One of my VIP members asked this:

What do you think of the IK Multimedia ARC room correction plugin for mixing, because frankly my mixes are horrible…a better definition would be extreme mud.

Things like ARC seem like really good ideas, and they can perhaps be a little helpful, but only if your room is already properly treated.

I did a class on acoustic treatment a while back with my acoustician friend Gavin Haverstick, and that question came up several times.

(If you’re unfamiliar with ARC, it’s a plugin that uses a microphone to measure the frequency response of your room. Then the plugin EQ’s your speakers to give you a flatter, more accurate response.)

Gavin actually TESTED a system like ARC, and all he found from his measurements was that the signal had the exact same frequency curve, but it was just 3 dB louder.

Louder sounds better, y’know?

So…I’d say focus on the room itself. Make sure it’s not the wrong dimensions. If it is, think about switching rooms. Otherwise, some more bass traps and absorption might be the ticket.

Aside from acoustic treatment, the biggest thing you can do is simply learn more and more how to mix on your system.

Every room has problems.

Every room lies to you.

“Fix” the room as best you can, but ultimately you need to train yourself to mix IN the room.

That class I mentioned above? Yeah, all the recordings are available for purchase. (Nifty, right?)

Before you drop a lot of money on acoustic treatment or room correction systems, make sure you actually understand what’s going on in your room.

It’s all waiting for you here:

  • Lloyd Brown

    Hi Joe,

    Sorry, but I think you have this one wrong. You stated that a test was done by someone other than you on “a system like ARC”. This is unfair and misleading given your article title. ARC gives you a room profile. So, even if you just go through the measurement steps and never use the master fader insert, you have specific data profiling the acoustics in your room. You can then use this data to make more educated decisions when you mix. It also gives you an idea of how you should acoustically treat your room. Then go back and measure again to see the effect of the acoustic treatment. More empirical data is always a good thing.

    Remember, this is just another tool to help you understand what is going on in your room. I think we all agree, this should not be a substitute for properly treating a room (although the folks at ARC may disagree). This is a relatively low cost option to help you understand the big picture concerning your room acoustics. Once understood, you can more confidently adjust the guitar +1dB at 2.47kHz with a tight Q to make room for the background vocals.

    By the way, I love your new album. It helped keep me calm while I did my taxes this weekend 🙂

    • Thanks, Lloyd. I’m not saying ARC is bad…not at all. I’m just saying it’s not the ONLY solution. ARC won’t fix an untreated room. There’s stuff happening in the time domain that an EQ (even a really nice, tuned EQ) won’t fix.

      The issues that happen when the sound bounces off the side walls and hits your ears? That will NEVER be fixed by EQ or anything else other than a physical absorber or diffusor on the side walls.

  • Roger

    While I agree with understanding the room problems in the first place, something went clearly wrong with that ‘TEST’. ARC changes not only the frequency response, but also introduces phase changes that you can hear CLEARLY!

    The 3 dB argument has a major flaw, as ARC has the ability to change manually the output level and do an A/B comparison. When you do this and match the levels with and without the ARC engaged, you can hear perfectly that there’s a distinct change in the frequency response.

    Now, it won’t be a magical pill and solve problems in a room where you have lots of reverberation, but there’s definitely something wrong with that “exact same frequency curve, only 3 dB louder”.

    Sorry, but that’s impossible unless you start with a perfect frequency response without the ARC (in which case you wouldn’t need it).

    • Hey Roger… it may not have been ARC he was testing but one of the other systems, but this guy has done acoustic design for YEARS, so I trust his ability to test all these things.

      • Roger

        I don’t have any doubts regarding the ability of that guy.
        I was just saying that those results couldn’t be correct with IK Multimedia ARC. I have mixed opinions on ARC, but it does make a significant change in both frequency and phase response. Some people love it and some people hate it, but the original question was about this specific room correction software, and your answer was built around another program, which leads to misinformation. The biggest problem with ARC on a small room is that you can have significant changes in frequency just by moving a few inches (IK ARC makes an average measurement of several locations on the room), and while it can be very efficient at cutting a frequency where the room has a boost, it can do little to nothing on a null. This null would have to be addressed with acoustic treatment and speaker placement, but these are two things that are hard to do in a small room. 🙂

  • HI Joe

    You might want to be very clear about that “Gavin actually tested a system ARC” stattement. I tried ARC with knowledge of the limitations and issues of this type of correction and was amazed at how much it helped. I can categorically state that ARC specifically does not behave as quoted. I have no affiliation with IK Multimedia and no axe to grind here, but it’s easily measured for an objective confirmation and easily heard (try a comparison against a your studio ‘phones) for a quick subjective check.


    • Sorry – I put emphasis marks around the word LIKE in the quote and somehow lost the word!