Headphone Calibration with Sonarworks REFERENCE 3.1
Headphone Calibration is not something most of us would think of as a first option if we were to consider producing and mix-downs on headphones. In fact until fairly recently headphones were very much a secondary monitoring option, but this seems to be changing thanks to the power of plugins and DAWs and the ability to produce completely ‘in-the-box’ now. The Macbook Retina is another contributor toward the mobile production ethos since the high definition display means you have more screen real estate to work with.
Which is why this new headphone calibration software from a tech start-up in Latvia really interests me.
Sonarworks have created a plugin called REFERENCE 3.1 which they say can deliver accurate studio sound on most models of headphones currently being used by sound professionals.
You may be wondering why you’d need headphone calibration software if you have bought studio headphones.
The truth is many mid-priced studio headphones – ranging between 3 and R 5 K – tend to favour a scooped frequency response with the highs and lows being subtly boosted. It’s the old debate about what is a really flat response? All monitoring is subjective to a point and if all studio headphones were 100% flat they’d surely all sound the same. But they don’t! REFERENCE 3.1 claims to fix this.
How the headphone calibration works with REFERENCE 3.1 is that the plugin has presets for different models of headphones so all you need to do is select the specific model you are using and Sonarworks say this will ensure that your headphones will deliver a frequency response as if they were perfectly neutral speakers.
It stands to reason that for the REFERENCE 3.1 headphone calibration to be a success they would have had to analyse the exact frequency response of each model they have a profile (preset) for and determine each one’s tonal characteristics and precisely correct the headphone frequency response where needed.
How to use REFERENCE 3.1
All you need is the plugin. Since it’s not a room calibration app, there’s no need to consider outside influences – unless you have unusually long hair covering your ears, I guess. Basically you download the plugin, select your headphone make and that’s it. Other features include being able to toggle the headphone calibration on/off and also a wet/dry mix control to adjust the level of calibration.
Headphone Models that work with REFERENCE 3.1
- AKG K141 MKII
- AKG K240 Studio
- AKG K271 MKII
- AKG K701
- AKG K702
- AKG K712
- Audio-Technica M20x
- Audio-Technica M40x
- Audio-Technica M50x
- Beyerdynamic DT770 80 Ohm
- Beyerdynamic DT770 250 Ohm
- Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro
- Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro
- Focal Spirit Pro
- KRK KNS8400
- Sennheiser HD25-II
- Sennheiser HD280
- Sennheiser HD598
- Sennheiser HD600
- Sennheiser HD650
- Sennheiser HD800
- Shure SRH840
- Sony MDR7506
- Superlux HD681
The plug-in for digital audio workstations (DAWs) is offered in AU, AAX Native, RTAS and VST standards and is compatible with both OSX and Windows. Currently, a single license for Sonarworks REFERENCE 3.1 headphone calibration plug-in costs $69/69€ and individual headphone measurement service is available at a special introductory price of $44/44€ .
But they also offer a 21-day full-functionality free trial is available on the company website.
Find out more about the REFERENCE 3.1 headphone calibration software.
Originally launched in January at the NAMM Show 2015, the Sonarworks REFERENCE 3.1 plug-in has received tremendous positive feedback from early users in online music production communities as well as from award-winning professionals.