Anyone who has yet to experience the real, tangible benefits of speaker calibration systems such as Sonarworks or the Trinnov system really owes it to themselves to try this as I’m yet to speak to anyone who has tried it who doesn’t see the benefit. There are of course some points which have to be made. Referring to them as “Room Correction” systems is understandably frustrating to anyone who appreciates the benefits of good acoustic environments. Issues which exist in the time domain can’t be fixed in the frequency domain. That being said, there is no reason why acoustic treatment and speaker calibration systems can’t be used together.
If the concept of applying very detailed corrective EQ to monitors holds up there is still the matter of how to implement this EQ: Hardware or Software?
Software only solutions such as Sonarworks are less expensive than hardware and their latency performance is surprisingly good. By definition they incur a hit on system resources, though not as much as you might think. So if software-only is so good why use hardware?
Hardware Based Systems
Hardware based systems will always cost more than software-only but in applications such as speaker calibration the appeal is obvious. In a given room with a given configuration this is very much a “set and forget” process. Ideally suited to hardware. The latency performance of hardware will always outperform software. Looking at the correction/calibration ecosystem it seems that there is more choice of products in hardware than there is in software and looking at the current offerings, they show a healthy diversity in terms of price point and specification:
DAD Speaker Correction Card
We reported last month on the release of the new speaker correction card for the DAD AX32 and DX32, extending the capabilities of what was already an extremely capable system for the most complex and demanding of environments. The new card can handle up to 128 channels using 1024 filters all at 56bit floating point. We don't yet have confirmation whether this is an option for the MTRX or is just available for the DAD units. We look forward to seeing this card and the new MOM monitor controller in the very near future.
The first system I became aware of, this is a high end solution which offers frequency and phase correction all via their multi-capsule 3D measurement mic. In spite of the not inconsiderable price tag, James has been a Trinnov owner for some years now. When the Trinnov was incorporated into a D Mon for Pro Tools systems I was simultaneously impressed and wondered why something like this hadn’t been done before.
The Dirac system is Mike’s system of choice. Dirac make the software and in this case the MiniDSP is the hardware platform ideally suited to run it in this application. Mike’s extensive review reveals how he was initially unconvinced but with suitable care in the setup process this is a very worthwhile system.
Genelec & GLM
In the same way as incorporating calibrations software into a D Mon for HD systems, embedding this technology into monitors seems a logical step. While this has been done by companies such as JBL with their LSR series and Dynaudio with their Air series, the only current monitors I’m aware of which support this type of technology is Genelec and their GLM software for use with their DSP monitors such as the 82 series and the Ones. I’ve used GLM in the past and with typical Genelec attention to detail the individual measurement mic’s response is in a database and is retrieved for the setup process. Very thorough.
The Intonato is more than a correction box but it does feature correction. Aimed at multichannel facilities it lies at the accessible end of a breed of do everything audio processors which are highly configurable multi channel boxes with prices and levels of complexity to match.
Live sound have been doing this for years, looking at how they approach this process it seems that Smaart is still as popular as it was in the late 90s. With the proliferation of programmable audio DSPs the technology is available for people with the time and technical inclination to use something like a Biamp Tesira with some suitable analysis software to build their own correction solution. For the rest of us there are plenty of options in both hardware and software.
There's a clear parallel between native and hardware based plug-in processing here but the key difference for me is that monitoring systems and the rooms they are in tend to outlast the computers which are used in them. Because of this I see speaker calibration/correction as part of the monitoring system, not part of the DAW. That being said I use Sonarworks...
What do you think? Do you use a calibration system? If so is it hardware or software?