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by Wayne Myers

Price Each: $999


Introduction

MiniDSP has become a solid source for hardware-based Dirac Live implementations in recent years. Their products cover a range from two-channel 24b-96kbps models to eight-channel 24b-48kbps nano-sized and rack-mount models. But their offerings have fallen short in situations where AVR-embedded room correction has been entrenched for many years.



Read the Review Here
 

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Thanks for the excellent write up, Wayne. I wholeheartedly agree with you, and will be keeping both of my 88M boxes for quite a while. Did you by any chance take any pics of the frequency response plots the Dirac makes... I am curious as to how yours was plotted.
 

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"Both miniDSP and Dirac Research have online guides and user support available. But a one-stop, start-to-finish detailed guide would be nice, and none of the guides I looked at contained the details I would have needed."

This is my biggest concern about spending the $$ to get the Mini DSP system for my home theater. I am not very technically inclined, so unless I have an easy to understand and follow "cheat-sheet", I find it hard to figure out how to get complicated technical systems to work like they are supposed to. Just to take an example, even the supposedly simple to use REW/UMIK system has multiple "how-to" guides (some of them as long as War and Peace!) and videos out there and not all give the same instructions on how to use the system. It would be so nice to have a set of easy-to-understand directions for the newbie, and another set of instructions to use as one gets more familiar with the system and wants to go beyond the newbie instructions. Just my 2 cents worth!

Cal68
 

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"Both miniDSP and Dirac Research have online guides and user support available. But a one-stop, start-to-finish detailed guide would be nice, and none of the guides I looked at contained the details I would have needed."

This is my biggest concern about spending the $$ to get the Mini DSP system for my home theater. I am not very technically inclined, so unless I have an easy to understand and follow "cheat-sheet", I find it hard to figure out how to get complicated technical systems to work like they are supposed to. Just to take an example, even the supposedly simple to use REW/UMIK system has multiple "how-to" guides (some of them as long as War and Peace!) and videos out there and not all give the same instructions on how to use the system. It would be so nice to have a set of easy-to-understand directions for the newbie, and another set of instructions to use as one gets more familiar with the system and wants to go beyond the newbie instructions. Just my 2 cents worth!

Cal68
Yeah, Cal, I hear you loud and clear. There's a lot of grey areas with this equipment and confusion can be easily found!

Nice review, Wayne. Enjoyed it!
 

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Yeah, Cal, I hear you loud and clear. There's a lot of grey areas with this equipment and confusion can be easily found!

Nice review, Wayne. Enjoyed it!
Thanks Todd, I'm glad that I am not the only one who feels that the instructions are not as clear as they can be. Just to give you an example, I have been using Pink Noise with REW/UMIK-1 instead of the Sine Wave. Wayne set me straight yesterday so I will make the correction this weekend when I have time to redo my REW measurements. The REW instructions were not clear on this point and I obviously made the wrong choice.

If I could get together with someone locally who had a miniDSP system hooked up and could get some training and observation time, then I would consider plunking down a grand for the unit. Right now I have decided against it because of my fear that I will be stuck with an expensive paperweight if I cannot figure out how to use it.

Cal68
 

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Thanks Todd, I'm glad that I am not the only one who feels that the instructions are not as clear as they can be. Just to give you an example, I have been using Pink Noise with REW/UMIK-1 instead of the Sine Wave. Wayne set me straight yesterday so I will make the correction this weekend when I have time to redo my REW measurements. The REW instructions were not clear on this point and I obviously made the wrong choice.

If I could get together with someone locally who had a miniDSP system hooked up and could get some training and observation time, then I would consider plunking down a grand for the unit. Right now I have decided against it because of my fear that I will be stuck with an expensive paperweight if I cannot figure out how to use it.

Cal68
I totally hear you. Finding the right balance between brevity and detail, and digging into the right detail, is not an easy matter. My musings are not always newbie friendly, not always friendly for any audience, pics and diagrams help but take a lot of time. My approach tends to be to chunk it into categories. For instance, HDMI stuff is mainly all in one guide. Speaker setup in another. I am trying to get more organized about such things. Let us know what areas you need more clarification in.

BTW what is your home city?
 

