Gear Reviews

Review: Sonarworks Sound ID Reference x Merging Anubis

This was a really good idea which I’m sure more than a few people have suggested in the past. More importantly, these two companies took onboard this great idea and have come up with a really excellent solution to the modern scourge of latency and far-from-ideal acoustic environments.

Both of these products I use in my own studio setup, and I’ve reviewed them both on previous occasions for Headliner’s Spotlight Reviews section. So when I heard that this top secret collaboration was about to reach fruition, I just had to get hold of their relevant Beta versions and have a play with it.

Far from Ideal

The pandemic signalled a major change in work habits. Suddenly everyone was working from home, studios had closed or had restrictions on how many people could congregate in a given space, hence mix engineers and producers started to move their equipment into makeshift home studios. Not to be outdone, musicians and creatives – devoid of social interaction, the ability to perform and more importantly the usual channels of collaboration – took to communicating over zoom, WhatsApp and Messenger and swapping ideas, files and stems via WeTransfer, Google Drive and Dropbox.

Amidst all the upheaval and while the bottom had literally fallen out of the live sound industry, the sale of digital home studio equipment saw a sudden growth, and the boom in digital interfaces along with the continued growth in Apple Mac sales and steady sales of musical instruments has ushered in a new respect for the do it yourself, creative generation.

The thing is, kitchens are for cooking in, living rooms are for watching television in, garages are for cars and bedrooms are for…well sleeping in unless of course yours, like mine, has a small studio setup in the corner which, let’s face facts, is far from ideal! Acoustically, sticking any audio source in a symmetrical style box is bad news, which is why professional studios tend to be interesting shapes with plenty of angles, acoustic baffles and curved surfaces.

The Solution

Of course you could treat your room by carpeting the walls or hanging baffles from the ceiling, but there’s a much simpler and more cost effective way to do this. Load Sonarworks SoundID Reference on your computer and either use the package with the included mic if you have a set of speakers, or download the profile for your set of headphones and turn them into a reliable source for monitoring and mixing your projects. However, when you use it as a memory resident system-wide sound device it adds a fair amount of latency.

One of the really fabulous aspects of this combination is the ability to load more than one SoundID Reference profile.

SoundID Reference also comes as an AU, VST and AAX plugin for your DAW’s output or master bus. Much lower latency but you have to remember to turn it off before you run any export, mix or bounces. If only you could use the DSP of your interface to do the room correction for you.

Hello Merging Technologies’ Anubis interface; the first interface with room correction technology courtesy of Sonarworks, built in. This for me is a game changer as you’ll be able to see and hear from the video, switching the room correction profile off and on not only gives you a better canvas with which to perfect your mix, but there is no perceivable latency unlike the desktop version of SoundID Reference. The latency figures for a SoundID Reference profile on the Anubis vary slightly depending on the sample rate, but at 44.1kHz it’s just below 2ms. At 96kHz it’s below 1ms and at 192kHz is less than 0.5ms.

One of the really fabulous aspects of this combination is the ability to load more than one SoundID Reference profile. For example, I loaded my room correction onto the speaker output and by routing my Alt-Mix to my headphone output jack was able to load the profile which Sonarworks created for my Sennheiser HD600 headphones. So now it doesn’t matter whether I’m mixing, tracking, or simply listening to Spotify and YouTube; everything is set up to give me the best possible audio in my optimum comfortable working/listening position or in my headphones.

Essentially I now have two options which give me an almost identical and consistent sound, which are both neutral in terms of their frequency response and sound reproduction.

The Install Process

This was a three step process which involved a firmware update in the Anubis. I then ran uninstalled from the Merging folder and then installed the new Merging driver package. Finally, I ran the Beta release upgrade from Sonarworks for SoundID Reference and it all just worked.

Jeremy at Merging sent me a copy of their pre launch presentation video of the new products, and at this point I started a screen recording of me exporting and uploading the profiles to Anubis which you can find on Headliner’s YouTube channel. At the time of writing, I’ve been living with this setup for nearly two days, and so far it’s been rock solid.

Mission Flexibility

Room correction and headphone profiles will work irrespective of which mission you are in. I work in the Music Mission while Headliner CEO Paul Watson works in the Monitor Mission. No matter what mission you’re in, you can load up to two correction profiles on different outputs at the same time. However, this doesn’t limit the number of profiles you can store in Anubis.

For example, you could load a laptop or iPhone profile which will help you check that your mixes are accessible on the widest range of listening devices. Sonarworks even has a profile that imitates the average car sound system, to save you actually having to needlessly burn fuel just to check your mixes! Another really neat ability of SoundID Reference is analysing a studio that you’ve produced your best work in, and setting that as your target EQ. SoundID Reference can then create a custom profile so that you’re now working in your home-from-home so to speak. With multiple profiles at your fingertips, you can immediately change your sound to suit your workflow.

A Real Game Changer

If you don’t have a well appointed, professional studio at your disposal then this may well be the combination you’ve been waiting for. For me, this is just brilliant. The number of times I’ve had to switch from the memory resident to the plugin to track – countless! Then run off a bounce only to discover I’ve left the plugin enabled on the master bus, in effect double correcting my audio. Well, you can imagine my frustration.

Of course once you’ve used Sonarworks SoundID Reference’s room correction on one project, you can never go back to not having it at all. However, we’re in the business of looking forward. I knew about custom profile creation and the Sonarworks custom created mix tools; other than when I first reviewed SoundID Reference, I’d kind of stopped using them in favour of just keeping my room correction. Now you can store all the profiles directly in Anubis and change with three taps of your finger; that’s a real game changer. But to marry up the best room correction software in Sonarworks SoundID Reference with the best and most cost-effective audio interface in Merging Technologies Anubis, is pure genius!