Q&A on the New Dirac Live

Dirac Live, press-measuring-position.png

As some of you may have noticed, things are happening with Dirac Live. We announced a brand new mobile version (for Android and iOS) at Cedia back in September, and in December we announced a new version of the PC based calibration tools (for Windows and macOS). So far so good. But we haven’t really said much about the hows and the whys, and what it all means for existing customers. Thus, the following was written with the intent of clearing up as many questions as possible. Inevitably new questions and concerns will be raised, but those we will address as they come along.

Q: So what features do these new calibration tools have?

The answer here will probably disappoint some of you, but the features of the new calibration tools are very similar to what is available today. We have done some work on the phase correction part of the algorithm to improve stereo reproduction, and we expect the new software to be more accurate in calculating gain and delay offsets. We have also set out to make the new tool significantly easier to use with a more friendly feel, which will hopefully lower the bar of entry so that more users feel they can make use of Dirac Live room correction technology.

Q: But if the new software doesn’t add all that much, why are you even bothering to do this?

That is a fair question. The current software had its first beta release back in 2011. That is a long time ago for a piece of software. Since then, we have tried to maintain it so that it works well for new operating systems. But other than that, not much has changed. It has served its purpose well, but from a technical perspective we feel it has reached the end of the line. We cannot easily add new features to it, and maintaining it for upcoming Windows and macOS releases keeps getting harder and harder. For that reason, we decided to replace it with a new software base about 12 months ago with two main objectives:

  • It needs to be easy to add new functionalities
  • It needs to be easy to maintain

Once we have released the first version we expect there will be quite a few things to fix—there always are with a first release of a new software. After that, our intention is to sit down and add improvements and, eventually, also new features.

Q: I see. So how can I get my hands on this beauty?

If you already own a piece of hardware that implements Dirac Live, chances are good that you will get the new software to go with the hardware you already own. Depending on the exact hardware you own, this may happen right away or it will be provided at a later date, if possible.

Q: At this point some of you will go, “What does he mean by if possible?”

Well, our intention is to be able to provide the new software for all existing Dirac Live customers, but it remains to be seen if that is even possible from a technical perspective. These tools are new, built from the ground up, and we decided to change some aspects regarding how the calibration tool communicates with Dirac Live capable hardwares in order to improve stability and reduce the amount of work needed to build a Dirac Live capable product. We expect that it will be possible to support most of the units on the market today, but that remains to be seen. In the case that it is not possible, these units will, of course, keep working with the old tool. I should also point out that just because your unit is not supported from the release date does not mean it never ever will be supported. We may also need the support from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in order to make this happen, in which case the availability date for such an upgrade will be impacted by their development schedules.

Q: Ok, so that’s if I have hardware for Dirac Live, but what about the stand alone PC versions (for use with sound cards)?  

Well… what we have been working on is new calibration tools. We haven’t touched the Dirac Audio Processor at all. Not because it is perfect, but because we haven’t had the time. With the vast majority of our customers using separate hardware for the actual filter operations, it seemed reasonable that we target this user case first. There is absolutely nothing in the design of the new tools stopping us from also using it for fully PC based applications, but we have not yet added that functionality. If we find the time to add it by release we will. If not, it will be added in an update. The first release will be free for existing customers.

Q: So the apps that run Dirac Live will produce way worse results since the microphone in a random smartphone isn’t exactly a precision instrument?

Indeed, trying to use the built-in microphone for full band correction will impose limitations on what can be corrected, without risking severe side effects. Initially, the Dirac Live smartphone apps will only be applicable for user cases where the target hardware has its own microphone, like the NAD home theatre receivers. If the target device doesn’t have a microphone, the apps will not be possible to use. Technically, it would be possible for us to write a piece of software, sitting on a computer that has a proper microphone, and then connect to the app via the computer. But then you’d need to have a PC anyways, so to me it doesn’t make much sense. We are considering a version that also allows for the use of the built-in microphone, but such a version will not be released in the near term, as we feel we still have a ways to go to get the performance we would like to see from such a solution. At this time, the major reason for providing the apps is to both remove the need for using a PC in order to use Dirac Live room correction, and to provide it in an easier to use package.

Q: Alright. How about the new features you keep alluding to?

I’d rather not say at this time… 😉 What I can say, is that our R&D team is currently working hard to make sure we have the proper algorithms for what we are planning. Once that is done, we will get to work implementing them in the calibration tools, and supporting our OEM customers as they implement the required functionality in their own hardwares, if they desire to do so.

- Jakob Ågren, Head of Product Management at Dirac Research