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Hands on: VRM virtual reference monitor for musicians

updated 03:30 pm EST, Fri January 28, 2011

Box replicates sound from pro-level studio setups

Among the hundreds of Macworld Expo exhibitors, a handful of companies are showing off gear designed for musicians. MacNN previewed Focusrite's VRM box, a small accessory that replicates the sound from reference monitors in professional studios. The system helps to avoid problems that arise when users attempt to mix tracks through headphones, which naturally present a different sound than reference monitors or other types of speakers.

The hardware works directly with the company's VRM software, allowing users to choose between different mixing environments and speaker setups. Speaker models include a range of studio monitors from companies such as Alesis, Yamaha, B&W and Genelec, along with computer desktop speakers and televisions.

Musicians already have several options for virtual speaker models, but most of the products still rely on a computer's built-in headphone amplifier. The majority of computers lack the quality and power to properly drive high-impedance headphones. The VRM box integrates its own headphone amplifier, providing a boost in power and consistency regardless of the computer it is attached to.

We were impressed by the entire system, which serves a variety of purposes. The VRM box is perfect for musicians who record to their computers without a real studio, or users who have proper speakers but want to mix on the road or at night.

High quality headphones are a must, as the speaker models are essentially worthless without a pair of headphones, such as Etymotic's ER4-series, that can produce a flat response. An added bonus is the ability to use the VRM box as a headphone amplifier when listening to music or other audio content.

When we asked for pricing information, we expected an answer somewhere around $200 or higher, but the company is selling the VRM hardware/software bundle for $99.

by MacNN Staff



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