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IK Multimedia ARC System

IK Multimedia ARC System

4.65 4.65 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

An excellent hardware/software tool for optimizing room and monitor acoustics.


26th August 2020

IK Multimedia ARC System by Sound-Guy

IK Multimedia ARC System

IK Multimedia ARC System 3
As previously reviewed on Gearslutz, IK Multimedia ARC is a software based room correction system that was last updated in 2017 with new software and a new impressive MEMS solid-state microphone. Spring of 2020 saw the release of ARC System 3 which can still use the MEMS mic, but introduces a totally new analysis program using a new measurement approach that can use any calibrated measurement microphone. Since I have four such mics, I was eager to check it out.

As before you get an analysis program to use with a measurement mic and the correction plug-in to use for playback in your DAW or other audio program. The measurement program has been totally changed and now “steps” you through the procedure, from mic selection to specifying your audio interface to indicating your listening environment. And the measurement process is new – you always make the same number of measurements (21) and you make them in three dimensions!

What Is System 3?
As with ARC 2.5, ARC System 3 (ARC 3) can be purchased with the MEMS mic or as software only. The big difference is that you have more choices of mics to use with the new analysis software – you can use the MEMS mic if you have one, use either of the previous two ARC condenser mics, or any RTA measurement mic that you have. You can even use the calibration file supplied with a good measurement mic to get the best measurement accuracy. I checked this out with two of my mics and it worked fine. BTW, a calibrated measurement mic is not one of your studio mics! It is a small capsule omni-directional microphone specifically designed for room measurement and there are good models available for well under $100 (and great ones for over $1,000!). Suggestions I’ve read saying you can use a studio mic like an AKG C414 set to omni are fine if you don’t care about erroneous peaks and dips as large as 8 to12 dB!



Measuring the Room
After mic and interface set-up you specify the listening environment from a choice of five rooms, project studio to home theater. Then you begin the measurements starting with the mic at the center location, but with it lowered about 6 inches (15 cm) below nominal “sitting” ear-height. Each measurement location is shown graphically in the analysis window with a ‘Capture Point’ button used to start each test. You make seven measurements at this height starting at the center location and symmetrically on the left and right. Then the program tells you to raise the mic up to ear height and run the same locations again. Finally it tells you to move the mic up another 6 inches and make the last seven measurements.



I was pleased that the measurements do not just start running automatically, forcing you to move quickly. You can carefully position the mic at each location, click the “Capture Point” button, and then have a few seconds to get out of the way before the test signals start. Another great feature is that the analysis window can be resized up to your full video monitor width making it easy to see the text and graphics from behind a mic stand. And I was also happy to see that IKM stress the need to get out of the way when measurements are made – the manual states “Try to use a mic stand with a boom arm that is extended as far away from the stand as possible. This helps avoid reflections from the stand that will interfere with the analysis at high frequencies. Do not stand or sit near the microphone while the analysis are running.”

This is very important since your body will distort measurements, especially at mid to high frequencies (I’ve measured 6-10 dB changes standing or sitting in different locations within a foot or two of a measurement mic). You should not sit in your listening position, odd as that may seem, and the best location is directly behind the mic, low to the floor. One audio engineer has even said it’s best if you can leave the room during measurements, which is not really practical! I crouch low directly behind the mic stand as each measurement is made, always in the same location, and use a mic boom oriented horizontally with the mic body parallel to the boom and aimed over the chair back, facing toward the front. This allows moving the mic side to side by swinging the boom and forward and back by sliding the boom. And I can slide the mic column up and down for the high and low measurement “layers”.

Measurement spacing depends on the chosen listening area and while IKM do not specify actual horizontal locations, the graphic shown for each listening area gives you an idea of useful positions. I checked with IKM and found the measurement system works out the actual locations from signal timing, so the graphic view is only a guideline and you can select positions that make sense for your room use, just be sure the first measurement at each level is centered equally from each speaker (I check only this first position with a tape measure) and that the following measurements are close to symmetrical around the center location and made in the same order at each of the three levels.

Note that the tighter the grouping you use for measurements, the more precise the monitoring system will perform in that area. If you have a small project studio and are the sole operator, use a tight pattern with mics moved only a foot (30 cm) or so around the center point. If you need to cover a larger area, the response will be more “averaged” and correction in a single spot less precise and less linear.

