Sonarworks in Education

Sonarworks is being used as a teaching tool in the classroom for demonstrating the critical importance of frequency response and room interference.

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Educators already using Sonarworks

Find out more about educators that are using Sonarworks in their teaching.

Christoph Thompson

Co Director of the Music Media Production Program at Ball State University

Since room calibration is an essential skill we made Sonarworks part of the curriculum. From an educator’s standpoint Reference 4 is a great teaching tool because the results can be so drastic that beginning students can hear them and the visual feedback supports what is taught in acoustics and recording classes.

Christoph Thompson

Co Director of the Music Media Production Program at Ball State University

The first time I saw digital room correction yield impressive results was when hanging out with Bob Katz. Bob came to Ball State University for a weeklong workshop with our students and needed to create a mastering level listening environment in our largest studio. What I learned was that digital room correction works, and it worked exceptionally well because of Bob’s experience and ears. Bob used a custom solution that worked very well, made sense to me, but in my eyes was meant for experienced users.

Until then we swept our rooms with analyzers and made adjustments with analog filters, so when we started looking for an integrated digital solution we came across Sonarworks. When the systems engineer showed me the calibration process I couldn’t believe how much of the guess work was taken out of the equation. Sonarworks along with a solid understanding of acoustics is a very powerful combination.

All the main control rooms, including the mastering suite at the Ball State University School of Music, run Sonarworks Reference 4. As a Music Media Production undergraduate degree program there are in fact several learning outcomes that Reference 4 fills for us. First, it is our primary room calibration tool. Our rooms never sounded better and the dynamic structure of the software allows us to quickly recalibrate to respond to multiple monitor selections. The students will never properly develop critical listening skills if the room is skewing the listening environment.

Second, the ease of use and the informative interface makes it a cakewalk to explain the correction to students. Any second-year student who has taken acoustics and the first recording techniques class will understand what is going on. And this is where I would like to make an important point: Sonarworks is great, but it is much better in the hands of someone who has taken an acoustics class and knows what to listen for. Since room calibration is an essential skill we made Sonarworks part of the curriculum. In our Studio Maintenance course, our students autonomously measure and calibrate rooms: Perfectly designed rooms in our studios, as well as their personal mixing spaces. The gained results then get analyzed as a group, and solutions that would improve the listening environment acoustically are debated. From an educator’s standpoint Reference 4 is a great teaching tool because the results can be so drastic that beginning students can hear them and the visual feedback supports what is taught in acoustics and recording classes.

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Bill Crabtree

Assistant Professor, Coordinator Production & Technology at Middle Tennessee State University

Today, with most students having their own workstation at home, they do a lot of mixing and editing work in an environment that we (faculty) have no control over. Sonarworks allows us to create some consistency between our on-campus studios and the student’s home systems. Every system is different, but Sonarworks Reference 4 does allow students to trust their home systems to a much greater degree.

Bill Crabtree

Assistant Professor, Coordinator Production & Technology at Middle Tennessee State University

One of the biggest challenges I see with students is in them gaining a clear understanding of what a recording should sound like versus how their playback system is changing their impressions. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is really there! Just a few years ago, students would do the vast majority of their work in a controlled studio environment. Today, with most students having their own workstation at home, they do a lot of mixing and editing work in an environment that we (faculty) have no control over. Sonarworks allows us to create some consistency between our on-campus studios and the student’s home systems. Every system is different, but Sonarworks Reference 4 does allow students to trust their home systems to a much greater degree. 

Sonarworks is also a good teaching tool for demonstrating the issues related to system optimization. With the Reference 4 software, I can take students through the measurement process while discussing the variables involved. Students can easily compare what the software is doing to what it would be like without it; which is often a real eye-opener for them. We can set up systems in a variety of environments and shoot multiple profiles pretty quickly to see the impact of different speakers and different positions in different spaces. It definitely raises student’s awareness of system optimization and the importance of an accurate playback environment.

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Gillian Desmarais

K-8 Fine Arts Director and Music Teacher at Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett, Massachusetts

I am incredibly impressed. This was a wonderful tool and resource for my 8th-grade students. Incorporated as part of a STEM lesson, Sonarworks provided them a better visual for understanding sound and ways of enhancing its quality in an un-ideal environment.

Gillian Desmarais

K-8 Fine Arts Director and Music Teacher at Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett, Massachusetts

I am incredibly impressed with the capability of Sonarworks calibrations. As my eighth-grade students are aware of how sine waves function in mathematics, it was easiest for them to make the association between frequencies on the piano and the frequency portion of the graph. Using the drop-down menu for selecting “stimulated after” or “target” was the most effective tool for demonstrating how the software was capable of calibrating the ideal response curve. This included all the bypassing features, which students were able to manipulate in real-time, as well as hearing the difference in audio quality from each change. 
 
Afterward, students were able to pull up their Soundtrap projects on my computer and listen to the difference in sound. They immediately recognized how the quality of the low end was evened out and how visually that was being depicted on the graph. A great teaching moment! Manipulating audio effects in Soundtrap was much easier for them to understand after this demonstration. 

A student actually was interested in why a safe headroom was not reflected as a change in DB on the graph and only in the output. Obviously, the actual calibration of the curve isn’t changed when manipulating the output, but I sensed the fact that they wanted to see that change on the graph too. Distortion is another point of topic for us to cover. 
 
I am incredibly impressed. This was a wonderful tool and resource for my 8th-grade students. Incorporated as part of a STEM lesson, Sonarworks provided them a better visual for understanding sound and ways of enhancing its quality in an un-ideal environment.
 

