KRK Systems ERGO review

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frott
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KRK Systems ERGO review

Post by frott » Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:51 am

Room correction systems are generally a flamebait topic on internet forums. On one hand you have people who post reviews about how it made their mixes better, more portable, easier (to mix), warm and punchy, focused, impressive... and a dozen more meaningless adjectives that make anyone who wants to mix drool. KRK is a newer entry into this market, with the IK Multimedia ARC and other Audessey tools being sold for this exact same purpose and/or for subwoofer & home stereo setup.

On the other hand you have folks like Ethan Winer who debunk these tools as snake oil, and provide sound scientific rationale on how/why they can't work, and how most of the changes are not necessarily for the better and that there is a bit of wishful thinking in that the $5-800 item was not a waste of money. Unfortunately, most of this response is embedded in the fact that these people also produce/provide room treatment services and products.

I have read identical reviews of IK Multimedia's ARC system to the one posted for the ERGO in tape op. Both items use the same language and they're not playing around:

"ERGO produces the best mix for a given room;
a mix that will translate better to other listening environments,
since it was mixed in a 'perfect' room."

The ARC system has the same sort of language. To someone a little more aware of how room acoustics works, this is a massive red flag as it seems to be trying to hook those who don't have at least a rough idea of what to expect out of these products.


The ARC system purports to be able to correct not only a focus position but any position in the room! What's odd about that is that there doesn't appear to be any way of switching between those position's outputs in that system. So the KRK version has a switch, which gets us to the next step...

Calibration!

here is a demo of someone showing how to calibrate the "room:"
http://www.truesoundcontrol.com/product ... DAodNT6EFg

here is the quick start guide:
http://www.krksys.com/manuals/ErgoQSGuide.pdf


Now please, someone explain to me how these devices can "know" what your room image really is if you're just randomly placing the calibration mic around the room? If I have a bass node on the left and it needs to clean that node up, how does it know to do that on the left if when I'm calibrating it has no idea where I'm putting the microphone?

I would understand it if it required some sort of pinpoint accurate measurements input into the system?


The statement in the review: "the ergo isn't cheap, but neither is room treatment" is bogus and the way these "we make your room perfect and fix everything" items hook their customers.

I've read some pretty hilarious testimonies from people who use these devices in immaculately designed control rooms with bizarre effects, which seems like a pretty damning bit of anecdote!

But that's all it is. On one hand you have people saying that it is impossible for these things to reliably work, on the other you have some people who claim nothing but good has come from them.

With what little i know about acoustics, these seem bogus. Specifically that calibrating my "listening position" with a cheap omni mic seems foolish when that isn't exactly how my head hears the speakers, not to mention using the AD/DA on the ERGO. That requirement alone is bizarre.

Any other thoughts?

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JWL
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Post by JWL » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:02 pm

I mostly agree with your questions.... I have serious reservations about "room correction" software like this. But then, I sell acoustic treatment, so as you say you should take my opinion with a grain of salt....

Really, for me it all comes down to one thing: every point in the room has its own "frequency response" curve, and these curves will be different everywhere in the room. So even if you optimize things for one place in the room (ie, the mix position), then you are almost certainly making things worse everywhere else in the room (ie, don't lean back in your chair while mixing!). This one objection alone is the most fundamental that I have.

That said, I think there are cases where correction software like this can help. For instance, in a well-treated room there are usually a few anomalies left, though they are smaller and less severe than they were previously. EQ (or more "intelligent" room correction software) can be useful in some instances for these situations, which often tend to be somewhat consistent throughout the room.

If I was ever going to use this technology, it would certainly be the last resort, to "mop up" after real room treatment did all the heavy lifting. But practically, I can say that I've never been in a well-treated room, listened to music, and thought, "man, if we only had the ARC system, this would be perfect...."

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Post by TapeOpLarry » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:54 am

Below is the actual review so that people are not basing this discussion on selective or incorrect memory. My take? I'm VERY skeptical of this sort of technology. I don't believe it can change things all that much in a listening position. And I don't want to run my mix through someone's A/D - D/A convertors unless I really have to! But, as Scott notes here, this ERGO thing did make some changes in what he heard and he was able to utilize it in his workflow in a positive way. I trust Scott, and know him well, and if he thought this thing was useless he would have passed it on to someone else or ignored it. And we did not run a review saying "Now you can skip treating your control room properly" because we are all too grounded in the real world to ever say shit that fucking stupid. We also didn't reprint the manufacturer's description (as in frott's post) and pretend that was a review.

