Sonarworks Headphone Calibration software

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by amigomatt, Apr 14, 2015.
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  1. Roll
    Just the DT 1990 balanced pads - but with the optimum custom settings. I still prefer the T1, 2nd version dial down to 80% Dry/Wet
  2. thecrow
    For crying out loud i eventually see what i was missing.

    I’m a boofhead!! :)

    When turning on ref4 systemwide the systems volume was at zero, where i usually have it set. Rather than when i use the tidal app or audirvana and it itself sets the volume

    Matiss from sonarworks was great in replying to my emails. His persistent help got me to keep playing around with settings until i eventually noticed this myself on the conputer staring at me in the system pref settings
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
    swspiers likes this.
  3. UELong
  4. GumbyDammit223
    I have to wholeheartedly agree! He was extremely patient with me while getting the demo up and working. There was no guarantee I would purchase the software (which I eventually did) but he spent a lot of time, with MANY emails, before it was working. I wish all customer support people were as helpful!
  5. groovyd
    While systemwide and Sonarworks is ultimately an amazing set of tools I found Systemwide to be a little buggy and eventually switched to loading my Sonarworks calibrations into menuBus for Mac instead which is an unbelievably impressive app that has all the features of Systemwide for free and then some and is under active development and adding incredible new features every month now. Plugin presets, keyboard shortcuts, ability to use any plugins you want... highly recommended!

    And again, this is not a replacement for Sonarworks but a replacement for Systemwide on Macs only. You still need Sonarworks for great calibrations. menuBus also has a facebook group where the developer polls the user base for the next great feature of the month every month.
  6. davidland
    never tried, what a pity
  7. ItsAllInMyHead
    @RudeWolf and Head-fiers familiar with this.

    My use case is listener vs. creator. I've read this thread and other sites from start to finish, and read the manuals and promotional materials on the web site. I am a headphone only user, but I may have use for speakers (as a listener) in the future, but I'd rank that last on priorities.

    I am absolutely brand new to computer digital audio through headphones as a passionate music lover aka "audiophile" (I don't like that term much with all the connotations / baggage that sometimes come with it) and have listened to CDs / Vinyl etc. through a floor standing speaker set up for many many years. I've just recently started to assemble a few headphone rigs for various uses (home, travel / hotel, commuting)

    There seem to be 3 Sonarworks options. True-Fi, Ref 4 Plug-in and Ref 4 SW.

    My 1st priority is listening through a MacBook Pro (2012 Mid Year Retina) 2.7 GHz Core i7 Processor w/ 16Gb Ram using Audirvana. Output through USB to various DAC / Amp combos.
    Music sources are primarily Tidal Hi-Fi / Master streaming (MQA in some cases) with MQA enabling some 24/192 tracks and a lot of tracks at 24/96. Secondary - Downloads (FLAC) with files up to 24/192 and a bit of DSD (64 mostly and some 128)

    The DAC enabling MQA is a renderer (if that matters).

    Headphones - HD800S, Mezze 99 Classics, A&K T8IE MKII in-ear

    I found this quote on the site when describing True-Fi - "The True-Fi application works with all audio sources on your computer. It supports sample rates up to 96kHz."

    That seems to rule it out for an ideal solution, correct?

    Ref 4 comes with both the plug-in and the SW. A few questions, please.

    - Does Ref 4 have any similar limitation for playback sampling rates? If so, what might that be?
    - Are there any sonic advantages (or even technical differences) to simply running the AU plugin with Audirvana vs. running through SW as a virtual device?
    - Since the plug-in and/or SW are essentially "last" - will using them affect the DAC's ability to be recognized as an MQA renderer and render properly?
    - Ref 4 seems somewhat intuitive, but I am not a creator. If I basically only set the program to defaults and select my calibration curve along with 100% wet, is there anything technically "different" from True-Fi using a specific filter? If so, which filter matches True-Fi? I am really not much of a tweaker, but as long as I can reset everything to defaults and not "break" anything - I'll probably fiddle with it a bit. The simulation curves seem very cool.
    - Any recommendations for profiles similar to the Mezze's and the A&Ks?

