The full version of the software was not available when I first wrote my review of the XMC-1, and Emotiva asked me if I’d like to take a look at the complete package now that it is available. I was more than happy to give the XMC-1 another listen and to explore the updated software.
To get started with the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software, the XMC-1 needs to be upgraded to version 3.0 of the XMC-1 firmware. This process is very simple and involves copying the updated firmware to a properly formatted USB flash drive, and then starting the firmware update through the XMC-1 setup menu. The entire process takes just a few minutes and Emotiva provides directions for both Windows and Mac OS X. The updated 3.0 firmware also includes support for 4k/60 Hz video in 4:2:0 color space as well as several minor improvements and bug fixes.
I downloaded and installed the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software from the Dirac site and started exploring the new functionality. The first big change is the ability to use your own calibrated microphone and load a custom microphone calibration file. If you use the microphone that ships with the XMC-1, the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software will automatically load an appropriate calibration file for you. The calibration file in this case is applicable to all the included XMC-1 microphones and is not individually calibrated to the microphone that shipped in the box.
The next major change is the inclusion of individual channel volume controls for the test tones. This allows for much more granular control in adjusting the test signal output level of each speaker in the listening room. Setting each speaker to the optimal test level produces a more accurate measurement result. The optimal levels are quite loud, so protecting your hearing during calibration is recommended. It is still a good idea to check the final results that Dirac loads into the XMC-1 with a sound level meter just to make sure everything is in balance.
When it comes to measurements, the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software includes two additional options, chair and auditorium, to best match the listening positions in your room.
The actual measurement process is identical between the LE and Full version of the software, but the major differences are in the Filter Design section of the software. The Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software allows for the filter range to be controlled on an individual channel basis. For example, if you only want to correct from 25 Hz to 2 kHz, it is a simple matter to drag the handle on each “curtain” to set the frequency adjustment range.
This is the resulting spectrum after customizing the frequency range.
The major strength of the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software is the ability to create custom correction curves. The software allows you to zoom into the spectrum and it is a simple matter to precisely adjust the target curve just by dragging a correction point on the curve. If you need additional correction points, just click on the target curve and add points as necessary to achieve the desired goal. (E.g. preserving more room gain which is the increase in bass that is caused by the room)
The last feature that I should mention is that the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software allows for the grouping of like channels. For example, if the Surround and Back channels all share the same characteristics and you want to apply the same corrections to all four channels, then it is easy to just drag the channels together to make one group. This is a very nice feature and it can simplify things, especially when making custom correction curves.
That covers the major differences of the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software. The ability to save target curves and create multiple projects becomes a significant benefit when using the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software, since it allows for experimenting with new correction curves without having to completely retake the room measurements.
While I wasn’t that thrilled with my first experience with the basic Dirac Live LE software, I absolutely loved the difference the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software made in my listening room. My listening room has changed since the first XMC-1 review, and for this update I was listening to the XMC-1 paired with a Golden Ear Technology speaker system featuring a pair of Triton One speakers, which I currently have in for review. The Triton One speakers are amazing and are very capable of producing exquisite detail and a big soundstage. As good as the XMC-1 sounded with the Triton One speakers, they sounded even better in my room with Dirac enabled. For my tests, I used a custom Dirac curve that maintained some of my room’s natural bass response and I didn’t overcorrect the speakers setting the upper Dirac Correction limit at around 1.5 kHz. I was delighted with the results. The overall soundstage was wider and fuller with Dirac enabled, and bass response was tighter. Vocals sounded very natural and had much more presence with Dirac enabled. For example, on Sara Bareilles “I Choose You” from the “Blessed Unrest” album, the vocals had more presence and resonance, and were more centered in the front soundstage with Dirac enabled. I found myself leaving Dirac on all of the time, regardless of what I was listening to, and I was very happy that the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva gave me such a satisfying result.
In terms of opportunities for improvement, the Dirac Live Full for Emotiva software still hides the computed channel levels from the end user just like the LE version. I hope Dirac changes this in the future and shows the actual level adjustments being made in the software. I would also love to see Emotiva offer the option to load multiple Dirac filters into the XMC-1 to make comparison easier. This would be a very nice enhancement to the XMC-1, a product that is already a leader in terms of configurability, performance and value for the dollar. I really liked what Dirac Live Full for Emotiva brought to the table. It seems a bargain at $99 and if you aren’t happy with the Dirac Live LE for Emotiva version or want to maximize your room correction options, check out the upgrade available directly from Emotiva.