Sponsored by Embody and Audeze

Accurate monitoring is obviously an essential part of our craft, as it can truly make or break the music production process. Simply put, it’s pretty much as important as the recording process itself. You need to be able to accurately hear what you are recording so as to eliminate guesswork - and monitoring becomes even more crucial when it comes to mixing & mastering. Recording studios are often equipped with several sets of monitors, including large soffit (in-wall mounted) monitors, free standing mid field monitors and desk mounted near-field monitors, but for some producers & engineers investment in multiple monitor sets is just not feasible or practical. This is where Embody software and Audeze headphones come into play - by providing a viable option for monitoring with the utmost accuracy, but one that doesn’t require a mountain of cash and/or modifications to one’s room!

In this article we will firstly cover the Embody Immerse plug-in, going over all of the features and functionality for control room simulation and headphone correction, and after that we’ll have an in-depth look at the Audeze LCD-XC planar closed-back headphones and examine how they can be used to further enhance your monitoring options along with the Embody software.

Embody Immerse Software - Audeze Edition

Simulating a six-figure pro studio control room in a set of headphones is no simple task, but Embody is bringing something to the table here that was unthinkable just a few years ago. In order to reach their ambitious goals, there were three fundamental steps to take.

The first step is to input the user’s ear shape into the equation, and - believe it or not - this is done by taking a picture of your ears and sending it to Embody so it can be “mapped” with their proprietary technology. With this information in hand, AI and powerful algorithms generate an extra layer of information that feeds the plug-in and adjusts it on a ‘per-user’ basis, leading to far more accuracy in the simulation.

The second step is to address the headphones’ own sound signature, adjusting any imbalance in frequency response and to get them to ready to sound like an actual acoustic space - in this case, a monitoring or control room from a music production studio. In order to achieve this, Embody measured and analyzed a number of popular headphone models including the much revered Audeze LCD range, which we’ll cover later in this article.

The third and final step is to simulate the acoustic experience of monitoring in a professional music production environment - Embody currently offers five mix room simulations. Each ‘virtual studio’ offers two selectable sets of monitors along with an Ambience and Master Gain control so users can easily match their levels, something that is handy when deciding which one to use without any volume-induced bias. As expected, Ambience adds more of the studio room's reverb decay to the signal, to give an enhanced sensation of the room’s acoustics, but this is sometimes at the expense of some clarity and focus so the recommended setting for a ‘life-like’ experience is 40%, which is the default value for this parameter.

Let’s have a look at the studios and their respective sets of monitors:
  • Echo Bar Studio A - North Hollywood: Control room of the recording studio with Focal Twin 6BE (Mid-Field, 3-way) and Kali Audio LP8 (Near-Field, 2-way), the latter surprisingly turned upside down for better alignment of the tweeters, which would be too tall otherwise due to their placement on top of the Focal Twin. A very balanced monitoring set, with two excellent full-range monitoring options.
  • Echo Bar Studio B - North Hollywood: Secondary room for mixing with Augspurger Solo 15 (far/mid-field, 3-way) and Eve Audio SC203 (nearfield, 2-way), providing two monitoring systems with radically different approaches - the big Solo 15 offers a true full-range sound and the tiny SC203 provides a bandwidth-limited “desktop sound” experience that is helpful when checking how the mix sounds in ‘real-world’ scenarios.
  • Diamond Control Room - SAE Expression College/Emeryville: Main control room of the recording & mixing studio with wall-mounted Meyer 185 monitors (farfield) and a pair of Dynaudio BM15As (midfield, 2-way) on top of a 64-channel SSL console. A classic monitoring setup, with a farfield and mid/nearfield option.
  • Spitfire Studios - Los Angeles: A dedicated mixing room with Focal Trio 11 (midfield, 3-way) and Genelec 1032C (midfield, 2-way), offering two superbly balanced flavours of full-range sound.
  • Music Friends Studios - Los Angeles: Control room for the recording and mixing studio with PMC AML2 (nearfield, 2-way) and Unity Rock MK2 (nearfield, 2-way). Two of the best nearfield options in a cozy and inviting listening space.
Right next to the Main Control tab the user will find the Headphones and Limiter tabs:
  • Headphones: This is where the user can adjust the equalization amount for the headphone correction curve. The default value for this parameter is 100%, which is advised for all the supported models, but the user can still adjust to taste.
  • Limiter: A brick wall-style limiter for catching eventual peaks and thus preventing going over 0 dBFS. Input gain, threshold, release and output ceiling parameters are provided here along with a button for overload protection to ensure that no clipping whatsoever occurs. A neat feature that preserves the integrity of the signal at the output stage.
Lastly, there’s a drop down menu on the right side of the Limiter tab that offers the following:
  • HRTF Intensity: Adjusts the head-related transfer function (HRTF - learn more here). Decrease this parameter for more finesse and detail, increase for a more spaced-out sound.
  • L-R Balance: fine-tune the left and right panorama, helpful for those with hearing problems that affect one side or more than the other.
  • Minimum phase: this is basically a low-latency mode that compromises a small bit of sound processing quality for a lower CPU load and a faster response when adjusting parameters. Ideal when your sessions are getting so dense they are bogging down your system.
  • Bypass during offline bounce: a super handy feature that bypasses the plug-in when exporting mixdowns. It’s a useful time-saver since it ensures that projects are not rendered with the plug-in processing. It’s turned ON by default, and it’s recommended that one keeps it this way, otherwise the user has to manually bypass the plug-in when exporting/bouncing.

