You are here

Steven Slate Audio VSX

Virtual Monitoring System By Phil Ward
Published March 2024

Can headphones and modelling software really replace a professional mix room?

Steven Slate Audio VSXThe Steven Slate Audio VSX system caused something of a stir when it was first launched. The idea that they would bring an end to the issue of monitoring translation by promising “Perfect Sounding Speakers. Now In Headphones” seemed for many, me included, to be somewhat over‑ambitious. However, the initial brouhaha has died down a little now, and a new version of the VSX software has recently been released, so it seemed time for SOS to take a look. Along with introducing some extra room models, the new release also previews an HRTF feature in two of the room models that is slated to be included globally in a future release.

Bundle Up

VSX comprises a pair of headphones and a software suite including AAX, AU and VST plug‑ins, along with a newly introduced ‘Systemwide’ application that enables VSX to do its magic outside of a DAW, processing any audio that the host computer is playing. But what exactly is the VSX magic?

VSX is a monitoring modelling system that aims to render, through its headphones, the sound that would be experienced in a variety of different locations or from alternative hardware: Steven Slate’s mix studio, a car interior, some alternative headphones and a smartphone, for example. In the case of modelled studios (and club or car spaces), the principle is that VSX creates a binaural analogue of the environment and its audio hardware, allowing one to hear how a mix will sound in those locations when played through the monitors or speakers present there. As an extension of the technology, VSX also offers non‑binaural models of some other generic headphones. VSX comes in two editions, Essential and Platinum, the latter providing access to an expanded list of modelled environments and headphones — 20 in total (with more apparently on the way), compared with seven for the Essential edition. Modelled environments can also be purchased individually, so if, for example, you can’t possibly mix without knowing how your work will sound inside a Tesla, that model can be added to an Essential VSX edition.

Can Do

Before getting into how well the VSX binaural modelling works, I’ll look at the VSX headphones themselves. They are somewhat generic in appearance and style but nonetheless of high manufacturing and finish quality, with a nicely padded headband and generously dimensioned oval ear pads. The connection cable attaches via a 3.5mm jack to the left earcup, and the headband and ear pads are covered with faux leather. They are unremittingly black other than the grey VSX logo. As well as lacking colour, they also lack any of the luxury aesthetic touches that seem in recent years to have become de rigueur for ‘audio wearables’, but to my mind that’s a positive; headphones intended for professional use are tools for a job, not fashion items.

The VSX headphones are of closed‑back, circumaural design and feature a high‑tech beryllium‑coated diaphragm and a low‑frequency porting arrangement called APS (Acoustically Ported Subsonics) that is described as a “sophisticated internal tuning vent system and patent‑pending bass coupling for optimal low‑end performance”. I’m not entirely sure what that actually means in real‑world audio engineering terms, but it appears to describe a headphone driver loading technique that at low frequencies allows the headphones to operate as a kind of hybrid between closed and semi‑open. In any case, and owing to the circumaural design, low‑frequency performance will depend to some extent on the quality of the air seal around the ears. The more generous the ear pads, the more consistent that seal is likely to be, and the VSX ear pads are generous.

In use, the VSX headphones are comfortable, with about average weight and ear‑pad pressure. Comfort in use is important, because if the VSX proposition really does result in “Perfect Sounding Speakers. Now In Headphones”, chances are you’re going to be wearing them for...

You are reading one of the locked Subscribers-only articles from our latest 5 issues.

You've read 30% of this article for free, so to continue reading...

  • ✅ Log in - if you have a Subscription you bought from SOS.
  • Buy & Download this Single Article in PDF format £1.00 GBP$1.49 USD
    For less than the price of a coffee, buy now and immediately download to your computer or smartphone.
  • Buy & Download the FULL ISSUE PDF
    Our 'full SOS magazine' for smartphone/tablet/computer. More info...
  • Buy a DIGITAL subscription (or Print + Digital)
    Instantly unlock ALL premium web articles! Visit our ShopStore.

Claim your FREE 170-page digital publication
from the makers of Sound On SoundCLICK HERE