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Bill Gibson

Author & Educator, Hal Leonard, LinkedIn Learning and Instructor at Berklee College of Music

Being able to trust your monitors is a fundamental non-negotiable. My Berklee students, LinkedIn Learning viewers, and the folks who read my books frequently ask about how to make sure they’re hearing what they should be hearing. The Sonarworks Studio kit can be the answer they’ve been looking for.

Bill Gibson

Author & Educator, Hal Leonard, LinkedIn Learning and Instructor at Berklee College of Music

When I got the Sonarworks kit, I was impressed with the concept. Being able to trust your monitors is a fundamental non-negotiable. That’s why I was looking forward to checking this out. My Berklee students, LinkedIn Learning viewers, and the folks who read my books frequently ask about how to make sure they’re hearing what they should be hearing. The Sonarworks Studio kit can be the answer they’ve been looking for.  

I registered it yesterday and went through the whole setup procedure and did some listening tests. It really is a very useful package—amazing, really. The software was easy to setup. I just kept following along and everything went without a hitch. The main monitors in my studio have analysis and setup software built-in, so it was interesting to compare the setup procedures. Within a few steps, the SW wizard got the settings roughed in, established L-R, and analyzed the distance between the monitors. 

The next steps were the most time consuming and a bit tedious, but they were also the most impressive. In the mix position, the setup software started the EQ analysis with the calibrated mic in the mix position, which is where another analysis seems to end the process; however, the SW software, having already established a mic location algorithm, proceeded to have me move the mic to another almost 40 locations immediately surrounding the mix position! For each position, the software emitted a rattling sound out of both monitors that enabled the software to locate the mic. A target showed up on the screen and I just had to move the mic to the center of the target. Once the software saw that the mic was in place, it took another reading. This took some time, but I think it was time well spent because it was analyzing a large mix field. The fact that the calibrated mic was always being handheld, and that the target didn’t measure elevation might be seen as a drawback; but, I was keeping pretty close to the same plane as my ears with the mic. Realistically, we all move in and out and slouch for a while and sit up straight for a while during mixing so it might even be a strength that the software doesn’t make you place the mic on a stand at exact heights and distances. 

When the process was completed and I listened to the resulting changes, I was very impressed. My control room is pretty well controlled and, as do most engineers, I know about what to watch out for when I’m mixing. The settings that the SW software found produced a very natural and flat sound that I think while be quite trustworthy. 

I love the fact that the SW profile for my system can be added to the final insert on my master fader during mixdown, so I’m hearing a verified EQ throughout the mixing process and then can turn off the profile when I render the final mix! All-in-all, this software mic-software combo is extremely useful, especially when working in a personal or production studio where the mix environment has NOT been finely tuned. 

Granted, nothing completely fixes a really problematic room, but this product will definitely help compensate for a bad room and, if the volume is kept on the quiet side (so as not to overstimulate the room), a good engineer should be able to produce great-sounding mixes in almost any room that’s been analyzed by the Sonarworks Studio kit. 

Tonight, I went through the headphone section of the SW software. Amazing! I’ve always recommended mixing on studio monitors but checking the mix on headphones for balance issues that might not be obvious on monitors. However, many of my students and folks who live in condos or apartments with neighbors close by, just don’t have an option other than to monitor in headphones. I do a lot of video evaluations and video productions where it’s important that I wear phones during production so headphone reliability has become more important to me than it used to be. The profiles that are built into the SW software are incredible. I have a pair of AKG Quincy Jones model Q701s that I really like and that I’ve found to be very accurate. The SW profile for those phones makes some subtle changes. But, I’ve always liked tracking with Sony 7506 phones because they’re beefy in the lows and hyped in the highs—great for tracking. But, when I applied the SW 7506 profile, the sound I heard from the 7506s was amazingly balanced. I keep going through the phones I have here at hand and every single one sounded balanced and flat when the SW software was engaged, but when I bypassed the EQ, I recognized the native sound fo the headphones, immediately. It was amazing, as I went through my Q701s, the 7506s, the Blue MoFi, Blue Lola, and even a very old pair of AKG 240s, the profiles all brought the associated phones into a very functional status for crucially analyzing sound quality.

Thanks to Sonarworks for providing an excellent product that can be a gamechanger for anyone who cares about creating the best mixes possible in their home, project, professional studio! 

Bill
 

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Sonarworks is invaluable to students

Sonarworks Reference 4 ensures that whatever environment students are mixing in, they all use a common flat frequency response.

Mobility

by Craig Van ReMoortel, Drexel University

At Drexel University, we have great studios that I can work in, but each of them is different, and that makes moving projects between them a bit challenging. Also, my headphones are somewhat colored, which makes it harder for me to work from home. Sonarworks makes all of these environments sound the same, and now I can move between locations with ease. I can even mix on the train.

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Learning Tool

by Fernanda Herrara Lendechy, SAE Mexico City

Sonarworks lets me visualize the frequency response of each room I work in. It really gives me a good feel of how the speaker placement affects my home studio. I’ve got a much better sense of how the room is affecting the timbre of the instruments I am mixing. I love this software.

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Improved Mixing Results

by Kaela Dunlap, Shenandoah Conservatory

When I started working on the Sonarworks monitoring target, it was much easier than I initially thought. The drums, for example, sounded much more spot-on in my latest assignment, which my professor also appreciated and complimented. I’m a lot more confident that my mixes will translate. Very happy.

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Collaboration

by Chris Mallamacci, Emerson College

I’ve got a good friend from high school that I like to work on music with. Even though we are hundreds of miles apart, we can still find some consistency in our mixes because we both use the same flat frequency curve. This thing is great!

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Do It All on a Student Budget

by Rory Higginson, Northeastern University

I'm still working on the same monitors I’ve had since high school. I'm used to them and I don’t really want to buy expensive monitors until I can afford something great. With Reference 4, I can get great results without trying to spend money that I don’t have. 

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