OK, I promised a few people an update on the update to the 3808. That sentence sounds like a drinking game...
Anyway, I updated to the new feature pack and am very impressed.
When I got the receiver and ran Audyssey, I wasn't particularly thrilled with any of the EQ options. It did fine with speaker distances, but I don't think it did anything to really improve the sound in my case. After you download the update / feature pack, you have to run Audyssey again, which I did Thursday night.
After going back and forth between "off", "Audyssey", "Audyssey Flat" and "Audyssey Bypass L/R", I can't say that I have any real preference. I went through a few well-recorded CDs and concert DVDs and as I've read from others, sometimes I'd prefer one setting for one song, but prefer a different setting for another. I didn't really expect miracles in my troublesome room (though it would have been a pleasant surprise!) so I'm not necessarily disappointed in those results, and think everyone else's results will be different.
I am LOVING
the new Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Audyssey Dynamic Volume though and would never buy another receiver without this or similar technology. I've written before about my missing the old "loudness" buttons on older equipment. I know that they were a little sledgehammer-like in their execution, but they still helped to solve what I always consider a fundamental flaw in receivers without it: How music becomes much thinner and less involving at lower volumes. Funny enough, my very first post here involved questioning whether or not Axioms played nice at a softer volumes or required lots of power and volume before coming to life. Well, I've been happy in my M60s except in the loss of bass at lower volumes...and that's not the speakers fault.
Audyssey Dynamic EQ not only increases the bass output as the volume gets lower, but intelligently raises the level of surrounds as well. This morning, as every Sunday morning, I read through the Sunday paper in front of the system and I had a couple of episodes of HD Soundstage available from the TiVo. When I do this Sunday morning thing, I keep the volume relatively low (~70dB) so as to not wake Joyce and I usually manually turn up the sub to keep a "full sound".
I have been keeping the Audyssey Dynamic EQ engaged at all times, but this morning was the first time it really, really strutted it's stuff. As I was watching well-recorded concerts in 5.1, I took a bit of time to engage/disengage the feature and found it dramatic. I know it's a bit of cliché, but with the feature off, the sound just literally collapsed to the front, sounding so thin in comparison that it was as if I only had the TVs built-in speakers on. The "crowd" sounds in the rear channels weren't there anymore, and the bass lessening just made it sound weak. Again, I don't and never have blamed the Axioms for this, it's just the natural way we hear things. The bass thing I expected, though it's so very nice not to have to keep readjusting the subs' output depending upon the volume level! The difference in the surround channels was at least as dramatic to me, though. For all practical purposes, at these softer volumes, it was like I was switching between 3.0 channels and 5.1 channels!
Audyssey Dynamic Volume is impressive as well, but, without sounding cocky about it, I'm pretty used to dealing with good compressors in some of my music and voiceover recording so it doesn't jump out at me quite as much. Maybe part of that is also that I haven't had a night or morning yet where I was looking to watch TV without waking Joyce. This morning, since I was watching music-based programming, I left Audyssey Dynamic Volume off / bypassed. If I were watching an episode of Family Guy, I would have engaged it. It does what it's supposed to do and looks like it'll serve it's purpose well. I'm just pretty used to that technology and haven't really made use of it yet. Actually, I have an Alesis 3630 compressor
that's been unused for a few years, and I've wondered in the past about incorporating it into the rack but I think the lack of remote capability would drive me up the wall. (As an aside, I've still wondered about incorporating it in the sub's chain before or after my Feedback Destroyer to see how a little compression of lower frequencies might help some of my bass issues).
Anyway, I've got to say, I haven't even touched the Rhapsody or Sirius aspects of the feature upgrade, but I think the Audyssey changes are easily worth $100 as it simply allows so much more programming to sound it's best under real-world (non-reference) levels.
Further, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm officially thrilled with the 3808 purchase. I started off feeling pretty good about it, but over the last several months, I've been continually more and more impressed with it. From little features such as it's GUI and on-screen displays, renaming inputs, variable crossovers, it's network connection allowing firmware updates, discovering internet radio and now it's implementation (and network updated) feature package, I really don't see being happier or ever buying a lesser receiver if I can afford it.
If you're on the fence, get one while you can get the feature pack and 6th Avenues' pricing!