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Dear Audiocarver,

Thank you so much for this review. Among others, I really appreciate your comparison with NanoAvr-DL.

I totally agree with:

"Both miniDSP and Dirac Research have online guides and user support available. But a one-stop, start-to-finish detailed guide would be nice, and none of the guides I looked at contained the details I would have needed."

At this price level, we would deserve a very well detailed guide.

A question. Is the following statement also applies to nanoAvr-DL?

"When I started out with the 5.1 setting, the DL calibrations always ended up with that 10 dB loss in all of the channels but the LFE channel and the net 10 dB loss in overall volume. But the Custom configuration, with the subwoofer box unchecked always set the channel gains with no compensation for LFE level, assuming that will be done elsewhere. In my case, I let the Onkyo AVR take care of that boost. The result? All channel gains were equal in the 88BM, exactly what I wanted."

In other words with nanoAvr-DL, would you recommand to choose custom configuration (DL is before the AVR) knowing that the sweep comes from the laptop through Nano to the receiver?
 

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I totally hear you. Finding the right balance between brevity and detail, and digging into the right detail, is not an easy matter. My musings are not always newbie friendly, not always friendly for any audience, pics and diagrams help but take a lot of time. My approach tends to be to chunk it into categories. For instance, HDMI stuff is mainly all in one guide. Speaker setup in another. I am trying to get more organized about such things. Let us know what areas you need more clarification in.

BTW what is your home city?
I live in Maryland, about 25 miles North of Washington DC. I do not know if anyone in my area has the miniDSP set up and would be willing to give me an in house demo and tutorial. I'd be more than happy to drive 50-60 miles if required. It would be so much more informative and educational to see the system in use and understand how one sets it up and calibrates it.

Cal68
 

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Just curious about the context here. I do a lot of jumping back & forth, and could probably clarify a bit on the matter. Can you describe what you are doing with what waveform?
When I used REW and my UMIK-1 microphone to try and map the subwoofer set-up in my home theater, I got to a point where the REW program is ready to send out a signal to my sub. At that point a pop-up appears and I need to click a button to send the signal out of my computer to the sub. There is a drop down menu in that pop-up where one can choose to send either a Pink Noise or Sine Wave signal to the sub and I was choosing Pink Noise. I will choose the Sine Wave option the next time I use REW.

I hope my explanation helps. If not, I will update it with more details the next time I use REW because then I will be able to specify exactly which pop-up box I am referring to.

Thanks for your help.

Cal68
 

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Firstly, thanks for the excellent review!
I have been looking at the Emotiva XMC1 for a while now solely because it has Dirac Live so it is nice to see it offered as a stand alone unit. Do you happen to know the differences , if any between the minidsp version and what is included in the xmc1?
 

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I live in Maryland, about 25 miles North of Washington DC. I do not know if anyone in my area has the miniDSP set up and would be willing to give me an in house demo and tutorial. I'd be more than happy to drive 50-60 miles if required. It would be so much more informative and educational to see the system in use and understand how one sets it up and calibrates it.

Cal68
That experience would be invaluable. And if done properly, you would feel incomplete until you had Dirac in your own setup.

When I used REW and my UMIK-1 microphone to try and map the subwoofer set-up in my home theater, I got to a point where the REW program is ready to send out a signal to my sub. At that point a pop-up appears and I need to click a button to send the signal out of my computer to the sub. There is a drop down menu in that pop-up where one can choose to send either a Pink Noise or Sine Wave signal to the sub and I was choosing Pink Noise. I will choose the Sine Wave option the next time I use REW.

I hope my explanation helps. If not, I will update it with more details the next time I use REW because then I will be able to specify exactly which pop-up box I am referring to.Cal68
The Make A Measurement box should only allow for a measurement sweep, not sure where you got the option for pink noise.

Firstly, thanks for the excellent review!
I have been looking at the Emotiva XMC1 for a while now solely because it has Dirac Live so it is nice to see it offered as a stand alone unit. Do you happen to know the differences , if any between the minidsp version and what is included in the xmc1?
The full version of Dirac on the XMC-1 should be the same as with the DDRC-88BM. The DDRC-88BM has the advantage of showing the gain and delay adjustments made by Dirac. and gives the opportunity to change them if needed in the output stage. That is a VERY fine point, but it does give the 88BM a VERY slight edge.