    If I've misstated anything above, please forgive me. Overall goal - make HD800S sound better (subjective) / less "cold" while maintaining the incredible soundstage. Any other advice in addition to the questions above is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  8. ItsAllInMyHead
    I made the leap and got the Ref 4 Headphone package.

    So far, I think I have some of this reasonably figured out, but I could still use some help to build my general understanding. Early impression is that it works as advertised. Very intuitive even for a person that has no clue what they're doing. Select a profile and go to town - turn it on and off... Slide the slider up to the red mark to avoid digital clipping... (Set the gain on power amp to +12db for usable volume range to compensate).

    - It seems that the Ref 4 plug-in also only supports sample rates up to 96kHz.
    - Still don't know if there are any sonic differences (or technical differences) from a listening POV between the plugin when used with Audirvana and the SW app, but the plug-in is great. I set it to real time so I can A/B easily. I also love the way it volume matches? when the calibration is turned off. I plan to continue using it this way unless I find some reason not to. If anyone cares to shed some light, I'd appreciate it. I do admit that I was getting miffed that I heard such a difference with True-fi and when I switched over to the app in Audirvana I heard nothing. I went so far as to create an absolutely absurd custom profile, and nothing... I did not tick the box to "Use AudioUnits Effects" in Audirvana - DUH!
    - It no longer matters (to me) if there are technical diffs from Ref 4 to True-Fi. I went with Ref 4, and I'm happy I did simply for the plug-in ability with Audirvana.
    - The plug-in does not affect the DACs ability to be recognized as MQA and does not seem to affect its ability to render. However, Ref 4 does not seem to work in conjunction with / over the top of an MQA file of any sample rate. When I play a 24/96 or 24/192 file though the DAC with MQA rendering, it plays properly and Audirvana shows the DAC at the proper depth and frequency, but Ref 4 shows 96kHz only, and the meters etc don't work, and the calibration has no effect. Playing the identical files through a non-MQA rendering DAC, Audirvana unfolds to 96kHz, but the meters / calibration functions properly in Ref 4.

    In short - I don't think Ref 4 plays nicely with MQA (and it may be fully intended not to). It's nice that when it's used as a plug-in that it seems to just get out of the way though as if it weren't there for MQA. The only thing that caught me off guard was the unexpected jump in gain. When ref 4 is "on" with my settings, there is a 10.7db cut. When it goes to an MQA file, I think it de-activates, and there is no cut. If I am interpreting what's happening correctly.... I may not be.

    It plays nicely with 99% of my listening needs, and may have saved me from trying to find a "warmer" set of cans. Only time will tell.

    Any help is appreciated, and if what I've put up helps someone else - even better. Again, if I have some of this incorrect, particularly around how it handles. MQA, please let me know.

    - Cheers
    groovyd and Bern2 like this.
  9. Solrighal
    I have no idea regarding the hi-res aspect (although I'm surprised it makes any difference) but you dodged a bullet with True-Fi. I thought it sounded pretty awful & night & day different to the full Ref 4 product when used with my HD 650.
    ItsAllInMyHead likes this.
  10. castleofargh Contributor
    the complete MQA decoding by a MQA compatible DAC shouldn't work if any digital action was done to the file. the DAC can still play the purely wave part of the file like any DAC or player always can. or you could decode stuff partially on the software side with whatever app that might do that before applying some digital changes like an EQ and then send it all to a DAC for non MQA reconstruction of the analog signal. but as far as I understand, the complete MQA decoding at the DAC(for compatible DACs) will be a no go after any digital processing, because MQA stores some code in the least significant bits of the file. so any small change would corrupt part of the code... that's one of the really dumb aspects of MQA IMO.
    I can't imagine modern hifi without some room correction for speakers and at the very least some EQ for headphones.
    Solrighal likes this.
  11. ItsAllInMyHead
    @castleofargh thank you for the clear and "not dumbed down" answer. This makes perfect sense. I add additional love for the ref4 software for simply passing the MQA "signal"? to the DAC w/o affecting it, if that's how ref4 actually handles it.

    If it's a known limitation of the MQA format and/or a "feature" to keep MQA pure back to the purported master, then that's just part of the game. As I learn more about how MQA works, I'm thankful for it in the respect that it allows me instant access to some really great stuff through Tidal that I otherwise would not experience (I still have not been able to verify if certain non-MQA albums are from the same masters as their MQA counterparts to truly A/B, but oh well). On the other hand, it sure seems to have some quirks.

