either. More trial and error to find the combo that lights the magic "streaming" light. Eventually found web reading suggesting that WASAPI bypasses all windows-based sound controls filters and equalizers, which sounds good to my "single wire, with gain" ethos.

I simplified my mic samples by purchasing a $20 clamp-on mic stand from a music supply (for kick drum mics). Using that setup I was easily able to clamp the mic to the back of my high-backed aeron office chair, which approximated my ear height, then wheel closer or further from the sweet spot and clamp to right shoulder or left shoulder position to get the necessary (9) room samples. I read on one of the threads somewhere that DRC doesn't really kick in unless the samples have at least a 36" distance between them, but I didn't really find that to apply in my nearfield experience, with my end corrected result sounding great with only about a 30" separation of the mic extremes.

Now, I'm wondering if I should get a computer for my home system, because I'm betting there are many more room effects in my listening room (where I am much farther from my speakers than in the office). That will be for another day. I guess there may be more tinkering in my future- for this type of acoustic clarity, especially regarding natural instrument reverb, its worth it.

In retrospect, I'm probably exaggerating the time and trouble involved. A full mic setup start-to-finish is probably a 15-20 minute exercise. Creating a filter, now that everything is familiar, takes a couple minutes tops. All that troubleshooting for device compatibility initially was probably 3-4 hours, because I wasn't sure if I had interface, software, processor, cabling or any other cause/effect until going through the trial-by-doing manly method without too much reference to actual instructions.

If I do go forward with DRC for my home listening room, with my experience gained in the office, I'd guess my time from download of software to full-on room-corrected listening to be less than a half hour. I'm tempted to do it, just to amortize my initial efforts at troubleshooting. If I want to really be punished, I think there may be a variation to setting up that is more specific for subwoofers. I'll need a bit of recovery time before I open up that option. I'm enjoying my current state way too much.