Sonarworks in Education  /  George Hess

George Hess

Professor of Music, Director of Recording Studios at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When I took over as director of the recording studios at Sunway University, I found a studio that had clearly been designed and built without consulting any professionals. Of particular concern was the control room, a long narrow room, with a window that was much too large. The only good thing is that the walls were all covered with absorptive materials. 

The first mix I made in that room was a hot mess. While it sounded fine in the studio when I played it anywhere else, the bass disappeared, and the balances were off. So, I did what I could to improve the sound, removed some fixtures, and added some bass traps. But the university wasn’t interested in putting much money into it, as we’re building a new arts building with recording studios that are being designed by pros. 

Eventually, I did manage to make the room usable. The bass was still too prominent, but I could work with it. But the students were another story. They were beginners and didn’t get to spend enough time in the room to really get to know its sound. And as the program grew, the scheduling got even tighter. So we added a couple of smaller rooms for editing and mixing. Of course, these rooms sounded quite different from the control room.

I installed Reference 4 on the computer in the control room and listen to a couple of mixes with which I was quite familiar. I was impressed. The bass bump was gone, and the overall balance of the mix improved. Next, I installed it in the mixing rooms and listened to the same mixes. They sounded remarkably similar. So, now our students can work in any of the rooms and expect pretty much the same result. 

Finally, for fun, I tried it at home. I had recently moved to a new condo and set up an office studio. I purchased an inexpensive but decent pair of near-fields, but the room was untreated and revealed awful resonances. Reference tamed the resonant frequencies and made the room functional. I won’t be doing any serious mixing in there, but I can listen to student projects.

Our next step is to install Reference in the Mac lab. We have a couple of classes where students work mostly on headphones. Students are required to have a decent pro-level set of headphones, and adding Reference will make what they hear as accurate as possible. 

Ideally, all of your workspaces should be measured and treated by professionals, but for those for whom that isn’t an option, Reference 4 is the best solution I’ve found.