March 2011 Issue
Road Tests


In the studio world, everyone faces the same challenge of referencing. All of us have spent God-knows how many hours tweaking and EQing to get our mix to sound the best it possibly can. Then you finally burn the masterpiece to a CD and put it in the car to hear it and, lo and behold, your face is melted with 4k. Or you have a wonderful 120Hz roar. What happened? Your wonderful studio monitors, that's what.
The main reason for this problem is that not every producer or hobbyist has two grand to spend on a pair of JBL LSRs. Your speakers, even if they were to accurately reproduce everything coming from your PC or console, still face the number-one problem with home studios: the studio. Every single thing that is sitting in your bedroom, or closet, or garage, affects the way the sound travels from your monitors to your ears. The more stuff around you, the less negligible the effect becomes. "Stuff" includes your chair, decorations, windows and doors, the studio couch (courtesy of the Larry Hall studio), and even your body. Top-of-the-line recording studios spend countless dollars installing foam absorption panels and sound insulating wood flooring and vibration-resistant Plexiglas just to minimize the effect the room has on sound. So now that you have all of these factors that would drive any obsessive-compulsive man/lady insane, what can you, a simple hobbyist or aspiring producer do about it? The people at KRK were thinking the same thing, and as a result they made the ERGO.


The Concept


The concept of the ERGO is simple enough. You place it in line right before your speakers and run the attached software to calibrate your sound to rid your studio of the anomalies "stuff" in the room causes. The provided software instructs you to point the provided calibration microphone in different locations around the room while it plays eerie dissonant nonsense until the software decides that it knows enough about what is going on. The installation and setup took about 30 minutes total, and after that, you can even unplug the thing from the computer. OR you can keep it plugged in and use it as an audio interface, which is awesome. It even has options of doing the same calibration with a subwoofer if you are so inclined to have one (I would have loved to try this feature but I do not have a studio sub to try it with).


The Results


The results were pretty impressive. I could immediately tell a difference, especially in the lower registers. The grunge and mud that I couldn't even notice beforehand were instantly wiped away as soon as I played one of my favorite MP3s through my Zune. (Yeah, that's right - a Zune. Sit on that). I am now using it as an interface with my computer, phasing out my unreliable MOTU 8Pre. Yeah, it doesn't have all of the fancy I/O options, but it sounds that good.


Why it Matters


Now this raises the most perhaps the biggest question of all. I know what you might be thinking: "OMGLOLZ, I don't care about studio equipment, I thought this was FOH Mag!" Shut up and read more. Live acts are starting this trend where they want to record their live shows as they go to upload on their website, or offer them as a paid download. This is all fine and dandy, as the average engineer can just press the "record" button on their 2-track CD burner and send it signal mixed from the console. But some engineers have elaborate multi-track recording software and audio interfaces to maximize control over the final sound. For the same reason that live recordings from a 2-track CD player sound completely different from the actual live show, your ears are going to hear differently as you bounce around, night to night, mastering in different hotel rooms, which will result in an inconsistent mix every time you change location. Using the ERGO for this application would certainly help minimize the effect of such variances and help give all of your live recordings, regardless of location, a more consistent quality (assuming you are a badass and bring monitors around with you).


Live "Studios"


As a final note, given the fact that the ERGO's calibration is most likely an EQ algorithm, there is no reason for me not to believe that this can be of use in a ballroom or some sort of enclosed "live" venue. I think it would take a bit longer to calibrate, as there is more space for the software to analyze, but the notion certainly raises interest. It could be thought of as Smaart-Live: Automatic Edition. I do not think it could be used outdoors, simply because the "infinite baffle" system isn't necessarily efficient to begin with, but more experimentation would be necessary to see the true potential of such a device. Strictly as an interface and a room correction tool, the ERGO sounds great, looks sexy, and is easy to use. The ERGO is awesome. 






What It Is: Studio Correction Package

Who It's For: Anyone mixing in inconsistent environments

Pros: Super simple to use. Does exactly what it claims

Cons: None

How Much? $799 (Retail); $499
(Suggested selling price)

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