Sonarworks Reference 4

Sonarworks: Sound Calibration Technology | Part 2

Introduction to Sonarworks Reference 4 from an Audio Engineer – Part 2

06.14.19 | Podcasting | By: Pat Kicklighter

Alright. Here we go again, into the rabbit hole! In a previous post I talked about Sonarworks headphone and speaker calibration software and how we at Resonate Recordings use it to get an unbiased perspective on the audio quality of your recording. I talked about how all headphones have a certain sound to them, a specific frequency curve, and how Sonarworks essentially neutralizes that for us. If you are just joining the conversation I suggest reviewing my last post as this post will build upon those ideas. But, if you can’t be bothered, I’ll catch you up.

I mentioned previously that Sonarworks Reference 4 is a headphone and speaker calibration software that gives us the best perspective possible when producing your content. In a few words, Sonarworks provides frequency calibration profiles for thousands of different headphones, giving each engineer at Resonate a profile that matches their specific pair of headphones.

With that in mind, when I say each pair of headphones or speakers have a specific sound or frequency curve to them, you already know what this means. You know that Beats by Dre have a ton of bass. You know that your iPhone speaker has almost no bass. You know that the speaker in the grocery store just…sounds bad. You get the picture. The same concept applies to microphones as well, but we’ll touch on that in a bit.

Sound is more than just frequency. It happens over time. It has an envelope to it. Attack, decay, sustain, release. When you clap, that sound happens instantaneously and dies pretty quickly. Lots of attack, not a lot of sustain. But when you lay on the horn in traffic, that can last a few seconds (maybe longer if they deserve it…), so there is greater sustain. Each sound we hear has a unique characteristic to it that makes it different than other sounds. Our ears understand how to interpret those differences, which is why things don’t all sound the same. The challenge becomes taking that true sound and translating it effectively during the recording and listening processes.

Each pair of headphones is built with different components that have a varying ability to reproduce a realistic representation of the sound they are fed. Translation? Cheaper headphones have cheaper components. They don’t do a good job of telling you what the sound actually is. Like most products, more expensive options usually have better components and reveal a more realistic sound. So even though calibration might produce a more accurate average amount of a certain frequency range, it cannot affect the envelope of a sound.

This concept becomes even more complicated when you think about microphones as they play by the same rules since they are built almost identically to speakers. If you use a cheap mic, even though it may be marketed to compete with a more expensive one, or have a similar frequency response, it won’t have the same capabilities as higher quality components.

You may be thinking…“If we’re going to neutralize the sound of our headphones, why would we buy a high quality pair when we could buy a cheap pair and just calibrate them?” And I know you’re probably starting to get nervous. All of what I’m saying doesn’t mean you have to have expensive gear to have a good sound or successful podcast or make it listenable. Thankfully there are great microphones and headphones that are made with quality, that are not going to break the bank. We know that not everyone can invest thousands into their recording setup, which is why at Resonate Recordings we can recommend equipment packages for a variety of price points. Equipment that works, and that we can work with. And with results you’ll be happy with. But remember, you can’t record on a tin can and expect it to make it sound like a symphony.

Having the right equipment is crucial to having a quality sound. And when your well-recorded audio is put in the hands of our expert team, the results will be exciting. All of our services include mixing and mastering, where we are able to fine tune the audio quality, even the attack, decay, sustain, and release of every audio file that is submitted. I realize that these concepts seem overwhelming and can make your head spin but thankfully our talented team are experts in audio and know what to do to make it sound the best it can. If you would like to connect with us or are unsure about the quality of your current recording setup, reach out to our team and see how to get the highest quality out of what you already have.


By: Pat Kicklighter

As an Audio Engineer at Resonate Recordings, Pat implements Resonate’s unique mixing and mastering services to ensure your podcast audio consistently sounds as polished and professional as possible. Pat lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, 2-year-old daughter & 4-year-old Lab.