After measurements are made you name the calibration file and can choose a speaker graphic – IKM have cleverly provided images for a couple of their actual monitor speakers along with several well known models from other manufacturers, but the image is just a visual key to your calibration and has no effect on the correction.

Ready to Play!
Just as the measurement module is a totally new design, the ARC plug-in looks a little different and is functionally very different from earlier versions. Note that ARC 3 calibration files do not work with any previous versions and the ARC 3 plug-in can use only files made with the ARC 3 measurement program. However, both versions of ARC can coexist on your computer at the same time so you can keep ARC 2.5 (or earlier) if you like, but I’d bet you’ll go forward using ARC 3.



The new plug-in has two modes, Play and Edit. As the screen-shot shows, Play is similar to previous ARC main screens listing the Measurement file used, the Target profile (flat and four custom curves), and Virtual Monitoring selection (Off being the choice for full speaker correction). Virtual Monitoring has been expanded to 14 playback system emulations including IKM’s own iLoud Micro, iLoud MTM, an NS-10, and some Adam and Genelec speakers (indicated with hints rather than actual names!). Virtual Monitoring includes nine speakers plus a “boxy” car stereo, two TV’s, a laptop computer, and even a smart phone! These are very useful for auditioning mixes as they would sound in some extremely different listening environments.

Play mode also shows the measured and corrected frequency plots, the filter phase control (Natural or Linear), and the metering panel with choice of Peak, RMS, or a new LUFS/Dynamic Range display that should be very useful. Metering can still be viewed either pre or post processing which is crucial to assuring true peak levels of the input signal don’t exceed 0 dBFS (actually should be -1 dBFS or so, but that’s a whole topic in itself). There is a Correction on/off button, an RTA switch to show the new real-time spectrum plot, and a Trim control. I found that ARC 3 provides automatic loudness compensation when you compare sound with ARC correction on or off. The Trim control is to prevent your amp/speakers/audio interface from pushing sounds into distortion since, if your room has large dips, ARC will increase gain at those frequencies which could lead to trouble. The plug-in detects the maximum boost level in the correction filter and automatically sets the Trim control to compensate, but you can change this setting as you wish (I found in my studio I can safely set it to full output which keeps my monitor reference level calibration intact). ARC 3 itself will not clip or distort even if its output exceeds full scale by 24 dB (plenty of bits used in processing). Use good speaker loudness calibration and you should have plenty of headroom even with Trim at maximum.

The other main screen is Edit which includes the Target profile window and the same plots and lower controls as the Play panel, but the frequency plot now includes six “handles” that can be used to modify the overall response (which can be saved as custom targets). This may seem at odds with “flattening” your room, but as many acousticians and audio engineers will tell you, Fletcher-Munson is out to fool you unless you mix at high (and dangerous) levels. If you don’t know these guys (Fletcher and Munson) or the newer ISO 226:2003 standard for loudness versus frequency response, you should look it up. Using a smooth rise below about 200 Hz, up 6-8 dB at 20-40 Hz (your lowest reproducible frequency) will enable hearing low bass at safe listening levels (76-80 dBA is often suggested as an average level for a small room).

The Edit screen also has a button to combine the left and right corrections into one (only needed in a terribly asymmetrical room) and Low Range/High Range controls to limit the frequency range of the correction which is helpful if you want to maintain some of the speaker’s mid or upper frequency voicing or if ARC tries to boost the bass level of a small speaker too much (hopefully you’ll not need either of these controls). And at the right side is a resolution control (Correction Type – Default, Broad or Sharp) which affects how smooth the correction curve is – the broad setting does not apply precise correction, but the audible effect from broad to sharp is subtle, demonstrating that our hearing is not as keen as an RTA mic and spectrum analyzer!



Is ARC 3 a Better ARC?
I compared ARC 3 to ARC 2.5 with a quick listening test and the results were similar, but I heard a noticeable improvement with ARC 3 on vocals, which were clearer and more focused. With ARC 2.5 (and more so with no correction) listening to a vocal, or any phantom image center signal, and moving my head a little side-to-side results in a "phasey" effect in the mid and high frequencies. This is likely comb-filtering of residual room reflections varying a little at each ear. And even sitting still this effect “blurs” the sound some. More critical listening found this improved “focus” applies across the full stereo field. ARC 3 sounds more "natural" than my previous versions and much, much better than my room without using ARC correction. It provides better focus and better depth to the sound stage than I’ve ever heard in my room.

