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Equalizing The Room—What It Really Means
There are lots of disagreements but all agree on one thing: You can't change...
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Unfortunately the absence of this critical information lulled many users into a sense of complacency predicated on the belief that equalization was the only critical parameter for system alignment. In countless cases, equalizers were employed to correct problems they had no possibility of solving, and could only make worse.

Graphic equalizers have no possibility of creating the inverse of the interactive response of the speakers with the room. Simply put: “You can’t get there from here.”

The audible results of all this tended to create a generally negative view of audio analyzers. Many engineers concluded that their ears, coupled with common sense could provide better results than the blindly followed analyzer.

As a result, though RTAs were often required on riders, they only received cursory attention on show day.

Modern Analysis
Technological progress led to the development and acceptance of two analysis techniques in the early 80s: Time Delay Spectrometry (TDS) and dual-channel FFT analysis. Both of these systems brought to the table whole new capabilities, such as phase response measurement, the ability to identify echoes and high-resolution frequency response.

No longer could an unintelligible pile of junk look the same as the real McCoy on an analyzer. The complexity of these analyzers required a well-trained, highly skilled practitioner in order to realize the true benefits.

Advocates of both systems stressed the need for engineers to utilize all tools in their system, not equalizers alone, to remedy the response anomalies. Delay lines, speaker positioning, crossover optimization and architectural solutions were to be employed whenever possible. And now we had tools capable of identifying the different interactions.

But on the issue of “equalizing the room” a division arose. All parties agreed that speaker/speaker interaction was somewhat equalizable. The critical disagreement was over the extent the loudspeaker/room interaction could be compensated by equalization.

The TDS camp advocated that speaker/room interaction was not at all equalizable and therefore, the measurement system should screen out the speaker/room interaction, leaving only the equalizable portion of the loudspeaker system on the analyzer screen. Then the inverse of the response is applied via the equalizer and that was as far as one should go.

The TDS system was designed to screen out the frequency response effects of reflections from its measurements via a sine frequency sweep and delayed tracking filter mechanism, thereby displaying a simulated anechoic response. The measurements are able to clearly show the speaker/speaker interaction of a cluster and provide useful data for optimization.

Such an approach can be effective in the mid and upper frequency ranges where the frequency resolution can remain high even with fast sweeps but it is less effective at low frequencies. Low frequencies have such long periods that it is impossible to get high-resolution data without taking long time records, thereby allowing the room into the measurement.

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