Monthly Archives: January 2019

Room EQ Wizard – A Great Tool!

Today I learned how to use Room EQ Wizard to tune my audio room. I had already done room tuning on my own and was happy with the results. But REW enabled me to get it even better.

Here’s the final FR measured from the listener position, 1/6 octave smoothed. Note this is 2 dB per division. The grey line is before EQ (but with room treatment), the red line is after EQ.

The dark reference line shows a linear 1 db / octave slope. Deviations are +/-3 dB of slope, but for the narrow null at 72 Hz, which resists room treatment and EQ. I’m quite happy with this. I didn’t fix every little bump, but applied a few strategically located bands. The parametric EQ to get here is pretty mild. Each EQ band has amplitude of 4 dB or less, and widths range from 1 to 1/4 octave on each side of the center freq. In other words, gentle corrections and slopes. I’d rather have a few little bumps in the response, than perfectly flat response with bloated phasey sound from extreme EQ settings. Don’t let the cure be worse than the disease!

Overall, this smoothed response throughout the range. During test listening I can switch curves instantly while the music is playing. My ears like the difference, especially noticeable on good acoustic music recordings.

Equipment & Details

  • Test audio files created by REW version 5.2 beta 4, burned to DVD-A
  • Oppo BDP-83 toslink PCM output
  • Behringer DEQ2496 digital EQ, toslink input and output
  • Oppo HA-1 DAC-preamp, toslink input, XLR output
  • Adcom 5800 amp (27 years old!), XLR input
  • Magnepan 3.6/R speakers (18 years old!)
  • Room treatments (floor-ceiling tube traps, RPG acoustic foam, etc.)
  • MiniDSP UMK-1 calibrated measurement mic
  • Recorded from the listener position

Here are the rest of the REW plots:

Total distortion averaged about -50 dB (0.3%); higher in the bass, lower in the treble. That seems surprisingly low, considering it’s measured at the listener position and includes all distortion from the power amp, microphone & recorder. Many headphones, even some tube amps, have more distortion than this.

The bad news is that distortion at 40 Hz is about 10%. Yikes! But it’s down to 1% by 60 Hz, and higher bass distortion is typical of speakers, the exception being planar magnetic headphones.

I’ve always been happy with the bass response in this room. 25 Hz is audible, even if attenuated. But seeing these measurements, I’ll bet that if I got a subwoofer to handle everything below 60 Hz, it might reduce overall distortion. I don’t want more bass, but tighter cleaner bass is always A GOOD THING. I’ll have to look into that!

Initial impulse response is near zero in about 3 milliseconds, and you can see the reflections at 5 and 10 ms.

Total impulse energy is about -40 dB in the first 100 ms, from the listener position which includes room reverb. Room treatment damps the room, but it’s not completely dead. The grey is minimum phase IR, which is very close to the actual response.

Group Delay looks pretty flat too, but for that 70 Hz null. Planar speakers are typically much flatter & cleaner than conventional speakers here. I had to zoom the Y azis to 10 ms per division to see the curve:

The CSD looks linear (no obvious ringing frequencies) and decently fast. The room treatment certainly helps here:

Here’s the Spectrogram, again looks linear, no obvious ringing spots except down at 30 Hz. Even that decays quickly at first, then takes longer after the initial decay. That’s the tube traps at work!

This was a fun day. It’s neat to be able to get some measurements to quantify the sound I’m getting.

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Conversion

Generally speaking, balanced and differential signaling are two different things. They’re often (but not always) used together, and in audio, the term “balanced” refers to this.

Speakers and Headphones

A speaker or headphone responds to the voltage difference between its 2 input wires. It doesn’t assume either is ground, though one might be, it doesn’t matter. So connecting a speaker or headphone to a balanced output is easy. Just wire (-) to (-) and (+) to (+) whether or not the (-) is a ground (unbalanced output) or carries a signal (balanced output). If the unbalanced output has a common ground for both channels (like a headphone), you can split it to both L and R (-) in parallel.

Converting a balanced speaker or headphone output to an unbalanced connector is not as simple. An unbalanced headphone cable (a standard 1/4″ or 1/8″) has 3 wires: L (+), R (+), and a single wire that is a common ground for the L and R. You can’t connect a balanced output’s (-) wires to this ground. That would mix the channels, and allow the amp’s output stages to drive each other, which is bad because they usually have very low output impedance, so it can overdrive the output stages. Also, you can’t just ignore the output’s (-) wires and connect the headphone (-) wires together; this will give a common floating ground. In short, you need a transformer to do this conversion.

Components

If the balanced/unbalanced conversion is between components like a preamp (not a speaker or headphone), it gets more complex because unbalanced components assume the (-) is a ground, but the balanced (-) carries a signal and its ground is a separate (3rd) wire. You can’t connect a balanced output (-) signal to ground; it will overdrive the balanced output as it tries to swing a voltage over a 0 ohm load. Also, you need to ensure the (-) wire has the same impedance to ground as the (+) wire.

So the best way to convert unbalanced to balanced between components is to use a transformer.

However, you can wire unbalanced output directly to balanced input. Connect the unbalanced (-) output to both pins 1 and 3 on the balanced side (negative & ground), and the unbalanced (+) output to pin 2 on the balanced side (positive). That is, carry the unbalanced source ground through to the balanced input. Since unbalanced (consumer) output is at a lower voltage than balanced (pro), the downstream balanced component will be receiving a lower level signal than it expects. This may or may not be a problem, depending on how clean is the input signal and the balanced device’s input voltage sensitivity and gain.