Hands-On Review:KRK’s ERGO: Fix your room, fix your mix


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By Tony Rodrigues,
VP Marketing, KRK Systems


Sound is a very complex phenomenon. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our project and home recording studios. We struggle with getting the correct tonal balance in a musical passage, getting bass to sound tight, getting the vocal to sit properly in the mix. We spend lots of money on monitors, outboard gear, and software, all with the hope of eventually achieving that musical nirvana, the perfect mix.


The problem with this pursuit of perfect sound is that the environment in which we mix is equally as important as the gear we select to create and monitor the sound. The best speakers in a bad room are going to accurately reflect the poor conditions and sonic changes that the room is imparting to our sound. It’s not our monitors or our gear that is making the perfect mix unobtainable … it is our room.


KRK recognizes that monitors are heavily influenced by the room in which they live, so we have developed ERGO. ERGO is Enhanced Room Geometry Optimization, which is a fancy way of saying that ERGO fixes bad rooms. ERGO does this by first analyzing your room using a technology called Room Perfect™, figuring out what are good and bad characteristics of your room, then using digital filters to fix the bad aspects. Once these negative influences are tamed, your mix will be greatly improved, not because ERGO has changed anything in the mix, but because you will now be mixing in a "perfect" room.

ERGO–Analyze, find, and fix

 

ERGO is a small black box with a large volume knob, three buttons, and a thumbwheel headphone volume control. Its physical simplicity belies its technical complexity.


ERGO sits between your DAW or console and your recording monitors, in either the analog or digital domains. Hooking up ERGO is easy. Plug it into a FireWire port on a Mac or PC, plug in your monitors, and connect it to a power outlet. An intuitive setup program installs the calibration software and necessary drivers and launches ERGOCAL so you can analyze your room.


A key component to ERGO is its 3-dimensional room analysis, and it is what sets ERGO apart from other room correction systems. This 3-D analysis allows ERGO to correct room problems without affecting the sound in negative ways. The end result? Audio sounds more accurate in your studio so you can build a better mix, and that mix will translate better into other listening environments. Analysis consists of taking measurements with ERGO using the supplied microphone. ERGO guides you step-by-step in setting volume levels and measuring your room. The process typically takes 15-20 minutes.


Once ERGO has analyzed the room, it fixes the problems by applying 1,024 high-precision, sonically transparent filters. These filters and corrections reside in ERGO’s internal DSP. No computer power is used for correction. This also means that ERGO is a true standalone device, so no computer is needed once the analysis phase is complete.



KRK ERGO Room Correction System

What can you expect with ERGO?

 

Once your system is set up, your room is analyzed, and ERGO is correcting, there are numerous sonic improvements immediately apparent:

  • More accurate sound—room influences like bass buildup, wall and desk loading, and muddiness are tamed.
  • Better imaging—by removing room problems, imaging is usually improved.
  • Ability to hear "deeper" into the mix—many times bass problems cloud the lower midrange of a mix. By fixing the bass, ERGO clears up these important midrange frequencies.
  • Better performing monitors—the best monitors in a bad room will be challenged in providing a detailed image of your mix. Since ERGO corrects the room problems, your monitors will perform to their full potential.
  • Mixes that translate better—great rooms are the basis for great mixes. ERGO can help transform your room into a better acoustic environment so you can mix the music instead of the room. This allows mixes to translate to other listening environments.


What ERGO won’t do

  • ERGO will not negatively impact the sound of your mix. KRK’s first rule of room correction is "Do no harm." ERGO will fix only real problems.
  • Change the sound of your monitors—ERGO will correct the room and allow your monitors to project the best image of the mix. ERGO does not make things sound sweeter, just more accurate.
  • Correct for reverberant environments—if you are mixing in a concrete-walled room, ERGO will not be able to correct for the slap echo likely to be there. Physical absorption is still required to correct these problems.

Who needs ERGO?

 

ERGO is perfect for small home and project studios, as it fixes many problems associated with these rooms. Broadcast facilities, sound design suites, and editing bays also benefit from ERGO’s ability to make challenged acoustic environments better. Mobile editing facilities such as tour buses and location trucks have also used ERGO with great success.

And there’s more …

At its heart, ERGO is a room correction device. However it also provides other functionality that makes monitoring life easier. There is a large, digitally controlled ANALOG volume knob for adjusting listening levels. ERGO integrates a room-corrected speaker switcher for two pairs of speakers or speaker/subwoofer combinations. A powerful headphone amplifier with its own volume level provides a headphone monitoring solution. And a FireWire port supports calibration or the use of ERGO as a recording interface.


All of this makes ERGO a great addition to any recording environment. ERGO analyzes, corrects, and controls, and will help you deliver better mixes.

Tony Rodrigues has been playing keyboards onstage and doing theater sound design for over 25 years. In addition to being KRK’s vice president of marketing, he is the system architect of ERGO, responsible for bringing together its various technology blocks and partners to create this innovative product.