Calibrating speakers with Sonarworks is easy, but there are some key aspects to speaker calibration that you might want to be aware of. During the onboarding process in Reference 4 Studio Edition software, you will be presented with a choice to proceed with headphone or speaker calibration. Clicking on 'Measure speakers' will launch the Measure app - a separate standalone application for speaker measurements in Reference 4:
What you need to know before clicking on 'Measure speakers'
The concept of calibrating your speakers can be a little confusing, especially if you are new to Sonarworks software. There are many things affecting the sound of your speakers - room dimensions, acoustic treatment, speaker placement, etc. So before you can enjoy the calibrated sound, you will first need to measure the frequency response of your room and speakers.
In this article, we'll have a look at the speaker measurement process using the Reference 4 Measure app (generating the speaker calibration profiles) and then see how to apply those profiles in the Reference 4 Systemwide app and Reference 4 DAW plugin to calibrate your speaker system.
System & hardware requirements
- Stereo speaker setup, you can also calibrate with a subwoofer in a 2.1 stereo configuration
- Audio interface (sound card) with +48v Phantom Power and 44.1 kHz sample rate capability
- XLR cable to connect the microphone to your audio interface (not included in our product bundles)
- XREF 20 measurement microphone. Get here or use a third-party omnidirectional measurement mic (vocal and instrument mics will NOT work; USB mics are not supported)
- Reference 4 Studio Edition software installed. Buy here / Download here / Free trial here (requires Windows 7 or higher / MacOS 10.9 or higher):
Calibrate speakers with Measure app
Measure app is a highly accurate and user-friendly tool for speaker calibration; it is designed to perform in both domestic and professional studio environments. It will guide you through the process providing the necessary audio setup and visual instructions, as well as troubleshooting tips. It features an advanced system for detecting any incorrect settings or other errors that you might encounter, so it is important to trust the software and let the Measure app do the heavy lifting for you!
You can measure and work with multiple speaker calibration profiles for multiple speaker sets, there are no limits to how many profiles you can create. There are four stages in the Measure app:
Reference 4 Measure
- Hardware Setup - audio settings and input/output setup
- Room Evaluation - speaker distance and listening spot setup
- Measurements - measuring your room & speaker response
- Results - reviewing and saving the generated calibration profile (.swproj file)
- Apply sound correction in Systemwide app and Reference plugin
Before you start, here are some tips to help you through the process
- Hover over 'i' and '?' icons in Measure app for more detailed information
- Don't skip over audio test tones and signal level meters
- Follow the visual and numerical instructions exactly
- Use any error messages to detect problems
- Take advantage of our Knowledge Base
- See the troubleshooting guide here, if experiencing any problems
- Contact support team if getting stuck for any reason
Hardware Setup - audio settings and input/output setup
During this stage, you'll have to set up your input/output channels, gain and volume levels and make sure that your stereo field is correct. Remember, you will need a measurement mic for this - vocal and instrument mics will NOT work. Get it here or use a third-party omnidirectional measurement mic.
The necessary requirements will be displayed in the Measure app during the process. Most of these settings will be available to adjust in your audio interface routing/control software or operating system audio settings; some will have physical switches for them on your hardware:
- Your audio interface is set to 44.1 kHz sample rate while performing the measurements.
- No direct monitoring is applied to your mic input channel so that the mic signal is NOT directly routed to speakers (you shouldn't hear anything if you tap on the mic).
- A single audio interface is used for input and output.
- +48v Phantom Power is ON to power the microphone.
- [Mac] Microphone Access is granted for Measure and Systemwide apps in Mac Preferences > Security & Privacy > Accessibility > Microphone
There are some additional things you can check to make sure everything is set up correctly using this troubleshooting guide. It will give you a better understanding of what's behind the most common issues are help you deal with them effectively.
