Sonarworks in Education  /  Bill Gibson

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