Sonarworks in Education  /  Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson

Instructor, Mastering & Media Preparation at SAE Expression, Emeryville CA

I had already used Sonarworks Reference 4 in my personal digitization and restoration studio to identify and treat issues with frequency response. When teaching critical listening to a class of aspiring audio engineers and producers, I knew this software would be a fabulous tool for illustrating just how different playback systems can sound. Illustrating! I know, a visual word to understand audio concepts. But the visual mapping of headphone calibration profiles in Sonarworks Reference 4 truly helped my students comprehend how monitors and headphones are designed, as well as the impact of listener position and the value of utilizing acoustic measurements and treatment in critical listening environments.
In the classroom, I had students call out their preferred brand of headphones. We pulled up the headphones’ calibration profiles on Sonarworks Reference 4 and compared them to each other. Students were honestly blown away by the vastly different equalization curves built into their favorite headphones. This was a real eye (and ear!) opening moment. Visualizing the frequency response helped them better understand how their monitoring systems impact their perception of the music they are creating. Especially when it comes to low end, this tool helped my students comprehend the extent to which something as basic as their choice of headphones impacts the decisions they make as mix and mastering engineers.