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Sound Design on Headphones with Nx Virtual Mix Room

Jun 20, 2019

“Nx gives me a new perspective on my mixes: I can hear how they’ll sound in different environments, and it reveals problems I wasn’t aware of.” Learn how sound designer Graham Reznick uses Nx for spatial monitoring on headphones.

Sound Design on Headphones with Nx Virtual Mix Room

Working from his studio in L.A., sound designer, re-recording mixer, composer and writer/director Graham Reznick (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, Deadwax) is a man of diverse talents: in addition to extensive sound design credits for The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, In a Valley of Violence and many other films, Reznick is also composer and writer/director of his own television series Deadwax, and has released electronic music albums such as Glass Angels. Together with Larry Fessenden and Supermassive Games, he has created four videogames including Until Dawn, and he also sound designed and mixed the VR series GONE.

As a creator involved in every detail of his long creative process, Reznick is always on the lookout for new ways to gain a new perspective of his work: “I started using Waves’ Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin together with the Nx Head Tracker for headphones almost as soon as they came out,” he says. “One of my favorite ways to use Nx is to get a new perspective on my in-progress mixes—both with tricky mixes and with mixes that already sound great on my speaker monitors. Nx can reveal problems that I wasn’t aware of, as well as helping me figure out issues I couldn’t crack. Being able to simulate different-sized rooms and listening positions lets me hear how all the frequencies and instruments will gel (or not) in different listening environments.”

Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin: Stereo component

Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin: Stereo component

Powered by Waves Nx technology, Nx Virtual Mix Room is a virtual monitoring plugin that delivers immersive 3D audio on headphones. It recreates, on headphones, the same three-dimensional depth and panoramic stereo (or surround) image that one would be hearing from speakers in an acoustically treated room.

Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin: 7.1 surround component

Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin: 7.1 surround component

Mixing on headphones is notoriously difficult: decisions made on headphones might not translate well to speakers in a room, in terms of panning, mix depth, reverb and low-end information. By recreating the acoustics of a high-end studio, but over headphones, the Nx plugin enables mixing engineers, producers, sound designers and musicians to make good mixing decisions on headphones, no matter where they are. It also provides a well-balanced point of reference for those who find themselves in sub-optimal environments.

“When I first got Nx,” Reznick says, “my wife had just had a baby and we were all living in a small apartment in Los Angeles. I had a lot of music and mixing work to tackle and I wasn’t able to monitor my work out loud with a sleeping baby one thin wall away. Nx was the perfect solution—I could sound design, edit and mix comfortably, and with confidence that my headphone mixes would translate well to loudspeaker playback.”

“I also tend to travel a lot for work, and, as a result, when I need to make adjustments to mixes or just want to work on new material, Nx has been incredibly helpful in providing a less claustrophobic aural environment when I’m on a plane or in a hotel room.”

Nx’s three-dimensional realism is enhanced, Reznick says, by the plugin’s head tracking feature, which can be achieved with any computer camera, or through the Nx Head Tracker Bluetooth device: “It’s an almost hallucinatory experience to use the Nx Head Tracker while looking at my silent speakers and turning my head back and forth: My brain has a hard time believing the sound is only coming from my headphones. When I first got the tracker unit, I spent a good twenty minutes A/B’ing between headphones and speakers to identify the differences. It was pretty spot-on! And when it’s essential to keep your eyes on the screen, like when mixing a 360-degree VR audio session in Pro Tools, you can simulate moving the audio field around your head in real time.”

In addition to mixing regular stereo and surround content on headphones, Nx also allows mixing for VR audio formats: “The first project that I sound designed and mixed using Waves Nx was a very early VR series called GONE, by the writer and director J. T. Petty. There weren’t many VR oriented/360 audio mixing programs available at that time, and Nx was a great way to get a sense of how the head tracking and spatial implementation of the audio would be experienced. When the final version of the series was released, the audio experience was very close to how it sounded when using Nx in the edit/mix process. I also mixed some of the music for my Shudder/AMC TV show Deadwax using Nx, as well as much of the music I’ve been composing since then.”

Nx also helps Reznick battle ear fatigue: “One of the biggest issues I have with mixing all day on one speaker monitor setup is that I tend to drive the volume louder and louder as I do—mostly because I’ve been hearing the same sound for hours—and this can lead to some sloppy mix choices due to ear fatigue. Even when I don’t need to mix on headphones, having Nx as an option is great because I can change up my listening environment in a comfortable way and get that new perspective.”

Learn more about the Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin.

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