Bob Katz trusts VIRTUOSO for stereo and immersive mixing

Posted on 9 July 2024

Bob Katz is a world-renowned mastering and mixing engineer, celebrated for his significant contributions to audio mastering and his influence on industry standards for loudness and audio quality. He has recorded, mixed or mastered three Grammy-winning albums and several Grammy nominees. His book, ‘Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science,’ is considered a seminal text in sound engineering. Recently, Bob has been working on an immersive audio project using VIRTUOSO and has kindly shared his experience with us.

I absolutely recommend VIRTUOSO for mixing engineers who do not have a good listening room.

My Experience with VIRTUOSO – Bob Katz, July 2, 2024

I am a mastering engineer and I also am producing some stereo and immersive mixes. The geometry of my mastering room is absolutely perfect for stereo and 5.1, but due to the extra high ceilings and proximity of a wall with an exit door, it’s been impractical for me to expand to an immersive setup (e.g. 7.1.4).

My stereo mastering monitors and room acoustics are extremely well-aligned, and allow me to produce excellent stereo and 5.1 mixes and masters. But of course I want to expand my work to immersive. And that’s where Virtuoso enters in. I have two sets of what are considered among the world’s best headphones: The Audeze CRBN Electrostatic. I have equalized them to subjectively match the sound of the main stereo loudspeakers. This EQ is so good that, in conjunction with VIRTUOSO’s binaural translation and room ambience, if I close my eyes, it’s very hard to tell that I’m listening to headphones instead of loudspeakers! I know that sounds hard to believe, but technology has greatly advanced and with great care, skill, and good headphones, an engineer can mix in stereo with VIRTUOSO that will translate pretty well to loudspeakers.

Of course I would not mix exclusively in headphones for a release product, because the translation is not perfect and never will be: for example, with headphones, we miss the impact and punch of subwoofers and the depth and precise localization that can be perceived in a good room with loudspeakers. But I absolutely recommend VIRTUOSO for mixing engineers who do not have a good listening room. They can begin the creation of a mix, “rough out” a stereo or immersive mix that will later be fine-tuned in a good room with loudspeakers.

Using VIRTUOSO…I got a sense of height and rear localization which is far better than other binaural systems I have tried.

Recently I mixed an Indian (Punjabi) performance in 7.1.4 with lead female vocal, percussion, two electric bass parts, acoustic and electric guitars, and many Indian instruments. This music was the perfect opportunity to create depth and immerse the listener in a spacious environment. Using VIRTUOSO, I was able to get the basic structure of the piece and most of the EQ and reverberation. With HRTF A and headphone EQ, I got a sense of height and rear localization which is far better than other binaural systems I have tried.

I was able to take the mix to about 80%, after which I booked time at Matt Davis’s Hacienda studios, which is a Dolby-certified 7.1.4 room with superb tonality. I actually brought my Mac M1 Studio with Pro tools and all my dongles, got it going in a short time, hooked into Matt’s MADI interface. Then in a couple of hours, Matt and I refined the mix, taking it to a wonderful experience, with throbbing bass notes coming from above and behind you, the singer suspended slightly above the front center plane, soaring into delays and echos coming from all round. You’ll have to hear it! The artists are Hari and Sukhmani. I’m not sure if they have plans to release it or just perform it on stage at their concerts with a full immersive system.

I highly recommend VIRTUOSO for mixing engineers with a less-than adequate listening room, to get your mixes started, and then book time at an immersive mixing room to finish the mix. With great headphones, properly equalized, you can take the mix at least 80% there. It allows you to be creative in your own space without wasting time in the more expensive room.

Bob Katz  July 2, 2024

Check out APL VIRTUOSO – The Ultimate Binaural Translator