©AVplus 2019, translation by DSPeaker, download original from DSPeaker_x4_AVPlus_0119.pdf

Improved Spatial Sound from Finland

DSPeaker from Tampere, Finland hit the golden nugget with the Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core room-correction-DAC, because it received the Recommended Components listing five years in a row in the famous Stereophile magazine. The just released X4 continues along the same lines straightening out the room issues of sound reproduction with its versatile tools.

There are many components that are more or less critical in sound production. The end result is affected by the choice of the equipment and their quality, as well as the cabling that brings it all together. Generally though, you can argue that when the components are adequately up to their tasks, the most significant part of the final sound quality comes from the speakers and the room.

The technical and structural implementation of the speaker and its location in the room in large part determines what the reproduced music sounds like. The properties of the room affect the radiation pattern of the speaker. An acoustically well-treated and quiet space allows the sound from the speaker remain more clear, and thus closer to the original recording. If the listening space has a lot of reflective surfaces, such as windows and concrete walls, sound waves can bounce off them and reduce clarity and produce unnecessarily emphasized frequencies.

The type and number of speakers add their own effect. While it is relatively easy to get a pair of wide-range speakers to co-operate well, the situation becomes more complex when a subwoofer is added to the system. The user needs to solve the best settings for volume, cross-over frequency, and phase between the main speakers and the subwoofer.

The so-called room correction systems exist to solve how to get speakers and the room to better work together. DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4 is one such device, but considerably more versatile than just a room correction system, because Anti-Mode X4 is also a well-equipped preamplifier and digital to analog converter (DAC). You can thus directly connect active speakers and subwoofers and various digital and analog audio/media sources to it. You can also connect Anti-Mode X4 to an existing system and let it only handle the room correction. There is no lack of alternatives.

Implementation Oozes Quality

Anti-Mode X4 fills the criteria of a serious hifi equipment both internally and externally, including the 4250 euro price tag. The enclosure is assuringly heavy, the front plate is aluminium with a display. The color combinations are black/grey and silver/grey (ed.note: actually silver/black).

Like said above, the device acts as a pre-amplifier as-is, providing two RCA and one XLR analog inputs. Digital inputs include three optical and three coaxial SPDIF inputs and USB for the computer. It's slightly surprising that the unit also sports coaxial and optical outputs, which can be used to transfer the processed audio signal digitally to an external DAC, if the user owns an even more high-quality alternative to the DA converters in the X4.

The analog outputs can be found in both RCA and XLR versions, one set for active speakers or an amplifier, and another set for two subwoofers, which you can connect in mono or stereo. (ed.note: you can connect more subwoofers in parallel.) In addition there is a 12-Volt trigger output, service ports as 3.5mm plug and as USB, and the possibility for a temperature sensor, which adjusts the room correction according to ambient temperature. Anti-Mode X4 also has a headphone output with a sort of cross-feed feature, which is based on DSPeaker's own auralization technology.

The manufacturer reveals there are seven VS1205 processors inside, one dedicated for the user interface and firmware update, and the rest for audio sources and processing. There are three DA converters in X4, all of them have gone through a selection process using an IC tester. There are also three AD converters.

Controlling the X4 has been made fairly simple, because the unit has only one sturdy rotary wheel, which also contains a button. Most excellently the unit also speaks clear Finnish! A very durable-appearing remote control contains buttons for the most central features.

The menu structure is easy to internalize largely thanks to the Finnish language, and it's easy to access all fundamental controls from the menu with only basic knowledge.

The package doesn't contain a printed manual in Finnish (ed.note: currently it does when shipped in Finland), but you can download a PDF from dspeaker.com and print out. The package does contain, in addition to the Anti-Mode X4 unit itself, a fairly appropriate microphone stand in its own carry bag, a measurement microphone in a carry case with a thick XLR cable, remote controller, and a power cable.

