I bought a Onkyo Pro PR-SC885P processor (same as Integra 9.8) a little over 2 years ago and use it to drive the HT portion of my system, running the Main L/R channels through my 2 channel music system's preamp (in bypass mode) and the center and rear amps directly from the processor. I also have experience with the built-in Audyssey correction in the processor.
The bass correction provided by Audyssey is very good if you do not have a properly acoustically-treated room. I recently built OC705 panel traps for the front corners and OC705 acoustical panels for the first reflection points so this benefit of Audyssey is mostly diminished.
I always use Audyssey for movies, but I do not like what it does to the upper-mids and highs on music - highs seem rolled off with a significant reduction in air. This is non-defeatable with the version of Audyssey that I have. It takes the readings, does what it does to the signal, and that's it.
There are two ways around this. One is to buy the Audyssey Pro Kit that provides an improved mic and better software for capturing and processing the captured room data using a PC. Most importantly, it gives you flexibility to alter and/or choose the equalization curve you prefer. This may indeed go a long way toward improving the situation with the upper mids and highs. This kit is intended for installers and therefore is not available for consumers, but I know a few people that have managed to get one with a little creativity. I'm sure you can get one with some effort. I believe it costs around $500.
The second way to improve Audyssey's performance is to buy the stand-alone (and more expensive) Audyssey processor reviewed a few years back by Kal Rubinson in Stereophile's Music in the Round. I believe that Kal found its results to be superior to the "built-in" version. I considered buying one, but it was not available with balanced inputs/outputs, so I decided against it.
The only way to know how it will work in the version you are buying and in your room, with your system, and to your ears is to play with it. You may be able to get your dealer who is promoting its use to through in a "Pro" calibration with the unit you are purchasing.
The balanced version of the Sound Equalizer is now available.
My experiences with Audyssey are similar to Dlcockrum's. I helped a friend calibrate his HT system using an Integra 9.8. When we A/B'd Audyssey vs. the unprocessed signal, we both preferred the unprocessed signal, and not by a little. In his Integra, Audyssey sounded, well, "processed." That is to say, it sounded harmonically thin, two dimensional, and generally "electronic." He wound up not using it. However, he did not have the Audyssey Pro Kit, or the stand alone Audyssey processor, so I cannot comment whether they would result in a similar degradation to the sound. I suspect the results would have been better with either of those.
Having said that, I use Meridian Room Correction (along with Room EQ Wizard software and a Behringer microphone) for both music and movies in my own system, and the results are excellent. It my room, using Meridian Room Correction is significantly better than not. By EQ'ing out the room modes under 200Hz, the bass is more balanced, more pitch specific, faster, and generally more musical. It does this without the addition of the "processed sounding" artifacts I mentioned above.
So I guess, regarding the question of whether to EQ or not, I would say: It all depends on the implementation. You will probably have to try it in your system and hear for yourself. Good luck.
I have the Audyssey stand alone unit and the pro software, but have yet to set it up. Probably will do so in the next couple of weeks. Will post views at that time (this is for stereo only for me).
My own view is that the use of Audyssey or similar is absolutely imperative for room related issues in the bass region. The cost/benefit analysis higher up in frequency, however, seems to be much more variable depending on the individual listener making the decision. So...
The Audyssey/SVS unit is designed to work with subwoofers while allowing a more "traditional" (unequalized) audiophile style main signal path. I use the Velodyne SMS-1 with subs in this fashion. The only interruption in my main path is a (benign sounding - to my ear) NHT active x-over unit. If you're willing to use a subwoofer based system, this may be a "have you cake and eat it, too" solution.
As always, YMMV.
YMMV is the key. With that principle foremost, I went with the NeptuneEQ. It has a 30 day trial unlike Audyssey. I love the results with my Meridian system. Check Kal's review.
To be clear:
When I said Audyssey or similar, I was referring to effective "room" EQ (specifically for issues below 100hz to 150hz). Even though the specific operating principle differs in many ways from the Audyssey, I'd think that effective room EQ would be possible with your Neptune in a lot of rooms so, in the most important sense, the Neptune qualifies as "similar" for the purposes of my post.
Since I have no experience with the Neptune, I couldn't really comment on its effectiveness in any given environment. OTOH, I use the Velo SMS-1 in my 2 channel set-up and Audyssey in my HT room and my family room. In all cases, the improvement in bass response is obvious to me so I won't hesitate to recommend digital, RTA based EQ (subject to the caveat I identified in my earlier post) to anyone who asks, like the OP.
After running Audyssey in my room (8 MIC locations, and using a MIC stand...(plus reading tons of info about it at the AVS forum so that I could set it up correctly)....no contest between with, and without Audyssey.
Audyssey took my 7.2 channel hometheater system to another level in sound quality.
I absolutely agree with Dave above. I have the ProEQ suite functioning on my NAD M15HD (10 positions measured) driving a McIntosh Monoblock theater and the before and after was pretty amazing.
It was good before, but the level of focus, definition and clarity that it brought is changing the viewing experience of all my old fav's.
Sub integration and response (Velodyne DD 15) was tremendously improved.
My personal opinion on room correction is that you need to do what you can with the room first. Room correction isn't a substitute for proper speaker placement, proper sub placement, taming echoes in the room with carpeting, etc. So, while I know that's not your exact question, I cannot emphasize enough how proper placement is to start.
Secondly, I'm personally a big fan of room correction in the appropriate application. I have a Revel B15 sub that had manual eq settings way back 10 years ago. Did it make a difference? YES! However, if I didn't have the sub in an optimal positioning then it didn't work as effectively.
Also, room correction, if not done properly can actually make things worse. So, I would likewise make sure that you follow the proper instructions.
Good luck with what you're doing. I personally love seeing the advancements in room correction as it holds such great promise in helping of us with less than perfect rooms (which is basically all of us :-)
Mucho info and help in using Audyssey. Audyssey does work but you have to pay attention to details and be patient.
My personal opinion on room correction is that you need to do what you can with the room first. Room correction isn't a substitute for proper speaker placement, proper sub placement, taming echoes in the room with carpeting, etc.
I think everyone agrees with that principle although carpets are not particularly useful for echoes or bass but can help with reflections.
Also, room correction, if not done properly can actually make things worse.
Again, that is true but one can also screw things up with physical acoustical treatments. For example, use of unfaced thin (1-2") absorption panels can suck up a lot of HF without affecting LF or modes. The result is a dead but boomy room.
I've set up two different room correction systems for my 2.2 channel (music only) system over the last 5 years; first a "sub-only" Velodyne set-up, and most recently the full-range Audyssey Pro 32XT in an Onkyo pre-pro. My process might be a bit more anal than some other folks', as I always run many, many set-up sweeps with each combination of gear. Since I own a sh*tload of stuff (accumulated over the years), those combos have varied quite a bit: several different subs (Velodyne, Rythmik), speakers (Maggie, Ohm, Verity, Merlin, etc), electronics (ARC, Joule, Cary, etc).
As a result, I've run many hundreds (possibly more than a thousand) sweeps over that period, and listened to the results. Obviously, some were better than others (sometimes, pretty dramatically so), but ...
Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single instance in which the "pre-EQ" result was better than the "post-EQ" result. My room is inherently somewhat difficult, but I have made it reasonably workable with passive treatments - including various absorbtive panels and bassbuster style Hemholtz devices. It sounds borderline okay without room correction. However, for me, the improvement below 100hz has always swamped any offsetting compromise introduced by the room correction system.
Just my humble O from my experience.