Pro studios spend a significant amount of time and money making sure that their mix rooms are properly designed and treated to ensure that the room itself delivers as flat a response as possible. This is purposefully done to make sure the room itself does not create frequency response anomalies that can lead to phase cancellation. Like us, many of these studios utilize Sonarworks Reference 4 software to synchronize all listening environments allowing a consistent mix experience at home, in the studio, or in your headphones.
Advanced EQ systems to compensate for room modes have been used for decades now but what makes Sonarworks so special is that it integrates seamlessly into your computers output and can accommodate multiple EQ profiles. These can be switched depending on the monitors you choose to work with, as well as the headphones you use.
This isn’t to say that the software will miraculously cure the listening experience for anywhere in your room. This is where having a well-designed and treated room can make all the difference. However, when it comes to your sweet spot (the position at the top of the equilateral triangle between your reference monitors where the mix engineer should be positioned) Sonarworks Reference will make a big difference in the tightness and imaging that will lead to mixes that translate well on all playback system.
This isn’t to say that the software is a substitute for a well-designed and expertly tuned room but that the two work well together and result in individualized control that used to require a trained expert in room tuning.
The reference 4 software can be purchased with a calibration microphone designed to work with the software to measure impulse waves and pink noise from various positions in the room. Those responses are then used to calculate a room response curve that will flatten the dips and bumps in the EQ curve generated by your speakers and how they are interacting with your room.
The software also goes so far as to have an emulation mode that can mimic other speaker designs. You can choose to use it as a plugin that is inserted at the end of your Master fader chain or it can be used in system wide mode, ensuring that all sound coming out of your computer will be processed using the software.
My preference is the latter.
NOTE: When using it on your master fader in your DAW you must remember to remove the plugin on export or printing your mix, as the desired result will be completely butchered if you don’t.
We unified all of our courses at Pyramind with Sonarworks’ Reference 4.
This allows our students to work in our labs or on their laptops on headphones, and then walk into any of our four studios and have a consistent listening experience. We’ve spent a significant amount of time designing the acoustics of each of our studios but regardless, the Sonarworks Reference software has made a big difference in making each listening environment consistent.
Sonarworks has gone to great lengths to provide a pretty exhaustive list of headphone models in their response curves. This is no small feat. Headphones provide their own set of challenges but remove the acoustic environment as a variable in the monitoring chain, so in principle, even a cheap pair of headphones could be equalized to provide a neutral-sounding monitor system.
With all the time being spent working on laptops these days choosing a pair of headphones that are designed for producing can run into much higher dollars than your average everyday listening headphones.
Pyramind provides each student with a set of AKG K702 headphones, each individually calibrated by Sonarworks for the best possible accuracy.
We chose these particular headphones because bang for buck we felt they were a combination of comfort (closed back with comfy ear cushions that enable long use without head or in-ear fatigue) and quality.
This has made a big impact on student workflow and collaborations as it has allowed them to drastically cut down on translation issues by adopting a standardized set of headphones. What’s great about Reference is that it doesn’t change the nature of our training, it just makes the production workflow that much easier and better. It’s a blessing because you know that what students are hearing in their headphones will translate anywhere else, and that’s a real asset when teaching.
One Size Fits All
Despite the variety of programs we offer at Pyramind, one thing that they all have in common is their standardized use of Sonarworks’ Reference 4 audio calibration software, something that I consider crucial to the school’s signal chains.
Having consistency throughout all the listening environments that we have is essential to teaching because you want ensure that we’re all hearing the same thing.We have Reference installed in all four of our studios and on every DAW workstation in our labs and it helps ensure that what you’re hearing is going to translate regardless of where it is heard.
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