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Old 02-09-2016, 04:44 AM   #1
ReaDave
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Default ReaDave Headphone Monitoring FX Chain and Track Template

After previously trying Isone Pro and recently downloading the new Waves NX headphone monitoring and mixing plugin and being somewhat disappointed with both of them, I decided to roll together something myself along similar lines specifically for mixing and monitoring with headphones.

Having already installed and used the free Ambisonics toolkit suite of plugins for REAPER, I remembered there is a stereo to first order encoder and a binaural decoder for headphones so I decided to chain them together and see how well they worked in comparison to both the Isone and Waves offerings. Much to my surprise, this combination worked MUCH better with FAR less audible frequency response alteration (this is my biggest gripe with both the Isone and Waves plugins).

Granted, this plugin chain does not have all the bells and whistles of either of the commercial offerings but I don't need all those for a simple headphone mixing and monitoring solution. All I want is to be able to mix and monitor on headphones as closely as possible to nearfield monitors and this does just that.

You will need to first download and install the free Ambisonics Toolkit for REAPER and then download my track template and FX chain.
Ambisonics uses four channels for first order processing so if you insert the chain on an already existing track, make sure you set it to four track channels BEFORE inserting the chain. Alternatively, you can use my track template which already has the channel count configured.

Once the track is set up, go to the decoder plugin (second in the chain) and experiment with the HRTF models (first dropdown menu in the plugin). I have set the one that works best for my ears as the default and it might also work for you but if things don't sound natural, this is the place to tweak.
For the following procedure, set up a new track with a pink noise generator on it and send it to the headphone monitoring track. Then use the pan on the pink noise track. Panning the headphone monitoring track won't work properly because the pan is POST FX!
I used a mono pink noise source as the input and panned it hard left (or right) and adjusted the HRTF model until there was no perceivable crosstalk (in other words, the panned sound sounded like it was fully panned). I then panned the noise source to the center and checked to make sure the tone was as closely matched as possible between direct and processed modes (use the main track FX bypass switch for this). Once this is achieved, you have found the head model that works best for you.

One last note, for some reason, this encode/decode process swaps the audio channels over so I've inserted a panning plugin last in the chain to fix this.

Here's the download link for the Ambisonic Toolkit for REAPER:
http://www.ambisonictoolkit.net/download/reaper/

and here's the download for my FX chain and track template:
https://stash.reaper.fm/v/26583/Headphone_Monitoring.zip

UPDATE - Here's two blank REAPER projects containing this monitoring setup...

Monitoring on master buss

Monitoring on input track

Last edited by ReaDave; 07-29-2016 at 02:59 PM. Reason: Updated ATK download link
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Old 02-09-2016, 05:19 AM   #2
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Gotta try this, at least calibration seems a lot more straightforward that with Isone. To be fair, I liked Waves Nx, but I will give this a roll
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Old 02-09-2016, 08:48 AM   #3
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Gotta try this, at least calibration seems a lot more straightforward that with Isone. To be fair, I liked Waves Nx, but I will give this a roll
Please let us all know how you go with this. If you have any issues or questions, post them here.
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Old 02-09-2016, 11:01 AM   #4
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Weird, can't get the binaural JS to show up. I just copy/pasted the contents as indicated, and the Stereo part loads without problems. I verified my installation and the binaural file is in the Decode folder. Also, it doesn't show up in the JSFX list
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Old 02-09-2016, 11:29 AM   #5
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Weird, can't get the binaural JS to show up. I just copy/pasted the contents as indicated, and the Stereo part loads without problems. I verified my installation and the binaural file is in the Decode folder. Also, it doesn't show up in the JSFX list
Hmmm... I'll have to get back to you on this tomorrow. It is almost 5am here and I've been up all night (playing with Ollie's AM radio simulation REAPER project).

Something I thought of though, check to see if the binaural impulse files are in the C:\REAPER\Data\ATK\kernels\FOA\decoders\listen\441 00\512 folder (your path might be different if you are not using a portable REAPER install).
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Old 02-09-2016, 04:23 PM   #6
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OK. I'm trying to get this thing set up correctly, but something seems amiss (most likely my head).

