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?
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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 Drew Stephenson »

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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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by RichardT »

I don’t have any experience with Sienna, but I’m a long term Sonarworks user.

I’ve found it generally a very good product and very helpful for mixing. I find having a ‘flat’ frequency response very helpful, as I know that when something sounds close to how the live instrument would sound, I’m not fooling myself. For pianos in particular, a few dB here and there of inaccuracy in the midrange and LF makes a big difference and good piano recordings sound much more realistic with Sonarworks engaged.

My experience with correcting monitors is - it doesn’t work well unless your room acoustics are pretty good. Sonarworks will attempt to compensate for peaks and troughs due to room problems of course, but if the room is untreated it will be defeated by the time-domain aspect of the problems (resonances and reflections).

It will take time to get used to a corrected sound. My corrected sound was brighter than my uncorrected sound above 5kHz so I had to get used to cymbals in particular being quite bright. But the bass and midrange immediately seemed better balanced.

On phones, it was a very positive experience which took no time at all to get used to.

How much the Sonarworks processing degrades the sound is very hard to say as there is no easy way to test it. The latest version seems clearer than the previous version when it’s set to linear phase.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

I've found this thread and experiment really interesting. Here's a quick update on my experiences.

After losing my way a bit with Sienna I decided to take a breath and go back to absolute basics. There are so many options and so many plug-ins involved (4??!), some oddly named controls and a slightly poor user manual. I'd just plunged in and got a bit lost playing with it all. And I had been thrown a bit by the scale of the difference all that was making in the headphones. I wasn't sure whether to really trust the results.

So, I just went back to the headphone correction part only. No modelled rooms or modelled monitors. No parameter adjustments, just the defaults for my headphones, AKG712.

I trialled that against my own monitors again, this time being careful with volume matching. That involved listening with headphones, then quickly pulling them off at the same time as disabling the correction. A bit awkward but my conclusion is that the sound was definitely close enough for me. I think I'd be happy to use the correction for mixing.

I also A/B'd it with a free trial of Sonarworks on the same material, again volume-matching as closely as possible. The resulting sonics are definitely different but they're both in the same ballpark, and certainly I've no idea which one is more "correct". I know Sonarworks is widely trusted so that gave me some more faith that I wasn't being misled.

So, for the moment I'm going to keep using the Sienna headphone correction. Longer term testing, here we come. Ultimately it's only worth it if it helps get better mix results and that'll take time to decide.

And if I do decide I can trust it then that opens up the next step: the option to (virtually) mix on different monitors, like virtual NS10s. I would like a pair to experiment with but I don't have the space and can't justify the money. I know this wouldn't be the same as actually mixing on them in real life but if it tells me something useful about my mix then I'm all for it.

And it also means I might be able to virtually check my mixes on a number of systems too.

And then there's the whole self/psuedo-mastering thing. One of the benefits of sending things out to a mastering engineer is surely the change of room. I'd like to see how this virtual room thing might help me do my own "mastering". Of course the room change is not the biggest part of getting something mastered but it is something, and perhaps something worth having even if it's virtual.

My initial results for this room/monitor modelling thing in Sienna were off-putting but to be honest, having played a lot more with it now, I can't see how I got such drastic results in those early trials. I wonder now whether I had knocked some of those obscure and strangely named controls out of whack in "Guru" mode. I'm glad I went back to the start and am giving it another shot.

Phew, long update, sorry. Hopefully somebody made it this far!

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

Post by RichardT »

I’m sceptical that simulating a different room (which the software can only do imperfectly) is going to help significantly with reducing the need for third party mastering.

Mastering engineers generally have very high quality gear in very high quality rooms, and it’s simply not possible to simulate that. Plus the main things they contribute (as I can tell you know already) are a different pair of ears and their expertise.

If you want to master things yourself, the essential thing is to make your real room and monitors as good as possible, and to listen to a lot of good reference material on that setup.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by beej65 »

This amateur has tended to use headphone correction of some kind while mixing, especially since my room/monitor setup is just OK - or some of you would probably judge, inadequate for professional mixing (eg. iLoud Micros with the smallest sub you can imagine). Mainly I A/B between correction and no correction, and for good measure test my final mixes in the car. I auditioned the free Sienna, but it's been a while - I thought it was OK. More recently I've been using dearVR's MONITOR, and also I just picked up Audeze's Mobius (USB connection) which has DSP/3D etc. built in - if that pair of headphones sticks, I may give up correction, or use reference curves of the LCD-X which is one of the settings on the Mobius.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by Peevy »

I have Sienna and have dabbled with it. I’m working from memory here however, as it’s been a while. This thread will inspire me to revisit Sienna and give it another go. My main headphones are AKG 712s. If memory serves me right, with headphone correction on, I did find that when I thereafter bypassed Sienna I noticed a lot of headphone ‘honkiness’ appear … and I’d never considered the 712s to be ‘honky’.

I remember also with my AKG 702s a lot of the stridency (which I’ve always found with that model) was smoothed over and made for a more enjoyable listen.

Whether a more ‘enjoyable’ listen (as happened with both sets of headphones) is a good thing, my jury’s still out. I think with perseverance, I would have found it beneficial, even if only to have a different perspective on what I’m listening to.

When it comes to the ‘rooms’ in Sienna, I was basically faffing about. I did not find that I got much of a sense of ‘listening to monitors in a room’ through headphones at all. But again, I didn’t persevere. I think I was in the middle of some mixes at the time and was just going to find it too confusing and distracting when I was trying to get them finished. However, I did find some of the ‘speakers in a room’ choices interesting and engaging especially with the selection of what would be regarded as less than ideal monitoring environments: boomboxes, cars, laptop/phone speakers and the likes and it could be a replacement for checking mixes on these devices for real. The emulation of the Avantone Mixcubes was really quite convincing (I have a pair of those)

I remember reading online someone’s comment about Sienna. If a mix is good, the differences in the room emulations became less. The old story of mix translation. I think I found that to be true and that aspect in itself could be useful.

I’m definitely going to revisit now and see how I get on.
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by Peevy »

Here’s an image of Izotope Match EQ which shows the eq applied to the headphone correction in Sienna for the AKG 712s (just for interest … not scientific!)

Yellow is the Sienna headphone correction, blue is the original and the white line is the correction curve. I set the amount to fifty percent to make it easier to see.

Image
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Re: Acustica Sienna Headphone and Room Compensation experiences

Post by AlasdairEaston »

Thanks for the graph. 👍 That white line (the correction curve that Sienna seems to be applying) does indeed seem broadly the opposite of the AKG712 frequency response curve shown in the link here, so it should bring things closer to flat.

Image

https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/he ... akg/k712/

Cheers,
Alasdair.
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