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What are the benefits to using Sonarworks Reference 4?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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What are the benefits to using Sonarworks Reference 4?

So due to Covid-19 I'm going to be spending some time mixing / mastering some music on headphones (AudioTechnica M50X) and have been reviewing the information and demo on Sonarworks site for Reference 4 for the last day. I have a few questions if anyone out there has any thoughts or experience.

1. How could it be that all these big companies (Sony, AudioTechnica, Senhiesser (probably spelled wrong), etc... are making headphones specifically for pro-audio monitoring that aren't giving the user a flat response? If the issue is just that they have a curve built into them, why don't they just correct that curve and have a perfect response?

2. Flattening the curve changes the sound in your headphones, but as each sound system is completely different, how does mixing with a completely flat curve mean that your music will translate and sound the same on each system as their website states? Clearly this seems false. A flat response should make it easier to mix, but can't make the music sound the same on a variety of different speakers or suddenly sound good in a car.

3. I understand the benefit of being able to use different headphones / go to different studios and always have the same response you are used to and understand. That sounds nice.

Any thoughts on the above? Anyone using Sonarworks reference and have good or bad things to say about it?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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moostapha's Avatar
 

I'm going to go ahead and comment on this despite being much less experienced than many here, based on my understanding...

1. Because there is no "perfect" response...everyone (designers, engineers, and listeners) has their preferences. An actually flat response sounds a little too bright to me. So, my mix/master on perfectly flat monitors is going to wind up dark, even more so on darker systems, until I get used to it...but it still won't be what I like to hear.

2. That's one of the core challenges of mixing & mastering. In a theoretical sense, as far as tonality, you probably want something that's more like an average response. So, when someone else buys a bright system, it's probably because they like a bright sound, and the song will sound brighter to them than you...which is what they want. Substitute any other adjective for bright, and that still basically holds. If you don't happen to like an "average" response, whatever makes your reference tracks sound right to you is probably what you should use. Then get used to it and make your mixes & masters sound right.

3. If you're talking about headphones (or IEMs), it's easy enough to just bring yours. A lot of people do that. I think it's a good idea, assuming that you have headphones/IEMs that you really like and (more importantly) know really well.

I own sonarworks but don't use it. I have not bought any of their calibrated headphones. After I measured and corrected my room, I did some masters of old projects and they didn't translate as well even to my hi-fi and my car compared to what I got out of tuning by ear. It might have just been a matter of getting used to it, and I might be sticking my head in the sand. But, I got better results without it.

IMHO, the exact tonality of your monitors can be closer to "what you like" than any almost-unattainable and probably undefinable "perfect". Obviously, they need to be "flat" enough that they're not artificially accentuating or hiding anything...but exactly where that lies is up to you...and that may or may not match Sonarwork's (or anyone else's) target curve.

It's more important that the monitors are unforgiving in terms of detail and small amounts of distortion, that whatever flaws exist in your monitors aren't impeding your ability to make decisions.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motomotomoto View Post
So due to Covid-19 I'm going to be spending some time mixing / mastering some music on headphones (AudioTechnica M50X) and have been reviewing the information and demo on Sonarworks site for Reference 4 for the last day. I have a few questions if anyone out there has any thoughts or experience.

1. How could it be that all these big companies (Sony, AudioTechnica, Senhiesser (probably spelled wrong), etc... are making headphones specifically for pro-audio monitoring that aren't giving the user a flat response? If the issue is just that they have a curve built into them, why don't they just correct that curve and have a perfect response?

2. Flattening the curve changes the sound in your headphones, but as each sound system is completely different, how does mixing with a completely flat curve mean that your music will translate and sound the same on each system as their website states? Clearly this seems false. A flat response should make it easier to mix, but can't make the music sound the same on a variety of different speakers or suddenly sound good in a car.

3. I understand the benefit of being able to use different headphones / go to different studios and always have the same response you are used to and understand. That sounds nice.

Any thoughts on the above? Anyone using Sonarworks reference and have good or bad things to say about it?
1. If they COULD get a flat or whatever HRTF-comprensated (no sense without frequency-dependent crossfeed) response they would, do not consider them dumb or ignorant.
2. It will not sound the same but it will preserve the quintessence of the music\sound\intended sonic picture across as many as possible systems as best as can be achieved.
Sonarworks does not make a sense for an audio pro working in HPs since one can buy a measurement mic, measure his own pair of HPs and make the correction him(her)self. I would rather prefer a analogue HP amp with analog EQ compensation based on your HPs. But that is just me. PCM digital is a no-no for me, except PCM converted to DSD.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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I think Sonarworks can be useful but it wasn't perfect for my taste. I've tried around 5 headphones that have been supported by Sonarworks (KRK KNS 8400, Sennheiser HD 598, Sennheiser HD 800, Audeze LCD-2C and a Shure model). With the curve 100% applied, I can see the house sound of Sonarworks reflected in all of the headphones. It just doesn't suit my taste. The sound got fatiguing in the long run.

Audeze offers their Reveal DSP plugin which is just like Sonarworks for their own headphones. With Audeze headphones, I easily preferred the correction curve of Audeze over Sonarworks. Audeze's curve sounds good and right to my ear. Bass doesn't stick out like it does with Sonarworks.

(Audeze's linear phase is also 3 seconds long which is bad latency wise, but best for sound quality. I remember when Audeze's Reveal came out, people were complaining about why it was so long and that Sonarworks (which had already been out for some time and being used) was doing their linear phase with only 60 ms. One of Audeze's reps involved with designing said it was necessary to make it that long for SQ. The shorter filters didn't sound as good. Just another bit of information that I think is interesting.)
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moostapha View Post
IMHO, the exact tonality of your monitors can be closer to "what you like" than any almost-unattainable and probably undefinable "perfect". Obviously, they need to be "flat" enough that they're not artificially accentuating or hiding anything...but exactly where that lies is up to you...and that may or may not match Sonarwork's (or anyone else's) target curve.

