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Review: Sonarworks Reference 4

Looking to improve your mixdowns in less than ideal environments? Sonarworks could be your answer.

What is it? 

Sonarworks latest Reference 4 is an all in one tool that helps correct your monitors and headphones, to help level the playing field in your mix downs, and correct your less than ideal listening space.

How does it work? 

How it works depends on the mode you use. You can either use a mic, which is provided in the mic edition, to help the plugin analyze your studio space and get a read on your monitors. Should you use the headphone option, there is a massive list of headphones, which yours will most likely be on there. Once selected, it uses a correcting algorithm to flatten the frequency response. This means that, should you and a friend be collaborating, you can both be using different headphones and still hear the same thing. All of this is done through a plugin that you leave at the very end of your mastering chain, and can be dialed back accordingly. 

Sonarworks Reference 4 Mix

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What do I think? 

This program reminds me of the Nuraphones in how drastically different the music sounded when first using them. It's literally night and day, and to be honest, sounds like shit when turned off. But, what's great about the program is that you can actually use the dry wet knob to ease your way into it. It's also cool that there is a graph to show you exactly what it's correcting, and by how much. Again, it takes a while to get used to, especially if you've been using your studio setup long enough to really know your room. 

So far, I've used it on about 4 new tracks since setting it up. Once I started getting the hang of it, I can honestly say that it has drastically improved my mixdowns. So much so, that the most recent tracks haven't even needed it. I'm also experimenting to see if when I use it again, it will improve my mixes even more. The best way to describe what it's done, would be that it's added clarity. Each of my tracks has gotten cleaner and more precise. Each channel has its own space, and there is no clashing, at least that I'm aware of.

Final thoughts? 

To be honest, I'm still on the fence, but let me explain. If you are in a monitoring environment that is subpar, such as a bedroom or garage, this will drastically help you with your mixing abilities. It will do so regardless of skill level, unless you're someone like Dave Pensado. So in that regard, it's a total winner. Why I'm still on the fence, is because if you've built your studio and put time into creating an ideal listening environment, or if you know your equipment inside and out, this may not be what you're looking for. That, and if you invest money into great monitors and a great room, chances are you got the monitors for their sound. Flattening it with Reference 4 would almost seem sacrilegious. Then again, having as many referencing capabilities as possible is not a bad thing...

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