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TOPIC: Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how?

Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41949

  • Skol303
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plus5volt wrote:
Skol303, did you buy your audio equipment from someone else recommendation or by testing with your own ears?

Interesting question! I bought a miniDSP Dirac box on someone’s recommendation, then tested with my own ears… and then tested further using acoustic measurement equipment. And despite what my moaning in this thread might suggest, I'm happy with my purchase :)

If I understand correctly the point you are trying to make is: “If it sounds good, it is good”. And to some extent that is of course very true. Our ears are always the final test. But our ears can only tell us so much about the sound we are hearing, and for some purposes we require a far more detailed understanding.

For instance: if your environment is a typical home listening room, it may be sufficient to achieve the goal of your music “sounding great”. So you use a product like Dirac Live to compensate for some of the problems in your room. All good. A perfectly valid approach. And you may not need a detailed picture of how the sound is actually behaving.

If your environment is a control room (used for mixing/mastering music), then the circumstances are quite different. The goal is not for music to “sound great”, but for it to “sound accurate” - so that whatever music you produce in the room will translate accurately to other rooms. To achieve such translation the room needs to be acoustically neutral, and to create such a room one needs a detailed understanding of how the sound is behaving: which frequencies are resonating, by how much, for how long; which frequencies are being cancelled by reflections, where in the room, by how many decibels? Etc. This is crucial for designing acoustic treatment.

In a home listening environment, a few decibels of energy or milliseconds of decay matter very little, providing the music “sounds good”. In a control room, these minor differences can be important - but they are impossible to pin-point accurately using one's ears alone. That’s why I choose to measure room acoustics.
plus5volt wrote:
For me devdeam is clear enough, that there is not much difference, if they know about it, they would tell it here.

Correct. From my own testing, there appears to very little (in fact negligible) difference between using the mic at 0/90-degrees. But my environment is a control room with extensive acoustic treatment - it’s very “dead” in comparison to a typical home listening room, with very few reflections / low reverberation. So it doesn’t really matter which way I point the mic - the late reflections in my room are heavily dampened, regardless.

In a room with little or no acoustic treatment, the late reflections would be much more significant. And so it would make more difference whether the mic is pointed at 0-degrees (more direct sound, fewer reflections, less “room”) or at 90-degrees (more reflections, more “room”). Dirac Live interprets these late reflections when calculating its frequency response correction. So it follows that however the mic is positioned would have some impact on the end results - more so in a room with no acoustic treatment.

Ultimately, the UMIK-1 mic is ‘free field’, meaning it is designed to be pointed at 0-degrees towards the sound source. By using the 90-degree calibration file, it ’simulates’ the behaviour of a diffuse field mic. So the UMIK-1 is certainly designed for use at 0-degrees primarily, and I wonder whether this is why miniDSP recommend using it this way (?).

The point being, however, that the people at Dirac Live suggest the opposite: pointing the mic towards the ceiling. Surely both companies should be in agreement on this.
plus5volt wrote:
I followed instructions from the Minidsp, and I calibrated my stereo for near field listening with mic pointed at 0 deg to the speaker axis, speakers distance below 1m from listener, and I am more than happy, I did not try 90deg, maybe will try another day. Please do measurements and tell us if your ears can hear the difference.

If that works for you, cool. But at 1m distance, pointing the mic on-axis, you are measuring the speakers and very little of the room itself. Given such a nearfield position, am I right in assuming you have a mix room, possibly with some acoustic treatment? If so, you may find it makes very little difference (as is my own experience). If not, it may be interesting to take some acoustic measurements to see exactly how well Dirac Live is performing - you may be surprised to see how much information is actually missing from what you are hearing (you can use your UMIK-1 mic with REW software to take measurements: it's free to use and quite easy too).
plus5volt wrote:
competition from Sonarworks advises to calibrates it software with mic at 0 deg for nearfield,

Sonarworks also think it's ok to hold the measurement mic in one’s hand! So I think their acceptable ‘margins of error’ are probably quite generous (not attacking Sonarworks here: for the money it works well, but it’s nowhere near as capable as Dirac Live).
plus5volt wrote:
never seen studio engineers or speaker testers / designers who measure their stereo speakers with mic pointed to the ceiling

Speakers testers/designers certainly favour pointing their measurement mics on-axis / at 0-degrees. They are, after all, concerned with measuring the direct sound coming from the speakers. Acousticians tend to favour pointing heir mics vertically, because they are concerned with measuring the room.

