A lot of my students ask me this question quite often, “Why Sonarworks SoundID Reference?”.
The answer is simple but also complicated, the dichotomous nature of the question makes it quite difficult to explain the reason in a simplified manner, hence the blog. I simply cannot put it in a few words. So, let’s get started.
Flat Frequency Response
Acoustic engineer’s main aim is to achieve a flat frequency response. A lot of effortful work is needed to establish an isolated soundproof environment. There are many things we need to add or remove to make sure that the reflections are completely dead, and the room to be absolutely quiet. But getting rid of reflections isn’t the only reason why our room might need acoustic treatment; there are so many other things to look out for.
Critical Frequency, Standing Waves, Comb Filtering, Bass buildups, etc. which is indeed not easy to fix. Although the reflections need to be taken care of by us, the rest can be taken care by a software called Sonarworks Reference. This software is used to achieve a flat frequency response. The flat frequency response can be achieved by using simple techniques which Sonarworks uses called as “Corrective Equalization”.
But before we even go into the nitty-grittiy of room correction, we need to understand, why there is a need for it in the first place. I have heard a lot of myths from my students which I am going to bust today. These myths are again spread by self-proclaimed audio enthusiasts and engineers. See, I honestly don’t have a beef with them, I admire the people who have made a name in the industry on their own. But the kind of misinformation they spread is something which is intolerant and appalling at the same time. Just because a few things worked for you, doesn’t mean it work for the rest of us.
Myth 1: If you have the ear, you can mix on any monitoring system.
Firstly, developing an ear means, getting tuned to flat frequency response. We train our ears in an environment which is not used to our ears. Listening to music on our conventional consumer audio systems has made our ears accustomed to certain frequencies. When we hear the same track on any flat frequency sound monitoring system, we start hating what we are listening to. It takes some time, for our ears to adapt to these monitoring systems and when they do, our ears start to making judgements based on the perceived listening of the music that we are used to.
Having such a notion of listening to music on a conventional consumer audio system and making it susceptible to ears by mixing on a consumer system. By doing this, you’re not only fooling yourself. No matter how hard you try, it is not going to be easy to mix a track in a consumer audio system, with or without reference track, period.
Myth 2: Having Studio Monitors is more than enough; you don’t need acoustic treatment.
For this myth to break down, I’ll have to explain all about acoustic problems of a non-acoustically treated room, which would take an entire module for me to explain, so there is soon going to be a course on acoustic treatment in the audio engineering module where I’ll be explaining all of these issues to bust these myths, so make sure to check that out and stay tuned for more content in the All Access Pass of LSA.
The result would be getting frustrated, questioning your own mixing decisions and choices you’ve made in life and finally hiring a mixing and mastering engineer to get it done the right way. I am saving you some time here, either you’re going to learn the hard way or the easy way, the choice would be completely yours.
Myth 3: You cannot mix your track ever in your life, you’ll always need a mixing or mastering engineer to make your track sound like industry standard, since these guys won’t share their secrets.
Well to be very honest, the secrets are already out there. What do you really think, the mixing engineers are using some secret plugins and hardware which helps them make their mixes magically sound better than the rest of us? That is utter non-sense.
The ideas behind mixing is very simple, “It doesn’t matter what you do inside your Digital Audio Workstation, what matters is what comes out of your speakers”, I’m directly quoting Andrew Scheps, one of the finest mixing and mastering engineer. What he meant by saying this was, that it doesn’t matter which plugin you are using for compression, EQ-ing or Stereo enhancement. What should matter is what you are hearing out of most speakers. This will lead to another precarious presupposition, “if you check your mixes on different audio systems, then you can get the industry standard mix.”
The problem with the above statement is that it is quite a fact that if you get your mixes to sound right on majority of the consumer audio systems, you may have a good chance to get adopted to this system, but the problem is, amidst this path, the user usually gets lost in a way and ultimately ends up being frustrated. Because, achieving this, without proper monitoring system is not any easy task to start with.
Components of Sonarworks Reference
Given below are different components of Sonarworks Reference:
Omni-directional Microphone & XLR Cable
SoundID Reference Software
Make sure that you have a good audio interface which support +48v of phantom power, because the omni-directional microphone which is bundled with Sonarworks Reference is a condenser microphone, and all condenser microphones need +48v of DC power supply.
So, how is Sonarworks going to help when all other means have failed. The answer is quite simple; you need to get rid of all the reflections of the room by either applying acoustic curtains or acoustic panels. Once, this is done, using the microphone, in a step-by-step process; the Sonarworks software will identify the problems of your room and apply an EQ curve on the output of your system to achieve a flat frequency response.
Once, the calibration of the entire room is done, I would highly recommend getting used to the color first; because your ears have not adopted the corrected sound yet. Listen to a lot of professionally mixed music in the calibrated room and then start mixing with a reference. You will have higher chance that your mix is getting translated among different audio systems the way you hoped it would.
Sonarworks also gives you an option to make the frequency response almost flat by using Sound ID Reference for Headphones. We all know how different headphones sound from one another. The colour or the frequency response of the headphones are also quite uneven; some of the frequencies are boosted, some of them are dipped. So, the headphones need to be calibrated in order to get a flat frequency response. This is where Sonarworks Headphones Calibration falls into the picture. Before you buy any headphones, you may want to check the Sonarworks Reference Supported Headphones list and their reviews for pairing the headphones with the software.
And that is all you’ll need to know about Sonarworks Reference Calibration Software. I hope this brought some clarity to your perception of how mixing is done and busted some crazy myths.
Remember, different version of Sonarworks Reference cost different. I’ll see you in the next blog, thanks for reading this one.