Prior to CES 2019, which took place earlier this month in Las Vegas, Sonarworks invited me to visit the company's hospitality suite and listen to their software. They claim it can calibrate any pair of headphones to sound like a pair of studio headphones. The software supposedly flattens the frequency response of the headphones to a studio-reference standard. I was highly sceptical, but I figured I'd stop by to check it out. Boy, was I wrong!
Of course, the software isn't going to turn a crummy $25 pair of headphones into a pair of $2,000 studio-class headphones in terms of accuracy. But the program works extremely well. Even the notoriously unlistenable Beats headphones sounded far better when using it. Needless to say, I was impressed.
Currently in beta, the program can also accurately measure your preference. The process is dead simple. The listener first chooseshis preferred music genre, like hip hop, dubstep, rock, metal, dance, pop, and so on. I recommend choosing heavy metal since it's the genre with the largest generated audio spectrum. The listener is then asked to choose between version A or B of sonic profiles while the loop of the chosen genre is being played. This process is repeated until the software finds which sonic profile fits you the most. It's akin to a visit to an optometrist and having the doctor ask you, "which lens is better, A or B? How about now? B or C? C or A?" I tested the beta version and it works: the analysis quite accurately matched my SMPTE-curve preference as per how my ears were tested by Paul Barton at the National Research Council in Ottawa.
Taking it another step further, Sonarworks also showed me the software for a car audio application. While the newly-released Sonarworks True-Fi works well in calibrating headphones you own, Sonarworks is also working on a software enhancement that will lift the performance of a basic car stereo (and beyond) to the highest degree.
Imagine having a rental car but you can customize the audio so it sounds like it packs a subwoofer. Or imagine not having to completely gut your leased car, but still being able to get amazing sound.
Listening to a Chevy SUV's 8-speaker sound system that sounded like a system with an additional centre channel and subwoofer caught me by surprise. What they showed was not a concept. It was the real thing, running on an Android phone and streamed to a rental car's stereo via Bluetooth connection.
There are plenty of others ways the Sonarworks software could be implemented. How about a Sonarworks software that can mimic your home listening environment so you will literally hear what the mixing engineers hear? It may take another year for the home application to come to fruition, but when it happens, it might just revolutionize the audiophile world.
I ended up spending three hours at the Sonarworks hospitality suite, as well as in a garage while testing the car audio application of the software. Although it took nearly half a day of my CES time, the experience and knowledge I received from the hands on, personal one-on-one demo was worth every second of it. and I was truly "wowed" by the technology.