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June 2017 Giveaway

Hands On Review: Focusrite VRM Box

Think you’ve been getting the most out of your headphones? If you haven’t been using VRM, then you could be missing out on something pretty amazing. What’s VRM? It stands for “Virtual Reference Monitoring,” a technology developed by Focusrite that simulates a variety of monitoring environments inside your headphones. You’re given emulations of 15 different sets of studio monitors, stereo speakers, in-wall speakers, and the speakers in an LCD TV, along with models of three rooms (pro studio, living room, and bedroom studio). By switching among the various speakers and rooms, you can hear how your audio will sound played back in many different situations, just by listening on headphones.

First introduced as part of the company’s Saffire PRO 24 DSP audio interface (and reviewed in the Summer 2009 issue of SweetNotes), VRM is now available in a standalone form, as the VRM Box. At its most basic, the VRM Box is a headphone amplifier with a USB input for direct connection to your Mac or PC and a S/PDIF digital input that can be connected to any compatible audio interface. Plug it straight in and cue up the music; you’ll be treated to excellent sound quality, with volume control accessible via a knob on the top of the VRM Box.

But load the included software into your computer, and the VRM Box jumps to entirely new heights. As mentioned earlier, you can hear your audio played back with emulations of different speakers and rooms, allowing you reference your sound in various environments. The VRM control panel software, with its clear user interface, is simple to use.

In practice, the VRM Box and software do their job – there’s a clear impression that you have changed speakers or location as you switch among the speaker and room emulations. It really does work!

Though the ideal is to have a purpose-designed studio with top-of-the-line monitoring and acoustic treatment, many of us must monitor at least part of the time on headphones. Why not optimize your time in the ‘phones with the VRM Box?

Mitch Gallagher

About Mitch Gallagher

Sweetwater Editorial Director, Mitch Gallagher, is one of the leading music/pro audio/audio recording authorities in the world. The former senior technical editor of Keyboard magazine and former editor-in-chief of EQ magazine, Gallagher has published thousands of articles, is the author of seven books and one instructional DVD, and appears in well over 500 videos on YouTube. He teaches audio recording and music business at Purdue University/Indiana University, and has appeared at festivals, conventions, and conferences around the world.
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