Audio Calibration

Anthem Room Correction (ARC) System - Part 1


The Consumer at the Controls

Anthem is not the only AVR provider to use a PC for calculating filter coefficients. However, access to the PC software had been the sole domain of third-party installers. They bring the microphone and PC, and run the calibration. Once they are done, they take the microphone and PC away and send you a bill. The installer must return if the speakers or seats are moved, and you pay another fee.

With installer-based EQ systems, you do not get to change the parameters. The installer quickly picks what he thinks sounds best and exits the picture. Perhaps the installer may allow you to listen to the system and make quick comments on problems. This all happens in such a compressed time frame as to limit homeowner options. The finished product might have been satisfactory for the installer, but subjectively inadequate for the homeowner.

Anthem has broken this model, offering its best PC software on all products in the box. The calibrated USB microphone makes PC-based room correction by the consumer practical. With the program in the hands of the consumer, there is more time to listen and adjust in an iterative fashion.

Anthem uniquely takes advantage of the PC to permit the user to optimize speaker placement and listening position. A real-time display of the room response updates continuously. One seeks to minimize response variations before correction by moving the seat and speakers to achieve better post-correction results. Normally you would need special equipment to do this.

Anthem calls this the Quick Measure mode. A screen shot below shows the change in response as the speaker is moved.

Since the Quick Measure display only shows changes as they occur for about a minute before removing the oldest curve, only small response changes can be seen in the screen shot. To fully appreciate Quick Measure you need to see it in action live.

The one response curve the Anthem ARC system cannot display is the verification of the complete system response with a subwoofer. The ARC PC display can tell you if the subwoofer and main-channel speakers are correctly equalized, but it cannot display what happens in the range when both are playing together at the crossover. To do this you must have an external acoustics measurements system. In Part II of this review, I will show how well the ARC system does with a subwoofer deployed as part of the system.

ARC offers a variety of control options in a few control panels. I will present the relevant control panel setting at the appropriate time in the review. ARC provides a basic operating mode that automatically sets the panels. This is a good option to use when you first use the system. That process involves only positioning the microphones and downloading the results.

Later you can start to use the advanced settings. Nobody is rushing you. You can try one advanced setting and see how it changes the sound of the system. In some cases, the parameter you select is dependent on how you want your system to sound, so you need to set the parameters in an repetitive process in which you listen to your system with a parameter change and then listen again with the parameter at a different value. This will allow you to make real improvements in your system over time.