Dirac Live software is concerned with both: it favours the direct speaker response when calculating its time/impulse-response correction; and it favours later reflections (the “room”) when calculating its frequency response correction. Which is more important for the mathematics involved? Only Dirac Live know the answer. And they appear to be favouring a 90-degree position for the mic.
plus5volt wrote:
…best uncorrected mic responce is at 0 deg, calibration for 90 deg requires higher degree of correction, that is why devteam can be surprised with this Dirac recomendation

This is absolutely correct. Mics tend to work best on-axis unless they are specifically designed otherwise (e.g. diffuse field mics). The UMIK-1, being free field, is certainly designed primarily for use at 0-degrees. That said, from my own testing, miniDSP have done a very good job in calculating the 90-degree calibration files, which seem to produce near-identical results when measuring the direct speaker response.
bugeyed wrote:
I hope Dirac & MiniDSP get together on this. It surprises me that MiniDSP doesn't even know what Dirac is recommending.

^ This is the crux of it for me. It’s odd that miniDSP and Dirac are offering conflicting advice on something as basic (yet fundamental) as how to position the measurement mic when setting up the software.

miniDSP responded by email (above) saying: “We’ll get our engineers to discuss further with them in the future to see what’s the reasoning.” In the future… !? If it were my company and products, I’d be on the phone to Dirac Live immediately to clarify and reach consensus on the correct advice. Especially if what’s printed in my product user manuals contradicts the advice of the software developers themselves. But heh, that’s me.

Anyway. Sorry for the long post! Ultimately, point the mic however you choose. Perhaps it doesn’t really make a difference either way; and there are no doubt many other factors contributing to the final result. But it would be good if our friends at miniDSP and Dirac could at least agree on the basic recommendations. It would certainly fill this user with a little more confidence ;)
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41952

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Skol303 wrote:
“If it sounds good, it is good”.
Exactly :)

Skol303 wrote:
From my own testing, there appears to very little (in fact negligible) difference between using the mic at 0/90-degrees
did you like any of these more? as you shold know, moving micrphone about 1 cm can produce different responce.

Skol303 wrote:
So it doesn’t really matter which way I point the mic - the late reflections in my room are heavily dampened
you gave yourself the answer actually, you should use 0 deg. There are countles scenarios thus answer will be different for different scenarios, you expect from them to give answer to suits average user.

Skol303 wrote:
By using the 90-degree calibration file, it ’simulates’ the behaviour of a diffuse field mic.
That is why MiniDSP devteam gives 2 recommendations, and recommends 90deg for surround systems.
At the same time, pointing to the ceiling is one the most universal answer you can get from Dirac customer support team, as the 'directional' responce will be similar for all speakers around the measurement microphone.

Skol303 wrote:
miniDSP and Dirac could at least agree on the basic recommendations
I think they agree if you ask about one golden universal method for all speakers configurations :)
Skol303 wrote:
It would certainly fill this user with a little more confidence
I agree

... but we could get into deeper analysis how microphone membrane works, and how converts acoustic air pressure to signal, and maybe also ask what is the point to measure with mic directed towards ceiling since most acoustic (directional) energy hits mic's membrane comes from the speakers. Our ears similarly to microphones have less directional sensitivity for lower frequencies. Cancelled frequencies due to reflections etc. are probably similarly canceled near the micrphone membrane regardles of mic direction, I can imagine this after seeing this 'must see' experiment , microphone itself as an physical object can influence the measurement, but when you replace mic with your body in this exact location, it will be much bigger object causing even more interferences. I'm just trying to understand physics behind this.
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41954

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plus5volt wrote:
snip - but when you replace mic with your body in this exact location, it will be much bigger object causing even more interferences. I'm just trying to understand physics behind this.

I am about to run the test again & I think I will sit in the sweet spot when running the test. I have always felt that my body has an influence on the sound field. It will be easier than setting up the mic & "hiding" somewhere in the room for each sweep anyway.
Edit: I'm now having second thoughts. At some of the mic locations, my body will be blocking some of the reflections. Back to hiding.
Kev
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41959

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plus5volt wrote:
as you shold know, moving micrphone about 1 cm can produce different responce.

