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Achieving Accurate Accelerated Audio Mixing With Genelec UNIO - Part 1

Genelec discuss the challenges of immersive mixing across a wide range of environments and how their technology ecosystem helps users achieve an accurate reliable mix environment across different monitoring systems and headphones.

The way we listen to audio has changed, and so has the way we create it. Immersive audio is much more accessible than it used to be. Unlike 5.1 Surround, consumers don’t have to invest in expensive listening equipment to experience it. They understand it, they get what it delivers and they know how to listen to it.

Technologies like 3D soundbars have brought immersive sound into our living spaces without having to install complicated amplifiers and multi-speaker systems. It is supported by the world’s biggest streaming services, and broadcasters are creating more live multi-channel audio and Dolby ATMOS mixes for live events.

Meanwhile, immersive content which uses binaural techniques to virtualize 3D sound in headphones is developing faster than ever. Music services like Apple Music and Tidal have driven the uptake of immersive audio listening on headphones; Apple’s spatial audio service even supports dynamic head tracking, which enables the soundscape to move in relation to how the listener moves. It does this by not only decoding ATMOS content, but by tracking listeners’ head movements using accelerometers and gyroscopes built into headphones.

Spatial and multi-channel audio is adding more immersion and more connection to content, and it shows no sign of decreasing. In fact, as it continues to create the illusion of a collective experience, it is driving significant growth.

The Creators

For the people creating that content however, it is more work.

Across the music, broadcast, post-production and gaming industries, the desire for more immersive content means a bigger workload for audio professionals, and it is essential to ensure that multiple formats are monitored reliably to guarantee consistent quality.

Many listening spaces aren’t perfect. For example, the audio room in an outside broadcast truck has never been a good space for immersive listening. Often there is not enough space for a traditional 5.1 Surround monitoring layout, let alone sufficient height for installing an immersive mix monitoring system.

Modern working environments are continually evolving, with broadcasters increasingly embracing distributed workflows which see audio mixers working in improvised locations. Music and content creators are frequently working in home environments where accurate immersive monitoring can be even more challenging to achieve.

Listening Spaces

Giving creators the ability to assess and control these difficult environments is a challenge Genelec has been pursuing for almost 30 years, and the company now has a range of interconnected technologies which can automatically measure, refine and manage the reproduction quality to deliver accurate immersive and stereo listening in any mixing environment, whatever it looks like, and whatever acoustics it has.

Now Genelec’s R&D Director, I joined the company in 1995 to develop its Smart Active Monitoring (SAM) product line. Today, the SAM family is trusted by content creators the world over for its truthful, neutral character, intelligently adapting to a room’s acoustic environment and enabling professionals to deliver mixes that translate consistently, in whatever format the content is being distributed and consumed. Our goal has always been to give engineers confidence that their mix environment is consistently accurate when moving from room to room, irrespective of where they are or what they are working on.

We achieved this through UNIO, an evolving ecosystem which combines all the benefits of Genelec Smart Active Monitors, Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) software, and Genelec’s Aural ID personal HRTF technology. This combination creates seamless integration between professional in-room loudspeaker monitoring setups and headphone monitoring approaches.

And UNIO continues to evolve; the introduction of the 9401A System Management Device brings the flexibility of audio-over-IP networking to Genelec’s entire UNIO platform, while the 9320A Reference Controller ties it all together with an easy to use hardware controller, providing an even more intimate connection to your mix environment, wherever you are.

Each individual part of the UNIO ecosystem strives to give engineers better control, but the key to UNIO is how the technologies collaborate with each other; and as the demand for different sound formats evolves, UNIO continues to offer reference monitoring environments across multiple mix rooms, and in challenging ad-hoc acoustic spaces.

So how does it all work together?

Working Together

Genelec’s SAM monitor range includes five “The Ones” three-way coaxial models, five two-way smart monitors, five studio subwoofers and a series of high capacity main monitors. While these models cater for various environments, they have a lot in common: they utilize DSP for maximum precision and flexibility, they can be networked via GLM – and they can all adapt to the specifics of any listening environment.

Based on the foundation of applying solid electro-acoustic design principles, which Genelec has been known for since the company was founded in 1978, SAM technology was introduced in 2006 and uses embedded DSP to automatically adjust each monitor for level, delay and frequency response –thus compensating for the room and install location, and enabling accurate, neutral audio. This works well for customers who operate multiple mixing rooms, or find themselves working in temporary setups, or for those working in more confined environments like OB units or small rooms.

