It looks simple and easy. The big knob is just a volume control. That’s it. You plug your headphone in the front, and a USB out the back, straight into your laptop. It’s called the VRM Box. ($99) VRM stands for Virtual Reference Monitoring, and I will try to make sense of it all as you read this post.
In the world of recording an original production, a mixed set, or anything that involves audio, the final crucial step is what’s known as the mastering process. Mastering is a time honored tradition in the recording industry that involves the use of high end speaker monitoring and delicate signal processing to bring your production up to spec for mass production. The best way to describe it is like allowing a bottle of wine to breathe to reach its peak flavor before consumption. The person behind the helm of mastering is known as the mastering engineer, and he is usually an experienced audio engineer and audiophile guru. I ought to know, I was taught by some of the best… When the mastering process is fully completed, you have what’s called a production master.
Now, to get back to the VRM box. Most mastering labs, have their main top-of-the-line speakers that run in the $$$$ thousands, but they also have a few other sets of speakers that emulate different listening conditions for different listening environments. Why, because the average Joe that will listen or buy your masterpiece most likely does not own a pair of high end speakers. Essentially, the average listener owns a pair of bookshelf speakers or basic ear buds, but no matter how simple or complex the production is, it has to sound good on every type of listening gear. And, that is why mastering is so important. It is the final phase that makes a studio master into a production master. Do you now finally get it???
So the folks over at Focusrite took that into consideration when they developed their VRM Box technology. The key component is the accompanying software that drives the unit. All you really need to get the most out of its purpose is a really high end pair of headphones that can deliver the deepest of bass and the necessary details in the mids and crisp highs. Note: I would not even consider a pair of headphones under $150. With that in mind, the software allows you to choose from various sets of monitor speakers and three room-type settings: (1) professional studio, (2) bedroom, and (3) living room. The software basically reproduces the acoustics that each of the rooms have to offer. Focusrite calls this engineering/mathematical spectacle convolution modeling technology.
Some of the range of speakers and room scenarios the VRM software offers.
Another plus to the VRM box is that it also serves as a headphone amp to drive the volume a bit higher to push levels louder. But remember, loudness will not get you to your desired result, so use the volume cautiously! The biggest advantage of the VRM Box is also its ability to allow one to work in the wee hours of the night in the confines of your headset without disturbing anyone and anything around you. Remember, this system is designed strictly for headphone use only. You will also need some mastering/audio engineering and production software, but if you are already cranking out productions, you probably already own one.
This technology is, in my opinion, a game changer for the home studio setting, and it brings mastering technology much more closer to home. In the days of digital, I feel much more comfortable being in full control of the fate of my production rather than have to hand it off or upload it to some facility that can hijack, steal, or copy your precious work. To be able to mimic what is offered in the VRM Box package for a mere $99, you would need to spend thousands of dollars in speaker switchers, amps, and speakers, of course. Some critics and haters will often stand their ground in the world audiophilia, but not everyone can afford to spend a mere $10,000 on a listening system. All you need to know is that the VRM box does deliver heavily for the asking price. This truly defies the age old adage: you get what you pay for.