Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sonarworks True Fi Headphone Desktop Calibration Software Review

All speakers sound different from each other. The same is true of headphones. This is called sound signature or voice. To have a true reference sound, the response curve or voice would be completely flat. But this is extremely difficult to do. Now it is possible. Enter the Sonarworks True Fi.

Features and specs:

Here's what you get with your True-Fi licence:
·         Age and Gender related hearing loss compensation 
·         Unlimited access to our 272 + supported headphone profiles 
·         Access to all future updates and features 
·         Up to 3 devices simultaneously 
·         Mobile app for Android and iOS*
·         +/- 0.9 dB accuracy with individually calibrated headphones
·         +/- 3 dB accuracy with average profiles for headphone models

Desktop App
·         All computer audio is processed, works on a system level
·         Supported sample rate on Mac currently up to 96 000 Hz; on Windows up to capabilities of your WASAPI device
·         Mac: macOS 10.9 or later
·         Windows: Windows 7 or later
·         Hardware: 512 Mb RAM
Mobile App
·         Local music content (Android)
·         iTunes music library - manually synced content (iOS)**
·         Spotify (Premium account required)
·         Compatible with the latest Android and iOS versions
·         Supports sample rates up to 96kHz***
·         iOS: MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, ALAC
·         Android: MP3, WAV, OGG (Vorbis), AAC, FLAC
* Official Mobile App launch is scheduled at the end of Q1, 2019, until then, you are welcome to be a part of Sonarworks True-Fi Mobile Early Access.
**Apple Music is unavailable due to Apple DRM limitations.
***During Early Access period flac and high sample rate file playback is not yet fully supported on all devices and is currently being improved.

As this is a software program that is downloaded, there is no materials or build quality to rate. It’s just a matter of downloading the software onto your laptop or smartphone. So while a positive aspect is that is just a program that you download, the same can also be looked as a potential con as well.  And while the software is available, it is currently only available for computers.  The smartphone app has not yet been officially released, but will soon be.

To use the product, you are limited to listening to music on your laptop or smartphone where the software is installed. One other con, is that it is only compatible with certain headphones. While this list is a couple hundred long and continually growing, it is still a small percentage of headphones found among listeners. Having said that, it could be used as a time to upgrade to better headphones, and get a pair that is compatible with the software.  There are a couple of ways that you can use the product, depending on the quality of end result that you are looking for.  If you already have a nice pair of headphones that are on the list of once supported, then all you need is the software.  If you don't have a pair that is supported, then you could just buy a pair that is on the supported list, and then buy the software.  But Sonarworks also does pre-calibration.  So for the most accuracy, you have a couple options. You could either buy one of the models of headphones that Sonarworks sells that have actually been pre-calibrated, or you could send in your headphones to be pre-calibrated. 

Using the software was very simple. It was just a matter of downloading and installing the software.  Once it was installed, there is a 10 day trial, and a product key when you buy the software that you would enter in.  After you open the software, you enter your profile of gender and age.  We naturally lose certain aspects of our hearing as we get older, and the program compensates for it.  Next you enter in your make and model of headphone.  For me I used a Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro.  After this was all entered, the software was ready to use, and was as simple as clicking the engage button.  Click on the button again and it disengages.  So it is easy to go back and forth to see how the music sounds with it engaged vs with it disengaged.  And it was also really cool to be able to see the response curve of the headphones, as well as the new flat response curve of the software once engaged, and the small increase in curve with the age adjustment figured in. Now let’s see how they sound.

Being the holiday season, I turned to one of my favorite artists, Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas Celebration.  I went through the various tracks one at a time, 1st with it engaged, and then with it disengaged.  And did the same multiple times for each track, going back and forth.  And I must say, I was very surprised with the result.  I loved the sound of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro previously.  But hearing the sound of the headphones with the software engaged was mind blowing.  There was not a single track where I preferred the sound of the headphones without the software.  There were a couple where the difference in sound was not much, but it was still improved.  And there were some tracks where the sound was improved quite a bit!  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the nice big and wide soundstage that I have come to love from the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro did not change.  As the imaging also did not change.  I was equally surprised that the overall sound without the software engaged was a bit flat and had less energy.  None of the resolution, harmonics, or texture was lost with the software engaged.  Yet I gained a more energetic and livelier sound.  For me, the Sonarworks True Fi is a must have, and I can see most audiophiles feeling the same way.  It's truly a must hear to appreciate!

I’m glad to see the market for high quality music increasing, such as hi-res audio, and access to more and more of these high res downloads and streaming sites. And thanks to this software, the Sonarworks True Fi, we have a tool to make our music sound as the producer intended. Having listened to and used the software, it works as designed. It’s an amazing feat! Based on it’s design, features, quality, and performance, the Sonarworks True Fi has earned our Editor’s Choice award. If you consider yourself an Audiophile, this is a must have software, and at an MSRP of only $79 it is worth every penny! For more info and complete specs, check out their website at