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Sunday, 16 January 2022 12:19

Turn your headphones into a world-class mix room with the Dear Reality dearVR MIX plugin, anywhere, anytime

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Dear Reality, a subsidiary of Sennheiser, has released stunning and immersive room virtualisation to the stereo world, transforming your professional studio headphones into an entire stereo mix room.

The dearVR MIX is an AAX/VST3/AU plugin that leverages spatial headphone compensation and supports the 44 most-used professional studio headphones. It offers three virtual reference stereo mix rooms with four selectable loudspeaker positions.

What this all means is that you can be teleported into your professional studio mix room, armed with only your computer and headphones. Of course, you can use it in the studio, but you can also use it on the road - with none of the cost of hiring a studio.

The plugin is aimed at audio producers, artists, and content creators, and ensures their stereo productions translate reliably to any sound system no matter the production type or music genre. dearVR MIX lets you create outstanding sound experiences and assess positions, stereo width, reverb, and low-end frequencies with total reliability - at any time, in any location.

Christian Sander, chief executive officer, Dear Reality, said, “when developing dearVR MIX, it was all about creating ultimate virtual acoustic environments for headphone mixing. All the experience we have gained in the field of spatial audio comes together in one stellar plugin. dearVR MIX puts this technology in the hands of everyone.”

Sander knows; he founded Dear Reality in 2014 along with Achim Fell, with the mission of delivering high-quality cutting edge 3D audio software for interactive and linear audio production. The company is well-regarded in the industry for its binaural, Ambisonics and multichannel encoder with totally realistic room virtualisation. Its products are used around the globe by sound engineers, sound designers, broadcasters, and musicians. It was acquired by Sennheiser in 2019, with Sennheiser recognising the astounding immersive audio capabilities the company was creating.

dearVR MIX can give you confidence in monitoring your session in multiple virtual reference rooms, and mix with professional studio headphones, using Dear Reality’s spatial headphone compensation technology.

It offers three world-class reference mix rooms and four selectable mono and stereo loudspeaker positions. Each mix room can be adapted by controlling the amount of diffusion and setting the perfect balance between over colouration and localisation, using Sennheiser AMBEO’s patented Clarity algorithm.

As you can see, there is a lot of smarts and lot of tech built-in to the software, based on the audio expertise of both Dear Reality and Sennheiser.

What all this means is you get a reliable and consistent monitoring experience no matter where you are, and you can easily and accurately monitor your production in non-studio acoustic environments all from your own device. You could be in the car, in the club, in your lounge room - the dearVR MIX plugin will spirit you away to a land of pristine sound for clear audio and mixing excellence.

iTWire tested dearVR MIX along with a pair of Sennheiser HD280 PRO studio monitoring headphones for ourselves.

Now, while many in the audio sphere are mixing more and more on headphones these days - like Anna Kendrick’s Beca in the Pitch Perfect movie series, say - it’s still the great-sounding mix room where many professionals go for audio excellence. While this would be an awesome experience, that’s a heck of a lot of money. Thus, many an artist ends up mixing exclusively on their headphones in a non-ideal room.

The big goal of mixing is ensuring audio goes from the producer's mind to the listener's ear as intended, but with a vast richness of playback systems from AirBuds to Hi-Fi the sound can be warped if the room one mixes in cannot effectively translate to that range of options. Imagine if Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at night or Queen’s Bohemian rhapsody fell flat without the incredible left-and-right bouncing, let alone their highs and lows?

iTWire found the plugin intuitive and clear, and this is coming from someone who definitely has no significant audio mixing experience. I like to think I’m a little bit creative, but I felt daunted by the opportunity to examine software that can be used by real professionals only to find it surprisingly straightforward.

Note that because the software is a plug-in you don't run it directly; there is no 'app' as such, but instead you use it with your existing audio software. For example, here I added it to GarageBand on macOS. Click an empty plug-in area and down the bottom of the plug-in menu you can select dearVR MIX. Other audio software will similarly have a way for you to load plug-ins.

Plugin

Dear Reality has provided an impressive package; the screen offers parameters to let you tune speaker setup and other items, but without it looking like a Jumbo Jet cockpit. Particularly interesting is the spatial headphone compensation component which uses Dear Reality’s own proprietary intellectual property, an algorithm that’s been tuned, tested, and tweaked by its expert audio, software, and mastering engineers. This component provides spatial audio specific to the headphones you use. The Sennheiser HD 280 PRO was right there as an option, along with more than 40 more.

“By carefully compensating for the sound characteristics of individual headphones, dearVR MIX ensures the best binaural playback experience with the highest degree of out-of-head localisation,” Sander said.

Mix v04 1200x

iTWire had much fun playing with the software; the controls let you play with ambience, focus, scenes, bypass, speaker setup and more. Some of the settings like ambience provided quite a noticeable variation, adjusting the diffusion and leveraging Sennheiser’s Clarity algorithm, so you can find the perfect spot for the room you are using. The scene option allowed you to select the different world-class reference mix room you were using - as if you were physically sitting there - and also allowed you to select a physical room to emulate - such as car, club, kitchen, living room, or if your aspirations are grand enough, a stadium.

The plugin is truly immersive and whether I was sitting outside on my deck - replete with dogs barking, birds chirping, cars passing, and the occasional far-away suburban rooster crowing - or inside the house, I was spirited into a stunningly clear crisp, silent audio experience. I could play music and sounds and experiment, hearing right then and there all the subtle nuances of the changes I was making. I felt a level of control over sound I never imagined possible without real-world physical audio mixing hardware.

The software runs on both Windows and macOS and retails for $132.66 ($NZD 143.55) with a 14-day free trial so you can explore risk-free.

See it in action here:

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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