L-Acoustics L-ISA Studio review

L-ISA Studio is the latest version of L-Acoustics’ immersive audio platform that requires no external hardware and can be used with headphones—or speakers—to create and develop immersive audio experiences.

Whats great?
L-ISA Studio enhances the flexibility and the creative possibilities of the technology. The software has excellent room simulation and binaural rendering capabilities that allow you to create immersive experiences for headphones or for external speakers, all without recourse to external DSP hardware. The interface is intuitive and greatly simplifies the creation of immersive audio.

Whats not?
Inevitably, L-ISA studio is a complex piece of software—but it really rewards exploration. It’s Mac only and requires some hefty computing power (Quad-core i7 or better).

The bottom line:
If you are creating immersive experiences, L-ISA makes it easier than ever to make sure your work is transferrable to the real world.

Equipment: Review
Since its introduction, L-Acoustics’ L-ISA has been used to create immersive applications that range from small scale installations to concerts with audiences in their thousands. L-ISA Studio runs a version of the company’s hardware-based 3D rendering engine in software and this, along with its binaural capabilities and room simulation modes, allow users to create flexible immersive content using just a computer and a pair of headphones. 

Equipment: Build quality
The software comes in two parts. The L-ISA Processor provides the DSP-based 3D rendering capabilities, while the L-ISA Controller is where the creative action happens. The Processor needs to be run first as this provides the link between your DAW and the L-ISA Controller software. The L-ISA Controller’s most used parameters, Source list, Group settings, Snapshots, and Monitoring levels are available from icons on the main screen alongside toggles for the Soundscape, Reverbs, Snapshots, Groups, Sources and Settings panes It’s a nice way to keep everything on a single screen, and you can use keyboard commands to open or close panes.

The Reverbs pane is where you define your virtual space—which could be a recreation of a real room—with a flexible range of parameters to tweak the reflections. The Soundscape pane provides direct control over the positioning of your audio in your three-dimensional space. Sources (audio derived from a DAW) can be dragged to the desired location on-screen and auditioned in real-time using headphones or a surround speaker array.

Audio from these Sources can be modified in various ways, including adjusting the ‘width’ of the sound coming from a specific location, the distance of the sound from the listener and its elevation. I found it useful to think of the virtual room as a ‘space’ rather than a series of speaker locations (as you might when mixing for surround in a DAW) and the software makes the spatial positioning of audio an incredibly intuitive process.

Sources can be grouped together, and you can grab snapshots of the current state of your spatial positioning. You can record movements of objects (or groups of objects) as automation in your DAW via the (supplied) plug-ins in, which are provided in all of the usual formats. L-ISA studio can be synced to MIDI Timecode and features integration with several major mixing consoles from the likes of SSL, AVID and DiGiCo. The software also supports OSC connectivity and can be used with a head tracker, which can be useful for improved verisimilitude.

Equipment: Sound
L-ISA studio is highly effective in creating a simulation of a three—dimensional physical space. Sonically, I can’t fault the software, with no evidence of any strange phase effects, unfocussed positioning or other acoustic anomalies you often get from binaural simulations. I’ve used MAX/MSP and third-party binaural software to create immersive audio, but the combination of the ability to position audio alongside the binaural rendering in a single package really helps in creating predictable real-world translations.

The Scale Simulation feature, which allows you to create virtual listening positions, really helps you to gauge the aural experience a real audience member would have wherever they were located in a space. The software works in formats up to 7.4.1 and up to 96kHz and there are 96 available input audio objects available via the supplied Audio Bridge software.

Equipment: daily use
Each Source can be solo’d so you can easily keep track of individual placements. My studio surround system is 5.1-based, and L-Acoustics happily supply templates for this type of system. Because this room is also a teaching space, the speakers are not all on the same horizontal plane, so being able to use the elevation feature to position them in a reasonable facsimile of their location in your headphones was brilliant—and it translated to the real system very well. Because L-ISA Studio can also generate room reflections, you can be reasonably sure that your binaural rendering will prove an acceptable simulation of any actual space. I already had some idea of the acoustic properties of my room and creating a simulation for it was a relatively painless experience.

Equipment: The Bottom Line
A short review such as this can’t really give you a full overview of the power of L-ISA studio, but being able to simulate a large-scale immersive environment that can be translated into real-world speaker systems is a game changer—especially as you can work on your installation without being on site. We’ve come a long way from using quadrophonic joysticks and diffusion systems to create immersive audio experiences and the object-orientated nature of L-ISA studio make it ideal for the pre-preparation of both large-scale installations and the creation of binaural audio for VR games. 

L-Acoustics L-ISA Studio is available now via monthly subscriptions. Educational discounts available.


One Year: £679/$964
Three months: £204/$289
Monthly: £68/$96


One Year: £249/$354
Three months: £75/$106
Monthly: £25/$35