Hands-On Review:Focusrite VRMâ„¢ Virtual Reference Monitor Box

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Mix in your studio, wherever you are

By Giles Orford
Focusrite Director of Marketing

Focusrite VRM Virtual Reference Monitor Box

The big drawback of monitoring on headphones is that they're just that: headphones. Convenient though they may be—and essential if you can't turn up the monitoring late at night, for example—it's simply not the same as listening on a pair of monitor loudspeakers. And yet…listening on one pair of monitor speakers isn't enough either. To get an approximation of how your mix will translate in the real world, you should listen through different sets of monitors. Most professional mixers will listen to a mix on no fewer than three sets of monitors. Until now, you had to burn a CD or transfer a file and play it back on real systems in actual environments to A/B your mixes in different places. But now, there's a better way.

Virtual reference monitoring

The answer is Focusrite's unique and well-established VRM (Virtual Reference Monitoring) technology—a room and loudspeaker simulation system for headphone monitoring. While listening on conventional monitoring headphones, VRM lets you select your listening environment—pro studio, project studio or living room—and choose from an extensive list of industry-standard studio monitors and loudspeaker systems to listen on. Each acoustic environment is accurately modeled using the latest digital signal processing (DSP) software. And now, Focusrite's VRM Box puts that powerful technology into the palm of your hand.

Simple, pocket-sized interface

Focusrite's VRM Box is a compact, palm-sized audio interface that connects to virtually any digital audio workstation, including Pro Tools 9, Native, and HD, via USB or S/PDIF inputs. Delivering a powerful selection of VRM monitoring options and suitable for any set of monitoring headphones, it has D/A conversion with a 108dB dynamic range, delivering 105dB at the headphone output—significantly better than most laptop headphone outputs (around 93dB). The VRM Box's pocket size and robust build quality mean it can go anywhere; and its only physical control—a large-size, analog-like volume control—is easy and familiar to use. The VRM Box is powered by USB too, so there's no additional power supply. Simply install the software, choose the listening environment, and select the virtual system you want to listen on, from an extensive list of over a dozen well-known monitors and other loudspeakers in common situations where you need your music to sound its best. If you want to hear how your mix sounds on a budget hi-fi or flat-panel TV in a living room, for example, you can do it; and if you want to check it on near-field monitors in a professional, acoustically treated studio control room, you can do that too.

Under the hood

VRM's extensive selection of built-in loudspeakers and listening environments is based on precise mathematical models derived from convolutions of actual impulse responses measured using the original loudspeakers. The use of mathematical modeling provides maximum flexibility of combinations of loudspeakers and listening environments for the highest possible accuracy of the virtual monitoring simulation.


The VRM Box operates as a high-quality 24-bit, 44.1/48kHz USB audio playback interface. Its S/PDIF input supports any sample rate between 32 and 192kHz, allowing you to use it with your Pro Tools HD system—or any other interface.


VRM allows you to choose from 10 pairs of industry-standard nearfield monitors in an acoustically treated control room. In addition, two extra rooms are provided—a large living room and a smaller bedroom—where you can choose among speakers such as quality hi-fi, computer, cheap stereo, and TV speakers.

VRM Box is compatible with both Windows (XP SP3 or later) and Macintosh (Intel-based OS X 10.5 or later).


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Features & Specs

  • Mix in your studio, wherever you are
  • Focusrite's VRM (Virtual Reference Monitoring) lets you hear your mix in different environments and through different speakers, using just headphones
  • Enhanced mathematic models combine with over a dozen real loudspeaker emulations, sampled using a unique dynamic convolution sampling process
  • Significantly better audio than most laptops, with 108dB dynamic range
  • Audio quality equal to interfaces 10 times the price
  • Compact size and robust build quality for the ultimate in portability
  • Pro Tools 9, Native and HD friendly. USB and S/PDIF digital inputs mean that VRM Box can be run next to your Pro Tools interface—or any interface
  • USB powered
  • Headphone Outputs (Outputs 1-2)
    • Output impedance: < 10 Ω
    • Power output into 150Ω: 15mW
    • Power output into 50Ω: 30mW
    • THD+N: -100dB (0.001%) (-1dBFS input, 20Hz/22kHz bandpass filter, 150Ω load)
    • Signal to Noise Ratio: > 105dB
    S/PDIF Digital Input
    • Automatic Sample Rate conversion
    • Supported sample rates: continuous from 32kHz to 192kHz
    • THD+N: < -110dB any sample rate
    Crosstalk (Channel Isolation)
    • Any output to output: > 100dB
    Digital Performance
    • D/A Dynamic Range: 120dB (A-weighted)
    • Measured D/A Dynamic Range: 108dB (A-weighted)
    • Clock Source: Internal Clock only Clock jitter < 250 picoseconds
    • Supported Sample Rates: 44.1kHz & 48kHz
    • Input channels to computer: S/PDIF (stereo)
    • Output channels from computer: Headphones (stereo)
    Connectors and Controls
    • Stereo S/PDIF input on RCA
    • Stereo Headphone Output on 1⁄4" TRS
    • Headphone Output Level control (analogue)
    • 4-pin USB2.0 compatible socket
    • 1 Green LED Indicator
      • Flashing: Unit not installed correctly on host
      • Off: VRM effects turned off
      • On: VRM effects turned on
    • Power from USB
    Operating System Requirements
    • Windows: XP (service pack 3), Vista, 7 (32 and 64-bit)
    • Macintosh: OS X 10.5 or later (Intel only)
    Weight and Dimensions
    • Dimensions: 2.7 x 1 x 2.7 in (W x H x D)
    • Weight: Net Weight: 0.27 lb