Room Evaluation - speaker distance and listening spot setup
During this stage, you will have to get up-close to each speaker, to measure the distance between them. The mid-range drivers will be used for this step. Once that is done, you will proceed to your listening sweet spot. Here, you'll get the first taste of our patented microphone locating technology - the software will use locating signals to triangulate the mic position in the room. Once the mic position is pinned down, you will be presented with the results and allowed to adjust the distances manually.
Use these tips to complete the second stage successfully:
- If you are unsure about which are the mid-range drivers in your speakers, see this article
- Clear up your desk space and remove any obstructions between the two speakers
- Follow the visual instructions carefully to avoid any issues
- Your chair can stay in place unless the headrest is sticking out too high up.
- Try the B and C locating signals if it becomes difficult to locate the mic position
- Review your settings if you are unable to complete this stage, use this troubleshooting guide
Measurements - measuring your room & speaker response
A series of measurements will now take place to measure the frequency response of your speakers and room. The process is simple and intuitive - the Measure app will display the mic position on-screen in real-time and show you where exactly to hold the mic and where to aim it. You will be instructed on when to stop, hold, or move on to the next position as you go through each measurement.
The measurements will take around 10 min to complete, you will be able to pause the process at any step or repeat a measurement if something goes wrong. Don't worry about using a mic stand at this point - the software is specifically designed to be used with the microphone held in hand. The software has other clever tricks up its sleeve too, so don't be surprised if the measurement signals suddenly increase the volume or do other automated adjustments.
- Keep following the visual instructions carefully - don't miss important directions
- Don't move the mic after a measurement position is locked in
- If you get a 'jumping mic' problem, review your settings and try B and C locating signals in Measure settings.
- Use the troubleshooting guide here if you're getting stuck
Results - reviewing and saving the generated calibration profile (.swproj file)
Once the entire measurement process is complete, the results will be displayed - you will now get a chance to sit back and observe the frequency response of your setup in detail for the first time. It will take a moment for it all to sync in - the results can often show pretty dramatic problems, even in a well-treated room. Other dips and peaks along the spectrum might be more subtle and turn out to be a surprise.
Chances are that you will straight away recognize the most problematic areas in the spectrum - the response graph will highlight exactly why you're struggling to get your mixes right.
Now that you're done with the Measure app, save the result. The .swproj project file will be saved in the Sonarworks Projects directory by default (the same folder where the readily available .swhp headphone profiles are located). Of course, you can use any location that's more convenient for you.
Before you move on... is that it for the Measure app and you never have to touch it again? In ideal conditions - yes, but probably not in most cases.
The frequency response can change over time: room treatment adjustments in speaker positioning, furniture layout - even objects on your desk can affect the frequency response. So if you've made some changes in your room, it is recommended to remeasure, that way retaining the ±0.9 dB accuracy over time.
Use Sonarworks to improve your room acoustics over time!
The calibration will do wonders to the sound accuracy in your room, however, there are limits to software calibration. Measure app can be an extremely powerful tool to improve your room acoustics. You can put the results to good use and adjust your room treatment/environment. Fundamental room modes and standing waves are beyond our reach, but you will be able to make educated decisions for improvement - if you know what exactly needs to be fixed, you will save a lot of time and money in the process.
Apply the calibration using the .swproj file
Once you save the measurement results, you will be prompted to open the Systemwide app to start calibrating your system sound. Go ahead and proceed to Systemwide - the onboarding will guide you through the basic settings and features Systemwide. Essentially, the Systemwide app is a virtual output device that captures all sound on your computer for calibration - read more here.
Your second option is the Reference DAW plugin - if using our Systemwide calibration solution doesn't fit in your workflow for any reason, the Reference plugin is right for you. It is available in all major formats (they should already be installed and available in your DAW, after completing the Reference 4 Studio Edition installation). Load it on your DAW master output channel as the very last one in the signal chain. You will be greeted with some onboarding tips in the Reference plugin too, read more on setting up with the Reference plugin here.
There are some key advantages to using Reference plugin over Systemwide app, essentially it is zero latency vs functionality. However, you can easily use both at the same time too and have the best of both worlds - read more here.