Alternative interface modes

The Immerse plug-in offers an output level meter with two loudness measurement options for RMS or LU (Loudness Unit), and a gain trim for fine-tuning the output level that is linked to the Master Gain control. The plug-in also offers two alternative interface modes by hiding the controls or the studio’s picture, which helps to save a bit of screen space for other plug-ins. In terms of compatibility, Embody offers 64-bit AU, VST and AAX plug-in formats for Mac (optimized for Apple M1) or Windows (7 and newer), so all major platforms or digital audio workstations are supported, including Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, Apple Logic Pro X, PreSonus Studio One, Ableton Live and others.

Why Immerse?

Mixing with headphones often comes out of necessity, not necessarily from choice, but even then it’s a consensus among engineers that headphones do provide useful insight that can help us achieve better results, such as zooming in on the sources and getting a level of detail that would be otherwise lost. Immerse literally opens up a “best of both worlds” scenario by providing us with another perspective that’s more akin to the real world and not restricted to the headphone-specific angle that we always had: we can now mix in a virtual room, with all the sense of space, reverberation, crosstalk, head related transfer function and have a better grasp on how music sounds in the real world. Learn more here.

Audeze LCD-XC Headphones

Powerful software alone, although immensely helpful, is only part of the complex equation required to deliver headphone monitoring that is accurate, reliable and enjoyable to work with. The headphone type is important too!

Sharing the same planar magnetic drivers, overarching concepts and construction methods of the revered Audeze LCD-X, the Audeze XC is essentially a closed-back version of one of Audeze’s most praised models in their Reference Series range of headphones, which were designed with studio professionals and music producers in mind. Although mixing & mastering are tasks that immediately come to mind when we think of monitoring, recording & even songwriting can also benefit greatly from the LCD-XC’s punchy bass response that slightly boosts the 120-200Hz range when compared to the LCD-X. Adding to this is distortion-free sound even when pushed to screamingly loud levels and superior isolation from exterior sounds & ambient noise thanks to its closed-back design, and premium earpads for long-session comfort. When you can trust what you hear, everything else is much easier.

The LCD-XC furthers Audeze’s stellar track record of delivering headphones that are transparent and natural sounding, with an almost microscopic level of detail and a huge dynamic range. Boasting an incredible frequency response that goes as low as 10Hz and up as far as 50kHz, the LCD-XC is the perfect all-rounder for any situation: when recording or producing they can go loud without sacrificing clarity, and the extremely detailed sound is perfect for mixing or mastering. They are also a great fit for any playback system or output source thanks to its low impedance of a mere 20 ohms, allowing virtually any amplifier to effortlessly push them - even mobile phones, tablets, laptops or consumer-grade/entry-level audio interfaces. Ease of use is also a huge factor when it comes to real-world use: with a light carbon frame and total weight of only 677 grams, the LCD-XC is extremely comfortable for extended sessions, which are more often than not the rule when it comes to music production. With all these characteristics and features in hand, the LCD-XC are workhorse headphones that deliver on all fronts.

Pricing options and Reveal+ bundle

Although the Audeze LCD-XC and the Embody Immerse software can be purchased separately, there’s a discount available on the Reveal+ bundle, which packs both products together in a convenient package that saves you $100.

If opted to be purchased separately, the LCD-XC Creator Package retails for $1,299.00*. The Premium Package goes for $1,799.00 and comes with a second cable (1.9m Balanced 4-pin XLR to dual 4-pin mini-XLR) and a 1/4" to 1/8" stereo adapter. Both packages come with a travel case: a basic yet durable case for the Creator Package, with a bigger and sturdier case included in the Premium Package.

The Embody Immerse starts at $199 with the Audeze Reveal+ edition, which gives the user a perpetual license with support for Audeze headphones. If support for more headphone models is required, Embody offers the All Access package at $399 (lifetime) or $19.99 monthly. There’s also a flexible rent-to-own pricing option for the Audeze Reveal+ edition at $9.99 per month, on which users will have full access to all features and upgrades, including new headphone profiles which will be added to keep up with Audeze’s latest releases. Users can stop payments anytime and reinstate the subscription whenever they want. After 24 months the user will own the perpetual license, which makes the offer a lot more enticing!

*All prices in US Dollars, accurate as of October 2021, local taxes and/or VAT (if applicable) not included.

For more information on Embody, visit: www.embody.co

For more on Audeze: www.audeze.com