Virtual Monitoring: Studio-Quality mixes now possible on Headphones
Audio technology company Sonarworks is aiming to eliminate the long-standing compromises of headphone mixing with their new Virtual Monitoring software. This add-on for their popular SoundID Reference platform leverages advanced convolution processing to recreate the immersive experience of listening on studio monitors – but fully inside your headphones.
The software convincingly simulates speaker crossfeed and room reflections to achieve a more holographic stereo image that sounds strikingly true-to-life. But it retains all the detail and portability inherent to headphones. A compelling best of both worlds for producers.
Features & Accessibility
Since its launch, over 160,000 music creators have come to rely on SoundID Reference for mix translation and headphone calibration. As headphones increasingly become a mixing tool used in all studio contexts, Virtual Monitoring stands to bring more inclusive mixing confidence to both bedroom producers and touring engineers alike. There’s inherent value for creators at any point in their careers. Whether seeking more reliable headphone mixes or a supplement to traditional studios. But unlike actual studio monitors, you get to experience this immersive sound in any environment while retaining all the detail, intimacy, and portability that headphones provide.
For those familiar with SoundID Reference, this new add-on takes things to the next level. The base software already utilizes advanced linear-phase EQ to calibrate your specific headphones to a neutral, reliable frequency response. This ensures that any headphone mixes translate well across different systems. Virtual Monitoring builds on this calibration by adding intricate environmental effects on top of that solid frequency foundation. Even highly accurate headphones can’t replace the depth perception and acoustic subtleties of real speakers in a treated room. With Virtual Monitoring, that gap is now significantly smaller, letting you work more intuitively.
It supports 500+ headphone models and uses advanced headphone-matching algorithms for those not directly listed. This massive aggregated data and established technology provided the perfect launchpad for Sonarworks to develop next-generation features like Virtual Monitoring. In addition to the superb spatial audio reproduction, Virtual Monitoring also provides a visually immersive environment for you to monitor in. The software renders a virtual studio control room complete with reference speakers, acoustic treatment, rackmount gear, and analog embellishments. It’s a stylized aesthetic meant to inspire and engage users beyond simply correcting frequencies.
You can seamlessly switch between nearfield monitors, mid-field monitors, and far-field speakers in this virtual space to best suit your current mixing needs. However, visual flare aside, the most crucial element here is accuracy. All speaker profiles are based on real-world impulse response measurements from reputable reference monitors. And they exhibit extremely flat frequency and phase responses akin to what professional engineers rely on. Sonarworks has gone to great lengths to make these virtual speakers perform identically to their physical counterparts.
Of course, the software provides extensive graphic EQ, channel delay, and headphone matching controls as well for those who demand exacting calibration modifications.
Image credits: Sonarworks
How it works?
- Step 1
Open SoundID Reference
To enable the Virtual Monitoring Add-on, in addition to its license, a user must have an active license for the base software.
- Step 2
Virtual Monitoring works exclusively for headphone profiles and cannot be activated with speaker profiles.
- Step 3
Navigate to a preset with a headphone calibration profile, open the drawer at the bottom of the window, and activate the Virtual Monitoring Add-on.
- Step 4
Get high-end studio monitoring in your headphones. Try the translation check feature for consumer device simulation.
Sound engineers who have tested Virtual Monitoring have been quick to endorse its capabilities, including multiple Grammy-nominated mixing engineer Steve Genewick:
“You guys came down to Capitol and we tuned one of our rooms and ran the software. All of us were really impressed.”
— Steve Genewick(3 Time Grammy Nominated Recording & Mixing Engineer worked with numerous A-list stars like Bob Dylan, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Sting, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Queen, Norah Jones, Amy Grant, Ray Charles, Eagles, Imagine Dragons, Barbra Streisand, Robbie Williams, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart, Nine Inch Nails, Ella Fitzgerald, Faith Hill, Neil Young, Diana Krall, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, and more.)
Considering the heavy reliance on headphone mixing in music production today at all levels, Virtual Monitoring appears poised to solve a glaring need – making headphone mixes more directly relatable to real-world stereo speaker playback. Though not a magic bullet replacement for quality monitors in controlled spaces, its ability to conjure such a convincing facsimile inside any pair of headphones is undeniably groundbreaking.
The virtual monitoring add-on costs an extra $49 on top of the price of the SoundID Reference version you choose. The Black Friday deals are about to go live for Sonarworks so this might just be the perfect time to grab the software.
Image credits: Sonarworks