Pro Audio Files

Review: Sonarworks Headphone Calibration

If one were to describe my life over the past three months, the phrase “bit off more than he can chew” should come to mind. I had produced and performed on a record that took off — hitting Billboard’s top 200 amongst other things. One thing led to another and I ended up going on tour for a month, in addition to my already overwhelming schedule.

The only way I could manage balancing (and I use that term loosely) my engineering life with my musician life was to take work on the road. I despise doing this. I miss my fancy analog gear. And I supremely miss my very fancy (extra shmancy) monitoring setup. My Sennheiser HD598s, while solid headphones, just don’t compare.

Fortunately, I write for a popular pro audio blog! One of the perks of this is that from time to time people send me free stuff to review. As luck would have it, Sonarworks decided to send me software that calibrates headphone response. And as more luck would have it, they had a specific contour for Sennheiser HD598s!

Using Sonarworks on my master buss compensated for the uneven frequency response of my headphones, and without much tweaking at all. The GUI is super intuitive so it took minimal effort to dial in exactly what I needed. There’s a slider that allowed me to determine how much EQ I needed, and I found that backing it down a hair gave me what sounded most “even” to my ears. Setting the EQ to “linear phase” also sounded best to me, but the difference between linear and minimal is pretty subtle.

Another fun little feature is a set of emulations that reproduce what a record might sound like played back through, oh, say … Beats headphones. This is pretty useful in terms of providing a new reference point.

So is this product just a fancy EQ? Well, yes and no. Essentially, it is just an EQ. However, the curves it’s recreating are not curves that you could simply dial in by ear or with simple measurement of white noise. Sonarworks notes that there is “resolution up to 16000 correction points” which is way more than any market EQ can give you.

Having Sonarworks Headphone Calibration on the road has been supremely helpful. Between doing basic mix work, approving masters, and providing feedback on Andrew William Spence’s MixCritique forum, accurate monitoring was a must-have.

Next step: I’ll be testing out the rest of the Sonarworks product line.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.


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  • Awesome, I was exactly thinking about buying it for my Superlux HD681, also covered by Sonarworks ! As a guy in audio for a few years, out of school last year, I don’t have the experience and ear training of a mixer like you and I trust what I hear. I switch between my entry level KRK in an untreated small room and my Sennheiser HD25/Superlux HD681 to give me difference reference points. But knowing I can truly trust my Superlux as being the flatest I can hope for at my level with Sonarworks, I think it can really help me improve !

    Would you recommend it to anyone ?

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