With the promise of a flatter room and headphone response, is this the magic bullet to better mixes? We'll dig in to find out.
What is room correction?
Room correction software is more or less a fancy eq program able to use preset/custom calibrated curves for headphones, and utilize a measurement microphone for measuring a rooms response. This allows the user to achieve a flat and neutral headphone and room when accuracy is the goal.The main one in question we will be discussing is Sonarworks Reference 4. Aside from separate eq curve for each monitor, the program may also correct level differences between the monitors and help correct phase issues. Sonarworks Reference 4 allows the user to also select the phase response of the eq curve as well, offering a linear phase mode, and a zero latency mode. Both have their pros and cons.
Installing Sonarworks on my studio computer was a breeze. The program will walk you through, step by step, on setting up your interface levels with the microphone (either their included mic, or another make), to getting the proper playback levels. If you are in a home studio, make sure to do this when you won't disturb anyone, as the program needs a healthy amount of volume, and will be blasting various sounds during testing.
On to the actual testing, I found using a mic stand to help hold the mic steady made things easier. All in total, there are 37 different measurement positions the program will make, in order to give you the best average curve for your listening position. Once done, you will be prompted to save the file for future use. I would also recommend doing a second measurement for accuracy sake just to compare the two graphs, and account for any human errors during measuring. If you follow the clear and concise directions, it is difficult to mess up.
Sonarworks offers a neat system called "System Wide", which was one of the bigger reasons for me to go with this system. What this means is the program will run outside of your DAW as well, processing all the sound on your computer, from internet streaming, to your music libraries. This allows you to become more familiar with the corrected sound from your monitors, as well as enjoy the corrected sound.
In use, I found the results very pleasing. My bass response was much smoother, stereo imaging was clearer, and the sound in general was "tighter". In fact, after listening for 10 minutes, and turning the correction off, it was eye opening just how big of difference the software was making, in a positive way. Upon using it in my DAW, I found the same results. Mixes were easier to get great results, and there was less guessing on how things would translate.
Is it right for you?
This depends on a few things. If you mix mainly in headphones, having the corrected headphone curves for a flatter response (there are many to choose from) I would find absolutely crucial during mixing, and would absolutely recommend the program.
For stand alone room correction, I would also highly recommend this program, but with one major caveat: only after physically treating your room with proper acoustic treatment.
But wait? Doesn't this correct my room issues giving me a better sound? Yes and no. Room correction software such as Arc and Sonarworks, has limitations. The first major limitation is it can not correct issues in the time domain. If there is excessive echo or ringing in your room, this is something only physical treatment can fix. Comb filtering and modal issues also need to be fixed outside of software, and reduced as much as possible. The less correcting the software has to do, the better your results will be. I would not recommend this as a replacement to acoustic treatment given the limitations.
Having fixed all the issues in your room that you can, room correction software can be the "icing on the cake" to your sound, allowing you to get the best you can from your system. I've been a happy user of the software for a few years now, and trust what it gives me.