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Sonarworks Headphone Calibration software

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by amigomatt, Apr 14, 2015.
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  1. amigomatt
    Hey, this looks interesting.  Has anyone tried it?  It's squarely aimed at music producers and engineers but it makes some intriguing claims...
    LindaLiulo likes this.
  2. Gammon2004
    First post!  I'm just now getting into headphones for fun after spending some time obsessing over them for work.  I've been using Sonarworks software as a mixing engineer, and was so surprised and impressed by it that I'm buying another license to use for pleasure listening.  The Sennheiser 598s work incredibly well with this software - better than the 600s, actually, in my opinion.  I'd recommend downloading the demo - you'll also likely need software to rout all output sound through the plugin, and I use Audio Hijack for that, which also has a time-limited free demo.  I'm curious to hear what others think of it, but so far it's working better than I expected it to, and it's easily a better investment for me than the large number of cans I've bought recently in my continued search for the 'perfect sound.'
    amigomatt likes this.
  3. amigomatt
    Well, thank you for your reply, especially from someone with experience of this product.  I too have the 598s!  I may just look into it then...
  4. SodaBoy
    I am trialing this right now, and I am extremely impressed. Currently running this as a VST plugin under Jriver MC19 with HD650 calibration profile; filter is set to linear phase, reference curve to flat.
    I no longer have to crank the volume to hear details, everything is less congested on the HD650s. The midbass emphasis is gone, and the treble dips that people interpreted as the "veil" is gone as well. Nothing jumps at you, there is no sibilance, and no additional listening fatigue. It seems to have pushed the "in between my ears" HD650 soundstage further out so that it actually is outside my head now.
    My impressions thus far is that this plugin will do far more to improve audio reproduction than essentially upgrading any component in the signal chain (reasonably assuming that your upstream components are not fatally compromised). Better DACs and amps will improve resolution, but cannot improve the linearity of headphones. There's also a limit to the extent that manufacturers can tune their headphones for linearity through analog means. I think digital calibration like this is the future. 
    With Jriver MC20, I could apply this calibration system wide with the MC20 WDM driver. Games, Youtube, Spotify, everything will be processed through the WDM driver through which the Sonarworks VST plugin will be applied.
    I must add that the "Avoid Clipping" feature is ON by default. What this does is that the output level is decreased in order to leave headroom so that the signal does not clip. This is a good feature that should be left on. However this also means that when you A/B the uncalibrated signal will be louder, and psychoacoustics 101 tells us that louder always sounds better, even when it really isn't. I think this is similar to what Benchmark does, which is to reduce levels before the signal reaches the DAC, leaving extra headroom.
    Food for thought.
    Kaffeemann likes this.
  5. Gammon2004
    Just a quick tip - if you turn the entire plugin off (using the on-off slider at the top right) then yes, you'll hear the uncorrected signal a lot louder.  But as long as you just turn the calibration off (using the power button on the bottom right), the volume levels will stay the same between the corrected and uncorrected audio. 
    But in general, I'm glad you're liking it too!  And I completely agree that this seems to make more of a difference than any signal component in the signal chain could, as long as nothing is actually broken.
    rutter likes this.
  6. SodaBoy

    Yes you are right actually, the calibration toggle works perfect. I only tried it briefly yesterday on some quiet not-so-busy tracks for a few seconds and wasn't sure if it was working.
    Second day so far, I have switched to minimum phase filter, soundstage not as large as linear phase, but things seem to sound tighter and more natural. I also found that the plugin crashes when Jriver is restarted. Simple fix is to remove and re-add the plugin in Jriver, takes 5 seconds, no reinstall necessary. Will report this to Sonarworks when I have the time, could be a Jriver issue too, but I will go through Sonarworks first.
    Bugs aside, I have always been a big believer in DSP. I am extremely satisfied with what I am hearing right now, I think I have just lost all impulse to buy new headphones. I will continue to upgrade the signal chain, but this DSP has everything beat in terms of improvement, in both relative and absolute terms. When I look at the high end headphone ladder, what I see is mostly a struggle to improve FR linearity through analog means. Improvements in distortion have been miniscule by comparison. Using DSP is like exercising Occam's razor, this is the most direct and simple route to a more linear FR. None of this is to say that a flat perceived FR is the goal of the hobby of course, but it is for me personally.
    This is a sure buy for me.
  7. dmbr
    Interesting...so how exactly would one implement this plugin with foobar?

    I'm already using one VST effect that I really value and I'm not sure of a way to run two at once.

    Ah, I see I don't have a pair of headphones they have a profile for. Here's hoping they keep adding models :frowning2:
  8. Gammon2004
    Yup, they've told me they're in the process of expanding the model list and more should be coming out soon.  They also offer a service where you send them your headphones and they'll give you a custom calibration for those cans, which theoretically should be even more accurate than the 'average HD 598 response' model that I'm using.  I think it's around $100, and I'm considering sending them my Mad Dogs to get them measured.
  9. dmbr
    $100 more than the current cost?

    That's a bit steep, but tempting. If I didnt have to ship my cans I'd probably pay it though :)


    Anyone know if Foobar can use 2 vst's at once? Pretty important to me that I be able to use my current one in addition to this.

    Will probably wait to see if they come out with an ie800 preset. This really does look promising in terms of sq impact!
  10. SodaBoy
    Well the $113 EUR calibration includes the $69 EUR plugin bundled for that price. I think that's a fair price. I also think it's part of their strategy to measure a bunch of headphones and generate an averaged calibration profile to bundle with their main software. Even within the same headphone line there will be variations due to tolerances, and they will want to measure as many, say HD800s, as they can before they introduce an averaged calibration profile for it. The real snag would be proving to the customs that you are not importing say a $1500 USD headphone, because if you can't prove it you are SOL. If you bought the headphones second hand, you probably wouldn't have a receipt for it either.
    As for Foobar, just load something like a crossfeed VST and an equalizer VST together. If it works together, then this one will be no different.
  11. RudeWolf
    Hey guys!
    Glad you liked what we have achieved!
    Initially we launched as a pro only product, but naturally everyone looking for the best headphone sound is welcome to participate! We also do digital room correction which in our and our client's opinion blows the socks off of almost all currently available solutions.
    We recently calibrated a pair of HD800, LCD-2 and K1000's - the result was terrific. What sets the ceiling for our calibration is THD, therefore these higher end headphones do pretty well.
  12. ginetto61
    Hi i have a question
    What are the OS and HW requirements for the pc ?
    Could you give some kind of recommendation on what you think are the optimal combinations "headphone - calibration" ?
    Thanks a lot,  gino 
  13. RudeWolf
    OS wise you should be fine with Windows XP or newer and OSX 10.7 or newer. As for headphone/calibration combos - M50x is a good closed headphone with very low THD which calibrated very nicely. For open headphones... pick your poison, we can make just about any headphone to sound good, provided it doesn't have too high natural THD.
  14. ginetto61
    Hi thanks a lot for the very helpful reply
    I am thinking very seriously about EQ my headphones, but i am still undecided about which way to take ... HW (with a digital eq unit) or SW.
    I am very ignorant on the issue.
    But i am now convinced that EQ can make wonders.
    Thanks a lot again,  gino
  15. SodaBoy

    How do users obtain new profiles?
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
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