I Calibrated My Home Studio With $30 Behringer Mic and Expensive Sound ID Reference Mic and Here’s What Happened

Like most people I want to have a monitoring situation in my studio that I can fully trust. That requires not only acoustic treatment but speaker calibration and room calibration. Sound ID reference by Sonarworks fills this gap and allows home and project studio engineers to have fairly reliable and trustworthy rooms to record and mix in.

The thing is, Sound ID reference software is expensive–esp. if you get the version with a calibrated microphone. I recognize there are alternatives, but I have tested all of them (speaker and headphone software), and nothing comes close to the simplicity and accuracy of Sound ID Reference, so it’s just one of those necessary expenses if you’re serious about getting good sound. Nevertheless, I decided to use Behringer’s $30 measurement microphone, the ECM 8000, to measure my room prior to using the Sound ID Ref mic that came with the software (shout out to sweetwater.com for the overnight delivery! Please support this wonderful company). I was really curious to see how far apart they were.

Now before I show you the results, I’d like to add that I researched prior to this purchase and learned a couple of important factors. First, the Behringer mic is said to have a very flat response all the way up until about 4K evidently. It is also said to have a bump in the high frequency range. Conversely, the mic that comes with a sound reference ID software is actually uniquely calibrated and made flat for the most accurate test result you could possibly get. So keep those two things in mind as you look at this graph.

Here are the results of the two tests:

OK, so a couple things here. At first glance they look very similar. In fact when I first saw them I didn’t really even notice that much of a difference. But upon closer inspection you’ll find there are some key differences that could literally make or break a mix. The first one happens at around 150 Hz, but there are two other significant variances. In number 1 (circled), there is a significant difference at 1 kHz.In number 2 there is a huge variance across multiple bands in the high frequency range. The reason is because the ECM 8000 is said to have a bump in that region.

The takeaway here is that microphones are not created equal. You get what you pay for.

One more thing. Regarding the huge bump at 1 kHz. The interesting thing about this is that the Yamaha HS7’s I’m measuring are known to have a bump at that very region. In fact, if you read scientific reviews about the HS7’s, many say it’s a problem and that you should “EQ it out” of your final output. But they are mistaken. Yamaha added this bump to compensate for attenuation of this frequency in small home studios. It’s not an “accident.” Due to the configuration of my home studio, there is a huge gap in that region, and had I not calibrated it, there’s no way my mixes would be balanced, especially in the most critical vocal region of 1 kHz.

Bottom Line: spend the time and money to calibrate with the right equipment.

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