You’ve heard many audio professionals say that mixing on studio monitors is superior to mixing on headphones, that you can’t hear truly hear how sound interacts with a space without monitor speakers. However, the reality is that headphones are all that many young producers can afford.
Even professionals who own studios may need to work offsite with headphones sometimes.
So then, what are our options?
Immerse Virtual Studio, made by Embody VR, offers a practical solution to this problem. By using virtual models of world-class studios, you can get the studio mixing experience right from your headphones!
Immerse Virtual Studio (Verdict)
Having mixed in studios before, I was a bit skeptical of this plugin before I used it. However, after using it, I was pleasantly surprised. Immerse Virtual Studio creates a very realistic studio experience, perfect for headphone-only users or those who need a good monitoring system on the go.
One of the things that removed my skepticism for this plugin right away is how it sets up your listening experience from the beginning. The engineers at Embody have taken great care in making sure Immerse Virtual Studio gives you the most accurate studio experience possible.
When you first load the plugin into your DAW, you make an account with Embody, and then scan a QR code with your phone. This takes you to a link where you take a picture of your right ear. This image is used to analyze your unique ear shape and create a personalized HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function) for you using artificial intelligence.
Our ear structure plays a big part in how we perceive the spectral quality of a sound. By creating a personalized head related transfer function, Embody is ensuring that when you begin mixing, it sounds exactly like it would if you were to physically go into one of these studios and mix. You can go into the experience confident that the decisions you make about balance, EQ, etc. will accurately reflect how your audio will be heard in a live room.
Typically when listening on headphones, we perceive the sound as linear, coming from the left and right of us. By using our personalized HRTF, Immerse Virtual Studio is also able to create the perception that the sound is coming from in front of us.
This creates a depth that is traditionally only found when listening on monitors in a real studio. This does mean, however, that the sound quality can get colored by the HRTF. Luckily, the plugin has user adjustable settings that can help compensate for this, such as a clarity control and left/right balance adjuster. These are worth messing with if you are not entirely happy with how the studios sound, and they may even help you have a more accurate listening experience with the plugin.
Headphone Tuning Curves
On top of that, Immerse Virtual Studio has created unique “tuning curves” for a wide variety of headphone models, including models from Audio-Technica, AKG, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, and Audeze.
These tuning curves are essentially EQ adjustments made to create a flat frequency response in your headphones. This ensures that you hear the most accurate representation of each studio. If your headphones are not listed, there are even generic models to choose from for different headphone models. Overall, Embody has done a great job of making sure your experience in Immerse Virtual Studio is as realistic as it can be.
Is It Resource Heavy?
Now, you would think that a plugin with this kind of capability would use up a lot of your processing power and make your session crash every few minutes right?
I was surprised to find that this plugin only added 480 samples of delay to my Pro Tools session. This can easily be compensated for with Pro Tools‘ delay compensation feature! So even if you are mixing on headphones with a laptop, this software is easy to add to your system and won’t tax your computer’s resources.
Going in, I was a little skeptical of how realistic the virtual studio experience would be, having had the opportunity to mix in some commercial studios myself. However, after spending some time with it, I found myself presently surprised.
How Realistic Is It?
I will admit that mixing with this plugin does take some time to get used to. When I first put it into a Pro Tools session, it felt very different from any other time I have done mixing on headphones. I wasn’t sure if I liked it. However, once I began mixing, my ears got used to working in the virtual spaces over time.
Eventually, I forgot I was even mixing on headphones! When I did an A/B comparison with the plugin on and off, I realized how much it was improving the quality of my audio through my headphones. I say all of that to encourage you if you decide to try this thing out, don’t be put off right away. Spend some time working with it and be patient, eventually, you will notice the difference it makes to your mixes.
Virtual Studio Options
Immerse Virtual Studio gives you five world-class studios to choose from while mixing. These include:
Each studio has two sets of monitor speakers you can choose from while mixing. My personal favorite was Music Friends Studio, although I may be biased because I am a huge fan of Carlos’ work with artists such as Paramore and Jimmy Eat World!
I thought the PMC AML 2 monitors in his room had a good balance of lows, mids, and highs. The Unity Rock Mk II monitors were a little brighter, allowing me to better check how my mix would sound on a cell phone or laptop speaker.
Everyone will have their own personal preference for which studio sound and monitors they like to use. However, I can confidently say no matter which virtual studio you prefer, they all will give you an accurate representation of what it’s like to mix in a commercial studio.
If you have your own home studio setup with monitor speakers, you may be wondering if Immerse Virtual Studio can really give you a suitable on-the-go rig as I described. I have my own setup with two JBL 305 monitors and a subwoofer, so after I mixed in the virtual studios for a while, I decided to compare the audio quality of my mix between my studio setup and the virtual studio setup.
To my surprise, the sound of the mix was almost identical between both systems. I was very impressed! On my monitors, I made a few small adjustments, but they were made to adjust personal flaws in my own mix, not to compensate for the differences in the two systems!
So, if you need to be able to work outside of your home studio setup sometimes, Immerse Virtual Studio is a great option for you too!
Embody has stated that their goal with Immerse Virtual Studio is to give people a way to professionally monitor sound while using headphones. Now that I have experienced it myself, I can say that they have certainly succeeded in this!
Immerse Virtual Studio puts you inside world-class studios from the comfort of your own home. By modeling your unique ear shape, using artificial intelligence to create a personalized HRTF, and creating tuning curves for various headphone models, Embody has ensured that you will get the most accurate studio mixing experience possible. Whether you are trying to upgrade your headphones and laptop setup, or you are looking for an effective tool to use on the go, Immerse Virtual Studio will give you exactly what you need.
Click here to learn more about Immerse Virtual Studio.