Redscape Audio Software Headtracker Review Page 2

Thankfully, Ryan Redetzke, the man behind the product sent me an email regarding an update to the software and headtracker – perfect timing! I downloaded the updates and browsed the change log. The interface now has individual settings for games, movies and music as well as some updates to the sound. I haven’t discussed in detail with Ryan what changes he made, but to my ears they make a huge difference. Firstly, the latency issues are totally solved. Both game and movie mode consume quite a few less CPU cycles and are capable of lightning-fast latencies suitable for even demanding first-person shooter games. Add to this that I tried every latency and DAC combination that I have and never once ran into buffer under run, digital crackling or any other issues, and best of all the sound was consistent at every setting.

The sound, I should add, is also much more pleasant to my ears. Much reduced is the weird midrange and treble coloration, everything is smoother and more natural sounding than before. There’s still a bit of a ‘room’ sound veil that falls over the sonic presentation, and to my ears at least, it is still evident that a fair amount of digital processing is happening. However, compared directly, Redscape is significantly purer and more natural sounding than Waves NX. The bass in particular benefits, and is the first time I’ve heard headtracking/spatialization software not sound boomy and tubby. The bass actually has texture, though it’s still obviously being run through some room simulation and has a lot more heft and thump to it than with the processing disabled. Whether or not you find this effect pleasant will depend on your personal tastes, but it’s a noticeable improvement over the first version of the software that I had. The game and movie modes still sound similarly excellent despite the lower latencies, though perhaps ever so slightly less rich.

I think the main benefit of the Redscape software for music is that it has a kind of proportionalizing effect. What I mean by that is that, often, when we turn up the volume on headphones, you get to a point where the soundstage gets larger than what the headphones are capable of convincingly portraying and the phantom image, or as much of it as headphones have, collapses and everything becomes very in-your-head and small sounding. When listening at low volumes, which is my norm, Redscape didn’t do much for me, it had too much of a distancing or veiling effect. Things were too far away, not engaging enough. However, at loud volumes, the Redscape unit seemed to allow me to push volume further than before without having the soundstage collapse. Because it is putting a certain amount of artificial depth, distance and width into the mix, it seems to bring things into clearer focus and prevents them from becoming too upfront and collapsing into a mess of tiny-but-loud sounding instruments. I was still able to reach this point with the Redsacpe, but it was much louder than I’m comfortable listening. If you like a sense of spaciousness in your headphones, this holds up to loud volumes better than any other software I’ve tried other than maybe Goodhertz Canopener (which is not as readily available or easy to use) At medium and low volumes this difference is a lot more modest.

So for the final showdown, I clipped the Redscape tracker to the Audeze Mobius and used this franken-headtracker in wired mode. I was able to flip fairly quickly between three algorithms – Mobius with Waves NX computer app, Mobius with inbuilt tracking, and Redscape with the Mobius tracking turned off. My results were much the same as before – the Redscape sounded the smoothest and most natural, preserving the most treble information and bass texture, with the Waves NX being a bit artificial sounding and a bit forward in the treble. Interestingly, the Mobius sounded better to me than the Waves NX by itself. Perhaps the other DSP and adjustable tunings on the Mobius are having some impact here. Nonetheless, on Music alone the Redscape was king. On Movies and Music I could take either one, though the Redscape sounded more relaxed and smoother, the adjustable tunings of the Mobius and the more aggressive sound of the Waves NX could find fans, especially with first-person shooters where having sounds jump out rather obviously can be a plus.

Conclusion

To conclude, I’d like to restate the cautious optimism I mentioned in my Mobius review. The technology here has made great strides. That said, even with the Redscape, there was one big issue keeping me from enjoying it more: I simply don’t listen that loudly. At medium and lower volumes the effect simply didn’t add enough, and sometimes detracted too much liveliness. Generally classical music with lots of room sound suffered the worst, while compressed pop music was least effected. When turned up higher the algorithm gave everything a brilliant width and spaciousness that was addicting, and worked even better with classical, jazz and revealing acoustic recordings than I was expecting. But this came at the cost of, well, a loud listening experience. That said, outside of a rare Smyth Realizer demo I did years ago, the Redscape is the best headtracker I have tried so far. It handily beats out Waves NX in functionality and sound, and does a really superb job with games and movies, and is even quite good with music. Personally, I simply can’t bring myself to listen regularly at the levels where the Redscape sounds best to my ears. That said, if I was in the market for a headtracking device and planned on regularly using it especially for gaming, this is the piece of kit that would be first on my audition list.

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Thanks for the awesome review Grover!

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