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Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

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Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby RichardT » Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:31 pm

Sonarworks had some good Black Friday reductions so I took my chance and upgraded from Reference 4 ‘headphone’ edition to ‘studio edition with measurement microphone’.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, this product lets you measure your listening environment and construct a frequency curve that can be applied to your monitors to flatten their response. Martin strongly recommended it.

I had some interesting findings. I ran the process twice, because first time I hadn’t switched out the existing frequency adjustments in my KEF LS50Ws. The results were remarkably consistent between the two runs, taking into account the clear effects of the shelving introduced by the KEFs in the first run.

I had some significant troughs and peaks (6dB) in the bass region, and big discrepancies between the L and R channels resulting from one speaker being much closer to a wall (unavoidable at the moment). Fixing this has made a big difference to low frequency evenness, clarity and imaging, and this reaches right up into the midrange.

On the other hand, I had a very even tilt downwards in the higher frequencies, reaching around 3-4dB at 10k and above. This was a bit of a shock! When I applied the adjustment, everything sounded very bright, too bright for comfort.

I decided to partially cancel out the HF adjustment using the tilt settings inside the Sonarworks software, and I’m getting used to the effect now. I may switch out the tilt in the future as I get used to things more.

Do other people monitor completely flat or do you prefer a slight HF cut?
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby manwilde » Fri Dec 04, 2020 9:29 pm

I´ve been using it at home for the past month or so, and for over a year at the project studio. It never made sense to me to tilt the frequency response, as it seems to counteract what the calibration is supposed to fix, to a point. But then, if you get used to the way it sounds "tilted" and your mixes translate well, why not?. I mean, as long as you know what you´re doing...
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby Martin Walker » Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:07 am

Hi Rich!

Glad to hear that you're already revealing better stereo imaging using Sonarworks Reference 4. Like you I already have acoustic treatment, and the measurements my biggest 'before' excursions are no more than 6dB, and mostly significantly less than that - here's my 'before' frequency response:

sonarworks.jpg


Judging by all the comments I've read concerning Sonarworks Reference 4 on forums around the world, improving from a starting point of perhaps +/-6dB has a mostly successful outcome, whereas those who try it with no acoustic treatment and who are therefore attempting to correct significantly larger peaks and troughs find that the software starts struggling to remedy those limitations (hardly surprising really).

I've accepted the corrected response in my tiny studio 'as is', and mix to that, and both frequency response and particularly imaging are significantly better.

The only thing I can think of that might result in exaggerated high frequencies is if you're not using one of Sonarworks' individually calibrated mics - it can be frightening to see just how much some cheap measurement mics vary in their frequency response, particularly above a few kilohertz.

On the other hand, unless all your reference tracks sound overly bright as well as your own creations, it might be worth persevering with the flat Sonarworks setting - you'll mix with less top end as a result and might like what you hear elsewhere - as manwilde says, it's all about translation.


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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby PeterD9988 » Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:52 pm

Nope - don’t get it. I’ve calibrated my room with Adam 7X monitors, Cubase 10.5 and have the resulting Sonarworks Ref 4 EQ as the last plugin on my master bus.
But why am I to disable/ bypass that EQ when rendering ? What was the point of all of that if not rendering with the EQ included? Confused.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby desmond » Sat Jan 30, 2021 1:23 pm

Because you are using the software to compensate for what you *hear* in your room, so you can make effective mix decisions to make a mix that translates properly.

You don't want to print that compensation into the mix, unless your audience all intend to listen to your song in your room, too. ;)
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 30, 2021 1:53 pm

manwilde wrote:But then, if you get used to the way it sounds "tilted" and your mixes translate well, why not?
Because when you work in another studio that doesn't have it you're stuck.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby Aled Hughes » Sat Jan 30, 2021 2:13 pm

PeterD9988 wrote:Nope - don’t get it. I’ve calibrated my room with Adam 7X monitors, Cubase 10.5 and have the resulting Sonarworks Ref 4 EQ as the last plugin on my master bus.
But why am I to disable/ bypass that EQ when rendering ? What was the point of all of that if not rendering with the EQ included? Confused.