In your OP, you say, "...Alternatively, you can use my track template which already has the channel count configured."

I did this. However, it's set to "Input Mono."


But it does give me the option of 4 Ch.


So exactly what should I choose (sorry for the basic questions, I don't want to F this up).

Lastly, and just as an aside, none of my other tracks offer the option of 4 channels - what's going on there?

Last edited by ReaperMadness; 01-07-2017 at 10:48 AM.
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Old 02-09-2016, 10:36 PM   #7
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ReaperMadness, that's the input you are looking at. I was referring to the track channel count (the number of channels of audio the track uses internally rather than the input).
I'm replying here via my phone so not at pc and can't do screen grabs but if you've used the track template, it should all be set correctly.

If you've ever used a ReaComp with a sidechain input, you'd have set up that track with four audio channels. This is the same deal.

If you send audio to the headphone monitoring track, does it work?
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:11 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
Hmmm... I'll have to get back to you on this tomorrow. It is almost 5am here and I've been up all night (playing with Ollie's AM radio simulation REAPER project).

Something I thought of though, check to see if the binaural impulse files are in the C:\REAPER\Data\ATK\kernels\FOA\decoders\listen\441 00\512 folder (your path might be different if you are not using a portable REAPER install).
Everything seems to be in place :/
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Old 02-10-2016, 08:18 AM   #9
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Everything seems to be in place :/
Perhaps try a clear cache and rescan. I'm not sure if that affects JSFX but it is worth a try.
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Old 02-10-2016, 02:27 PM   #10
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ReaperMadness, that's the input you are looking at. I was referring to the track channel count (the number of channels of audio the track uses internally rather than the input).
I'm replying here via my phone so not at pc and can't do screen grabs but if you've used the track template, it should all be set correctly.

If you've ever used a ReaComp with a sidechain input, you'd have set up that track with four audio channels. This is the same deal.

If you send audio to the headphone monitoring track, does it work?
Signal is not making it through the "Headphone" track.

I'm feeding it stereo audio just to see if I can get things set up properly. Here's what's happening.

Stage 1 - Encode. With 'Stereo Spread' @ 180 degrees, L encode meter showing signal on L & R sides, R meter showing signal just on L side. Pull 'Spread' back any amount and R side meter starts showing deflection on both halves.

Stage 2 - Decode. L FX meter showing signal on both halves, R FX meter shows nothing.

Stage 3 - JS: Stereo... No indication of any signal whatsoever.
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Old 02-11-2016, 03:40 AM   #11
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Signal is not making it through the "Headphone" track.

I'm feeding it stereo audio just to see if I can get things set up properly. Here's what's happening.

Stage 1 - Encode. With 'Stereo Spread' @ 180 degrees, L encode meter showing signal on L & R sides, R meter showing signal just on L side. Pull 'Spread' back any amount and R side meter starts showing deflection on both halves.

Stage 2 - Decode. L FX meter showing signal on both halves, R FX meter shows nothing.

Stage 3 - JS: Stereo... No indication of any signal whatsoever.
I'm in the process of setting up my studio in its new location right now but I'll send you an entire project with everything set up shortly. Hopefully that will help get you going and see how I've done things here.
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Old 02-11-2016, 06:35 AM   #12
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Interesting topic. I'm used to working with cans and checking on full-range system, but I recently stumbled upon this freebie from Beyerdynamic:

http://north-america.beyerdynamic.com/virtual-studio/

I haven't done any real testing, so I can't fully trust it, but it does sound like a reasonable quick "reality check" of sorts. Since you have more experience with this, would you have any comments on this VST?

Meanwhile, I'll check your template.
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Old 02-12-2016, 08:17 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
I'm in the process of setting up my studio in its new location right now but I'll send you an entire project with everything set up shortly. Hopefully that will help get you going and see how I've done things here.
If you get a chance to do that, I would be very appreciative.

Thanks.
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Old 02-14-2016, 05:16 AM   #14
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If you get a chance to do that, I would be very appreciative.

Thanks.
Apologies for the delay. Here you go...

