Sonarworks software has been widely lauded for its ability to correct the sound of headphones. Can it do the same for monitors?
My colleague Sam Inglis reviewed the headphone calibration elements of the new Sonarworks 4 package back in the February 2018 issue of the magazine, but it is also designed to analyse and correct the quirks of monitor speakers and room acoustics, and a look at this aspect of its operation has long been on our list of things to do. Sam’s conclusions on Sonarworks’ ability to improve headphone monitoring were entirely positive, but there’s no denying that the technical and psychoacoustic challenges inherent in correcting the response of monitors and listening rooms is a whole order of magnitude or two greater, so it will be fascinating to see how things pan out.
Before I get to describing how Reference 4 performs, however, I think it would perhaps be useful to examine what happens when a monitor plays audio in a room, and why there might be any need for ‘correction’.
If we were all lucky enough to work in studio rooms of infinite size, or in rooms with boundaries that offered perfect absorption of acoustic energy, there’d be no need for applications like Sonarworks to compensate for room acoustics because we’d always hear just the flat, direct sound from the monitors. In the real world, however, we hear not just the direct sound energy that leaves the monitors, but also energy reflected from the room boundaries. And that reflected energy will be imprinted with both the off‑axis response of the monitors and the particular absorption characteristics of the room boundaries it has reflected from.
The way our ears and brain deal with these multiple arrivals of sound energy depends firstly on how far apart in time they are, and secondly on their relative levels. Reflected sound that arrives within a few milliseconds of the direct sound, known as early reflections, will be integrated by the brain, and although the direct sound will still dominate, the tonal character perceived for the audio event will be a composite of the direct sound and early reflections. But reflected sound, thanks to the fact that it has travelled...
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