My bottom line? I wouldn't buy this in a million years, but then again 75% of the stuff we review I either have something better or equivalent or just plain don't need it (or want it). I'm not convinced it's a product many people need, but if we were to tell Scott, "You're wrong. That couldn't have helped at all," then we would be lying. If someone can find a positive use and possible need for a product then we will try to review it. -Larry Crane


ERGO monitor controller
& room correction system

For me, ?perfect rooms? are boring! I like to hear the walls
bounce and the floor shake. Spaces with character change the
way we perceive both the music we love and the music we
make. Unfortunately, if the rooms we mix in are much less than
perfect, elements in the vibe and nuances of our mixes may
certainly be lost in the listening environment of living rooms,
cars, and earbuds. So it?s not about you ? great mixes are
made with the listener in mind, right?Don?t be selfish. Move
your monitors further away from your facing bedroom wall,
place a bookshelf behind your back, and nail some pillows on
both sides of the wall between the monitors and your ears. Or,
you could try one of these room correction gadgets?Paired
with their well-designed monitor controller and patented
Room Perfect software algorithm developed by Lyngdorf Audio,
KRK?s ERGO (Enhanced Room Geometry Optimization) system
claims to edge a problematic room towards an accurate mixing
environment. Common problems with a ?less than perfect?
control room or bedroom studio include frequency ?black
holes?, reflections, and time-alignment issues. Lyngdorf?s
Room Perfect seeks to address these issues by digitally
capturing Room Knowledge of your space, then employing
targeted digital-filtering correction. Initially, I?ve always been
hesitant to trust any processing that changes how a monitor
is designed to perform. However, KRK asserts that the goal of
their system is not to color, sweeten, or castrate your studio
with an apparent or unnatural correction personality. So with
a combination of excitement and noted skepticism, I began
the process of reorienting my monitoring system and installing
new software.Upon opening the box, I was pleased with the
conciseness of the provided Quick Start Guide and the heavy
duty build of the ERGO controller. Its face offers a nice, big,
2.5??, ring-lit volume knob and monitor control buttons, in
addition to LEDs indicating clipping, FireWire/DC power, and
calibration mode. The back panel utilizes 1/4?? TRS connectors
for analog I/O as well as S/PDIF and FireWire for digital I/O
(up to 96 kHz). There?s also a calibration input for use with the
included omni measurement microphone. The anodized
aluminum case provides a desktop footprint that fits nicely
next to your QWERTY keyboard. A minor inconvenience in the
design of the box is that the headphone volume thumb knob
is located on the right side. In its natural position when placed
on the left side of the desktop (opposite the mouse), the
headphone volume controller is sometimes obscured by the
computer?s keyboard. Even though it?s well lit, I didn?t notice
the knob at first and feared that the headphone and main
monitoring levels were foolishly mirrored ? which thankfully
is not the case. The headphone path is also smartly unaffected
when room calibration mode is engaged.
Though KRK claims that their D/A and A/D converters are
top notch, an analog input setup from your DAW will have to
pass through both the DAW?s and the ERGO?s converters,
inevitably adding some modest latency. Since my DAW offers
S/PDIF output, I opted to connect to the ERGO digitally (KRK?s
suggested option). I used my powered monitors to the ERGO?s
first output set. The second monitor output set gives you the
option to use an additional pair of monitors, or in my case a
sub.The 2-page Quick Start Guide was super-easy to interpret,
making for a trouble-free hardware and software installation.
As soon as the software is installed, ERGO?s room-calibration
software takes you through a step-by-step process designed to
capture a comprehensive Room Knowledge of your space so
the ERGO system can apply its compensation filters for two
modes of correction: Focus and Global. The first step is to
normalize monitor volume, then calibrate your main, Focus
listening position by sending audio signals through your
monitors which are then captured by the measurement mic
placed in your preferred sweet spot. Next, a series of Global
measurements are taken by placing the microphone in random
positions throughout the room. Focus is intended for the
engineer?s listening position while Global employs a different
filtering correction for a broader listening area.
My room is basically a small, single-car garage with a
vaulted ceiling. I?ve taken pains to find the best placement for
my monitors, and though I have not yet invested in any
significant room treatment, I?ve used elements of my room for
diffusion and to minimize early reflections ? therefore, I was
expecting something dramatic! Instead, it was the subtle
changes that really impressed.
In both correction modes, the most apparent changes were
in the stereo field. I?ve got an air conditioner poking out of
the wall near my right monitor, and a 4 1/2 ft tall rack by the
left one, so I know that my imaging is affected. In Global
mode, I perceived the correction to be very subtle, but
obvious ? with stereo drums especially. I also noticed a
tightening of the low end and generally a more ?open? feel in
the middle of the EQ range. In Focus mode, monitoring was
just that ? focused. To my ears, I could almost hear the
correction in time-alignment ? but I know that was partly
psychological. The low end was tight and punchy. Focus mode
definitely made it easier to place the kick and bass guitar
within the mix. Typically, I feel that I rely too heavily on stereo
placement to separate nuances of the mix; however, I found
that the Focus algorithm gave me the confidence to integrate
accurate EQ?ing as a ?definition? tool. In practice, I felt that
my Focus mixes translated well in varied environments but
surprisingly well on laptop speakers and iPod earbuds.
Previously, my mixes sounded less ?round? in smaller speakers.
The ability to switch between Focus, Global, and Bypass offers
a great way to audition mixes in different ?perceptions? ?
much in the same way we often audition monitors of varying
character during the mix process. I found this to be the most
useful tool in the box.In addition to features discussed, the
ERGO can also function as an audio interface and with a
software control panel adds another level of utility. Within the
control panel, you can customize speaker modes, adjust
crossover frequencies for your subwoofer, and specify audio
sample rates.The ERGO isn?t cheap, but neither is room
treatment. Considering that you?re getting a great monitor
controller, audio interface, and room correction system all in
one kit, it?s really a cost-effective solution for project studios
existing in less than ideal circumstances ? and a great option
for use in mobile and remote applications. Paired with existing
room treatment and good speaker placement, the ERGO can be
even more effective. I?m not promising that this little magic
box will turn a walk-in closet into a control room ? I don?t
think that?s what KRK had in mind. In my opinion, the idea
behind ERGO?s room optimization is not to change the way
your room sounds, but to ?clear the air? so you hear the
problems in your mix, not the room. Mission accomplished.
($799 MSRP; www.krksys.com)
?Scott McChane, www.scottmcchane.com
Larry Crane, Editor/Founder Tape Op Magazine
please visit www.tapeop.com for contact information
(do not send private messages via this board!)
www.larry-crane.com

