Sound Magic has released Headphone Mix 4, a plug-in designed to help you achieve better mixes on headphones. Headphone Mix 4 uses a combination of several techniques to create the illusion that you’re listening to monitor speakers, when you’re in fact wearing headphones.
Sound Magic Headphone Mix 4
Mixing on headphones is tricky, both in terms of spatial awareness and frequency response. But sometimes you have no choice, be it because you don’t have a suitable room and set of speakers available or because you’re on the road. Several companies have developed plug-ins that attempt to simulate the experience of listening to monitor speakers on headphones, including the various editions of Waves Nx, Slate Audio VSX and dSONIQ Realphones, among others. Sound Magic Headphone Mix 4 is another plug-in that uses a bunch of psychoacoustic tricks to make you believe that you’re actually sitting in a control room.
According to the developer, Headphone Mix 4 combines several techniques, including environment simulation, frequency compensation and HRTF (head-related transfer function) technologies. The environment simulation adds a bit of reverb to the sound, in order to emulate the room reflections that you don’t get when listening to headphones. HRTF emulates the auricle reflections that occur inside your ears when listening to speakers. These reflections are what tells your brain where a sound is coming from, and they’re crucial for spatial awareness.
Finally, Headphone Mix 4 uses a set of algorithms to emulate the characteristics of different playback devices, including hi-fi systems, car audio systems and smartphones. So the plug-in not only helps with mixing on headphones, it also offers a quick way to check for any problems that might occur on these devices.
It’ll be interesting to see how well Headphone Mix 4 compares to the competition by major developers like Waves and Slate. I’m doubtful that it can solve all of the problems associated with mixing on headphones, but if it helps in those cases when you have no choice, it could be worth the $49 investment.
Price and compatibility
Sound Magic Headphone Mix 4 is now available from the developer’s website for USD 49. This offer apparently lasts until sometime in May, although they don’t give an exact date. The regular price will be USD 99.
The plug-in runs on Windows XP or higher as a VST/VST3 plug-in and on macOS as an Audio Unit (AU). A VST version for Mac is not currently available.