We are thrilled to introduce a new add-on to our SoundID Reference product called the SoundID Reference Virtual Monitoring Add-on. This exciting feature provides a precise spatial simulation of stereo studio monitors directly through your headphones. The Add-on is now available for an additional fee and ready to use!

If you’ve ever worked on music using headphones, you know the challenges in gauging how your mix’s musical balances, soundstage, and stereo imaging will translate when played on studio monitors. Sonarworks, with insights from our community of hundreds of thousands of creative professionals, recognizes that the most reliable way to ensure your mix translates well is to mix it on a flat monitor system, regardless of the particular speakers or studio that you’re in. 

We have leveraged this research as the foundation for our Virtual Monitoring Add-on, which faithfully replicates the sound of a flat monitor system—a system that you can trust to translate everywhere—on your headphones. The headphones that are already being calibrated by Sonarworks.

Other companies have created virtual environments whereby headphones mimic the acoustics of some famous studios, somewhere in the world. However, it might not make sense to change the flat sound of your headphones to match a studio that you’ve never experienced in person and have no experience on how it translates to the outside world.

You’ve already come to trust the flat calibration of your headphones and now you can enhance that trust by adding spatial realism of a stereo studio. This added feature provides a heightened sense of natural space and depth to your headphones and a natural translation to speakers outside of your studio.

A Little Theory

Stereo speakers interact with the listening space, as the room itself contributes ambiance to the sound emitted by the speakers. When you listen through speakers, both of your ears capture the audio from both the left and right speakers. In other words, your left ear receives the direct sound from the left speaker along with some indirect and ambient sound from the right speaker, and the same applies to your right ear.

With headphones, this situation is quite different. Your left ear exclusively hears the left speaker, and your right ear exclusively hears the right speaker. Additionally, sounds that are panned to the center of stereo speakers create a perception of being in front of us, in the space between the two speakers; this is commonly referred to as the “phantom center.” Our brain perceives this phantom center as if it were an actual sound source. Conversely, center-panned sounds on headphones seem to be located between our ears, inside our skull. 

Some other companies have devised methods such as crossfeed and phase trickery to simulate the sound of speakers over headphones. Sonarworks has refined and improved that effort by employing a binaural simulation of high-quality near-, mid-, and far-field speakers that have been meticulously calibrated to produce flat and accurate sound. In addition to this, we have also revamped the Translation Check feature to include 10 spatial simulations of common consumer devices, including smartphones, televisions, laptops, and car stereos.

What is an Add-on?

An Add-on unlocks new features inside SoundID Reference. Activating the Virtual Monitoring Add-on reveals a new drawer at the bottom of the SoundID Reference window that allows access to the Virtual Monitoring parameters. The Add-on works in both the plugin version and the systemwide app.

Screenshot of SoundID Reference Virtual Monitoring Add-on

After enabling Virtual Monitoring, you can use the main window to choose the type of studio monitors you want to replicate: near field, mid field, or far field. Keep in mind that each of these monitor types corresponds to a precisely calibrated set of studio monitors. Your calibrated headphones will sound like actual speakers positioned in front of you, enhancing your listening experience.

If you’ve chosen Translation Check as your Target Mode, the display will reflect the environment that you wish your headphones to emulate.

Screenshot of SoundID Reference Virtual Monitoring Add-on translation check feature

The Result

For those who haven’t had an opportunity to acoustically treat your studio space, you’ve probably become reliant solely on mixing with headphones. Perhaps you consistently check your mixes in your car or on various other playback systems. With Virtual Monitoring, you gain the ability to experience how your mix will sound on different studio monitors and in real-world environments outside your studio. This makes it easier and more trustworthy to ensure that your mix will translate well across various listening conditions.

When mixing with headphones, there has traditionally been a degree of uncertainty regarding how elements like panning, volume levels, and even frequency balance will come across when your mix is played through speakers. However, with Virtual Monitoring enabled, you’ll find yourself so immersed in the experience that you’ll forget you’re wearing headphones. You will truly understand how your mix will sound on actual speakers in real physical spaces.

If you have concerns about how your mix will translate when listened to on headphones, you can easily disable the Virtual Monitoring with just a single click. This returns your calibrated headphones to their standard, non-simulated state, allowing you to hear your mix as it is without the spatial simulation.

We are proud to say that the feedback from our team of early adopters has been extremely positive. All three speaker models have been useful to our users, so you’re sure to find a target that suits your workflow. 

The plugin runs on both Mac (OS 10.14 through Monterey) and Windows 10 and 11. A 21-day fully funcional trial of SoundID Reference with the Virtual Room Add-on is available for all users, even those who don’t already own SoundID Reference products. If you have tried out SoundID Reference previously, you can still get a new 21-day trial to try it with the Add-on. Just download the latest software version, sign up or log in to the user account and start the trial.  

If you’re an existing Reference 4 or SoundID Reference user, the upgrade price starts from $49. If you’re new to the SoundID Reference family, the full product price starts at  $148 link to pricing page

Here’s to headphone mixes that translate everywhere!

Learn more about the SoundID Reference Virtual Monitoring Add-on product here

This DEMO video demonstrates how it simulates the immersive experience of listening on studio speakers, in cars, or in living rooms, all within your headphones.