I was asked by Steve Williams over at What's Best Forum
to put together a comparison of XTZ Room Analyzer and Room EQ Wizard. This article attempts to outline the differences in an objective manner such that any prospective user has better knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of each system. The software versions used were XTZ Room Analyzer 2.0 and Room EQ Wizard 4.11. I see that there is a new v.5 of Room EQ Wizard available in Beta with some interesting additional features. Once it is formally released I will update this comparison.
The two differentiators
In my mind there are two main angles that can be used to compare and contrast the vast number of acoustic measurement packages on the market:
Ease of use - how simple and straightforward is the product to use? Many acoustic measurement products were designed by engineers to solve an engineering measurement problems. They were not conceptualized and designed from the outset with the end user experience in mind and so tend to have old fashioned and clunky user interfaces.
Functionality - how many room measurement capabilities does the product offer? Whilst it might be tempting to go straight for a product that has all the 'bells and whistles' beware of the typical hit on the ease of use front. If you are new to room measurement then the learning curve is steep enough without you having to figure out how to use some complex and clunky software package.
Ease of Use
The reference procedure for establishing ease of use amongst consumer software is to setup user experience tests. These tests typically measure how long it takes real end users to complete tasks in the software. The end user's satisfaction / frustration level is also gauged through a survey. Since nobody to my knowledge has performed such a test on acoustic measurement software we'll need to find a different way to evaluate ease of use.
Two potential discriminating questions could be:
Are all the components required to measure a room included in one package? The rationale here being that without this the end user is left to work out the other things they need to acquire to successfully measure their room.
How many different features such as menus, dialog boxes, etc does the software have? The rationale here being that a functionally rich piece of software would be more difficult to use than a simple piece of software.
On both these fronts the XTZ Room Analyzer wins. Particularly since it is an all-in-one-box package of hardware and software. Room EQ Wizard is free but requires you to first identify and then purchase the soundcard, measurement microphone and cables that you need. Room EQ Wizard also has many more menus, options, dialog boxes and features than XTZ Room Analyzer which can be considered a proxy for difficulty of use. Take a look at these screenshots of the two producs:
Room EQ Wizard
XTZ Room Analyzer
Functionality is a bit easier to compare. The table below shows whether each product offers a specified capability and the notes provide further clarification information.Explanatory notes:
- XTZ Room Analyzer's resolution is slightly limited at bass frequencies, with the maximum resolution being 6 display points per octave. REW can show measurements at higher resolutions.
- The XTZ Room Analyzer allows averaging of three measurements from different positions in the room. When this is done it is still possible to view the time domain analysis. This is very useful in a home theater type situation where a single set of global parametric EQ filters is required to cover a large spatial area. Whilst frequency domain averaging is possible in Room EQ Wizard, time domain is not.
- XTZ Room Analyzer is designed as an integrated hardware and software product. The software includes compensation for the included measurement microphone. Whilst Room EQ Wizard includes ability to load a compensation curve, the customer is then required to purchase a microphone with a frequency response included. Some of the popular models e.g. Behringer ECM8000 do not include the frequency response and must therefore be 'calibrated' at additional cost in order to use the compensation capability in the software.
- XTZ Room Analzyer's automatic EQ mode tends to focus more on reducing the negative impact of room modes rather than optimizing for a completely flat frequency response. The after EQ decay time performance is shown. Room EQ Wizard's auto-EQ mode optimizes for frequency response and does not show you the after EQ decay time performance.
- Both packages allow the user to manually set up EQ filters. In Room EQ Wizard this is done by specifying Q, dB gain/cut and Frequency in a parametric EQ filter table. XTZ Room Analyzer offers this table baed editing but in addition provides a more sophisticated graphical interface that allows an end user to drag a point on the frequency response to a desired new target. The Q, dB gain/cut and Frequency are then automatically generated by the software.
- The XTZ Room Analyzer has an innovative 'stimulus EQ' mode that allows a new measurement to be taken that incorporates both automatic generated and manually created parametric EQ filters. The resulting frequency response and waterfall analysis show what the room response would be like if the proposed parametric EQ was added to the system.
- XTZ Room Analyzer can, to my knowlege, only download EQ settings to their DSP enabled devices (they make a sub and sub amp that have DSP capability). Room EQ Wizard allows use with Behringer DSP devices and some older and no longer available Tag MacLaren devices. Obviously in either case the filters identified can be manually transferred over to any parametric EQ device easily enough.
- XTZ Room Analyzer includes a measurement microphone, soundcard and cables within the package. Room EQ Wizard requires that the customer separately identifies and purchases these items.
- Room EQ Wizard is a Java based application and can therefore be run on both Windows and OSX platforms.
On the functionality side it looks like a tie - whilst Room EQ Wizard does have a few more measurement capabilities (spectrum analyzer, signal generator, energy time curve analyzer) it lacks some of the innovative and sophisticated features that the XTZ Room Analyzer has for dialing in room equalization like the 'measure with EQ' and 'three position spatial averaging allowing viewing of time decay'.
The XTZ Room Analyzer is available now from our shop at the price of $249.
What do you think about XTZ Room Analyzer relative to Room EQ Wizard? Please leave your thoughts via the 'add a comment' box!