Sonarworks Reference & True-Fi

eq
sonarworks

#1

I’ve talked about these two pieces of software in an earlier post; the salient aspects of which I’m going to reproduce here - mostly because I want a dedicated thread to cover them and their developments:


Sonarworks “Reference”

The easiest way to understand what Sonarworks “Reference” is, is to think about it as an EQ for your headphones that uses preset EQ curves to correct the response of a headphone to a neutral tuning. The EQ curves used are much more complicated (more points of correction) than those you’ll typically build with a manual parametric EQ tool, since they’re based on normalized measurements of many samples of a given headphone.

It supports over 100 models of headphones right now, with more coming on a regular basis. It’s intended for studio use (mixing), first and foremost, since neutrality is a key to doing that well.

The catch is that if your headphone is not on the supported list, then this software isn’t much use to you as you can’t usefully pick a “model that is close” and get the desired results.

You can also send your own headphones in to be measured and have a custom correction profile built for them. This is good if either your headphones are currently supported with an “averaged” profile, or you want one that’s as accurate as possible for the actual pair of headphones you’re using (since there’s always some unit-to-unit variation).

I use it for mixing/studio work. When “listening for pleasure” it very much depends on what headphone I’m using at the time. It absolutely transforms some headphones from “problematic” to “excellent” (e.g. Sennheiser HD800 I will not listen to without it), and in other cases it’s not such a good thing.

This works as both a plug-in to various music players and DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) and includes the “Systemwide” utility that lets you run ALL system-audio through the Sonarworks processing.

You can tweak the results to a certain extent, but this is not a user-driven EQ tool.

Free trial available.

Sonarworks “True-Fi”

Think of this as the little-brother to “Sonarworks Reference”. It works in essentially the same way and the list of supported headphones is also similar (they’re generally the same, but the update schedules and bias is a bit different between the two products).

Instead of being a plug-in, True-Fi can either capture all system audio and process it, or it can be selected as a virtual sound card in your player application.

True-Fi also offers a couple of other adjustments … one for bass-level and another to compensate for age-related hearing loss.

I use this for listening with some headphones, typically on my laptop, such as the Sony MDR-1000X, among others (that one stands out because it’s an ANC-type headphone that I use in public work spaces from time to time).

Free trial available.


#2

One of the nicest things with these two pieces of software, is the continually expanding list of supported headphones. The most recent updates added 11 new headphones to True-Fi and 60 to Sonarworks Reference … several of which are likely of particular interest here (especially given some recent purchasing trends).

Among the most interesting-to-see additions include:

Manufacturer Model
Apple AirPods
1More Quad Driver
1More Triple Driver
Focal Clear
Focal Utopia
Fostex TH900 Mk2
Fostex TH-X00 (Massdrop)
Sennheiser HD6XX (Massdrop)

#3

With the huge number of HD 58X headphones now out in the wild, it would be great if they’re added to the list of compatible cans.


#4

The best way to make that happen is to submit a request for them to be added, which you can do here.


#5

Missed this Torq, a belated thank you for your suggestion. :bulb:


#6

Sonarworks True-Fi Mobile is now in “Early Access” status, for both iOS and Android.

I’ve been playing with it a bit this morning.

It is implemented, at least on iOS, as a music player application - so you’ll use True-Fi as your interface to the music you play through it rather than the native client or a third-party player.

So far … on the positive side, it fundamentally works as advertised, with the same array of headphones being supported as the desktop version, the same personalization options (age related hearing compensation and bass boost/cut controls).

And the resultant sound is the same, as far as I can tell, as the desktop version as well. At least for the headphones I’ve tried so far (with no reason to suspect this will change for others). That’s very encouraging.

For iOS it can either stream from Spotify or play from your local iTunes media. These are presented as completely separate libraries.

On the negative side, it does not see any content downloaded locally from Apple Music, nor can it stream from there. Oddly, it WILL show you the artist and the album for such items in it’s music browser, but it does not see the actual tracks that comprise that album. So if you don’t actually own the file (i.e. you bought it or ripped it, and are managing it via iTunes) then True-Fi won’t see it and can’t play it. I don’t know if this is the long-term goal, or just how things are in the “early access” version.

The visibility of the aritst/album (but not the songs) for downloaded Apple Music items may just be down to how the media library access API works.

So, if you listen via streaming services it’s Spotify or nothing right now.


#7

I will say that it does make the AirPods a lot more enjoyable - though these are a convenience listen for me, mostly when walking at lunch (and as often as not with audio books rather than music).

It does not turn them into something that is match for a proper IEM like the ER4-XR, though it’s closer than I would have expected to something like the 1More Triple Driver. It remains to be seen how it compares with the AirPods and the Triple Driver BOTH being driven via True-Fi though (will have to test that later today).


#8

The only 2 sets that I have that are supported by True-Fi are the Utopia and Samsung tuned by AKG freebie IEMs. Completely opposite ends of the spectrum. It was surprising how good the freebies sounded with True-Fi… until I got to a complicated passage of music. FR tuning does a lot to make a shitty headphone sound pretty good but it won’t magically turn it into something it’s not.

Ultimately, I can see the value in True-Fi if you listen mostly from mobile sources. But, on a PC, things like HeSuVi and Oratory1990’s EQ settings can be had for free and basically get you to the same place.


#9

There are several ways to skin this particular cat. They all do fundamentally similar things, derived in somewhat different ways and with rather different target profiles.

While the core of what the SonarWorks does is similar, how the corrections are derived is, I suspect, rather more accurate and consistent … particularly where each is determined from measuring many copies of a given model of headphone. And some of the corrections have many more points of much more granular compensation.

For mixing/mastering, which is my primary use for this stuff, I want the consistency and precision and simplicity. Particularly when I need someone else to hear exactly what I am hearing quickly and easily. And to be able to do across platforms with identical tooling carries significant value. The $50-$100 (which covers three machines) I might save with a pair of free tools and some manual configuration is neither here nor there in that context.

Mostly it comes down to the right tool for the job and the use case.

For selective EQ I use DMGs toolset.


#10

Would I be able to access it now or is it just for beta testers. I would love to get the Android version. I suppose if I wanted the iOS version I would have to buy a separate license for that too.


#11

Right now you can download the “Early Access” version directly from either Google Play or the App Store, and there is no charge, nor any need to be a beta tester. It’ll run until late Q1 2019 - which should be more than enough time to find out if it is something you want to buy once it is in final release status.

The price for that appears to be €79 - which covers 3 mobile devices* and includes a desktop license, also.

Typically desktop licenses are not bound to a specific OS (e.g. the license itself isn’t specific to Windows or macOS). With the mobile licenses, to limit it to three devices (at least in the Apple world) they’ll have to be doing the same kind of license management they do today - i.e. you activate a given license on a specific device using a registration code and an email address (which you can later move if you want to use it somewhere else).


#12

Thank you very much for all the information. I shall download it straight away.


#13

One of the things I find interesting with SonarWorks, and similar tools (e.g. ToneBoostersMorphit”), as well as when applying one’s own EQ-curve intended to yield a perceptually-flat response, is how big a departure it can be from the native signature of some headphones.

Note that in this case I am less concerned about how “correct” or “good” or “listenable” the end result is - more that if you assume SonarWorks’ (etc.) corrections are on the money, and then compare the stock vs. corrected signatures and hear both where, and how big, the deviations are (even when looking at the pre/post graphs it is often still surprising).

And yet still how much of the character of the headphone remains, even when they should, theoretically, be normalized from an FR perspective.