Sonic LAB: Waves Abbey Road Studio 3

Mix in the room on your headphones      13/08/19
    MP4 20:27 mins    

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An interesting product this, we covered it on Sonic TALK a few episodes back and I wanted to try it out. Using Waves' NX Head Tracking technology - which can work either with your webcam or via the NX Bluetooth head-tracker hardware,  (higher resolution) you can place yourself in the control room at Abbey Road Studios Studio 3. Listen in the virtual space, to the large, mid and near-field monitors as if you were there, with the positional changes to the sound as you move your head. There's also 5.1 and 7.1 surround systems, but you would need to have a fully routed surround session to get the most from this - however we're told this too is an impressive system and can be used for surround mixes on headphones.

NOTE: Listen on headphones for an impression of how it sounds. (make sure you have L+R correct!)

We looked at the stereo version which was the last plug-in on the main stereo bus, once I had calibrated the system and entered my head measurements (head circumference and distance between ears) into the plug-in we were good to go. Attaching the NX head tracker to the top of my Senal  SMH1000 (Sony MDR-V6 clones). You will need a Bluetooth equipped computer for this and also expect to replace the single AAA battery once in a while.

What makes it really work for me is the fact that the system tracks your head position, with the plug-in ensuring that the directional and early room reflection data matches the position of your head.There are also a few preset EQ curves you can apply for well-known brands and models of headphones that optimize the listening experience even further. I was unable to check that with the pairs we have at our disposal.

In practice, I found that I could identify and work with bass frequencies, that are usually pretty hard to figure out in headphones. Several times, because I have a pair of active speakers on my desk (Genelec 1029A), the sense that I was listening to actual speakers was overwhelming - I literally forgot I was wearing a pair. There's no unpleasant phasey or weird stereo imaging while you move your head, its very convincing.

Particularly effective when soloing the kick drum, you can hea the room reflections very clearly and this somehow convinces you that you are in the room. Additionally, the bass response is very impressive, pop on the large monitors and you really get the senes of that extra bass and weight, changing to mids or near  fields and the character changes quite considerably, giving you a pretty clear picture of whats going on.

Its an impressive system and one that could really help give you alternative perspectives on your mix. I can imagine a version: "Mix Checker Pack" maybe where you can listen in a car, or on a home stereo as well as studio environments.
Maybe if this ever got hooked up to a VR system it would really work too, I found that because I had speakers in front of me it helped me  "believe" that I was listening to actual speakers. More than once I was surprised by someone else being in the room, as I was sure I should have been able to hear them!

You can pick up the Waves Abbey Road Studio 3 plug-in -  currently on offer for $99 or $129 with the NX head tracker hardware, If you have a reasonable, or just trusted pair of headphones, then this could really work for you and help improve your mixes.

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