    I've noticed that while playing back a DSD64 track (through the plugin first) the sample rate shows 176400, but theres no correction / no sliders etc. Note, it says clearly in Audirvana that using plugins for DSD real time should not be done, but I was experimenting. So, this seems "normal". However, I was wondering where it gets the sample rate. When I play the same song from PCM 24/96 all works as expected. Note - the tracks are "Impromptu" from the iFi iDAC2 Sampler from Sound Liaison (DSD64 and 24/96 versions). When I switch to the SW version (untick AU use) set output to ref4 system wide (and remove exclusive access) set system output to DAC. All sample rates are 96K even when playing a 44.1 track. Still learning....

  12. castleofargh Contributor
    all digital processing done by the computer will be done on PCM formats. so you need to convert the DSD signal to PCM and then apply something like Sonarworks. a true DSD DAC can either get the DSD without any processing done, or play a processed PCM signal instead of DSD.
    but you can't expect DSD to be digitally tuned while still being DSD.
    it's the same issue as MQA, except that MQA being made to look like PCM, instead of not playing when you set the wrong stuff, anything can at least play some part of it under all circumstances. but only untouched MQA can be fully decoded in the MQA DAC(retrieving all the bits and applying the apodizing filter of Meridian).
    so for DSD sources, I expect the sample rate you read to be the sample rate of the PCM signal once converted from PCM to allow for EQ. and for MQA I expect that whatever format you get while being able to use Sonarwork, will be lower than what the file can do. like maybe 96 when the file untouched into a DAC could do 192khz? I still don't know exactly if MQA uses always the same option or if they change depending on needs and signal content. the patent shows several options but I don't know which one is used on a given file so that's about the extent of my educated guess.

    there is of course another aspect here, when you set your output devices (real or virtual), you usually have them set at a given resolution. maybe that's what you're seeing in the end and why even a 44.1 track ends up at 96khz?

    to be fair with MQA and DSD for a second before being biased again^_^, they're not the only non PCM formats. it's the same idea with aac or mp3. except that the full conversion to PCM in the computer is expected from the get go for those lossy formats. that is not the case with DSD or MQA. at least not in their ideal use, which leads to compromising. do we care about some timing resolution we're unlikely to hear, or about getting a more balanced signature? I always vote for a signature I prefer, so to me MQA or DSD are only annoying formats and I have no love for them. but everybody can have their own priorities of course. I'm not saying that mine are the "good priorities" ^_^.
    UELong and ItsAllInMyHead like this.
  13. ItsAllInMyHead

    Once again, my hat's off for a great explanation. I have no love for any of the formats at all.... Overall, I'd generally prefer lossless all things remaining equal. I admit that I get lost in CoDecs vs. containers vs. compression algorithms etc. etc. etc. I leave that to the experts. If I have to go with something lossy, I'd prefer it be originated from a great master and put back together again as well as could be expected given bandwidth and/or related file size limitations. Overall, I'm interested in MQA solely as it relates to being available on Tidal which is my only source (at the moment) for lossless streaming music and having picked up a (relatively) cheap DAC that renders MQA to play along with it. Their HiFi is already lossless (and I can download the files), the MQA is just a fun toy to try and play with that I can only stream.

    If I run into you at a CanJam or whatever/whenever IRL, a beverage of choice on me. Last question for now. Given that you're the (or a) moderator on the sound science forum, I did a quick look over there for indications of a book / primer / website ala Digital Music for Dummies.... any suggestions? The folks here are usually delightful in their handling of noobs, but I'd like to further educate myself without being a bother (and maybe I can pay it forward).

    Last edited: Dec 15, 2017
  14. castleofargh Contributor
    as long as it was in the context of using Sonarwork I could pretend not to be totally off topic, but now I can't ^_^. still for the sake of being slightly constructive, I'd suggest starting with . some people will disagree with a few points in the videos, but to this day I can't think of a clearer and more informative general presentation on digital signal.
    swspiers and ItsAllInMyHead like this.
  15. ItsAllInMyHead
    It was definitely within the context (but not necessarily the strict confines) of using Sonarworks. :wink:

    Very much appreciated.
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