For sure! To illustrate, here’s a frequency plot of 18 L/R speaker measurements within 0.5 square metres of my listening position. Fairly consistent, but not without some noticeable differences (dips due to location-specific cancellations).

plus5volt wrote:
you gave yourself the answer actually, you should use 0 deg. There are countles scenarios thus answer will be different for different scenarios, you expect from them to give answer to suits average user.

Certainly in my situation, using the mic at 0-degrees seems logical (even Dirac seem to suggest this in their email to Kev, earlier in this thread). But if my room had less acoustic treatment, I think it would also be logical to use the mic at 90-degrees, because the difference between the direct sound and the “room response” would differ more significantly - and it follows that the Dirac Live software would need to take account of this difference in calculating the frequency response correction (less so the time domain/impulse response correction).

At least that’s my assumption, based on my admittedly limited understanding of the maths behind the software :)
plus5volt wrote:
At the same time, pointing to the ceiling is one the most universal answer you can get from Dirac customer support team, as the 'directional' responce will be similar for all speakers around the measurement microphone.

Dirac Live built their business around in-car audio and cinema systems, before moving into hi-fi, so their roots are certainly in multi-speaker systems rather than two channel stereo. Their own user manual says to “follow the recommendations of your mic manufacturer” (or words to that effect), so publicly they state no preference for how the mic should be positioned. But their email response to Kev (^above) is very clear about using the mic vertically, which from an acoustics point of view, does make sense to me. But it’s certainly only one of many variables effecting the Dirac Live calibration process.
plus5volt wrote:
... but we could get into deeper analysis how microphone membrane works, and how converts acoustic air pressure to signal, and maybe also ask what is the point to measure with mic directed towards ceiling since most acoustic (directional) energy hits mic's membrane comes from the speakers. Our ears similarly to microphones have less directional sensitivity for lower frequencies. Cancelled frequencies due to reflections etc. are probably similarly canceled near the micrphone membrane regardles of mic direction, I can imagine this after seeing this 'must see' experiment , microphone itself as an physical object can influence the measurement, but when you replace mic with your body in this exact location, it will be much bigger object causing even more interferences. I'm just trying to understand physics behind this.

Very good points, all of which I agree with. The UMIK-1 is certainly designed to be used at 0-degrees - that’s how each mic is calibrated - and all mics are generally most accurate when used on-axis (unless specifically designed otherwise, such as diffuse field mics).

However, what I’m really interested in here is how Dirac Live interprets the information collected by the mic. And I appreciate it’s a difficult question, because the details of that process are not made public by Dirac for obvious reasons of confidentiality.

In summary, my point is:
  1. We know that Dirac Live uses the direct response to calculate its time/impulse-response correction. From what I understand, it bases this calculation on very early reflections (<2ms), so it really doesn’t matter how the mic is positioned for that part of the calculation: 0/90-degrees should produce exactly the same result.
  2. The software then analyses the late reflections (>2ms), identifies those issues that are common throughout the listening area, and tries to correct them in the frequency response. Here is where I feel the mic angle could make a difference: if pointed at 0-degrees it will pick up more of the direct signal; if pointed at 90-degrees it will pick up more of the “room”. If the room is heavily treated: probably very little difference (as per my own testing). If the room has no acoustic treatment: the difference in mic position could be more significant, and the results of the Dirac correction would be effected - possibly introducing some inaccuracies if an insufficient amount of the "room" response is included in the calculations (i.e. mic pointed at 0-degrees when 90-degrees may be more appropriate).
That’s why I think this topic is worthy of further investigation / clarification by the devs.
bugeyed wrote:
plus5volt wrote:
I am about to run the test again & I think I will sit in the sweet spot when running the test. I have always felt that my body has an influence on the sound field. It will be easier than setting up the mic & "hiding" somewhere in the room for each sweep anyway.
Edit: I'm now having second thoughts. At some of the mic locations, my body will be blocking some of the reflections. Back to hiding.

Hi Kev, definitely keep hiding! :) Having your body close to the mic is always a bad idea when taking acoustic measurements or setting up DRC software such as Dirac. A body close the the mic will alter the frequency response by about 6dB around 400Hz according to measurement gurus Bruel & Kjaer. So stay away from the microphone during measurements: 2 metres or more.

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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41966

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I sent MiniDSP this excerpt from Dirac Live manual, since they said they didn't know Dirac was recommending 90 deg. "Direct the microphone upward, or towards the speakers depending on the particular microphone and its calibration file (if any)."