The new 3-D measurement procedure process is easier to perform than previous methods, even though it requires a few more measurements than the maximum of ARC 2.5, and the results are a more detailed acoustic “map” of your room/speaker system. This and the added features like frequency range control, correction type, and enhanced metering make ARC 3 a major improvement over the already fine ARC 2.5 version.

Conclusion

ARC 3 can significantly improve a moderately treated room and make a well controlled room sound excellent, improving clarity and stereo imaging. While IKM marketing folks can honestly say “ARC System 3 improves frequency balance and stereo imaging in any room”, it is always best to first put what you can afford into room treatment – if you are reading this article you already know that! And you likely have found that trying to control the lowest few octaves is not the least bit easy! This is where ARC can really deliver. If you already have basic treatment in place, for the price of the ARC System 3 you won’t get as much improvement from additional physical room treatment, especially below a kilohertz or so.

If you already have a good calibrated measurement mic or have ARC 2.5 with the MEMS mic, you can get the software alone (and with a good discount for previous ARC versions). Otherwise ARC System 3 with the MEMS mic is an excellent investment. Highly recommended!

Pros
New easy to follow, comprehensive 3-D measurement process provides excellent, natural sounding correction

New controls like Range, Phase, and Correction Type expand adjustability

New real-time spectrum can be viewed on the frequency plot

Virtual Monitoring provides 14 difference “playback systems” to evaluate mixes in a range of simulated environments

Automated Trim prevents clipping in your audio interface, with user control over the final level

Enhanced pre and post process metering with Peak, RMS, or LUFS/DR readings

Can be used with any good measurement mic, and can even use a calibration file for the most accurate results

Excellent PDF manual and step-by-step measurement instructions

Cons
None I can determine
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https://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/arc3/

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Attached Thumbnails
IK Multimedia ARC System-arc-3-listening-area.png   IK Multimedia ARC System-arc-3-measure.png   IK Multimedia ARC System-arc-3-play.png   IK Multimedia ARC System-arc-3-edit-w-resolution.png   IK Multimedia ARC System-arc-3-mic.png  

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3rd March 2012

IK Multimedia ARC System by Matti21

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
IK Multimedia ARC System

I wanted to share my thoughts on IK multimedia's ARC and room correction systems in general since every thread about the subject seems to turn into a "room EQ vs acoustic treatment" argument.

Let's just get this thing out of the way first;
Is the ARC system a suitable replacement for acoustic treatment? = No.
I think everybody knows that by know. Yes, room correction software/hardware can help you with a few peaks and nulls but it does not stop first reflections and it does nothing to dampen reverberation.

That said I can tell you my result with the ARC system.
I bought the ARC system a short while after I got my new monitors (Adam A7x's). My previous monitors were way smaller so I hadn't really realized the world of low frequency problems I was about to enter. To be short; There was no way to get the bass right in my room. I had a few panels up already but mostly just to capture first reflections. The room was pretty small and after reading a ton of articles on room modes and acoustics I came to realize that attacking the problem by building more panels and bass traps would surely make me bankrupt and would still probably not get my room to a near flat response. You could probably argue that I would have been better off with Adam A5x but I had the money and wanted to get monitors that would last me a while without needing to shell out for a sub.
I deiced to give the ARC system a go after reading a few things about it online.

After taking my first measurement(s) this is what it came up with;


As you can see there were loads of problems. The ARC system did it's best to tackle them (without the "full range bass correction the response was much more flat). I was amazed! I could finally mix and my mixes sounded good and transferred pretty well. Before it had been hard do distinguish notes from any bass instrument but now I could hear things way more clearly.

Fast forward a few months and I'm now in a different room. It's bigger and more symmetrical. I have the same panels up to capture first reflections. My Adams finally have some room to breath. Music sounded great and mixing was way more fun. I'd been in my room a few days before I got around to measuring with the ARC system.
This was the result;


But this time my response was different. The ARC system made everything sound thin and it seemed to take all the character away from my monitors.
It also made my sweet spot tiny! moving my head just a little to the right or left and especially forward made everything sound way different. I didn't feel confident at all mixing with the ARC system on. I started wondering if a dead flat response was really helping me. I've mixed a lot of stuff on NS10's and they're no where near flat. But they translate well and I find it easy to mix with them.
I've stopped using the ARC for now. It seemed to help me the most when I had the most problems. I've gotten used to the way my monitors sound in my room. I now the low end is exaggerated and I now to compensate for it. My mixes sound better than ever simply because I changed the way I mix. I pause more frequently to listen to music I now well, to get a better feel for my mix and to tell me if I'm going in the right direction. That a long with just getting to know my room and my monitors has helped me way more than the ARC does with my current setup. If I move again who knows. Maybe I'll get more use out of the ARC system but right now it's sitting on the shelf.

