War of the Worlds, The MiniDSP SHD vs Analog

I could have put this topic under "Digital" but then I would have been preaching to the choir and it would not have been any fun. 

Last week the old TacT 2.2x processor I have been using for some 25 years finally lost it's main DSP processor and I was left with an analog preamp without subwoofer crossovers. I checked with DEQX and my new Pre 8 is still two months out so I figured just for fun I would get a very inexpensive MiniDSP SHD digital preamp to hold the fort until the DEQX unit arrives. 

MiniDSP is located in Hong Kong and like many Asian products the instruction manual does not translate well. It did not help that my current computer is Windows 11 and their manual editors only made it to Windows 10, but who ever said life should be easy. After 30 minutes of crossed eyes I tossed the manual and dived in head first. 

The SHD Dashboard is relatively easy to use. There are four output channels. Each channel can be assigned a crossover filter, an EQ curve, gain , delay, mute and compression. The crossovers can be adjusted in one Hz increments, 1st to 8th order, butterworth or L-R curves. Wonderful! The only problem is there is no way to do this on the fly so making comparisons is more difficult. There are output meters for all four channels and two main output meters. They are totally worthless as there is no peak hold function and the refresh is so slow you can count it. 

The SHD uses Dirac Live room control which is done online. The SHD sends measurements to the Dirac computer that calculates the appropriate filters and sends them back to one of four presents in the SHD. All you have to do is click on the calculate button and you are handed seamlessly over to Dirac Live. Dirac shows you where to place the microphone and takes just three sine sweeps for the measurement, then you move on to the next position. It takes a minimum of five measurements taking a total of maybe 10 minutes.  A very nice feature is you can switch the Dirac correction on and off with the remote without interrupting the crossovers so you can really tell the difference between corrected and uncorrected.  

The SHD is a relatively inexpensive unit made to Asian mid fi standards. Because the heavy hitting is being done online by Dirac it does not need an expensive, hot running processor and is very cool running. It should last a very long time and it gives you all the remote codes so you can program it to almost anything. 

Now on to performance. Dirac Live does it's job well. Imaging tightens right up and it integrates the subwoofers perfectly. Switching it in and out is an epiphany and a worthwhile experiment for any audiophile including all you analog dweebs. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for and there is a faint graininess that overlies the sound of the SHD. It does not have the silky smoothness I am used to. 

So, what is the point? If you were nervous about spending the money on a high end processor but wanted to know what one could do for you, particularly if you use subwoofers this is a great inexpensive way to get your feet wet before you dive in. I do not think it is an end game unit for any of you here in analog. You will appreciate what it does but will always be missing that last word in analog performance. Those of you with subwoofers will be permanently hooked so be prepared to spend another $10K or do not get started. I am absolutely sure that last word in analog like performance will be available shortly. If my old TacT could do it I'm sure with modern tech Trinnov and DEQX can also. For the young Audiophile on a budget who has to have subwoofers (that would have been me 40 years ago) the SHD is a no brainer. 


The auto measuring/control stuff I prefer to leave for home theater stuff, which really, what is included in a $2-$3k denon, onkyo etc, is good enough.

I want more manual control for music.

active crossover like the k231 (2 sub outs) from sublime acoustic (and there are others) lets me change up depending on what I am listening to, or even how I want to listen to it depending on how my day is going..

Just saying.. if you like to continually “adjust” things when listening to music, a dsp might not be the best answer.

Even without Dirac, miniDSP in line with a subwoofer can be a very effective, if not absolutey glorious combination.  It's certainly a lot less expensive than say, JL Audio's combined subs + room correction.

@erik_squires , I have plenty of experience with JL Audio's subwoofers and crossovers. There is absolutely no comparison to digital crossovers and full frequency room correction. Even the diminutive MiniDSP wins that battle hands down in combination with Dirac Live which is a web based Room Correction protocol. Where it is let down is in the quality of it's DACs which is, I suspect, the origin of the graininess I perceive. 

For people with systems in the 10 to 30 thousand dollar price range, particularly if subwoofers are being used, the SHD is a real winner.