Here is their response, "Tech support team replied:

"Hello Kev
Thanks for the feedback. As mentioned above, we already stated based on our experience for all our stereo setup. We can’t say much more that what we stated above I’m afraid.. :-) Dirac software help file is based on multichannel AVR based on our experience. (i.e. 5.1/7.1).

Feel free to contact Dirac Research tech support directly to get more feedback. They will be happy to help. :-)
Best Regards

DevTeam

miniDSP Ltd

Doesn't sound like MiniDSP is interested in any clarification nor does it look like they care what Dirac says! MiniDSP appears to be comfortable with their method & even asked that I contact Dirac AGAIN for more feedback. I don't care what MiniDSP says any longer.
Kev
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41969

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bugeyed wrote:
Doesn't sound like MiniDSP is interested in any clarification nor does it look like they care what Dirac says! MiniDSP appears to be comfortable with their method & even asked that I contact Dirac AGAIN for more feedback.

I agree, Kev. It’s very odd and seems as though miniDSP aren’t talking to Dirac as much as they suggest. Or certainly not listening anyway ;)

I contacted a user of another forum (www.gearslutz.com), who works at Dirac, and sent him a link to this discussion, asking for his opinion. Here’s his reply received today:

“Looking at the root of the "problem" (let's name it as such even if in practice it's not such a big deal) might explain the different answers so that you can draw your own conclusions.

If omnidirectional mics were perfect the mic orientation would make no difference.
They are not... so a calibration file is used in order to take into account the deviation (at high frequencies only) between a 90° vertical position and a 0° horizontal one.
However, since the magnitude response of the microphone is different for every angle, such a curve is only 100% valid for a single angle only.

Now you can point the mic horizontally towards the center between the speakers using the 0° file, you will get good results but there be will an angle because the mic is not exactly in the front... or you can use the 90° file with a vertical mic orientation pointing it towards the ceiling, in which case all direct waves and reflections in the same plane will get the same "coloration" that will be corrected by the cal file (provided that it's perfect).

Anyhow even assuming that the cal file does what it is supposed to do different angles cannot be treated differently, nor is that information even available.

Personally I use the mic vertically, I hope this answers your question.

Flavio”

Another useful explanation from the team at Dirac, who clearly know what they are taking about.

Interesting to note that the difference between 0/90-degrees is “not such a big deal”and the deviations are “at high frequencies only”. That certainly matches my own measurements which show a difference of just under 1dB above 10kHz. Certainly not a big deal.

This point is also important regards using the mic at 90-degrees: “...all direct waves and reflections in the same plane will get the same "coloration" that will be corrected by the cal file”. As mentioned already, my own room has heavily dampened reflections - but in a less treated room it would seem logical to point the mic vertically to at least ensure the direct wave and reflections are “colored” the same (for the purpose of Dirac correction).

Case closed!

Whether miniDSP takes any of this on board and updates their user manuals...? Let’s not hold our breath waiting for that ;)
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41975

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Skol303 wrote:
Here are the Impulse Response plots from REW:

There is dispersion in those impulse responses that may be caused by differences between the UMIK and Allen and Heath sample clock rates. Try measuring with shorter sweeps (e.g. 256k rather than 1M), it may produce something closer to a normal-looking impulse. The frequency responses won't be noticeably affected, but the appearance of the IR might.
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41976

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JohnPM wrote:
There is dispersion in those impulse responses that may be caused by differences between the UMIK and Allen and Heath sample clock rates. Try measuring with shorter sweeps (e.g. 256k rather than 1M), it may produce something closer to a normal-looking impulse. The frequency responses won't be noticeably affected, but the appearance of the IR might.

Thanks John, I appreciate you having a look at this.

I'm not familiar with the term "dispersion" as it applies to an impulse response. Please can you briefly expand on this, as though explaining to a halfwit! :) (my knowledge of acoustic science is strictly amateur).

In particular, what is it in the appearance of the IR response that you've noticed as being not quite "normal"?

Cheers,

Paul
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41977

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It is spread out in time, looking a little like a mini sweep rather than an impulse. Small differences in sample rate between the DAC and microphone ADC have a spreading effect.
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41978

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JohnPM wrote:
It is spread out in time, looking a little like a mini sweep rather than an impulse. Small differences in sample rate between the DAC and microphone ADC have a spreading effect.

