IK Multimedia Arc 2.5

New Gear/New Toys Review: IK Multimedia Arc 2.5

IK Multimedia's latest version of their Advanced Room Correction software now includes a MEMS microphone. MEMS (or micro-electro-mechanical systems) are capsules fabricated just like semi-conductors chips in the surface mount assembly processes. This omnidirectional capsule offers maximum response accuracy and stability over time in contrast to standard condenser measurement microphones that are subject to subtle frequency response variations.

So, besides being a rugged microphone you can use in the studio and carrying around without damage, know that the new MEMS microphone greatly improves the accuracy and repeatability of measurements made using this new version of ARC. Previously included condenser microphones in earlier versions of ARC are also supported in the setup section of the software.

As before IK's ARC 2.5 uses the Audyssey MultEQ® XT32 patented technology to first measure your room's acoustics and then build a corrective curve profile you can run in the monitor path of your DAW. The goal here is to reduce the negative room acoustics caused by low frequency ringing (called room modes), and complicated phase artifacts caused by reflective surfaces such as floors, ceilings and walls.

The best monitor systems sound no better than the room they are setup and used in. Ultimately the sound of your room may cause the monitors to lose their accuracy and lead to a false representation of the way your music actually sounds. After properly setup, ARC 2.5 will improve clarity, stereo imaging and frequency response in any room to the extent and capability of your monitors. You can improve a room that is already acoustically well treated like here in my Tones 4 $ Studios mix room.

What Else Is New?

ARC 2.5 has four times the resolution at low frequencies from 40Hz down to 10Hz. This is critical in small room acoustics where the majority of serious problems are in the low frequencies due to the room's physical dimensions--the width, height, and length. Small rooms are too small to contain low frequencies without them bouncing around and creating either severe dips (cancellations) or peaks (buildups) in various locations in the room.

I found in my very first use that there was also more clarity in the mid and high frequencies as well--it sounded "less processed". If your left and right monitors are positioned with absolute symmetry, you'll hear an improved stereo image and focus that's noticeable with center-panned tracks in the mix such as vocals, bass, snares, and kicks.

Let's Get To It!

I installed the ARC 2.5 measurement software and plug-in into my Pro Tools HDX 12.8.2 system. I've been using IK's ARC since it came out and this new version is better than ever yet retains the familiar, simple setup and plug-in operation.

On the measurement mic setup page, there are now three choices of microphones including the MEMS mic and the older ARC mics if you have one, otherwise the process is the same as version 2.

For repeatability and accuracy, I have stuck 16 "dots" on my control room floor spaced in a grid surrounding my chair in the center listening position. If I made any single change in my room and setup--speakers, removed or added absorption panels etc., I had those dots to re-measure after the change. After the initial measurement at the listening position, the software instructions "walk" you through the rest of the steps. I saved the measurement as "New_ARC_1".

The ARC 2.5 Plug-In

In Pro Tools, I inserted in the plug-in in the monitoring Master fader and found all my old measurements were still in the drop down menu along with "New_ARC_1". So nothing is lost. The plug-in has the Monitor Page that is great for laptop users with its large Volume control, Master Level control, the DIM and Mute buttons, plus the very useful Mode control switch. With the Mode switch, you can listen in Mono, Stereo, and the Side or difference signal present in all stereo recordings--its great to check out your added reverbs, delays and the sound of any phase-related effects.

I liked the selection of different Target Curves you can monitor through or design your own Custom curve and save up to four of them. Also useful are the Virtual Monitoring choices--my students love to listen to their mixes through "80's White"--a virtual model of the ubiquitous Yamaha NS-10M monitor speakers.

I liked what I'm hearing with IK Multimedia ARC 2.5! With it switched in, correction is smoother in my small mix room; ARC 2.5 takes the sound accuracy to a higher plane of perfection and works with my existing acoustic treatments and bass trapping. IK Multimedia's ARC 2.5 System is, by far, the simplest and most bulletproof measurement/correction software I've used.

IK Multimedia ARC 2.5 with the MEMS microphone sells for $199 MSRP.


More on MEMS Sensors: edn.com/design/analog/4430264/Basic-principles-of-MEMS-microphones

Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine. barryrudolph.com