Audyssey room calibration: Common mistakes
In this guide we go through the basics of running Audyssey room calibration and making sure it is configured for the best possible sound. This is a topic with lots of nuance and edge cases, but if you don't want to spend hours and hours on figuring it all out, this guide should get you off to a good start!
Does my receiver have Audyssey room calibration software?
Current Marantz and Denon receivers uses Audyssey. You can also find it in some older models from Onkyo and Nad. Refer to your user manual if you are unsure.
The first mistake many do, is not following the calibration process properly. So let's walk you through it. Starting the Audyssey calibration process can be done directly from the receiver menu (refer to your user manual for specific instructions for your model). Many newer models also support the Audyssey MultEQ app. See separate section below for a few notes on that.
The number of measurements you can take depends on your receiver model. You can also skip measurements if don't have the patience to go through all, but try to do at least the 6 main measurement positions. The picture below gives an indication of where to place the microphone. It should be placed with the microphone facing straight up, and at ear height, so having a camera tripod can be useful.
Start at the main listening position (position 1), and go from there. As you can see from the picture, the measurement positions are actually quite tightly placed. Audyssey recommends keeping all measurements within 60cm (2 feet) of the first position. So if you have a large sofa, the measurements should actually be even tighter than it looks like in the illustration above.
Follow the on-screen instructions until you're through the calibration and are asked to save the results.
Checking and adjusting Audyssey settings
These settings can be adjusted individually for each input / signal source, which means you can have different settings for your music source and for your TV / movie source.
Dynamic EQ is essentially a loudness feature that adjusts the loudness curve depending on your listening volume. In most cases this works very well, and allows you to enjoy a full sound with proper bass even at low and moderate listening levels. I recommend you keep this setting ON for both music and movies.
This is a normalization feature that reduces the difference between soft and loud sounds. This is useful when watching TV at moderate volume, and helps speech sound clear, and prevent sudden explosions from waking your kids. I recommend you keep this on the LIGHT setting for regular TV content at moderate sound levels, and OFF if you are going to watch a movie at a louder level.
I also recommend turning it OFF for music.
Checking and adjusting speaker settings
(This section is from our "How to set up your subwoofer (properly)" article, which you may also find useful)
There are a couple of things Audyssey typically gets "wrong", so let's check those.
Crossover: Crossover is the frequency at which the receiver starts to roll off the bass, and hand it over to the subwoofer. This can typically be configured as one setting for all speakers, or individually for each speaker category (front, center, back, etc). Your receiver attempts to measure what your speakers are capable of, and configures the crossover accordingly. It's often a bit optimistic on behalf of your speaker, so the default isn't necessarily the best choice of crossover. Typically, you will get a much better bass response if you relieve your speakers of the deepest bass, even if you have pretty large speakers.
You should never choose a crossover that is LOWER than what your receiver selected, but often it's a good idea to go higher. Even if you have large speakers and your receiver set the crossover to 60 or even 40hz, the THX recommendation of 80hz is a good choice most of the time, even with large speakers. You can even try 100hz.
Speaker settings: You typically have this setting for each speaker category, and it can be set to either "small" or "large". What this really means, is whether the crossover you configured in the previous point is active or not. If you set it to "large", the speaker will play the full range of frequencies, and not send anything to the subwoofer. As a general rule, this should be set to "small" regardless of how large your speakers are.
Note: When watching movies, the soundtrack typically have a dedicated subwoofer or LFE channel. If all your speakers are set to large, this channel is the only thing that will be sent to the subwoofer. When listening to music, your subwoofer will be quiet. A workaround for this is selecting a subwoofer setting called "LFE+Main" if you can find that in your settings. This will have the subwoofer and main speakers both play bass during music. Typically this gives poor integration, and is not advisable. So set all them speakers to small.
Volume: You may need to adjust the subwoofer volume after room setup. Many find the need to turn the volume up by 3-6dB. Here you just have to try what sounds best. This can be done either with the gain (volume) control on the subwoofer, or in your receiver settings.
What if the sound is just "wrong" after running Audyssey?
Sometimes the calibration messes up, making the sound a bit muffled, or perhaps too bright. Often just running the calibration process again may fix this. You can also try tilting the microphone slightly towards the rear (if too muffled) or front (if too bright) to see if this helps.
If your receiver supports the MultEQ app, it has one trick in particular that may be worth knowing about. After running the calibration from the app, look for the setting called "MultEQ Filter Frequency Range". This controls how much of the frequency range is corrected by Audyssey. Generally, the most important thing is to have Audyssey correct the lower (bass) frequencies. Personally I limit Audyssey to 500hz, but you can experiment in the area around 250-500hz. This will leave your main speakers largely untouched by the calibration, leaving more of the sound signature of your speakers intact. This may help if you feel the "spark" is gone from your main speakers after calibration.
If you got this far, you should be well on your way to a good result, and will be able to enjoy great sound from your Audyssey enabled receiver! There are of course always exceptions to general guidelines, so feel free to experiment.
A final tip: Whenever you move (re-position) your speakers or subwoofer(s), you need to re-run this process. Some people even move to a new house without rerunning Audyssey. It's important to understand that Audyssey is a room calibration system. New room, new calibration!
Enjoy the music and movies!