As Desmond says, the plugin is intended to improve the listening environment specifically in your room, so that you can hear things more accurately. You don’t want that EQ as part of your actual songs!

Think of it as part of your monitoring, not a part of your mixing.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jan 30, 2021 2:22 pm

PeterD9988 wrote:But why am I to disable/ bypass that EQ when rendering ? What was the point of all of that if not rendering with the EQ included? Confused.

The EQ is to sort out the speakers > room > ears part of the signal chain -- and that is a unique correction for listening only in your room. When listening in a corrected space, you'll make more acuraye and consistent mix and processing decisions, so your finished tracks should translate more reliably for others listening on different sustems elsewhere.

But the correction for your room obviously doesn't apply to anyone else, listening anywhere else.... Which is why, if the plugin is in your master bus, it needs to be bypassed before rendering.

A better option, if your DAW allows it, is to place the room correction plugin into a separate monitoring output path only, and that has two benefits:

1. You won't screw up the render if you forget to bypass the plugin
2. The output master metering won't be erroneously showing the room corrected signal peaks!
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby RichardT » Sat Jan 30, 2021 2:29 pm

PeterD9988 wrote:Nope - don’t get it. I’ve calibrated my room with Adam 7X monitors, Cubase 10.5 and have the resulting Sonarworks Ref 4 EQ as the last plugin on my master bus.
But why am I to disable/ bypass that EQ when rendering ? What was the point of all of that if not rendering with the EQ included? Confused.

Because that EQ is compensating for your room and speakers. Other rooms and speakers are different and so it’s best to export without any room compensation at all.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 30, 2021 2:33 pm

PeterD9988 wrote:Nope - don’t get it. I’ve calibrated my room with Adam 7X monitors, Cubase 10.5 and have the resulting Sonarworks Ref 4 EQ as the last plugin on my master bus.
Wrong place. Switch on Cubase's 'Control Room' and put the plug-in in the insert slots there.

This way you will never need to bypass it.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby desmond » Sat Jan 30, 2021 2:35 pm

The Elf wrote:Wrong place. Switch on Cubase's 'Control Room' and put the plug-in in the insert slots there.

That's a nice feature - does that let you put plugins basically *after* the mix render bus?
This is a bit of faff in Logic to implement.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 30, 2021 2:45 pm

desmond wrote:
The Elf wrote:Wrong place. Switch on Cubase's 'Control Room' and put the plug-in in the insert slots there.
That's a nice feature - does that let you put plugins basically *after* the mix render bus?
Yep.

It's one of Cubase's best features and it dismays me that I see it switched off for the majority of Cubase users I help. Even after I've shown them the joys of Control Room I invariably find it switched off again the next time I'm there.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby manwilde » Sat Jan 30, 2021 3:26 pm

The Elf wrote:
manwilde wrote:But then, if you get used to the way it sounds "tilted" and your mixes translate well, why not?
Because when you work in another studio that doesn't have it you're stuck.
But that applies whether you're using Sonarworks or not, ain't it?. If you mix in a different room, the sound is gonna be different...
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 30, 2021 6:07 pm

manwilde wrote:
The Elf wrote:
manwilde wrote:But then, if you get used to the way it sounds "tilted" and your mixes translate well, why not?
Because when you work in another studio that doesn't have it you're stuck.
But that applies whether you're using Sonarworks or not, ain't it?. If you mix in a different room, the sound is gonna be different...
Not if you take your headphones with you, and you are used to how they sound without Sonarworks to prop them up.
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Re: Experiences with Sonarworks Reference 4 Studio

Postby Martin Walker » Sat Jan 30, 2021 7:42 pm

desmond wrote:
The Elf wrote:Wrong place. Switch on Cubase's 'Control Room' and put the plug-in in the insert slots there.

That's a nice feature - does that let you put plugins basically *after* the mix render bus?
This is a bit of faff in Logic to implement.

Reaper has a very similar feature named 'Monitoring FX', which is where I place Sonarworks Reference 4 and ADPTR MetricAB while evaluating mixes.


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