Embody’s mission to make immersive mixing on headphones a practical proposition moves forward with the addition of a second virtual studio.
There is probably more variety in studio design today than ever before. All over the world, talented engineers and producers are demonstrating that unorthodox spaces and leftfield concepts can produce superb results. It’s more important that your control room works for you than that it adheres to some arbitrary set of design rules.
Embody’s Immerse Virtual Studio is the perfect illustration of this trend. The full version features plug‑in emulations of five control rooms belonging to well‑known producers, and even though they’re all measured and simulated at the ‘sweet spot’, they sound surprisingly different from each other.
Embody built on the concept of emulating specific individuals’ working environments with Immerse Virtual Studio Alan Meyerson Signature Edition. This went beyond the original plug‑in by emulating not only a stereo monitoring setup but a full 7.1.6 surround array, allowing users to mix in Dolby Atmos and other spatial formats. And it’s now evolved even further with the addition of a second immersive space belonging to celebrated mastering engineer Gavin Lursson. These two Signature Editions are available separately or as a combined plug‑in, sold in association with Steinberg; this reflects a joint education initiative and some new integration features with Cubase and Nuendo, though all major surround‑capable DAWs are supported.
The combined plug‑in retains all of the features of the first version, meaning that it supports Embody’s system for deriving personalised head‑related transfer functions from a photo of the user’s ear. It also incorporates optimisation for a number of different sets of headphones, and as before, this is not measurement‑based but ‘tuned’ by the studio owners themselves. This optimisation can be applied in varying degrees, and it’s likewise possible to vary the amount of ambience applied in the room simulation.
In theory, there’s much less scope for immersive monitoring setups to vary with the taste and preference of the user than is the case with stereo rigs.
Modern immersive formats have a strong emphasis on calibration. In order to be certified by Dolby, an Atmos mix room designed for movie soundtrack mixing has to meet stringent standards relating to frequency response, reverberation time, sound pressure level and so on. So, in theory, there’s much less scope for immersive monitoring setups to vary with the taste and preference of the user than is the case with stereo rigs.
It’s a theory that is borne out here. Granted, the sample size is smaller, but to my ears, Alan Meyerson and Gavin Lursson’s rooms sound much more similar to each other than do any two of the stereo setups emulated in the original Immerse Virtual Studio.
Such differences as there are are most pronounced when you crank up the Ambience setting. The Lursson room remains tightly controlled and even across pretty much the entire frequency range, whilst the emulation of Meyerson’s space begins to reveal a slightly ragged liveliness around 5kHz or so. I don’t think the variation is great enough that you’d make vastly different mix decisions in each case, but toggling between them can provide useful information about vocal EQ and reverb settings especially.
The variation in sound between the five control rooms in the original Immerse Virtual Studio had both positive and negative aspects. In a sense, it was useful for checking that your mixes ‘translated’: if they sounded good in all five, you could be pretty confident that they’d sound good everywhere. But the variation was so great that this could sometimes seem an unreachable goal, with plausible mix decisions sounding fine in one virtual environment and all wrong in another.
Having used both, I prefer the reassurance of the Signature Edition, which simply lets you switch between emulations of two subtly different top‑flight surround monitoring environments of the sort that few of us have access to in real life. There are so many variables at play in immersive mixing anyway that it’s not really practical to take into account the possible variation in listening systems of lesser quality, especially when these are filtered through the lens of binaural encoding for headphones. I’m still not convinced I’d want to mix immersive music on headphones alone, but the Immerse Signature Edition is proving an increasingly valuable tool for anyone who does.
Embody’s immersive control room emulation plug‑in adds a welcome second string to its bow.