Acoustical issues that interfere with accurate monitoring are a common problem in home studios. One way to overcome them is by monitoring in a virtual environment over headphones. The latest product to offer this capability is VSX by Steven Slate Audio, which consists of a pair of specialized headphones and an accompanying modeling plug-in that uses binaural technology.
Steven Slate Audio designed VSX to re-create the acoustics of two studio control rooms (NRG and Archon), Howie Weinberg’s mastering room, a couple of car interiors, a club, an audiophile listening room, a boombox, several different studio headphones and even Apple Earbuds and AirPods.
The headphones themselves are the closed-back type and feature beryllium drivers. You can use them standalone or in conjunction with the plug-in. According to Steven Slate Audio, they offer the “most authentic sub-low frequencies available in headphones.”
In tandem with the included VSX plug-in, these headphones are designed to make you feel like you’re actually in the various modeled spaces, allowing you to mix with their virtual acoustics. The NRG and Archon models let you switch between near-field, mid-field and far-field models, providing additional listening choices.
In addition to the modeled spaces, the advantage of a system like VSX is that it allows you to listen on headphones yet hear the audio as if you were listening on speakers, which is a different experience entirely. Standard headphones, by their nature, completely separate the left and right sides of the stereo image. Whereas on speakers, you hear some of the right in the left and vice versa. Your perception of levels can be quite different between headphones and speakers.
I’ve had experience using Waves NX and Abbey Road Studios 3 plug-ins. Both have a similar goal as VSX, making your music sound like you’re hearing it in an actual room through studio monitors, giving you a much better way to mix on headphones.
I haven’t yet had a chance to try the VSX system, but its description sounds promising. Through his various companies, Steven Slate has been putting out modeling products for many years. In addition to many software processor models, Slate Digital produces the VMS Virtual Microphone System, which, like VSX, combines hardware and software to achieve its effect.
One other notable aspect of VSX is that Steven Slate Audio is offering an optional “rent to own” purchase plan, which lets you split the $479 price of the system into 12 monthly installments of $39.99.