As a music producer, the most important tools to you are your ears! Forget the countless DAW options and the abundance of fancy plug-ins at your disposal. Without well-trained ears, your musical production capabilities are capped.
Now, you may think your ears are well trained. They may well be, but if you’re anything like me, when you actually put your ears to the test, the reality of your hearing abilities may well come crashing down to earth.
This is where SoundGym comes in. With their innovative ear training software, it is essentially an online gym for your ears, and it’s great for music producers and sound engineers alike. SoundGym’s website promises ‘soundheads like you can have a place to meet, train, learn, improve skills and chat about music-making, audio engineering and live sound’.
There are a host of other features that the online platform offers that I’ll speak about later in this review, but it’s safe to say that before I immersed myself into the world of SoundGym, my expectations were high.
SoundGym offers a unique platform that somehow manages to turn ear training from a mundane task into something fun and enjoyable. The lessons are intuitive and most of all, practical. Over the course of a month, I found that my ears (and brain) were making better, more informed mixdown decisions.
When you first log into SoundGym, you are met by the option to complete a daily workout. This takes the form of five quick audio games that’ll take you no more than ten minutes to complete. It’s a great way to get into a routine of training your ears regularly.
You’ll find ear training games that revolve around compression, EQ, filtering, distortion, reverb, delay, and many other essential mixing skills. The simple but effective games help to gradually level up your listening skills. You can play these games as part of your daily workout or you can drop into any game individually, depending on which aspect of your ears that you want to train.
It’s also extremely easy to measure your progress through the stats section of the website. You can compare all of your scores to learn your listening strengths and weaknesses, as well as being able to compare your scores with friends and users worldwide.
It’s not all leisurely fun and games with SoundGym. The platform actually offers multiple competitive audio games such as Duels, BeatRaces, and even its very own Olympics.
Duels match you with a random user, pitting you against each other to see who can achieve the highest score in one of the games. Whichever SoundGym user has the most duel wins at the end of the week wins a prize (in this week’s case, it was D16 Groups $89 Repeater Delay Plug-in!).
BeatRace presents ‘hourly real-time beat-making competitions’ that gives you five minutes to recreate the beat that you’re shown. It’s relatively easy, fun and gives you an opportunity to win a few more Soundcoins (the currency you can win through participation in games).
A weekly Olympics offers the chance to really put your ears to the test. Each contest game will cost you six Soundcoins to enter, with the 20 top placed users at the end of the Olympics sharing the jackpot and the top 3 users earning medals that can be displayed on their profiles.
To summarise, SoundGym offers a wide range of engaging activities that keep the learning process constantly fun and fresh. Musicians and sound engineers alike will have no problem engaging with the content, which manages to stay fresh despite the repetition required to reinforce the learning experience.
Quality of Content – 8.5/10
Not only is there a lot of content to absorb within SoundGym, but the games and tournaments are also actually very good at improving your listening skills.
Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I have definitely felt an improvement with my own ability to make more informed decisions when it comes to my mixing down some of my tracks.
Thanks to their excellent ear training exercises, I can now hear much more clearly what frequencies I either need to cut or boost and my understanding of how wide a sound is in the stereo field is now much easier for me to identify.
The games themselves are at risk of becoming repetitive, but SoundGym manages to tackle this issue by providing a host of ‘training sounds’. Depending on your desired area of training on the day, you can switch between training with guitar, piano, drums, and you can even train with full-blown songs.
It’s another feature that keeps the content constantly fresh, ensuring the learning process never becomes tedious. This is a characteristic that for me, really defined the enjoyable learning experience that SoundGym offers its users.
Another cool additional feature you’ll discover is SoundGym’s very own ear Doctor. The closest thing you’ll find to an otolaryngologist on the internet, the ear doctor runs a simple test to examine what frequencies your ears respond to and how they compare to others in your age group.
Finding out that my ears were in a worse state than more than half the people my age may have been cause for alarm, but instead, it acted as a gentle reminder that I really do need to take better care of my ears.
Really, this is backed up SoundGym’s core message: Without a good pair of ears you’re really going to struggle to make high-quality music, especially if your music addiction is pushing you closer and closer to tinnitus at only 21 years old.
The Platform – 9.5/10
It’s hard to fault the platform — incredibly user-friendly, easy to navigate, and enough content to fill an entire library.
On top of the learning experience that it offers, the website offers a great avenue to virtually meet and socialize through its SoundGym spaces.
These spaces act as forums that you can join and use to interact with other users with similar musical interests as you. As an example, I joined the FL Studio, synthesis and sound design, Ableton Live, and the tips and tricks spaces. These forums act as a great place to compare music with other users and pick up extra knowledge that’ll only help you on your way to becoming a better music producer.
Taking a step back from the social side of the platform, SoundGym offers a variety of different incentives to keep you engaged with the learning process.
The Soundcoins you earn through playing games can be reinvested in gear for your virtual studio and sample packs that you can take away and use in your own original productions. You can even put them towards Hyperbits services & classes, including a $200 coupon for one of their masterclasses!
Additionally, the website has a ‘Learn’ section where you can access videos to broaden your understanding of key mixdown skills. By watching these videos you can earn learning points, which if you acquire 25,000 of them, you can take a test for an official SoundGym certification (an acknowledgment of an exceptional educational and personal achievement).
Value for Money – 9/10
SoundGym isn’t exactly cheap, but it offers a brilliant service that guarantees results if you put the time in.
If you were to pay monthly, it would cost you $24.95 each month. However, paying $95 upfront gives you access to SoundGym for the full year at the cost of only $7.90 a month. If you really feel like splashing the cash you can gain access to SoundGym for all of eternity for the price of $316.
There is a free version available, but it is extremely limited compared to the paid version and would only really offer you a small segment of what the website has to offer. Nonetheless, the free version is certainly adequate if you want to get a taste before committing to a subscription.
When it comes to audio ear training, there’s really no other dedicated service quite like it, so it’s difficult to compare to alternatives on this front. But in my opinion, if you’re in a position to spend $95 for a yearly membership and you’re willing to put the hours in, it is an extremely worthwhile purchase.
There’s nothing out there quite like SoundGym’s ear training for audio engineers, music producers, or casual musicians looking to improve their listening skills.
While you can learn on your own, or with help from YouTube, these options lack the reinforcement that SoundGym provides. If you are left to your own devices it is unlikely you will really end up challenging yourself, and the experience with SoundGym is much more engaging for this reason.
If you’re finding it hard to justify yet another monthly subscription, you can just pay for the year upfront and then forget about annoying monthly deductions. When done this way, SoundGym works out to be very affordable, and you don’t need to put much time in to start noticing results.