An Introduction to Virtual Reference Monitoring technology

Assuming that the answer is “no”, we will just go straight ahead. Have you ever heard of VRM? It is likely that, unless you are very knowledgeable about and experienced with audio equipment, your answer will again be “no”. Indeed, you could even mistakenly think that VRM stands for something other than what we are trying to refer to. However, what we are trying to refer to here is Virtual Reference Monitoring – and, in the likely event that you haven’t heard or lack much knowledge of it, here is a simple – well, as simple as we can practically make it, anyway – introduction to Virtual Reference Monitoring technology and how it can be used.

A summary of Virtual Reference Monitoring technology

Often, people who have created music mixes like to burn CDs of these mixes to enable them to listen to them on as many different systems as they can, likely including their living room HiFis, their televisions and their friends’ studio monitors. Such people may then change their mixes before again burning them onto CDs in order to see how the changed mixes sound on the same systems. This is known as ‘reference mixing’; however, it is a relatively time- and money-consuming method of reference mixing compared to Virtual Reference Monitoring, which enables such people to listen to their mixes on multiple sets of speakers and in different rooms through using headphones.

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How VRM technology can already be used

If you had already heard of and used VRM technology before reading this article, this may be due to its use in some of the audio products of the Focusrite Saffire name – including the Focusrite Saffire PRO 24 DSP audio interface, the first of the products in this range to include VRM technology. This particular product was released in July 2009 and offered a wealth of new features over the previous products in the Saffire range that made it truly worthy of the ‘PRO’ tag; these features included real-time DSP-powered tracking and mixing capability intended for the home studio environment, DSP-powered compression and EQ for ultra-low-latency tracking and, as has been mentioned, VRM technology.

So, how is VRM technology used in the PRO 24 DSP audio interface? Well, here, the technology uses dynamic convolution technology, as is used in the Liquid series of products also manufactured by Focusrite. However, in this Saffire PRO product, dynamic convolution technology is used to emulate monitoring systems. This ensures that, in this product, VRM technology can be used for the auditioning of a mix in several different environments, including a living room, bedroom studio and professional studio control room, with a great variety of monitoring and other loudspeakers through listening on headphones. We reckon that this sounds like an impressive use of VRM technology and so expect use of the technology to become ever more innovative as time progresses and more products using the technology are released and used.

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