It's more important that the monitors are unforgiving in terms of detail and small amounts of distortion, that whatever flaws exist in your monitors aren't impeding your ability to make decisions.
I agree with everything your saying, and what strikes me as odd about Sonarwork's "curve" is that it is completely flat. Is it even possible that they would be able to create a completely flat response?

In any case I really appreciate the thought out response.

I have purchased Sonarworks and I will put my thoughts on usage of it below.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH View Post
1. If they COULD get a flat or whatever HRTF-comprensated (no sense without frequency-dependent crossfeed) response they would, do not consider them dumb or ignorant.
2. It will not sound the same but it will preserve the quintessence of the music\sound\intended sonic picture across as many as possible systems as best as can be achieved.
Sonarworks does not make a sense for an audio pro working in HPs since one can buy a measurement mic, measure his own pair of HPs and make the correction him(her)self. I would rather prefer a analogue HP amp with analog EQ compensation based on your HPs. But that is just me. PCM digital is a no-no for me, except PCM converted to DSD.
I certainly wasn't saying they were ignorant, just seems like how could Sonarworks make them perfectly flat if they can't?

In any case I have purchased Sonarworks, mixed using it for a few days and have put my thoughts below.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoom25 View Post
I think Sonarworks can be useful but it wasn't perfect for my taste. I've tried around 5 headphones that have been supported by Sonarworks (KRK KNS 8400, Sennheiser HD 598, Sennheiser HD 800, Audeze LCD-2C and a Shure model). With the curve 100% applied, I can see the house sound of Sonarworks reflected in all of the headphones. It just doesn't suit my taste. The sound got fatiguing in the long run.

Audeze offers their Reveal DSP plugin which is just like Sonarworks for their own headphones. With Audeze headphones, I easily preferred the correction curve of Audeze over Sonarworks. Audeze's curve sounds good and right to my ear. Bass doesn't stick out like it does with Sonarworks.

(Audeze's linear phase is also 3 seconds long which is bad latency wise, but best for sound quality. I remember when Audeze's Reveal came out, people were complaining about why it was so long and that Sonarworks (which had already been out for some time and being used) was doing their linear phase with only 60 ms. One of Audeze's reps involved with designing said it was necessary to make it that long for SQ. The shorter filters didn't sound as good. Just another bit of information that I think is interesting.)
Thanks for your response. Wish I had known about Audeze earlier!
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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So I ended up purchasing Sonarworks after a ton of recommendations from other engineers.

I've mixed on them for a few days, and here are my thoughts.

I feel like the experience of listening to the music while mixing is less pleasant and more fatiguing.

I do find it's easier to hear each frequency and make subtle mixing adjustments. It's hard to describe, but now without it on it feels like my headphones almost have a cloud of loudness over everything (even at the same volume).

I feel like I am having an easier time getting good mixes on my HP with it, but the true test will be when these first projects are released and I truly get to hear how they translate to many different speaker systems.
Old 5 days ago
  #9
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funka's Avatar
 

I use the system only with headphones (Beyer DT 880 Pro).
First I had the system working with the average curve, as my Beyer was not calibrated.

Then, it has been a month or so that I bought another Beyer DT 880 pro from them, that time, calibrated.
It was night and day, really, and this time, what I hear with those calibrated headphones translate very well.

Note that I use them exclusively with GoodHertz CanOpener(150%, 60°) before sonarworks plugin(B&K curve applied). I am glad I bought the calibrated headphones, it is totally worth it for me.

As I proposed them, I hope they'll put a crossfeed algo (like the GoodHertz one, partnership?) in their systemwide so I can also use headphones with the same sound inside and outside the DAW.
Old 5 days ago
  #10
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Al Rogers's Avatar
 

I own Sonarworks Reference 4 but am not currently using it. I first tried it on a friend's recommendation and was favorably impressed. Over time my Mac Pro developed some buggy audio behavior. Hmmm...

I did a clean install of Catalina leaving Sonarworks off the new build and have had no further problems with my core audio. That's one reason why I'm not using it.

Sonarworks can change the way your speakers/phones sound but you still have to learn them until you can work by ear. I know my Genelec monitors and Sennheisser headphones pretty well. My mixes translate. It's only a hobby. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be?

After using Sonarworks for 6 months and then not using it for the past 3 months I can say that I don't miss it at all. YMMV.

Last edited by Al Rogers; 5 days ago at 01:31 AM..
Old 5 days ago
  #11
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IMHO Most the issues with headphones is not the spectrum or phase response. Our hearing system can easily compensate these. But the massive distortion found in most headphones cannot be compensated easily. Neither by our brains, nor a processor.

I'm afraid there's no way around spending at least 1500$ or even much more to get a solid physical starting point, the lowest distortion possible. I opted for the Grado PS1000 primarily for this reason. Haven't found a cleaner regular headphone to date (I love my Stax, too, but prefer working with Grado, accepting how uncomfortable they are).
Old 2 days ago
  #12
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I've calibrated 3 pairs of speakers with sonarworks , PMCTB2A - big alteration , some mixcubes - big alteration , and then some NS10'S which needed almost no adjustment - none at all they were already totally flat - had to redo the callibration as thought it must be a mistake , but no they were flat already - totally almost..

I've only had it for about 6 mths , but ive gone off it - its like it makes the PMC'S more bright and its just weird. When i have it on it becomes super clear , then when i turn it off the speakers become all wooly and muffled sounding - I dont really need it on at all with ns10s - but again it does make them clearer although eq graph is not altered.

I dont know if i should be using it or not.
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