I have not gotten my hands dirty working with an XMC-1 yet, but have heard the result in tesseract's system, and was VERY impressed.

If you have any leanings toward the XMC-1, go with it. I lean toward the 88BM for tweakability, but there is alot more to consider with it.
 

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That experience would be invaluable. And if done properly, you would feel incomplete until you had Dirac in your own setup.



The Make A Measurement box should only allow for a measurement sweep, not sure where you got the option for pink noise.



The full version of Dirac on the XMC-1 should be the same as with the DDRC-88BM. The DDRC-88BM has the advantage of showing the gain and delay adjustments made by Dirac. and gives the opportunity to change them if needed in the output stage. That is a VERY fine point, but it does give the 88BM a VERY slight edge.

I have not gotten my hands dirty working with an XMC-1 yet, but have heard the result in tesseract's system, and was VERY impressed.

If you have any leanings toward the XMC-1, go with it. I lean toward the 88BM for tweakability, but there is alot more to consider with it.
Thanks, I will have to take a long hard look when it actually comes time to make my purchase. I wonder if Dirac in the XMC1 will extend to the Atmos channels once it becomes available?
I do like the idea that I can use the 88BM with my existing equipment making the cost a little easier to handle.
 

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What a well read review Wayne - Thank you so much for the time and effort.. I've had my unit now for about a year and half and I absolutely cannot listen to my system without it...
For those considering EMOTIVA - WARNING - please read the forums at Emotiva as they are having (from what I read) some serious technical issues with XMC and RMC avr's and at that price range , I can't even imagine how those products are on the market.... and I have the XPA7 amp in my system and LOVE IT !!!
For those less technically inclined I would not recommend this unit - the setup (especially making XLR to phoenix connections is a challenge) will tax you if your less than patient...That said - once your unit IS INSTALLED - the Dirac Calibration is not complex but is tedious....and as with all room correction will take several hours if not many sessions to get the right EQ curves and measurements that suit you ...
It cannot be overstated how versatile this unit and software is. I have memory presets for MOVIE - MUSIC - Multiple mic position and Single Mic position - all of which have unique PEQ and level settings .
But once you have this unit on the right trac its absolutely addictive... It's also worth mentioning that I recently had to send my unit in because the USB port suddenly stopped working - but MiniDSP fixed it right away... Their Customer Service is excellent !!
Instead of calling it a "Value Multiplier" I call it my Secret Weapon : ) So if your looking for the next level (not attainable w Audessy xt32) Dirac Live is the answer...
 

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What a well read review Wayne - Thank you so much for the time and effort.. I've had my unit now for about a year and half and I absolutely cannot listen to my system without it...
For those considering EMOTIVA - WARNING - please read the forums at Emotiva as they are having (from what I read) some serious technical issues with XMC and RMC avr's and at that price range , I can't even imagine how those products are on the market.... and I have the XPA7 amp in my system and LOVE IT !!!
For those less technically inclined I would not recommend this unit - the setup (especially making XLR to phoenix connections is a challenge) will tax you if your less than patient...That said - once your unit IS INSTALLED - the Dirac Calibration is not complex but is tedious....and as with all room correction will take several hours if not many sessions to get the right EQ curves and measurements that suit you ...
It cannot be overstated how versatile this unit and software is. I have memory presets for MOVIE - MUSIC - Multiple mic position and Single Mic position - all of which have unique PEQ and level settings .
But once you have this unit on the right trac its absolutely addictive... It's also worth mentioning that I recently had to send my unit in because the USB port suddenly stopped working - but MiniDSP fixed it right away... Their Customer Service is excellent !!
Instead of calling it a "Value Multiplier" I call it my Secret Weapon : ) So if your looking for the next level (not attainable w Audessy xt32) Dirac Live is the answer...
On the current models you can order a XLR kit for it so you do not need to make the adapter cables. I sold both of my boxes, and now regret it as Dirac is the best. I most likely will get the new Monoprice preamp with Dirac built in to replace them.
 
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