I think the ARC system and other room correctional systems work best if you have very specific problems. If you have a very specific peak or a null it can definitely help you. But I'm happier than ever having gotten used to my room and I think that's way more important than a flat response.
The ARC system is definitely not a replacement for acoustic treatment but it can probably help you get a way with fewer panels/bass traps than it would take to get your room completely flat.

The ARC system goes for $200 right now and that's a killer price. You even get a decent mic along with it. If you have problems that are making it hard for you to mix and you think Room EQ-ing can help you with than definitely got for it. I'm pretty sure it's the cheapest room correction system out there but it's a well made product that does exactly what it sets out to do. You'll have to decide for your self if you agree with my view point on EQ-ing for a flatter response. It's no replacement for acoustic treatment but it definitely has it's use.

Last edited by The Press Desk; 28th August 2020 at 04:06 PM..

29th March 2012

IK Multimedia ARC System by dkelley

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
IK Multimedia ARC System

Ok, with an opening statement like that, I should qualify that I have only used the ik multimedia ARC system in a home studio.

However my home studio may not be quite like yours. It's acoustically treated with professionally made (not by me) fiberglass bass traps, full frequency absorbers, and in some sections, auralex foam for HF only reduction. The room is small-ish (14ft sq more or less), and the "presence" range of frequencies is the most problematic for me here aside from the obvious problems with bass response that anyone will get in a room this size and shape, treated or not.

My monitors:
My own monitors are a strange collection of custom one offs, vintage hifi using parts from jbl, focal, infinity and technics, along with vintage E/V sentry 100a studio monitors. I have owned or worked full time with genelec, focal, krk, alesis, yamaha, mackie, classic jbl and custom made built in mains. I've also designed and built loudspeakers with custom crossover designs and cabinets for decades.

THE ARC SYSTEM:
Ok, so my monitors are currently like this:

Vintage high end Infinity 3 way mains with modified woofers. insane speakers. brilliant.

My own custom designed/built jbl/focal 6.5" two way near fields. These were designed from the ground up to be mid forward so I could focus on that range and find issues, while also serving the same purpose as vintage NS10s ("if it sounds good on these, it'll sound good on anything!") while not having the nasty treble of vintage NS10s. Tight tight bass.

ARC - on my home made jbl/focals. 25 or however many mic positions are recommended throughout the main engineer listening position. I don't care about anyone else for these monitors so I just went with that. One monitors is much nearer the corner than the other and always has more bass as a result, but again I was focused on vocals wtih these so never minded too much.

Plugin - very cool. wish it could do those tricks of emulating different monitor systems like some audio interfaces/plugins can do, but meh, still a nice plug. By the way, there is a vst plugin option (free) for winamp, and I use it to play music through these monitors using the arc plugin when setting baselines for my mix styles. Helpful, very helpful.

Anyhow - the results after runnning the setup carefully?

WOW. My little monitors sound SO MUCH like my infinities but with the small near field directionality and that super tight bass they have but EXTENDING WAY WAY DEEPER than before from the ported 6.5" low q design (my own spec, no humps in the bass that way but more bass output than closed box from a small speaker). And the right and left monitors are virtually identical sounding in every way including AMOUNT of bass output until the lowest octave where the more corner-located speaker gets deeper than the other one. ARC evened that out so much that it simply goes deeper - anything above that point has the two speakers matching perfectly. It's amazing how the extension is just there when you want it. And the mids are flatened out in my speakers, and while I don't ALWAYS want that, it means I Can actually mix on these speakers and hear things completely flat/neutral yet still super punchy and tight and with amazing HF dispersion/imaging from small speakers yet super directional mids rather like wearing headphones, again part of the design due to how I setup the crossovers.

INCREDIBLE! I love arc.

