Immerse Virtual Studio plug-in review

Can virtual immersive recreations of classic studios really help you mix and master on headphones?

What is it?
Immerse Virtual Studio is a plug-in that offers binaural recreations of several great studios in the USA.

What’s great?
Incredibly useful when mixing and mastering. Simple to set up and use. Personalised HTRF processing.

What’s not?
Multiple versions are a tad confusing.

The bottom line:
If you’re working on headphones, Immerse Virtual Studio will help you create mixes that translate into the so-called ‘real world’.

Equipment: Review

The range of software tools that are designed to overcome the limitations when mixing and mastering on headphones has blossomed over the last decade and, as more of us are forced into working in less-than-ideal conditions at home, these developments are welcome. Embody has partnered with several headphone and DAW companies to produce Immerse Virtual Studio (or IMV from now on) so it comes in four ‘flavours. There’s a special version designed for Avid’s Pro Tools, while other plug-ins work with Audio Technica or Audize Headphones along with most other audio software and DAWs on the market. The All Access version is compatible with all studio headphones, but is also specifically tuned for many of the common ‘phones used in studios. IMV uses a mixture of equalization for specific headphones and algorithmic binaural processing tools to both avoid the lack of crosstalk issues that you get with headphones and to simulate actual three-dimensional listening environments.

Immerse Virtual Studio: Build quality

Once installed, you are asked on running the plug-in, to capture a photograph of your right ear. This is then loaded up to Embody’s website and processed. The resultant correction is incorporated into the plug-in, so each instance is unique to the user. The software itself consists of emulations of five famous studios—Echo Bar A and B (in North Hollywood), the Diamond control room at SAE in Emeryville, California, and the Spitfire and the Music Friends studios in Los Angeles. Each studio has multiple monitors you can choose from, systems that run from the soffit mounted Mayer 185 and free-standing Augspurger Solo 15 (plus sub) to nearfields such as Focal Trios and PMC AML 2. The visuals are very nice, with photo-realistic views from the engineer’s chair and other parts of the studios, alongside links and other information about the ‘virtual’ workplaces.

Immerse Virtual Studio: Sound

Companies who have tackled the task of improving the usability of headphones have either attempted to ‘correct’ the frequency response of named headphones (Sonarworks Reference) or utilised binaural and/or Impulse response technology to emulate specific recording spaces (Wave’s Abbey Road Studios). Genelec’s Aural ID software uses head-related transfer function (HRTF) technology to generate a .SOFA file—via the capture of a full video of the user’s head—which is then loaded into a compatible plug-in. In some ways, IMV provides the best of both worlds by ‘personalising’ the immersive experience alongside a bespoke plug-in. All these systems sound quite different and deciding which is ‘best’ is just as difficult as choosing which is the ‘best’ monitor system or control room! What I can say though is that IMV provides a really nice listening experience (not to be sniffed at) whilst providing enough information to make mix and master decisions that transfer outside the studio. I found after a while that I was defaulting to a single preferred studio and using the two monitor systems emulated therein—but it was extremely useful to use the other systems as references.

Immerse Virtual Studio: daily use

The plug-in itself is very easy to use. Just instance it, choose a studio and a speaker system by clicking on its image and you’re good to go. You can modify the ‘ambience’ and ‘clarity’ of your selected studio, the level of the audio and the centre position if you’re finding your that your centre image is off piste. After tweaking, I left most of these at the default values—but some might find it useful to change these parameters to taste. There’s a useful and flexible limiter in there too, while the plug-in can usefully be set to defeat itself automatically on bouncing out a mix with some DAWs—though this doesn’t work for real-time mixes if you’re working in a hybrid format.

Immerse Virtual Studio: Verdict

Does this plug-in reproduce the exact same experience of working in these studios? Frankly, I have no idea. But what IMV does do is to give you something of the experience of listening to your work via high-quality speakers in a nicely treated room. You effectively get a choice of eight monitoring systems and my only real criticism about IMV is that some of the monitors shown in the plug-in the were not emulated—I really wanted to turn on those NS10s in the SAE control room!

Available now

Immerse Virtual Studio with AVID £219, $299. (Tuned for Audeze, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, AKG and BeyerDynamic and generic headphones.)

Audize Reveal+ £146, $199. (Tuned for all Audeze headphones and compatible with all DAWs and media players.)

Immerse Virtual Sudio with Audio Technica £146, $199. (Tuned for Audio-Technica M50X, M70X and R70x headphones and compatible with all DAWs and media players).

Immerse Virtual Studio All Access £15/$19.99 per month for 24 months or £290/$399 one off payment.