Monitoring on master buss

Monitoring on input track
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Old 02-14-2016, 05:20 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by noise_construct View Post
Interesting topic. I'm used to working with cans and checking on full-range system, but I recently stumbled upon this freebie from Beyerdynamic:

http://north-america.beyerdynamic.com/virtual-studio/

I haven't done any real testing, so I can't fully trust it, but it does sound like a reasonable quick "reality check" of sorts. Since you have more experience with this, would you have any comments on this VST?

Meanwhile, I'll check your template.
Downloaded, installed and tested. The binaural effect is extremely realistic with this plugin but it is anything but transparent. This might be useful as an effect in a mix but I can't foresee using it for final mix monitoring.
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Old 02-14-2016, 10:01 AM   #16
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Thank you for your work & help , will use it soon!
While glancing about here I'm listening to your music: can you tell me how you made these Jean-Michel Jarre sounds? The song is "o jerusalem".
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Old 02-14-2016, 03:27 PM   #17
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Thank you for your work & help , will use it soon!
Please let me know how you go with this. Hopefully I'm not the only one who it works for!!
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While glancing about here I'm listening to your music: can you tell me how you made these Jean-Michel Jarre sounds? The song is "o jerusalem".
Indeed I can tell you all about that song, including the various Jean Michel Jarre inspired sounds. JMJ is one of my primary electronic music influences and it all started for me in the early 80s when I first heard Oxygene Part 2 on CD through a pair of Martin Logan electrostatic speakers. I was literally stunned!!
I made a detailed post about O Jerusalem HERE.
The only thing I have done since then (I've done a couple of remixes since that post) is to run one of the System 100 overdubs through a Leslie speaker.
There's also a 5.1 channel surround version (in Dolby Digital and FLAC surround formats) of this song on the surround section of my electronic music site here... www.multichannel.audio

BTW - Hope you enjoyed the song.
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Old 02-14-2016, 03:31 PM   #18
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BTW Pet, I know I've said this to you via PM but nice work on your V5 theme mod. I'm a big fan of dark themes and yours is easy on the eyes.
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Old 02-14-2016, 04:04 PM   #19
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Hello Dave.

I've installed your chain and have decided to put it on Monitoring FX. It sounds ilke on normal track. To make 4 channels I added VST:Master limiter MK2(http://jsplugins.supermaailma.net/vstplugins.php made by Reaper user anomaly) to the inception of the chain. So now it works well.

Thank you for great opportunity of using this tool!
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Old 02-14-2016, 04:10 PM   #20
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Please let me know how you go with this. Hopefully I'm not the only one who it works for!!
It's working perfectly for me. Thanks for your brilliant efforts on this as I would never have figured that out.
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Old 02-15-2016, 05:07 AM   #21
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Please let me know how you go with this.
Hi Dave, I will use it within the next days to make some guitar overdubs and vocal recording on some playbacks I'm working on. But this is dependent on the schedule of the client.
Till now I've used Reaper in a studio environment with a control room but this time it differs from that. I could use my very, very old hardware (e.g. Mackie CR1604) but it's not really reliable any more to work with the customer sitting besides me.
I will tell you, how it went...

BTW, thank you for your kind words about the theme mod!
Quote:
Hope you enjoyed the song
I love it and listened to the whole playlist but for fear that I get off topic, I jump over to your thread about it Click
Haha, as you see I've learned something !
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Old 02-15-2016, 06:54 AM   #22
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I have a question.

- I'm using Sonarwork's headphone calibration plugin "Reference "to get more flat sound from my headphones. http://sonarworks.com/headphones/overview/

- I want to use your track template and this plugin together on Monitoring FX

- As vitalker mentioned above I have to use a plugin to make channel count 4. and 5.1 mastering limiter vst by anomaly is suitable for that.

- I'm asking what should be my fx-chain order and default setup ?

Thanks.
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Old 02-15-2016, 07:40 AM   #23
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- I'm asking what should be my fx-chain order and default setup ?
I put Master limiter(even you can lower volume to prevent ear injury) on the first place and then added this chain.
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Old 02-15-2016, 09:32 AM   #24
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It worked! I was making a very very dumb mistake, as I installed the files to the Program Files folder, instead of using the Options menu to take me to the Reaper resource folder (Found in AppData/Roaming).
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:49 PM   #25
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Great to hear things are working out for you guys.

