Sonarworks brings its pro studio sound to smartphones

One of the coolest audio products I tried last year wasn’t a pair of headphones or speakers, but software. Sonarworks’ True-Fi uses sophisticated calibration technology to tweak your headphone’s sound to match the accurate, flat sound of speakers in a professional recording studio, and it really works. Problem is, it was only available for desktops. But now Sonarworks is available to try on Android and iOS devices.

I’m not exaggerating that replicating a professional studio thing. Sonarworks literally invited me to Flux Studios in Manhattan to show off its tech. I’ll just quote myself:

First I listened to a track through the studio speakers – high end monitors from Focal Audio, for those wondering. Naturally, it sounded amazing. Neutral, transparent, with good bass extension, instrument separation and other positive audio jargon.

Then, I tried a pair of audiophile-approved Beyerdynamic headphones (DT770 or DT880, not sure). Finally, a pair of Marshall Major 2, which retail for around 50 bucks.

All the setups sounded the same. Not identical, but remarkably similar. $50 headphones had the same overall sound presentation as a professional studio. That’s wild.

To be clear, Sonarworks doesn’t attempt to match the spatial presentation of speakers, but it excels at matching the tuning. It’s not going to make $10 headphones sound as pristine as $10,000 speakers – better components are still better components – but when it comes to the flat speaker response you want for mixing, True-Fi has you covered.

Sonarworks says it’s able to tune headphones with 0.9 – 3db of calibration accuracy. It also gives you a bit of flexibility – you can adjust treble for hearing loss, and bass quantity to your tastes, but for the most part, a flat speaker response is the reference. The app currently supports 287 headphones, with more added regularly.

Unfortunately, the limitations of mobile operating systems mean it’s not quite as flexible on your phone as on a Mac or PC. On desktops, you can use Sonarworks with nearly any audio software because it runs on the system level. On both Android and iOS, you’re limited to either local file playback through the Sonarworks app, or to integration with Spotify Premium. Other music services are currently out of luck.

Still, I’m glad the app has made its way to mobile devices, as my biggest caveat with True-Fi is that most of my listening time happens on my phone. You can either subscribe to the True-Fi app for $3.99 a month or buy a lifetime license for $99 (currently $79) – which includes desktop support as well. It’s a pricey proposition, but if your life revolves around music – especially if you’re making music – you might find it a small price to pay.

Published January 7, 2019 — 21:26 UTC

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