The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Sonarworks Reference 3 studio calibration
4.9 4.9 out of 5, based on 5 Reviews

Does what it is supposed to and then some.

25th March 2015

by auralart

  • 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

Sonarworks Reference 3 is a digital room correction system that really nails it.

Before I go on let me mention that like many others I work a lot from home and one of the bedrooms has been turned into a mixing/editing room. I also have room treatment up which includes bass traps on the corners and 2" panels to help with reflections.

After doing some research and based off a recommendation from another GS member, I ended up going with Sonarworks 3 and ordered the trial package that comes with their own reference microphone.

Getting everything set up was very easy on my Mac. The software guides you step by step on what to do and where to place the mic.

I was very impressed at how the software used pulses of sound to find the microphone in the room and tells you where to move it while it is getting measurements. But the real test came when the software gave me the correction file and I loaded it into my DAW (Logic X). I pulled up an old project that was a pain in the a** to mix and started from scratch and re-mixed the whole thing.

Sonarworks not only gives you a corrected response but simulations of popular playback and monitoring systems as well. My favorite of course was the NS-10 simulation, which they nailed!

The usual routine when I finish a mix is to listen on earbuds, laptop speakers, home theater hifi speakers, and of course the car test. I take a notepad with me, write down what I don't like and adjust accordingly.

After using Sonarworks I can tell you that my notepad was blank. There was nothing that I needed to go back and fix. The low end had authority and was tight and controlled, mid range was right where it needed to be and the high end was perfect.

But of course only one project is not enough, maybe it was just luck that I got the mix right. Well, I'm about four mixes in with Sonarworks and the results have been very consistent. I'm hearing a better stereo image, more detail and I'm confident every move I make is gonna sound good on any system.

Amazing product, and top notch customer service.

  • 1
31st March 2015

by dewaldian

  • 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

I am amazed at how great this software is. I have a treated room with bass traps and acoustic panels, as well as a pair of Adam A77X's. I was always struggling with my mixes, despite the quality of my gear. I was finding myself mixing in headphones more often than not, just to eliminate the impact of my room on my monitoring environment.

Thanks to Sonarworks V3, I can finally say that I have a truly flat response from my monitors. I ran a before/after test by calibrating my speakers again, the second time with the plugin enabled. The post-Sonarworks frequency response graph was very flat. My monitors used to overemphasize low mids and highs in my room, which caused my mixes to come out dull. Now, with the balanced sound profile that Sonarworks gives me, mix decisions are incredibly easy and translate well.

Some side notes:
** Shipping was fast and setup was a breeze. I ordered the microphone from them to make things easy.
** The low latency option that they added to V3 is great, but is definitely a CPU hog. You will need a fast computer if you want to run Sonarworks on low-latency mode along with a low buffer in your DAW.
**I run other music through my DAW via Soundflower so I can take advantage of Sonarworks when listening to music.

Even if you have room treatment and good monitors, you can benefit from this software. At $350 (with the mic), it is probably cheaper than upgrading your room or your monitors, and it accomplishes more than either upgrade can offer. If you are on the fence, they have a 21 day free trial period, so give it a shot.

5 stars for Sonarworks

22nd April 2015

by DerekGarten

  • 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

I am a full time audio engineer and mixer. I spent the early part of my career working in the Tom Hidley tuned rooms of Masterfonics and Emerald Sound in Nashville. Upon the closure of Emerald and studio divisions of Masterfonics in 2007 I worked out of my home for a year on a few projects (wasn't easy),That was when I first started using IK ARC upon its initial release.

Even though my current facility is a treated room, I have found "room correction" software helps smooth out build up in certain frequencies.

I recently demoed the Sonarworks Ref 3 software and spent a number of days A/B ing the differences. Initially I thought them to be similar in sound until I gave them a full two day run though.

I meticulously measured the height and distances of our Barefoot MM27 Gen2's and listening position to insure an optimum measurement setup. I then completed the setup of Sonarworks and IK ARC.

I was impressed with the ease of the Sonarworks process. Sonarworks have integrated a measurement technique that allows the software to determine the distance of the microphone from the speakers eliminating the need to draw points on the floor or lay down numbered poker chips as some ARC users might recall doing.

Upon completion of both Sonarworks and ARC I setup two aux tracks with, one with Sonarworks and one with ARC. I then played multiple references that I am very familiar with and blindly swap between the two tracks. I did my best to initially level match then as well.

Almost every time I chose the Sonarworks over the ARC. It appeared to me that Sonarworks had a much clearer image of the low end. I felt I could hear the attack of bass notes more clearly, not just the frequency. I also felt that way about the midrange and top in that mixes referenced through the Sonarworks Mixes seem to pop more and was a more pleasing listening experience.

Going back to ARC I felt a more two dimensional sound and boxier midrange. The best way to describe the differences is 2D vs. 3D.

I also think the Sonarworks win in the user interface department. Everything is laid out in a usable and intuitive way.

They also include individually calibrated microphone with calibration file allowing for optimum accuracy when measuring.

