Sonarworks True-Fi Creates Studio Reference Experiences with Ordinary Headphones

Audio software experts from Sonarworks just announced a new app that eliminates the inaccurate coloration introduced by most consumer headphones to create a flat, “studio reference” sound from over 100 popular headphones.

“Studio reference” is a term that is tossed around quite liberally these days.  As a recording engineer myself, to me it has always meant a flat, uncolored balanced sound, like the sound professional studios strive for.  Most headphones these days are far from flat. Many have artificially boosted bass responses, and others use a heightened treble to convey a feeling of audiophile quality. Now there’s an app you could use with your favorite headphones to let them play music the way the engineers in the studio who created the music intended.

Sonarworks has identified the EQ curves of 112 consumer headphones and uses professional studio quality compensation processing to give them a flatter EQ response. To ensure reliability, Sonarworks uses many sample units of each headphone to average out potential differences introduced in manufacturing. The results are then vetted with their team of in-house engineers.

  Also within the app is a way to adjust for personal preferences.  Users can select their age and gender and then dial in a variable amount of compensation for age-related hearing loss. Users can also add back in bit of bass boost that many users will prefer to give a bit of emphasis over a completely flat sound.

I got to sit with Helmuts Bēms, CEO and co-founder of Sonarworks and listen to the product and play with the settings. It does quite a bit to eliminate overly aggressive bass boosts, and brighten up the “veiled” sound evident in some cheaper headphones. Did it make a cheap pair of headphones sound as good as truly high-end headphones?  No. But it definitely made the EQ curves more closely matched. Will it always improve the sound of a headphone?  Again, no. For example, if a headphone has a harsh sound in the upper midrange and those frequencies were intentionally tuned out, True-Fi might bring back those problem frequencies. But overall, it will improve the EQ curve of the headphone.

The True-Fi desktop app is available now for $80, but a free trial is available so you can check it out and see if it improves your favorite headphones. Take the time to play with the personalization settings too. Sonarworks has other exciting ideas coming down the line to improve the sound quality in other areas too, so we’ll be keeping an eye on them.