IK Multimedia’s ARC (Acoustic Room Correction) is a correction system for anything from an ordinary room turned into a sound studio to a professional studio, auditioning room or small auditorium.
It all starts with the new analysis application. The previous version had a skeuomorphic look-and-feel. It was OK, but the new app has better graphics and offers a far better user experience. The guided analysis process is also much simpler and faster. It starts with a general-purpose introduction screen with a link to an explanatory video and you’re further guided step-by-step through the analysis process. Of course, moron nr 1 — that’s me — managed to ignore that you need to actually place your measurement mic in the locations clearly shows on the screen, but once you’re actually focused on the job you can’t miss the clues.
If I’m not mistaken, version 2 already supported IK’s own older measurement mics. The new version also works with any measurement microphone that is compatible with standard mic calibration files. That means that, if you have one of those expensive mics lying around, you can feed the app the calibration data and use the mic to correct your acoustics.
IK Multimedia makes some noise about a new 3D room analysis technology based on IK’s new volumetric technology, which is supposed to deliver the best sonic performance of the corrected system, so I was particularly interested in whether there is any difference with the previous version. And boy, is there a difference.
The new process takes a bit longer than version 2’s, with three heights at which each location is measured, but the results are far better. With version 2, I lost a bit of stereo image when using the corrected profile. Not so with version 3. The stereo image is intact, the speakers sound as flat as they can be and you can now really be sure that whatever EQ or other effect you add to the sound you’re editing will not be exaggerated or too little because of your room acoustics.
ARC 3 plug-in
The ARC 3 plug-in is a multiplatform audio processor that applies the correction curve measured with the analysis application to the incoming audio stereo signal in real-time. Measurements taken with the older ARC 2 system won’t show up here as they are incompatible due to algorithm improvements.
The plug-in has new graphics inside a resizable user interface and a new processing engine for sonic transparency. If your main goal is to get the sound out of your speakers as flat as possible, you’re fine with the default settings, but if you want to add the speakers’ own colouration back, you can by adjusting the highs and lows over a correction range that is suitable to maintain the speakers’ sonic signature.
The ARC 3 plug-in changes the stereo master bus level. For this reason, a precision peak meter with several metering options is included to show both input or output levels (pre/post) so that the actual project master level can be kept under control. IK derived the metering from the acclaimed T-RackS 5 metering and it offers PEAK, RMS, Loudness (LUFS) and Dynamic Range (DR) indications for both Pre and Post processing signals.
A new set of alternative speaker and device responses has been added to the Virtual Monitoring menu. These let you hear how your mix translates in various conditions. The virtual device responses load as curves which are the real frequency responses of professional studio speakers, TV sets, car audio, desktop and laptop speakers, etc. Since the sonic signature of those alternative systems is played over a calibrated system, the result is claimed to be like mixing in a transparent and balanced room with different speakers. I couldn’t try that out so I’ll take IK’s word for it.
Furthermore, the new plug-in has Natural and Linear phase modes for best L-R phase coherency of the monitoring system and a real-time audio analyser shows the relation between monitoring performance and the incoming program.