Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

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Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

Hi all. I'm looking for other's experiences of Sienna from Acustica. I just got it the other day after being a firm non-believer in "all that". It's really impressive and it's pretty exciting to think what it might be be able to provide. But I do have reservations and I wonder what others think.

It's been a strange journey for me in the short time I've had it. I downloaded the trial and almost instantly took a dislike to it. The headphone and room correction in combination is pretty radical. The sound changes **a lot**. I'm on AKG 712s which I've always liked, and when I switch in Sienna there's clearly quite a lot of correction going on. The mids take a big step backwards meaning the vocals and electric guitars take that step back too. It was a shock, especially when then switching back the way to monitors again. So I rejected the whole thing and moved on. Just felt like too much of a change.

But the next day I came back having read some more about it. I switched it back in (being more careful with volume matching) and being honest it definitely sounds "better", whatever that means in this context. More detail, more open, with satisfying bass and much less strident mids than my monitors or my "uncorrected" headphones.

I found I was able to make some mix decisions easier. In fact I did a shootout with 4 different EQs on a mix bus with Sienna in place. Having set up the test (sizeable boosts in 3 different places with Q and volume matched as closely as I could manage) the differences were, I think, more apparent than I would have noticed previously. BTW the EQ plugins were bx2098, NI Passive EQ, AMEK 200 EQ, bx Digital v3. For me the AMEK was an easy winner but that's a different topic...

So, having done that test, I was pretty enthusiastic about Sienna again.

Then I switched back to my monitors (Focal 65s) and was surprised at the change. I have to say it felt like a bit of a downgrade in sonics. The mids were much more strident, less smooth. TBH everything just sounded a bit... cheaper!

So I was back to thinking Sienna was just causing me problems. How would I deal with this degree of change?

And yet, now I've heard that seductive Sienna sounds in my ears I'm having trouble letting it go! Hmmm, this was the rabbit hole I'd feared.

However, if I come through to the other side and find that it's helped my mixing then it could all be worthwhile. It's all about translation in the end isn't it? The things it appears to offer would be very useful.

So, more digging and trialling required. You can independently switch off the room or the headphone modelling, or dial back various aspects of both and make all sorts of adjustments. The rooms make a bigger difference than I first thought they would. And this morning's experiments are making me warm to it some more. Maybe I just need to go through all that to get to the sunshine on the other side. At the moment the potential gains mean I'm still prepared to work through it.

Any other experiences from anyone here?

Cheers,
Alasdair.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by jimjazzdad »

Hi Alasdair,
No direct experience with Acustica Sienna I'm afraid, so this is just a comment from the cheap seats. Monitoring is supposed to sound accurate, not "better". If the music mix is good, it should sound good on both your monitors (assuming a good room) and your cans. I too favour AKG open-backs (an old pair of K240DF in my case) and I am surprised you need to 'improve' the sound. I find the tonality very accurate on my K240DF and the "DF" helps the soundscape be more realistic, but I always defer to my monitors for panning decisions. Given that both your monitors and your headphones are decent, I wonder why there is such a difference in tone - is your room well treated?
Jim
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by The Elf »

I remain extremely sceptical of putting anything between me and my audio.

I want to hear my headphones and speakers as they are, and learn to make my mix decisions based on that knowledge - not change what I hear to somehow 'trick' me into making subjectively 'better' decisions.

But I do try to give each iteration of these things a chance. So far I've struck them all out (though I do think that Soundworks does something of a decent job - at least with headphones). I may give this one a trial, though the installation process puts me off mightily.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by blinddrew »

I did have a play with Sienna but, exactly like you, found the difference to be so large as to be off-putting.
I use sonarworks on my headphones because I find that then makes them tonally much closer to my monitors, so I'm not second guessing EQ adjustments when I switch listening devices.
I've not uninstalled Sienna, but I've not used it again either! :D
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

jimjazzdad wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 12:05 pm Hi Alasdair,
No direct experience with Acustica Sienna I'm afraid, so this is just a comment from the cheap seats. Monitoring is supposed to sound accurate, not "better". If the music mix is good, it should sound good on both your monitors (assuming a good room) and your cans. I too favour AKG open-backs (an old pair of K240DF in my case) and I am surprised you need to 'improve' the sound. I find the tonality very accurate on my K240DF and the "DF" helps the soundscape be more realistic, but I always defer to my monitors for panning decisions. Given that both your monitors and your headphones are decent, I wonder why there is such a difference in tone - is your room well treated?
Jim

Hi Jim. You're right, both my headphones and monitors are decent. But we're all tormented (aren't we?) by the prospect of things being better than they are. :-) The main problem in here (apart from me!) is the room. There's a lot of Rockwool in here and I've done as much as I can to treat things but it'll never sound like a million-dollar mix room.