Also tried it later on the infinities - it made VERY little difference as they already sounded much like the arcified jbls, but it did bring out the midrange a tiny bit and modified the HF a little bit. Also solved a hole in the bass due to a standing wave in the room (I know because it doesn't exist in a much larger room I tried these in before). It doesn't completely solve the hole I should say, but it makes it much less problematic and ignorable due to having no impact elsewhere in the response - just 2 notes that are quieter in one speaker from the other due to location in the room. Before those two notes were inaudible in that one speaker and quite emphasized int he other speaker - now both are similar and close to neutral, with one still being slightly lower output than the other. There is only so much arc can do for a bad room, but I'm impressed. the whole was in the range of 10 db, for what it's worth, before arc came along.


With my jbls it's solving issues in the room and in the monitors, rather extreme changes throughout the frequency range, and in the end it just makes them sound neutral, flat, powerful, and sexy! It TRANSFORMED my home built near fields into something they were never intended to be nor I ever dreamed they could be - competitive with very very pricey pro tracking and mixing monitors.

With my large infinities it's just solving issues with the room - it thinks the speakers are already as flat as I felt (which is comforting - it made almost no changes other than room mode frequencies).

In the end the arcified infinities and jbls soudn surprisingly similar, where without arc they are dramatically different for different purposes. I toggle arc with my jbls for the differnet purposes now and really enjoy just working with those speakers for most of my nights.

Note: the drivers in my home made nearfields are top of the line jbl and focal drivers, crossover is very advanced professionally quality (done by me), and I do think it's quite possible that very cheap speakers may not always be able to handle the bass increases or such that a product like ARC can generate in an effort to improve the performance of your system.

I see some large bumps in arc's compensation graph within the bass of these speakers (where arc is making up for limitations of speakers and room), so watch that you don't blow anything out in your monitors if you use a product like this.

ARC does appear to be smart enough to avoid increasing bass where the speaker simply can't output enough to be worthwhile, so it doesn't get near the woofer damaging range for me, but again other cheap monitors may not fare so well. I don't know, but it's worth being cautious.

PROBLEMS: I had a couple of situations where I would hit a crinkle a piece of paper or something during ARC measurement process with the test mic. I also had the forced air furnace kick in a couple times when I was doing this (in the middle of winter). I thought the sound was very quiet - it's just warm air being blown in from above, but amusingly enough right at where the test mic was positioned. The test failed invariably though. So don't make noises during measurements. Fortunately arc is smart enough to tell you each time it fails right away so you can retest again right away, which only takes a few seconds for each test.

TESTING is loud and annoying. fast frequency sweeps repeat for a while, wait, then repeat. Expect to become annoyed. I know that I did.

Don't hold the mic. dont' even be tempted. put it on a stand and move it properly, on a boom if need be for positioning requirements. You WILL GO CRAZY if you try to hold the mic steady, although you can do it if you absolutely must. I did it this way the first time. It worked, but how annoying, how long, and how much of a muscle strain! From then on I used a mic stand. Bliss :-)

IT'S VERY HARD TO POSITION THE MIC ACCURATELY FROM THEIR DIAGRAMS. Just get close. trust me, ti's good enough. As long as you follow the patterns in the diagrams, you can veer off a bit each time but try to veer off the mirror images the same way if you must.

Anyhow, I retested several times and it always came up with similar results, inaudibly different but sometimes looking slightly different in the result graphs. Dont' fret too much - it ought to work.

I also tried using my vintage radio shack db level meter as a mic - it failed miserably no matter which arc mic setting I chose (a or b). don't try scamming arc with a fake measurement mic. Just buy the product and use it properly... after hearing the wrong results I am never tempted to try that again. I now know that I have no backup mic if I lose this IK one so will be keeping it safe and sound with the arc manual in it's own drawer.

31st March 2018

IK Multimedia ARC System by Sound-Guy

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
IK Multimedia ARC System

What's an ARC?
ARC is IK Multimedia's electronic "Advanced Room Correction" system, a combination of hardware (microphone) and software that is intended to improve room acoustics. The original version was introduced in 2007, and was the first software-based room correction product. Version 2.0 was released in 2012 with better software and an improved mic. ARC 2.5 was introduced in late 2017 with improved software and yet another mic.

Speaking of Mics
Why another mic? Traditional condenser mics are subject to unit to unit variation, and drift in frequency response over time, as much as several dB. Although the ARC software has always taken into account the nominal performance of each mic model, there could be up to 3 dB variation from mic to mic. The new MEMS mic alone costs about $/€70, which is not much considering what this mic can do. Used with ARC 2.5 software, it is flat to within half a dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

The ARC 2.5 software is free to current ARC 2.x owners (and will be familiar with little visible change other than the new mic choice, although it's been improved under the hood with better frequency resolution among other tweaks). If you don’t have ARC 2.x already, the software with the new mic is $/€200.

