Dear Reality’s dearVR MIX plugin offers up a variety of environments for mixing in headphones. Does it help you to make more informed decisions? Let’s find out.
There is any number of reasons that you might want to exclusively mix in headphones. Cost, convenience, portability — the list goes on. Most engineers have accepted the necessary trade-offs in order to make this situation work — compromised frequency response, lack of natural stereo imaging, general comfort, and so forth.
But what if you could have your cake and eat it too? That’s the tantalising prospect laid out by dearVR MIX: a new plugin from Dear Reality. Powered by Sennheiser’s AMBEO technology, it lifts the headphones off your ears, presenting you with recreations of the perfect mix room, but also more unconventional environments like a car, club, and even a stadium. The goal: to provide engineers with a solid base from which to make informed decisions by showing them how their mixes will translate in a host of different situations.
Look and feel
Central to the success of any plugin is its user interface. dearVR MIX is a winner on this front, presenting a very easy-to-navigate single screen that offers up all the control you need without incessant menu diving.
Visually, there are clear indications of the speaker configurations, whether it be in Mono, Stereo, or Stereo Wide. Otherwise, the controls are divided into two main groups: Control Room and Output. In the Output section, you probably won’t need to do too much tweaking after you’ve got your input and output levels matched.
The Head Rotation control in the Output section is worth a mention though: simply turn the knob 360° while the spatial technology recreates the sensation of turning away from the speaker, while the audio shifts from one ear to another — perfect for simulating freeform environments like clubs or outdoor venues.
Under the Control Room umbrella, you have Scene selection. This is where you’ll find your Mix Rooms (Mix Room A, Mix Room B, and Analytic Dry) and less controlled spaces like Car, Club, Home Theater, Kitchen, Living Room, and Stadium — the ultimate selection of environments for cross-checking mixes.
You’ll also find two simple sliders for Ambience and Focus. In Ambience, you can dial in the amount of diffusion (for more, push right toward Experience, for less, push left toward Neutral). On the Focus slider, Sennheiser’s AMBEO algorithmic power comes into play, allowing users to control spectral colouration.
In the mix
Before you dive into this new world, you can actually dial in the perfect calibration for your headphones via the Spatial Headphone Compensation setting. So, if your chosen pair of headphones match up with the 45 popular models selected and optimised by the Dear Reality team, you’re in luck. Simply hit the HP Compensation switch and you’re ready to roll.
As you’d imagine, the differences between the different scenes are not subtle. Taking your mix from the studio to the kitchen is going to yield different results — as it should! But therein lies the power of dearVR MIX: a simple and quick reference tool to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in your mixes, across a range of acoustic environments.
But many engineers will also appreciate the more subtle advantages of a plugin like dearVR MIX. Accuracy in stereo imaging has always been a challenge in headphones. The triangular relationship between engineer and their two monitors is a tried and tested configuration for stereo mixing. The AMBEO-driven spatialisation of dearVR MIX allows you to accurately replicate that environment, so the decision-making process that you follow when mixing with monitors can also be adhered to.
The big advantage: you can be in any number of environments and essentially take that process with you.
Headphone mixing is becoming more popular for manifold reasons, yet the options for getting the job done without compromising on your process and philosophy are few. dearVR MIX has thrown its hat into this burgeoning arena with an easy-to-use product that might just become an essential companion for mixing in headphones.