To make everything very simple, SAM monitors all coordinate with GLM software, a reference microphone and a network adaptor, which connects to a computer via USB. Users simply network their SAM models together using standard CAT cables, download and run the latest GLM software on their Mac or PC, and then let GLM optimize the monitoring quality in a couple of minutes.


GLM’s reference microphone finds all the nuances in a user’s listening room. It enables GLM to analyze the acoustic environment and apply its AutoCal 2 calibration algorithm which automatically optimizes each monitor for level, distance delay, subwoofer crossover phase and room response EQ, enabling the highest accuracy of sound colour and acoustic imaging, before giving the user the opportunity to manually fine tune the system to taste.

By analyzing the entire space, GLM automatically calibrates any listening environment, and handles any system size and channel count from a large immersive monitoring system down to a compact stereo nearfield setup. GLM not only helps calibrate difficult spaces but enables users to quickly switch between monitoring formats, and optimize for multiple listening locations or various sizes and shapes of listening areas.

After calibration, GLM acts as a monitor controller to switch between formats, providing a quick and efficient way to manage listening levels, switch between multiple reproduction systems, and change listening locations with tracking of equalization, level alignments and monitor time offsets.

GLM now also recommends ways to improve your setup. The Genelec Room Acoustic Data Evaluation (GRADE) is a detailed report within GLM which records the monitoring system performance, and suggests ways to improve and fine tune the acoustic treatment, adjust monitor and listener positioning, optimize bass management and evaluate the system for compliance with ITU-R BS.1116.

In this way, the combination of SAM and GLM technologies can ensure consistent monitoring across different environments. Also, with the design concepts created by award-winning Finnish designer Harri Koskinen, the user-friendly user interface ensures that GLM is easy to drive.

IP Networks

GLM helps UNIO to evolve with your system as well as your requirements, and the introduction of the 9401A System Management Device for Audio-over-IP Networking adds the ease and efficiency of AoIP connectivity to the mix. Long discussed and championed, IP is now gaining ground, especially in broadcast. With robust standards such as SMPTE ST2110 in place alongside common discovery and management protocols from the NMOS suite, broadcasters are embracing AoIP as an enabler for greater efficiency. It opens the door to remote, distributed and cloud workflows, and many greenfield broadcast sites are now IP native.

Genelec’s 9401A works alongside SAM and GLM technology to provide multi-channel networked connectivity across ST2110, AES67 and Ravenna formats, as well as ST2022-7 redundant network connectivity. Each 9401A unit boasts 16 channels of digital connectivity, plus dedicated subwoofer and auxiliary stereo outputs, supporting all formats from stereo to 9.1.6, with the potential of stacking multiple units for an effectively unlimited channel count. What’s more, the auxiliary output serves as an ideal feed for headphones to enable binaural and secondary stereo loudspeaker monitoring.

Headphones And Aural ID

Speaking of headphones, what about those people who don’t even have a listening room? Or who need to work outside of hours at home? What then?

UNIO has them covered. With more immersive content being mixed for two-channel binaural listening, UNIO provides a bridge from in-room loudspeaker monitoring to personal headphone monitoring, enabling mix engineers to move between the two without interrupting their workflow.

Binaural 3D consumer recordings virtualize an immersive mix into a two-channel format intended for headphone delivery – but are designed for an ‘average’ person. But since our ears and upper torso affect how we filter sound, there is actually no such thing as an average person. Neither is there any such thing as an average pair of headphones, and every pair exhibits different coloration and delivery of the sense of direction of audio.

As yet another part of the UNIO platform, Genelec’s Aural ID personal HRTF service answers these challenges, and in conjunction with the 9320A Reference Controller, enables professionals to shift with confidence between loudspeaker-based environments and personally accurate headphone monitoring, maintaining consistent monitoring characteristics. This is perfected by the new Aural ID 2.0 plug-In, a binaural presentation renderer with head tracking. This offers the experience of listening to loudspeakers while using headphones for monitoring, and also tracks the noise dose over both loudspeaker and headphone monitoring, to help professionals avoid long-term hearing loss.

How do we do this? I will cover this in part two.