I’ve used ARC for several years and found it to be a valuable asset. I just noticed that a full review of ARC hasn't been presented on this site in six years. That review covered ARC 1.0, although the article has a picture of the ARC 2 box! ARC 2.0 was a significant improvement over version 1, so is this "half" revision 2.5 only a slight improvement, or worth the upgrade? And if you don't already own an ARC version, is it worth the cost?

A New Mic
MEMS stands for MicroElectro Mechanical Systems, a technology that has been used for the microphones in millions of phones, tablets and laptops over the past decade. But until now MEMS mics have not been used for any studio applications, since their extremely small diaphragms yield lower signal-to-noise ratios than we like in a studio mic. But that may change in the next few years with new MEMS technologies being developed, and for a measurement mic, the signal to noise issue is not a serious problem, especially considering the upside of these mics. They are extremely consistent from one unit to the next. Millions of them can be made with frequency responses tracking within half a dB. And unlike traditional condensers, they are extremely rugged to physical shock and high humidity, and are very stable over time.

The Whole Package
I've used ARC 2.0 since 2012, so I had to buy only the new MIC and download the free upgrade. The mic is unlike the previous heavy metal body condensers - it is a small, black plastic device that weighs only 25 grams! That's under an ounce. The previous metal mic weighed about 150 grams, over five ounces. In spite of appearances, the MEMS mic is rugged - dropping it on a floor will likely do nothing whereas dropping a metal body condenser mic is likely to end it's usefulness. It comes with a mic clip and adapter that attaches to both US and European mic stands.

The software, as before, includes two programs, a measurement module which runs standalone (and is now 64 bit only) and a correction module available both in 32 bit and 64 bit versions. As with the previous versions, you start with measurements of your speakers and room. The idea is to make the first measurement at the engineer's position, equidistant from the speakers, then make additional measurements, some closer, some farther from the speakers, and some left and right of the center line. ARC works fine even if you use subwoofers along with your left/right speakers. A minimum of seven measurements is required, although you can make up to 16. Note that ARC not only makes corrections in the frequency domain, but also provides some adjustments in the time domain which helps tame delayed reflections.




The measurement module starts off with a choice of mic, which includes the original two condenser mics and the new MEMS mic. It also has settings for your mic input interface and the audio outputs to your speakers. Next is a level test using quick 20 Hz - 22.5 kH sweeps, which can be painful if run too loudly. IKM suggest using a level for the test signal similar to your normal monitoring level. I found the MEMS mic to be sensitive enough to make measurements with an audio level of about 60 dB SPL (A-weighted), which is not very loud, and ran my tests at about 75 dB, which is a good level for mixing. Although the MEMS mic does not have a published sensitivity spec, my measurements showed it to be about -38 dB (rel 1v/Pa) or about 13mV/Pa, which is typical for a small capsule capacitor mic. The equivalent noise (or “self-noise”) is rated at 29 dB which yields a snr of 65 dB. Not great for recording quiet sources, but as good as many other small diaphragm mics. It requires phantom power, and anything in the range of 12 to 48 volts will work.

After making a set of measurements you are given a window to enter a name for the set - I use three speaker sets in my control room and have named each measurement set appropriately. Here are a couple, with the first being my iconic Yamaha NS10M Studio monitors, which as you can see by the orange and white plots (before and after calibration) roll off rapidly below 100 Hz. ARC actually measures your speakers frequency response and does not try to artificially boost lows or highs, though there is a Full Range Bass Correction mode that will bump up the lowest frequencies as high as possible without over driving the speakers. I leave this turned off myself.




And below is the correction module showing results with my full range system which includes a sub-woofer, and ends up pretty flat (white plot) down to 30 Hz, though room modes had originally caused a few big bumps and dips (orange).





It's easy to switch the correction module to match the speaker set in use. And there are a number of additional settings to "tune" the sound to your liking! You can see under Target Curve I used HR Rolloff 1, which I prefer to a fully flat high end. You can also see I used different graphics for these two speaker systems, a white cone style for the NS10 (although it is not an accurate NS10 image!) and a fancy looking multi-way cabinet for the full range set.

