Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Using Roon Parametric EQ To Smooth Out Your In-Room Response

If you stream your music and use Roon as your music management software, you have access to a very useful set of tools, one in particular is the parametric EQ. I have put this to good use in minimizing some bass issues I have in my nearly square (19' x 20' x 9') listening room. I wanted to share how I did this. It takes a laptop, Roon (of course), a Mini DSP 2x4 HD with the optional USB Microphone ($280). It also requires a free software program called Room EQ Wizard.

I will assume you know how to install software on your laptop, and the tutorials below will help you get the Room EQ Wizard  and the microphone set up and talking to one another.

I still strongly encourage you to use acoustic treatments to mechanically reduce room-born acoustic issues first, then use the digital tools to help out further. Why? a parametric EQ can't really eliminate certain acoustic issues like slap echo, and by minimizing other issues before applying EQ you use less processing power for the digital EQ. You may only need to apply 4 EQ curves instead of 6 or 7 by making use of acoustic treatments.

Some tutorials on setting up Room EQ Wizard
  • Getting Started with REW: A Step-by-Step Guide (PDF file download)
  • Auto EQ with REW - This is how you would take the measurements obtained with REW and turn them in to EQ curves that you could then, manually input into Roon's parametric EQ. In the numbered set of instructions, you would only need to follow down to step 2 for our case, because you aren't using the MiniDSP as the DAC. Unfortunately Roon's Parametric EQ operates on both audio channels, so one has to measure both speakers, get the "average" curve in REW, and then calculate the EQ filters to plug into Roon's EQ.

Below is the first measurement I took of the Studio Electric M4 monitors I happened to be using at the time. Since Roon applies the EQ to both channels (there is no separate right or left EQ) I had to measure both speakers, then get an average. One could also measure both speakers simultaneously.
Room EQ Wizard Frequency Measurement In My Listening Room
Below are the measurement curves for the Right (red), left (green) and average (blue). Once I had these, I then selected the Average curve to EQ.
Left, Right, and Average In-Room Measurements for the Studio Electric M4
Below are the EQ curves Room EQ wizard calculated. I set it up so it would produce within +/- 3dB between 80hz and 1000 hz. You can see the highest frequency for an EQ setting was 616 hz.
Calculated Parametric EQ Settings for the M4 from the averaged FR curve.
Once I had the numbers, it was a matter of drilling down into Roon's parametric EQ settings for the streamer I was using (Auralic Aries).
Main Menu>Settings: Selecting the streaming device to apply EQ Settings to.

In the Drop-down menu on the Auralic Aries, selecting "DSP Engine"

The Parametric EQ settings are manually entered from the REW calculations. 

Once the EQ parameters were set in Roon, I was ready to listen.  Within Roon, it is easy to turn the EQ on and off. However, there is usually about 5 seconds of silence when switching between the two. Still, it was quite audible to hear the EQ'd vs. non EQ'd sound. I preferred the EQ being on. It smoothed out the bass response and got rid of a little too much midrange bloom. The already great sounding M4 was even more holographic in it's imaging properties, and even more natural sounding in my listening room.

Your mileage may vary, but in my opinion the software based DSP in Roon is a great tool for making good sound even better. With the software based DSP, I can use my own DAC and streamer, I get to keep my own equipment, but now get the benefit of a flatter in-room frequency response through software EQ in the digital realm. Being wise with the use of EQ is important, one can definitely overdo the effects, mostly by boosting too much, and lifting the gain into distorted territory. So it does require some care and knowledge to get the right balance of boost and cut on EQ frequencies so as not to cause clipping of the signal.

Helpful Video

Cutting Vs. Boosting EQ

I hope you find this helpful.  Enjoy!