Waves Audio released a new product called Nx – Virtual Mix Room at this year’s NAMM show in California. To be honest, this product took me a little by surprise. It’s one of those plugins that initially looked a bit boring until I read a little more and saw it in action.
Waves NX simulates a room environment for mixing audio, not a variety of rooms however, just the one for now. The remarkable bit, which may just be a novelty – but a cool one, is that it tracks the movement of your head using either a webcam, or an as yet unavailable bluetooth tracker which promises to be more accurate.
When I downloaded the demo I didn’t expect the web camera to work as it’s built into my Mac cinema display which is connected to a PC, and I’ve never bothered to set it up. On installing the plugin demo and adding it to Reaper’s Master channel I was amazed that something weird was happening as I moved my head. To be honest I thought my large speakers were actually on and had to take my headphones off to be sure.
So it worked. Straight off, it accurately tracked my head movements and was simulating speaker placement and what happens when you move your head around – i.e. turn your head left and you get more audio in the right ear and vice versa. It’s an interesting effect that did actually ‘delight’ me (yes, that word). It changes the sound space putting more audio in front of you (i.e. mixing the wider stereo image closer to the centre space) and simulates the cross-feed that you get with real stereo monitors – i.e. you don’t just hear the audio from the left speaker in your left ear, you also hear some of that in your right ear and vice versa.
It’s certainly interesting. How accurate it is, I don’t know. How useful it is, I don’t know either. It might be more interesting if it simulated different sized rooms, speakers and environments, but so far it doesn’t – but I expect this to happen in the future. You can add extra ambience to the room, simulate 5.0 and 5.1, and watching the head tracking overlay when selected is very cool. It’s about £35, which is probably a bargain for the audio processing and head tracking algorithms at play, but only if it can prove itself useful. Hopefully the intro price won’t expire before I discover whether it is or not.