Wait, I Thought ARC Would Perfect My Sound!
As you probably know, even the best, multi-thousand dollar studio monitors from different manufacturers, even different models from the same vendor, all sound a little different. In fact, most monitors have some built-in EQ to compensate for positioning (near a wall, in a corner, etc.) and reviews of high end monitors focus on issues such as the stability of the phantom centre image, stereo positioning and three-dimensional perspective. Expert reviewers make comments like "this is a very self-controlled monitor that always sounds smooth" or "I was very impressed by the level of definition and transient detail that it delivered". It's detail and definition that suffers in a poor room, even with an excellent speaker. But there is no such thing as a perfect speaker, and different people prefer the "tones" of different speakers and different EQ settings.

ARC will help increase detail and definition in a room, but it does not force you to use a particular EQ "tone". You are free to adjust the overall EQ to your liking, or to use one of the built-in target curves which include High Frequency Roll Off, Flat with Mid Compensation, and HF Roll-off with Mid Compensation. There is also a Virtual Monitoring menu with a number of EQ curves covering some small speakers, TV sets, car audio, boom boxes, desktop and laptop speakers. This enables hearing how your mix would sound on a restricted fidelity system, a good way to estimate how well your mixes translate to other systems.

How Does It Work?
In short, very well! The actual processing going on is proprietary, but as other reviewers have noted over the years, whatever it does, ARC does it well. Of course, as many have written before, the first 'project' you should accomplish in a studio space is acoustic treatment. You should apply whatever treatment you can afford to eliminate direct reflections and standing waves. For medium to high frequencies, the three "mirror points" are critical (left, right and ceiling). Bass traps in the corners, and broadband absorbers on walls and on wall-to-ceiling sections will help tame a room. There should also be some "uneven" reflecting surfaces to create diffusion. There are many articles online and in the usual recording technology magazines to help with this. You can spend as little as a few hundred dollars using a DIY approach, or you can spend well over a thousand dollars using commercial 'kits'. But once you’ve tamed the reflections and standing waves to within 5 to 10 dB or so, it will likely cost a lot more to make the room significantly better, especially the bass frequencies. This is where the ARC system can more than pay for itself. In my estimation, ARC 2.5 will deliver a much better result than $200 worth of additional sound control material, and in the case of a small room, no amount of acoustic treatment can fully fix the low end.

ARC is not a substitute for proper acoustic treatment, but unless your room is a large, professionally designed control room, ARC will improve your sonic experience notably.

In Conclusion
If you already have ARC 2, getting the free software is a no-brainer. Even using the older ARC 2 mic will result in better correction using the new software. But for $/€70 the new MEMS mic can provide more precise measurements and is a very reasonable deal. And it can be used for other studio duties, on loud sources, after calibrating your room. If you have ARC 1, now is the time to upgrade! ARC 2.5 is vastly improved over version 1.0, and the MEMS mic is also a significant improvement over your original mic, which by now has likely a different frequency response than it did when new.

If you have no ARC system, consider how your room sounds. Are your mixes clear, with tight bass, and no "boxiness" or smearing? If your room is very good already, you may detect only a small improvement using ARC correction (but will likely hear some improvement), but if your room sounds like most "bedroom" studios, you'll likely be amazed at the improvement.

Pros
The version 2.5 software update is free to anyone with version 2.x and works with previous ARC mics.

The new MEMS mic is reasonably priced and provides very precise measurements when used with ARC 2.5.

The new MEMS mic can be used for other studio recording activities after studio calibration is completed.

The Virtual Monitoring mode can be useful to audition how mixes might sound on boomboxes and other modest sound systems.

The PDF manual has very good tips on using ARC and is a MUST READ before you make measurements.

Cons
For best results the measurement process requires accurate placement of mic in all three dimensions, and can take the better part of an hour to do right. However, the measurement process is needed only once (unless you modify your studio layout or change speakers) and the correction module can be (and should be) used for all subsequent mixing and mastering.


Product Info: IK Multimedia | ARC System 2 with MEMS Microphone

All prices in US dollars and Euros

ARC 2.5 with MEMS Mic is $/€199.99; MEMS Mic alone is $/€69.99

ARC 2.5 software alone is free for ARC 2.x owners.

Attached Thumbnails
IK Multimedia ARC System-measurement-step1.jpg   IK Multimedia ARC System-correction-d5-krk.jpg   IK Multimedia ARC System-correction-ns10.jpg  
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