A few notes I think they could improve on.

1. Allowing more time between placement of the microphone to the next listening positions or an option to allow me to move the microphone and then click to take a measurement, occasionally I would be mid moving the microphone and it would try to take a measurement.

2. More customization in allow me to tweak the output curves besides just a bass boost and a tilt.

In conclusion I feel that Sonarworks Ref 3 is a superior product to IK ARC and would recommend it to any user who feels they could benefit from this type of product. As it has been said, it is best to deal with a rooms deficiencies first with trapping and other treatment options, this product has helped take our room even closer to being flat. I often never leave the room and am surprised by the mix in other environments or my car.

  • 3
5th October 2015

by Gammon2004

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

I've used both the speaker correction and the headphone correction for several months now. They both work as advertised - I run them through Audio Hijack Pro on my Mac's output, so that all computer audio is routed through them before it hits the outputs. I find that way more convenient than using it as a plugin on the master bus. The consistency of sound between different headphones and speakers, once calibrated, is really impressive. I especially love the way my HD598s sound - the bass is just fantastic. In general, this software has really helped me to feel like I know what I'm hearing in the song/mix, and not just the room or headphones. I can tell right away if something is unusually bright/dark, and change the EQ accordingly. They came out with an update a few months ago that included the ability to change the bass level and tilt the low/high frequencies a bit, and that's made it even more useful for me. My only comment/concern is that the Sonarworks definition of 'flat' frequency response sounds just a *teensy* bit thin to me in the 100-500hz range or so. So I wish there were a few more controls to personalize the EQ like there are for the bass, or possibly a 'max correction' setting of 3db or something smaller than the current 6db. That being said, these are minor niggles. Frankly, it's pretty incredible what this product can do - If you're at all doubtful, I'd highly recommend buying one of the cheaper pairs of headphones on their list of calibrated models and just running their free 21-day demo. It's sometimes hard to describe the difference in words, but it's so dramatic that I imagine you'll quickly realize that this is some of the best money you can spend for your studio. In short - I love it!

26th January 2016

by Geronimos Guitar

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

I have a rather small studio with difficult acoustic parameters - but it was treated with a lot of effort (2 years of building traps and resonators etc.) after a plan made by a professional studio builder who had measured the room. The results were quite satisfying and I could work. Then I got Sonarworks 3 with the studio calibration and the headphone calibration. It comes with a measurement microphone and a software download code.

Installation: Installation worked like a breeze. Very easy to install.

Setup: A standalone application leads you through the setup. On the screen it tells you where to put the microphone (one can keep it in hand), when it measures and when one should move to a different position. This takes about 15 minutes and is very easy. I have done it know several times with different listening positions. After measurement a file is created that can be loaded into the plugin, that comes on the masterbus of the DAW. This file includes the imprint of the measured room acoustics, leading to an almost flat response of the speakers when applied. For example: The room shows a build-up in the low frequencies due to room resonances or standing waves. This resonance is then equed out of the frequency spectrum by the application so that the listener can truly hear what is there and not what the room originally tells the ears.

In use: Like I said, my room was treated before, but with Sonarworks on the master bus the music that I played suddenly sounded totally transparent and open, making it a lot easier to evaluate the overall stereo field, the positioning of the instruments, reverb quality and potential problems like masking etc. I also was able to mix the bass and high frequencies a lot more efficient.
The mixes done with the calibration file on the masterbus translate a lot easier and a lot better then without Sonarworks. There is actually no way back to mixing without it. This was probably the biggest step forward in the last year - and I implemented a new computer, a new interface and a lot of other new tools like pres and mikes and compressors... But Sonarworks was a gamechanger for me.

Headphone calibration: Sonarworks 3 comes (if you order the bundle) with a headphone calibration plugin that consists of files for quite a few headphones (there is a list on the website). With these files loaded into the plugin the frequency response of the headphones becomes more flat - similarly to the description above with the room correction. I can only say - for my KRK cans it worked very well. Also here it is a lot easier to evaluate the mix with the calibrated cans.

Negatives: I am not the first one who finds it a bit annoying that the plugin is located on the masterbus. This makes it necessary to turn of the plugin when you want to bounce the mix (otherwise the room correction information would be falsely printed into the mix). I actually have forgotten this already one or two times and then you need to notice and re-bounce. There is a solution for this though. With some 3rd party software you can locate the plugin between the DAW and the interface - which has the advantage that every music played from the computer is treated by the plugin, not only the music from the DAW. But I have not tried that solution yet.

All in all: A must have for all rooms that are not outstandingly perfect. Which I believe are nearly all rooms..


Similar Threads

Thread / Review Starter Comments / Views Last Post
replies: 669 views: 233589
Avatar for SteelyDani
SteelyDani 2 days ago
replies: 61 views: 10936
Avatar for H89
H89 31st March 2013
replies: 936 views: 111399
Avatar for souljahh
souljahh 7th December 2020
Review Tools
Search this Review
Search this Review:

Advanced Search