Field Test: IK Multimedia ARC System Plug-In

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Barry Rudolph

SOFTWARE-BASED ADVANCED ROOM CORRECTION FOR DAW USERS

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DIGGING INTO THE PLUG-IN

The ARC plug-in graphically indicates the responses of the left and right channels. The original response of the room is shown in orange and the corrected response is shown in white. A peak-reading meter shows pre- or post-correction levels. A pull-down menu lets you select the desired target curve to run along with the corrective profile.

MultEQ offers four target curves: Flat is the flat correction of the room response only to the extent of the upper- and lower-frequency limits possible with your loudspeaker system; HF roll-off 1 adds a slight roll-off of highs to compensate for untreated, live listening spaces; Flat MidComp compensates for directivity differences due to horn-loaded speakers and/or the response peak at the speaker's crossover frequency; and HF roll-off 1 MidComp is a combination of the previous two choices.

A Preference window sets the plug-in to remember settings, the profile for the next instance and whether speaker delay trimming is enabled. Speaker delay is for setups where the distances of the speakers to the “sweet spot” are not all the same. The ARC software can detect speaker distances to a ¼-inch resolution. Unfortunately, this option comes up turned on by default, and unless your measured sweet spot (position one) is exactly equidistant from the left and right speaker, then the sound will be phasing and terrible. It is not needed for stereo monitoring and should be switched off by default.

Last, for A/B'ing room correction on/off, the ARC plug-in's level control can bring the level back up after correction. Once I did this a few times, I didn't bother any more.

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE

My mix room is small but acoustically well-treated with good absorption on the walls and ample ceiling diffusion. Nearly all of my room anomalies were in the bass frequencies with peaks at 70, 180 and 500 Hz, along with noticeable dips at 90 Hz and 1.5 kHz. The left speaker, which is close to a solid wall, showed dips and peaks of greater amplitude while the right speaker, closer to an open doorway, showed less. The corrective curve followed this with less and smoother-looking correction for the right than the left. There were a couple of smaller dips and bumps in the midrange, which I attributed to the sonic signature and 1.8kHz crossover point of the ADAM speakers.

The graphical display in the ARC plug-in is not finely calibrated, so you only get a general idea of the room's response. Clearly, IK Multimedia intends for ARC to serve as an easy-to-use problem-solver rather than a comprehensive, supertechnical instrument for acoutiscians. To check my work and for consistency, I did a dozen sets of measurements. The overall differences were nil — at least as far as I could hear and resolve using the ARC plug's graphic.

LIVING WITH CORRECTION

To be honest, I was not ready to get used to my monitors all over again with correction running. Frankly speaking, my ADAM S2.5As sound boring with correction running; the euphonic hype of them playing music in my small space is flattened out. Although maybe not as fun, it's all good sonic medicine.

With correction on, I now understand certain producers' critiques about elements of my mixes. Although mastering usually fixed all of the blemishes, before correction I was finding that vocal and guitar tracks would sound thick in the 400 to 600Hz range. The peak in the 500Hz area explained that although the 70- and 180Hz bumps caused mixes to be slightly thin overall unless I pushed kick and bass, I was hearing too much of these frequencies and twisting EQs to compensate.

So at this point, I'm mixing with correction and rethinking a lot of what I do. I think it is wonderful to have the ability to check the room and monitors to see and hear the problems. IK Multimedia's ARC System will “tune up” any listening space so you can hear the way the mix actually sounds and be confident in how it will translate to other playback systems. Prices: $599; IK product cross-grade, $499.

IK Multimedia, 954/846-9101, www.ikmultimedia.com.






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