This is going to be interesting.
Unless you're sitting in an acoustically-treated room - and have tweaked your setup to work within it, if needed - you can't really be sure you're hearing what you're supposed to be hearing. One solution is tuning your room with EQ, but...
I've never been a fan of room tuning. There, I've said it. I always felt that if you couldn't treat the room, it was better to learn the anomalies and work within those constraints rather than introduce more variables with EQ that may or may be accurate, and may or may not produce a "sweet spot" so narrow that if you move your head a couple millimeters one way or the other, the tuning falls apart.
However, room tuning isn't what it used to be, because we have computers now. My first experience with room-tuning-that-didn't-suck was IK Multimedia's ARC system. They asked me if I wanted to review it, and I said I'd be willing to do that, but they would just have to accept the fact that I'd most likely say it sucked. Well, they really believed in the product and were willing to take the chance, and you know, it actually does work - I've even used it to test out acoustic treatment to see how it affected my listening environment. So, I had to re-calibrate my opinions on room tuning as well as my room.
But then...I was the Frankfurt Musik Messe, and Peter Chaikin of JBL grabbed me. "You gotta see this new room correction system we have that really works." By that point I was a little more open-minded, so I didn't need quite as much convincing to give it a shot.
And yes, it was impressive. JBL had really gone full-tilt into the computer application, and the results were clearly an improvement over what the sound was like without correction. What's more, I was able to move around the room and still hear pretty consistent imaging. Hmm...
I kept track of the system's progress over the months that followed, which leads us to the MSC1. This is a speaker controller, or at least that's what it looks like; but it also does the Room Mode Correction thang. There's a description of it on the JBL web site which is a) accurate, and b) devoid of marketing-speak (other than throwing the word "acclaimed" in there ), and c) concise. So rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll quote it here:
The MSC1 includes JBL’s acclaimed RMC Room Mode Correction technology that measures your room and tackles low frequency problems caused by room modes and boundary conditions. The MSC1 comes with everything needed to calibrate your system including a Calibration Mic, MSC1 Control Center Software, and accessory cables. Calibration is simply carried out using the supplied microphone, MSC1 Control Center Software and your computer.
Before measuring your room, Control Center meticulously measures the signal path of your audio system to set the stage for an accurate speaker calibration. Control Center Software guides you through every step. Once your system has been measured, re-calibration of your speakers is fast and easy and can be done at any time. After RMC calibration, the MSC1 works as a stand-alone controller and connection to a computer is not required.
So there you have the basics. If you want the full scoop on the MSC1, Room Mode Correction, and some always-impressive charts and graphs, the MSC1 landing page is the place to go. In fact. I think it provides all the basics that would normally take up the first several posts in a pro review as I explain what something does and how it's supposed to work, so we'll skip ahead immediately to the "well, does it really do what they say?" part. Because if so, that's a pretty cool thing for project studios, especially given the price - a little under $300 street, so if it can help you create more accurate mixes, that's a pretty cost-effective investment.
I'll be testing out the MSC1 with a pair of LSR2328P 8" speakers, and then when I feel I know what I'm doing, it will be time to add the LSR2310SP subwoofer. The only time I've been involved with subwoofers has been playing live, and there was a sound company taking care of the details; having a sub in my studio will be a new experience, so not only will we get a chance to see if it works or not, we'll be able to see how well JBL can guide a newbie into the world of subs.
Like I said...this should be interesting. Is it really possible to push a button and be able to have a far greater degree of confidence in your monitoring? Let's find out.
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