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Hands-On with Onkyo’s New AccuEQ Room Correction System

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Dolby Atmos isn’t quite here yet, but recently I did have a chance to play around with one of the existing receivers on the market that will be getting a Dolby Atmos upgrade via firmware in the coming months. That same receiver, by the way—Onkyo’s TX-NR636—is also the first receiver I’ve auditioned that uses the company’s new proprietary room correction system, AccuEQ, instead of the Audyssey room correction system that has been the standard for years now.

If you’re curious about my nuts-and-bolts thoughts on the TX-NR636, Home Theater Review just published my full review this week. If you’re looking to spend roughly $700 on a new receiver anytime soon, it’s worth a read. If you’re just looking for the big picture overview, though, I thought I’d share a few thoughts here, as well.

You may remember from my original post about Onkyo’s new slate of receivers that AccuEQ was a serious source of curiosity for me. At the time, no one outside of Onkyo really had any idea what made the new system different from Audyssey. Now that I’ve had the chance to test it out, I can tell you that the differences are substantial. Audyssey works by measuring a test pattern played through your speakers at one or more positions, compares the resulting sound to a couple of pre-determined baselines for what that signal should sound like in a room, and applies filters in an attempt to remove or diminish the negative effects of your room’s acoustics on the resulting sound that reaches your ears. And it doesn’t just modify the frequencies; it also makes adjustments in the time domain, to compensate for reflected sounds.

AccuEQ, by contrast, seems to be a much simpler equalization system. For one thing, it doesn’t tweak the sound of your front left and right channel at all (except to set delays, which it does quite well—better than most auto-EQ systems I’ve auditioned. If you’ve ever wondered why, when manually setting up a receiver, you have to tell it how far each of the speakers is from your listening position, that’s why: it’s so that the sounds from your front left and right surround speakers reach your ears at the same time. AccuEQ excels at this, whereas so many other similar systems fail spectacularly).

Instead, what AccuEQ seems to be doing is giving the frequency response of the other speakers a few tweaks to make them sound more like your front left and right speakers. In other words, if you notice that voices sound quite different coming out of your center channel as opposed to your left and right speakers, AccuEQ can help with that.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a few constructive criticisms about the new system. In addition to leaving your front left and right speakers alone, AccuEQ also fails to apply any correction to your subwoofer. And in my opinion (not the mention the opinions of many men much smarter than I), the subwoofer is the one speaker in your home theater that really, truly, undeniably benefits from a bit of equalization, unless you’ve invested heavily in some serious room acoustics treatments.

That’s one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of the Anthem Room Correction system built into my Anthem D2v AV Processor. It allows you to set a maximum EQ frequency and only apply correction to, say, the bottom 250 or 300 Hz of the audible spectrum.

That aside (and also taking into consideration that the D2v costs more than ten times as much as the Onkyo), I quite like AccuEQ. I like it much, much better than the vanilla Audyssey MultEQ system it replaced at this price point. (You’ll have to spend a good bit more on a receiver to move up to the superior MultEQ XT or XT32.)

And Onkyo has made it abundantly clear that we’re just experiencing version one of AccuEQ at the moment. I’m holding out hope that the company adds some bass correction in future versions, because if they do I think they’ve got quite a good system on their hands here. Like I said, it doesn’t do as much to the audible signal as Audyssey does, but at the same time it does less harm to the sound, in my opinion. And that’s a good start.

For more thoughts on the Onkyo TX-NR636 7.2 Channel Network AV Receiver, head over to Home Theater Review and check out my in-depth review.

You can also find more detailed system specs at OnkyoUSA.com.