Redscape Audio Software Headtracker Review

This review took quite a bit longer than is usual for me, typically the longest part of my review process is allowing time to get over the ‘honeymoon’ or ‘new toy’ syndrome which inevitably comes with unboxing fresh gear.

This time however I was a bit stumped as to just how to describe the actual piece of kit itself: Redscape Audio, a one-man shop run by Ryan Redetzke out of California, has one product – the Redscape Audio spatialization software and headtracker. The package is quite simple, a miniscule software download and a small black box with a USB cord. The packaging is a plain cardboard box, inside of which is the headtracker and some accessories like a sleeve for attaching the cable to your headphones, and a rubber strap to keep the headtracker attached to the headphones.

So what does this stuff do? Well, much like Audeze’s Mobius and Waves accompanying NX headtracker, it is designed to spatialize headphones, creating a better sense of imaging and get the sound ‘out of your head.’

As you may recall from my Audeze Mobius review, I was modestly optimistic about this technology. It’s come a long way, and while I wasn’t in love with it for music listening, it was simply stellar for movies and gaming. To that end, I figure the best comparison would be trying out both algorithms side-by-side, and then seeing how the Redscape faired when connected to the Mobius itself for a true A/B test.

The Equipment

To start off with, the Redscape interface is nice and clean. None of the fancy graphics or rather long loading times of the Waves NX software. It’s a beige-ish software with few controls and level meters. Options are on/off, a centering function, headtracking visualization, a defeatable graphic EQ, and an options tab for configuring inputs, latency and that sort of thing. A recent update also added three different modes – Gaming, Movie and Music modes – more on that in a bit. Beneath all this, there are two controls for volume and mixing how much ‘room sound’ you want.

The headtracker itself has a little rubber strap designed to wrap around the headband of your heapdhones. In theory this is an elegant design and worked a treat with my Ether 2 and Aeon heapdhones, which have suspension-style headbands. It also worked great with Sennheiser headphones which have a sort of space in the middle, like HD600s or HD800s which both have divets in the middle of the headband. However, on the Focal Stellia that I have in for review as well as any headphone that has a thick, one piece headband the strap was much too short. A quick jerry-rigging with a rubber band solved the issue, and the Redscape came with a variety of cloth sleeves and knick-knacks designed to tie the unit and its cable to your headphone cable for as seamless a look as possible. Since I was trying it out on a variety of gear I skipped all that, but it was certainly a nice little touch.

Listening

On first listen, my impressions were cautiously optimistic. The setting for the room sound was far too high for my liking, so I turned it all the way down. At this setting, the Redscape was quite obviously smoother, cleaner and less artificial sounding than the Waves NX application on my computer. The bass still had some weird tubbiness that a lot of room simulations add, a sort of plastic boominess. But the treble information wasn’t totally destroyed. A big plus in my book. The depth and focus of the Redscape seemed a little nicer too. Sweet.

After a little music listening, and A/B-ing the two, I decided to pop open a game. Overwatch proved a bit of an issue – with certain DACs the latency was uncomfortably high on the Redscape, and a quick check of my computer’s resource usage confirmed the Redscape was eating quite a few more CPU cycles than the Waves NX. I was able to find a happy medium, but neither program was ideal. Waves NX clearly sounded different at different buffer settings, while the Redscape ran more intensively and with higher latency.

Soundwise both were decent, and for music the Redscape was clearly smoother and less artificial sounding. But on movies and music, the extra sheen and forwardness of the treble in Waves NX made things kind of exciting. Natural? No, but a potentially quite pleasant effect. The Redscape by contrast was quite a bit darker and more colored in the treble, almost overdamped even with the room controls turned way down. The EQ helped here, but didn’t completely mitigate the effect of a slight darkness and weird boxy sound to the midrange and bass.

The EQ itself is well implemented, appears to be linear phase, and has a clean and smooth sound at many levels of gain reduction. There are ten bands, all configurable as peaks, shelves and high or low pass filters, all with adjustable EQ.

EQ settings can be saved and reloaded later quite easily and one EQ preset for HD800 is included. This is a surprisingly flexible yet simple EQ design, and I’ve seen and heard worse in some much pricier professional audio production plugins. Fast forward a bit and I’m struggling on what to write about the Redscape.

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Redscape Audio
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Thanks for the awesome review Grover!

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