Andy Peters
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Re: KRK Systems ERGO review

Post by Andy Peters » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:46 pm

Basically, this thing is Yet Another Automatic "Room Correction" device.

Hopefully it is more than doing a simple FFT and applying an inverse filter.

The guys who do acoustic measurement for real are always wary of automatic EQ systems for one simple reason. As Sam Berkow likes to say, "The only way to tune a room is with a bulldozer!" In other words, you really can't use electronics to solve architectural acoustics problems. If there's a suckout or a bass node in some part of the room, you can't apply electronic equalization to this because if you fix that particular problem, you make matters worse in some other part of the room.

The mathematical reason is that these problems are not minimum phase and cannot be corrected with standard minimum-phase filters.

Now of course many speaker-response problems ARE minimum phase and these are reasonably corrected by EQ. I say "reasonably" because remember that the output of a speaker is really three-dimensional, and especially if the radiation pattern isn't omnidirectional you can repair things on-axis but the off-axis response suffers.

So, anyways, to a great extent you can optimize electronically for a particular sweet spot in the room, but do that only after you've done the real work of fixing the architecture, minimizing reflections off of various surfaces, etc etc.

-a
"On the internet, nobody can hear you mix a band."

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Post by firby » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:52 pm

I think the current whargarbl about room treatment is a good trend for mixing rooms.

However, I could give a rat's ass about treatment for a tracking room. Some tracking rooms sound good for tracking and others don't. It is often dependent on the instrument, some rooms might sound terrible to track a singer in but sound really good for rock drums or whatever.

Several times, in forums I have seen where a poster has outlined that you have to treat the rooms that you track in. That is malarky ... if the room sounds good for that particular instrument in that particular spot on that particular day then consider it a good omen and track immediately!

But for mixing, certainly listen to the room treatment nazis. If you have spent just a little bit of time in a nicely designed control room you will undoubtedly notice the sound of that room by the time you close the door. Generally, mixes in those rooms have translated pretty effortlessly in my experience.
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Post by LazarusLong » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:47 pm

I think when you consider the situation that the target customer for these units is in, it is a viable "solution". I 100% agree that a good room does not come from DSP, but there is no amount of treatment you could put into some some bedrooms to make them sound even decent. Having software notch out some problem frequencies with a linear-phase EQ isn't so criminal for the bedroom warriors. They need one small orb to be right - the mix position. Pitching it as a replacement for acoustic treatment is wrong, however.

When you have realistic expectations, I think these types of units are great. For the right person. With the right budget. In the right situation.
The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.

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JWL
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Post by JWL » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:41 pm

LazarusLong wrote:I 100% agree that a good room does not come from DSP, but there is no amount of treatment you could put into some some bedrooms to make them sound even decent.
I have to disagree with you there. I have yet to encounter any bedroom (or other small room) that hasn't been vastly improved for mixing, listening, or tracking by implementing an intelligent room treatment strategy.

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