Got it. Cheers for the clear explanation and very interesting to note.

I habitually run REW sweeps at 1M, but will try switching to the shorter 256k setting and compare.

Thanks again!
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41979

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It could also be an artefact of phase correction in Dirac, but comparing the 256k and 1M results will show whether clock differences are a factor.
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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41981

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Currently away from my studio, but just found some old REW measurements on my laptop using 512k sweeps instead of 1M.

Here’s an example, taken with Dirac Live switched on. Perhaps looks more ‘Impulse Response-y’ than the 1M measurements I added earlier in this thread? (i.e. fewer fluctuations after the initial peak).

I’ll also test using a 256k sweep next chance I get and upload the result here, for comparison.



NB: the above IR plot is from a different calibration of Dirac Live, so not exactly comparable with the plots I posted earlier.

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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 3 weeks ago #41990

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JohnPM wrote:
It could also be an artefact of phase correction in Dirac, but comparing the 256k and 1M results will show whether clock differences are a factor.

Just taken some comparative REW measurements using 256k and 1M sweep length. Very clear difference in the appearance of the Impulse Response; which I assume verifies a difference in clock rate between the UMIK-1 mic and my audio interface (Allen & Heath ZED-R16).

Unsure of the wider implications of this, but thanks John for spotting it! Always good to learn new REW insights :)



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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 2 weeks ago #41994

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An update for anyone interested.

I ran a test by re-calibrating Dirac Live using the mic angled vertically at 90-degrees, to see how (or indeed whether) the results differ from when calibrating the software with the mic angled between the speakers at 0-degrees (yes, I usually have better things to do with my time, but wanted to settle my curiosity once and for all! ;) ).

Here’s what I discovered…

First up the frequency response result: red shows 0-degree calibration and blue shows 90-degree calibration.


Next is the impulse response (same colour-coding as before).


Here’s the ETC plot of the first 20ms: I've used 0.2ms smoothing to make the graphs easier to compare (for anyone unfamiliar with ETC plots, the little peaks in the graphs indicate reflections):


And finally, here’s another ETC plot - both measurements taken with the mic angled vertically (90 deg): light blue shows results when Dirac Live is calibrated with the mic at 0-degrees; darker blue is with Dirac calibrated using the mic at 90-degrees. Literally identical.


The conclusion? In my room, it makes absolutely no difference whether Dirac Live is calibrated with the mic at 0 or 90-degrees. The software produces identical results either way.

The only difference is in the ETC plot, which shows more noise/reflections in the test measurement taken with the mic angled at 90-degrees. This is of course perfectly normal, as the mic will pick up more of the side/rear wall reflections when pointed upwards (hence Dirac's recommendation to use the mic this way). In my case, however, it has no bearing on Dirac’s frequency response correction (which is the same for both 0-90-degree calibrations). So I can only assume that the side/rear wall reflections in my room are indeed sufficiently dampened to avoid effecting how the software interprets and processes the results.

It’d be interesting to see whether the same is true for a room with no acoustic treatment - or whether these reflections would indeed have an impact (a project for anyone with an untreated room and time to kill... any takers?).

So that’s that. A fairly undramatic conclusion, which suggests I may have been “tilting at windmills” all along.

(...but I still think miniDSP and Dirac should get their story straight on this :P ).

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Dirac Live set up for nearfield monitoring - how? 5 months 2 weeks ago #41996

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Great info. You always did suspect that mic orientation wouldn't make a difference in your room. Nice to see the measurements tho. I would like to take the time to do the same in my lightly treated room, but I am not inclined to, nor do I have the time. I still have to treat my ceiling before I run another test, so may not be soon. I saw a big improvement when I tested at 90 deg with center image & general soundstage openness & instrument separation. I also heard a better l/r balance & soundstage width with tracks that use Q-sound. The bass is better, slightly less bottom heavy & better articulated. My room treatment, such as it is, consists only in damping/absorbing panels at L/R first reflection points & back wall behind listening position, (ceiling soon). Unfortunately I am forced to have my listening position close to the back wall, so that's where some bass reinforcement is coming from. Speaker compliment is full range floor standing L & R & a subwoofer in front wall corner. I am using Dirac Live 1.2 with beta VST plugins with JRiver MC24. I am keeping my fingers crossed that when the standalone Dirac Live 2.0 is finally released, it won't go up in price because I don't think I can go back. ;)
Kev
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