CAS Quarterly

Summer 2019

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A number of years ago, the good folks from Smyth-Research (Smyth-Research .com) came to Middle Tennessee State University, where I am a professor. They brought their A8 Realiser in for us to demo. The purpose of this hardware box was to allow the perception of listening over loudspeakers (up to eight channels) while actually listening via headphones. Peter Damski CAS wrote an article in the Fall 2011 CAS Quarterly about the unit and included a quote from me describing the representation as "mind numbingly accurate." crossfeed algorithm that allows some of the left-channel signal to feed the right side of the headphone and vice versa. It also allows for adjustment of "speaker" angles, eq, and room sound. The user can alter these based on taste to try and match a listening environment they're familiar with. Nx is more sophisticated, allowing for up to a 7.1 emulation. Waves also allows you to input your head circumference and inter-aural arc (distance from ear to ear around the back of your head) to gain a closer representation of how the user's head may affect perception. Adjustments to eq, angles, and room can also be made. Like the Realiser, Nx even offers head-tracking to add a level of realism to the listening experience as you move your head. So, what is Genelec trying to do with Aural ID? What they're not trying to do is give you what these plugins and hardware do. What they are doing is creating the fingerprint equivalent of how your head and auditory system affect the way you hear. Given that the company has spent 40-plus years developing and improving the accuracy of their loudspeaker monitors, accurate headphone monitoring was a natural step. What did Smyth-Research do so accurately? First off, they took a personalized HRTF (Head-Related Transfer Function) of the individual in the room they were listening in. They did this by placing small microphones in the listener's ear while seated in the listening position. Each speaker emitted test signals that were picked up by the microphones in the listener's ears and took into account the HRTF of the listener. (Our setup at the time was 5.1, though the new A16 Realiser can handle 16 tracks for immersive representation.) The unit took into account the room acoustics, speaker placement, and listener's HRTF relative to that space with precision strong enough to make you question whether the headphones were on or off your head. While the Realiser is extremely impressive as a hardware solution, portability is often the reason we're mixing on headphones in the first place. As such, software solutions are very desirable and even more possible given the processing power of personal computers these days. Some companies have tried to emulate loudspeaker listening through headphones with the use of plugins. Two that come to mind are CanOpener by Goodhertz ( and Nx Virtual Mix Room by Waves ( CanOpener (get it?), which is limited to stereo, uses a b y M a t t F o g l i a C A S Smyth-Research A8 Realiser

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