These days I often stumble upon the question which mobile production setup is usable. I also asked this question myself when doing some production while being not in the studio: The computer should have enough resources for lag-free production and the tools should not be too complex to use. Additionally there’s the question of monitoring and the only answer is: headphones. I’m literally not the one who loves producing on headphones and therefore I’m not used to the sound. But sometimes there’s no way around.
To solve this problem several companies developed applications in the last years, which simulate a “3D room” while monitoring with headphones. With “NX” Waves has adopted this idea too. Seems to be an interesting application. Especially for mobile applications?
How does it work?
To realize the idea of a virtual mix room, the guys from Waves developed an application which works like a plugin. It is installed the usual way (in this case Waves Central) and then integrated to a DAW. To affect the whole mix I would recommend to add it to the master bus. You will find several version of the plugin: 5.0, 5.1 and stereo. For most applications the stereo version will do it.
To calculate the position of your head, which draws off the sound, NX comes with a head tracking app. This means you will need a camera. Could be a problem when used in the studio, because not every desktop display has an inbuilt camera. But when used mobile, this should not be a problem. Nearly every laptop comes with a small camera these days. The application tracks your head based on nose and mouth. So when you turn your head too far away from the camera, it will lose traction.
The next step will be to set up the sweet spot for the app. Just sit the way you would in front of your speakers. Then click on the “Sweet Spot” button to fix this position. Now this will be the reference spot for head movements.
To adjust the feeling as you know it from your usual speaker position, you can use the settings “Room Ambience” and “Speaker Position”. To get the perfect result you can even measure your head and enter the sizes to the plugin.
Monitoring with headphones is really a different thing compared to monitoring with loudspeakers. The stereo width is not in front of you, it is in your head. The room ambience is not included. And the sound source is so much closer to your ears which affects the perception of frequencies… And these are just a few point which NX tries to compensate.
In my eyes this works nice and you get the feeling of a sound source which is farther away than your headphones actually are. While turning your head, the plugins calculates the resulting panorama and even if you look up or down, the sound shading of your head is included. This is a remarkable technology and I’m sure it needs a lot of time to develop such complex parameters.
I had some issues with the tracking of my head though. When moving too fast or too much in one direction, the plugin lost traction of my head and went crazy. When moving just a little bit it worked pretty nice.
All in all I think this plugin won’t leave your loudspeakers a useless pair of boxes. While using this plugin you will still recognize that you have headphones on. It’s not exactly like speakers in front of you. But NX is a tool which can help to get a better feeling how a headphone-produced piece will sound on loudspeakers. And this in a very realistic way, which is not only affected by the head tracking feature. So for producers, who are used to do their stuff in a studio on loudspeakers, this is a great tool to reference a production in the field.
NX is on introduction sale for $49 ($99) right now. Check out the demo and try it yourself!