And re. your good point about "better" vs "accurate", I was being a bit loose with my language. I meant "better" in two senses: as well as being slightly more pleasant to listen to, I found it easier to make mix decisions. The trouble is, I'm now like the proverbial man with two watches who never knows the correct time. Which of my options is the most accurate one?

To come at it from a different angle, at times I'd like to remove my biggest constraint - my room - from the mixing equation. If there did exist some software that meant I could put on my headphones and virtually step into a perfect mix room with a selection of respected monitors, then I'd be all for it. Then to quickly be able to test the mix across other speaker systems would be great. The question is, how close does Sienna come to that fantasy? At the moment I can't quite tell.

Maybe it is too complicated, or maybe I'll just use parts of it, or none. I'm about to do a mix so I'll enact that old adage... live and learn. :-)

Cheers,
Alasdair.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

The Elf wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 12:41 pm I remain extremely sceptical of putting anything between me and my audio.

I want to hear my headphones and speakers as they are, and learn to make my mix decisions based on that knowledge - not change what I hear to somehow 'trick' me into making subjectively 'better' decisions.

But I do try to give each iteration of these things a chance. So far I've struck them all out (though I do think that Soundworks does something of a decent job - at least with headphones). I may give this one a trial, though the installation process puts me off mightily.

Until this week I was completely in the same camp. When I realised what's (claimed to be) possible these days I became tempted. If the reality fulfils the promise then I'd find it very useful. But I might be back in your camp by this time next week! :-)
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

blinddrew wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 1:29 pm I did have a play with Sienna but, exactly like you, found the difference to be so large as to be off-putting.
I use sonarworks on my headphones because I find that then makes them tonally much closer to my monitors, so I'm not second guessing EQ adjustments when I switch listening devices.
I've not uninstalled Sienna, but I've not used it again either! :D

Interesting, Drew. That first moment when it engages and you get both barrels of correction, so to speak, is pretty dramatic. The thing is, I'm struggling to judge, is it just a dramatic difference or is it a dramatic improvement? Is it more accurate? The jury's out for me.

I find the difference from just the headphone correction is much less dramatic and not so controversial. I'm experimenting with using their modelled rooms and modelled monitors but dialling the amount back a bit.

Cheers,
Alasdair.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by James Perrett »

AlasdairEaston wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 1:58 pm To come at it from a different angle, at times I'd like to remove my biggest constraint - my room - from the mixing equation. If there did exist some software that meant I could put on my headphones and virtually step into a perfect mix room with a selection of respected monitors, then I'd be all for it.

In my opinion that describes a pair of Sennheiser HD600's driven by a decent headphone amp without any additional correction. The balance they give me is similar to the balance from my monitors and they allow me to make decisions that are usually proved correct when I listen on monitors.

Drew's comments are interesting too. I know his monitors are good so it sounds like Sonarworks is working properly if it makes his headphones sound more like his monitors. I'd be very wary of anything that makes them sound different to a good pair of monitors.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

I've just run a quick experiment with Sonarworks using the free demo page on their website which allows you to hear some clips of music with the software switched on and off, based on your choice of headphones.

I recorded both "on" and "off" clips into Reaper on separate tracks. Then I listened to two scenarios to A/B them:
A. The Sonarworks "on" clip with Sienna off
B. The Sonarworks "off" clip with Sienna on.

** EDIT : For clarity, I'm only using the headphone compensation part of Sienna for this, not the modelled rooms or monitors. **

In both cases, what they did to the sound of my AKG712s was similar in character but not identical. Smoothing of the mids was the most obvious change. In both cases less raspy and wiry.

So, as a new-comer to headphone correction software, I was concerned that Sienna was delivering some slightly over-the-top changes. I think I can conclude now that it's **broadly** in line with what Sonarworks does with the same headphones. If anything Sonarworks thinned out the sound even more. This was far from a scientific test but it's given me some useful perspective.

Cheers,
Alasdair.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by The Elf »

AlasdairEaston wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 1:58 pmat times I'd like to remove my biggest constraint - my room - from the mixing equation.

...and that decribes my AKG K712. I wouldn't want digital trickery in front of them.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by resistorman »

I've tried compensation software and found it made me more confused, especially since I'd get different curves from different products. My reality check is the way I've always done it.. listening to my mix using current consumer devices and scenarios... a phone, a tablet, the TV sound bar, the car, Bluetooth earbuds. If it sounds like you intended within the constraints of the devices and their environment it's good.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by Martin Walker »

blinddrew wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 1:29 pm I use sonarworks on my headphones because I find that then makes them tonally much closer to my monitors, so I'm not second guessing EQ adjustments when I switch listening devices.

This exactly my experience with Sonarworks - both my headphones (Sennheiser HD650 and AKG K712 Pro) sound more similar to my tiny ATC monitors with it on.

I do still occasionally use a tiny active single-loudspeaker to double-check my mixes in grot-box style for mid and bass balance, but don't really have any desire to add further simulated acoustic environments with software like Sienna, because my mixes already seem to translate well.

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