Pet, thanks for taking the time to post on my song too. I'll reply to you there.
Looking forward to hearing how this chain goes for you on your upcoming session too.
You're welcome re the theme.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mehmethan View Post
I have a question.

- I'm using Sonarwork's headphone calibration plugin "Reference "to get more flat sound from my headphones. http://sonarworks.com/headphones/overview/

- I want to use your track template and this plugin together on Monitoring FX

- As vitalker mentioned above I have to use a plugin to make channel count 4. and 5.1 mastering limiter vst by anomaly is suitable for that.

- I'm asking what should be my fx-chain order and default setup ?

Thanks.
Interesting looking plugin.
I'd place that first in the chain.
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It worked! I was making a very very dumb mistake, as I installed the files to the Program Files folder, instead of using the Options menu to take me to the Reaper resource folder (Found in AppData/Roaming).
Ah. That'll do it. Glad you got it sorted. Thanks for updating us on your solution too.
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I put Master limiter(even you can lower volume to prevent ear injury) on the first place and then added this chain.
I've actually found that the binaural decoding can add a dB or two to the overall level and that can cause clipping on loud sounds. Having the limiter set to a -2dB ceiling should prevent the overs. Alternatively, you could just the preamp slider back a bit in the binaural decoder.
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:54 PM   #26
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It's working perfectly for me. Thanks for your brilliant efforts on this as I would never have figured that out.
Neither would I if I hadn't started experimenting with Ambisonics recently.
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Old 02-16-2016, 01:10 PM   #27
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I'm really liking the results, as it accounts for a more pleasant and less fatiguing mixing session. Just take your time to find the hrtf that better suits you (I followed ReaDave's instructions as well as making some comparisons with my nearfields). Also, make sure that you're using a 4-channel track. I forgot to setup that and was scratching my head as why the plugin wasn't working... just use the supplied files and you're good to go!
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Old 02-21-2016, 03:13 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by gv.lazcano View Post
I'm really liking the results, as it accounts for a more pleasant and less fatiguing mixing session. Just take your time to find the hrtf that better suits you (I followed ReaDave's instructions as well as making some comparisons with my nearfields). Also, make sure that you're using a 4-channel track. I forgot to setup that and was scratching my head as why the plugin wasn't working... just use the supplied files and you're good to go!
Great to hear you are having good results with this. Good tip on comparing the HRTF models with how your near fields sound too.

I've started experimenting with a 5.1 version of this FX chain now too so 5.1 mixes can be done on headphones. There's still plenty of experimenting and tweaking to do but if it all comes together in a usable way, I'll post the chain here.
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Old 03-24-2016, 02:18 AM   #29
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This seems intresting.

I do mix with my headphones and monitors, it sounds great. I do use Mono button all the time when tweaking etc.
What's the main thing with this, is this meant for 5.1 surround?

If this could help me with mixing, panning etc this would be great for me also. All help in the way is welcome

could you do a list how to setup this easily
1: do this
2: do that
3: etc..

so i can setup this right :P

Regards/ Pekka
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Old 03-26-2016, 02:02 AM   #30
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This seems intresting.

I do mix with my headphones and monitors, it sounds great. I do use Mono button all the time when tweaking etc.
What's the main thing with this, is this meant for 5.1 surround?

If this could help me with mixing, panning etc this would be great for me also. All help in the way is welcome

could you do a list how to setup this easily
1: do this
2: do that
3: etc..

so i can setup this right :P

Regards/ Pekka
Hi Pekka,

The main reason I made this chain is because monitoring and mixing on headphones often produces mixes that do not translate well on speakers. Our ears determine location by using audible cues that hit both ears with varying time, level and frequency characteristics. The shape of our ears is designed so that sounds hitting them from different angles and heights cause alterations to the frequency characteristics and our brain interprets that, along with the various time and level differences between our ears to calculate the exact position of the sound source.
Also, the shape of our head causes variations in these characteristics between left and right ears as the sound 'wraps around' our head.