Easy Installation

Anti-Mode X4 was ready to go when picked out of the box. Actually the most difficult task was to scratch off the protective film from the display. After that you connect the power cable, choose a language, and update to the latest firmware if recommended by manufacturer. (ed.note: Check the current version from the System-Information menu.) The firmware file can be found from the DSPeaker home page - you download it, decompress, copy to a memory stick, which is then attached to the service USB porty at the back of X4, after which you power up the X4.

The calibration itself has been made quite easy for the user. You place the measurement microphone at the optimal listening position at ear-height facing the speakers, then connect it to the XLR plug in the front panel, which automatically switches the X4 to calibration mode. Then you choose the speaker configuration, which in our case was 2.0, consisting of floorstanding System Audion Legend 5 Silverback active speakers (recommended price 2500eur for pair). Then you define the volume level of measurement and start calibration.

The measurement requires that the space is otherwise relatively quiet. So, it is good to turn off for example air conditioning and other such sources of sound for the duration of the measurement. The measurement itself consists of sine sweeps of various frequencies and durations, with approximate total duration of 5 minutes. (ed.note: varies depending on the speaker configuration chosen)

After the measurement Anti-Mode X4 automatically creates six different profiles from the measurement results. Switching profiles can be done using the remote controller, which makes it easier to detect differences and compare the corrected and uncorrected signals. Although there's a small delay when switching, the auditory memory doesn't have time to fully reset during that small wait, so the detection of the differences is still relatively easy.

Expected Effects

After performing the calibration a couple of times just in case, it was time to sit down, connect Apple MacBook Air computer to the USB connector of Anti-Mode X4 and listen to what kind of changes did the correction produce to the sound of the already well-sounding speakers in the familiar listening space.

Maybe little surprisingly the first impression of the room correction wasn't in any way shocking. The character of the sound was sort of the same and characteristic to the speakers, but each of the six profiles managed to bring a little extra shade to an already rich palette.

The most clear correction occurred in the bass, which when uncorrected was undeniably little emphasized, unnecessarily imposing and shapeless in the lowest frequencies. When corrected, the bass became more articulate, dynamically precise, and generally more firm.

According to the calibration graph that can be found from the X4's menus, the corrected signal reined the bass at 60Hz about six decibels, which is undeniably a larger value than what could be determined by listening to the end result. Instead of traditional equalization, X4's room-corrected signal was overall much more intact through the whole range, and in the listening space music sounded more balanced.

In principle the end result is good and expected. Anti-Mode X4 isn't intended to modify the sound of an already good-sounding speaker to a different direction by equalization -- although that too is possible for the user itself. In addition to room correction, the user equalization tools in the menu provide quite a lot of possibilities for adjustments, which could easily get out of hand from simple finetuning to very extensive changes of the frequency response.

In our test we found it was good to let X4 to perform the measurement first, after which the user can choose the subjectively most pleasing of the six profiles, and if necessary, fine-tune it with the equalization tools. Describing those tools in more detail would actually require its own article and a wider arsenal of speakers.

When the results with two active speakers were this good, there is no doubt in our minds that Anti-Mode X4 would not perform wonderfully also with one or two subwoofers. Range of adjustments won't be a bottleneck, and the room correction itself proved to perform in every aspect as promised.

+ Especially easy to use
+ User interface in Finnish
+ Efficient
+ Very versatile adjustment capabilities
- Nothing to fault in the unit itself!

From Good to Better and Above

DSPeaker Anti-Mode X4 is actually much more than the sum of its parts, which is good to take into account when thinking about the high price of 4250 euros. It's not only one of the most versatile room correction units, but also a swell DA converter and pre-amplifier with an advanced headphone amplifier section.

It's also elating that at its core the Anti-Mode X4 is a very simple device to use -- also in Finnish. It first gives the user six good and ready-corrected sound profiles, and second the tools to adjust them as you wish.

If your audio reproduction system is otherwise in shape, Anti-Mode X4 is a wonderful solution to improve the sound in the listening location outside of the devices themselves.