With headphones, you completely bypass your head and outer ear and those cues are lost. Another problem with headphones is that when something is hard panned left or right, the brain does not get a cue from both ears and the result is a very unnatural and often difficult to listen to sound (try listening to something on headphones out only one channel and you'll hear what I mean).

What this chain does is to simulate the Head Related Transfer Function (HRFT) that our brain interprets from real sounds in 3D space. Cues for the ears and head shape are created with the binaural decoder plugin which is last in the chain. This means that our eardrums receive cues for both channels as they would when listening to speakers. The result is a much more natural listening experience which enables us to mix and monitor far more accurately with headphones.

As for setting it all up, it is really quite straight forward. There are a few steps and a few things to do to get it right but it isn't difficult. All the details are in my first post.
The most complex parts are installing the Ambisonic Toolkit Plugins and adjusting the HRTF to suit your ears. Again though, full details are in my first post.
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Old 03-28-2016, 11:20 PM   #31
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Hi Pekka,

The main reason I made this chain is because monitoring and mixing on headphones often produces mixes that do not translate well on speakers. Our ears determine location by using audible cues that hit both ears with varying time, level and frequency characteristics. The shape of our ears is designed so that sounds hitting them from different angles and heights cause alterations to the frequency characteristics and our brain interprets that, along with the various time and level differences between our ears to calculate the exact position of the sound source.
Also, the shape of our head causes variations in these characteristics between left and right ears as the sound 'wraps around' our head.

With headphones, you completely bypass your head and outer ear and those cues are lost. Another problem with headphones is that when something is hard panned left or right, the brain does not get a cue from both ears and the result is a very unnatural and often difficult to listen to sound (try listening to something on headphones out only one channel and you'll hear what I mean).

What this chain does is to simulate the Head Related Transfer Function (HRFT) that our brain interprets from real sounds in 3D space. Cues for the ears and head shape are created with the binaural decoder plugin which is last in the chain. This means that our eardrums receive cues for both channels as they would when listening to speakers. The result is a much more natural listening experience which enables us to mix and monitor far more accurately with headphones.

As for setting it all up, it is really quite straight forward. There are a few steps and a few things to do to get it right but it isn't difficult. All the details are in my first post.
The most complex parts are installing the Ambisonic Toolkit Plugins and adjusting the HRTF to suit your ears. Again though, full details are in my first post.
Thanx ReaDave for the answer
Your totally right right about this, i've realised that when mixing levels, panning, eq etc. i've re-adjust these afterwards when listening on my monitors...i do get close though but my thought is to make this all done with headphones. i bought the sonarworks reference 3 plug for my headphones for helping me to get better mixes. This would be my last thing in my master chain, i also tried the waves nx and isone..there's something that does just sound right..but i do somehow understand this idea.
I need to go back and do this setup again, i was in a hurry when i trid it out.
I'll let you know my experince when i've figure it out and tested it
/Pekka
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Old 03-28-2016, 11:50 PM   #32
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Here's 2 pics, is the signals right?
I only added a pinknoise generator on the input track and i've done nothing else yet.
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File Type: jpg test 2.jpg (42.5 KB, 233 views)
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Old 03-29-2016, 06:16 AM   #33
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Hi, ReaDave!

Thank's for this great solution!
Is this trick aviable only @ 44,1 kHz?
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Old 03-29-2016, 07:33 AM   #34
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Please let me know how you go with this. Hopefully I'm not the only one who it works for!!
Hey ReaDave, thanks for sharing this! Installation was straight-forward, and I got great results right out of the box! I've been using Isone for headphone mixes, and I have to say, your solution sounds a lot more natural than Isone. Nice work!
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Old 03-30-2016, 04:44 PM   #35
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Hi, ReaDave!

Thank's for this great solution!
Is this trick aviable only @ 44,1 kHz?
To be honest, I haven't yet tried it at other sampling rates. If there is any limitation it might be due to the impulse responses in the binaural decoder. I'll have to look into this.
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Hey ReaDave, thanks for sharing this! Installation was straight-forward, and I got great results right out of the box! I've been using Isone for headphone mixes, and I have to say, your solution sounds a lot more natural than Isone. Nice work!
Great to hear that you're having a similar experience to me compared to Isone.
I ended up purchasing Waves nX after all and have added some multichannel eq to get it sounding right. The main reason I purchased it was for 5.1 monitoring. I still use my Ambisonic chain for stereo monitoring though.
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Old 03-30-2016, 04:47 PM   #36
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Here's 2 pics, is the signals right?
I only added a pinknoise generator on the input track and i've done nothing else yet.
Going by your first pic, it looks like you have your headphones set to outputs 3 & 4. They should be set to outputs 1 & 2. You'll need to connect your headphones to the same outputs as your studio monitors with that configuration. Track channels 3 & 4 in this chain are for the Ambisonic B format signal which uses four channels. If you run your headphones from channels 3 & 4 you will hear some odd things!!
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Old 03-31-2016, 12:28 PM   #37
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After previously trying Isone Pro and recently downloading the new Waves NX headphone monitoring and mixing plugin and being somewhat disappointed with both of them, I decided to roll together something myself along similar lines specifically for mixing and monitoring with headphones.

Having already installed and used the free Ambisonics toolkit suite of plugins for REAPER, I remembered there is a stereo to first order encoder and a binaural decoder for headphones so I decided to chain them together and see how well they worked in comparison to both the Isone and Waves offerings. Much to my surprise, this combination worked MUCH better with FAR less audible frequency response alteration (this is my biggest gripe with both the Isone and Waves plugins).

Granted, this plugin chain does not have all the bells and whistles of either of the commercial offerings but I don't need all those for a simple headphone mixing and monitoring solution. All I want is to be able to mix and monitor on headphones as closely as possible to nearfield monitors and this does just that.
Hmmm...

I use Isone and Sonarworks together as my headphone monitoring chain. I'm curious about how you were using Isone that caused you to say that it greatly colored your frequency response.

Did you have Isone set to flat response?

FWIW I dont put Isone and Sonarworks in the monitoring FX chain. I have them inserted on a submix called "headphones" that bypasses the master fader and goes directly to the soundcard. Its muted so when I solo it, the mix is only running thru my cans.

I have ARC 2 room correction in my monitoring FX chain.

Last edited by Magicbuss; 03-31-2016 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 04-02-2016, 08:56 AM   #38
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Going by your first pic, it looks like you have your headphones set to outputs 3 & 4. They should be set to outputs 1 & 2. You'll need to connect your headphones to the same outputs as your studio monitors with that configuration. Track channels 3 & 4 in this chain are for the Ambisonic B format signal which uses four channels. If you run your headphones from channels 3 & 4 you will hear some odd things!!
Hi Dave, i'll check that out asap when my left ear is healthy....
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Old 04-02-2016, 08:59 AM   #39
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I have ARC 2 room correction in my monitoring FX chain.
How does arc work for you??? Been looking for this and sonarworks to my monitors, which would be better?
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Old 04-02-2016, 10:34 AM   #40
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Hi Dave, i'll check that out asap when my left ear is healthy....

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Hmmm...

I use Isone and Sonarworks together as my headphone monitoring chain. I'm curious about how you were using Isone that caused you to say that it greatly colored your frequency response.

Did you have Isone set to flat response?
I've tried just about everything I could try with Isone. It isn't terrible by any stretch. In fact, it is reasonably good but it isn't nearly as good as the Ambisonics binaural decoder as far as non colouration goes. The main issue is the HF response. The top end becomes somewhat brittle with Isone to my ears.
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Originally Posted by Magicbuss View Post
FWIW I dont put Isone and Sonarworks in the monitoring FX chain. I have them inserted on a submix called "headphones" that bypasses the master fader and goes directly to the soundcard. Its muted so when I solo it, the mix is only running thru my cans.

I have ARC 2 room correction in my monitoring FX chain.
As tpulse has mentioned, I'm curious about Sonarworks and ARC2 as well. I'm particularly keen to know if both can be used for multi speaker setups (7.1 in my case).
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