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Review: Audient Oria

Oria breaks new ground, offering the I/O, software control and room calibration tools to make Atmos monitoring not only easier but affordable.

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9 July 2024

June this year, I put together a Dolby Atmos room in my home studio. My guess is, this won’t seem such a big deal when you’re reading this review and certainly won’t be much of a big deal in 2025 and beyond. But right now, as I write this, it kinda feels like a minor miracle. I mean, if I had lots and lots of money, it would be possible but for under A$10,000 (~US$6500)? That feels like lalaland-unrealistic.

So how did I do it? The Audient Oria is the lynchpin. It’s an audio interface with the software tools to help create the monitoring environment you need to mix in the Dolby Atmos Music format. From there I leant on Presonus’ Eris Pro 4 coax loudspeakers for monitoring, and Gravity speaker stands to position them. I already had most of the cables but now have around A$500 of additional balanced TRS speaker cable. All up, it comes in at under A$10k (expect-to-pay pricing). It doesn’t include acoustic treatment, of which I have around A$1000 worth.

So what’s it like? ‘Different’ doesn’t begin to describe the experience. In some ways it feels like ‘starting again’… which at times feels very daunting and at other times feels very inspiring. But the bottom line is: it’s possible.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

Audient Oria is a product of its times. Spatial mixing and production is making inroads. Apple Music created some real momentum when it caught the record companies on the hop, announcing a ‘Spatial’ Dolby Atmos Music category and prioritising spatial productions in the recommendation engine of its Music platform. In other words, Apple (for its own reasons – geared around ear/headphone sales and its VR platform) put Dolby Atmos Music on the map and record companies scrambled to provide spatial mixes and potentially reap the rewards – as I write, Apple continues to pay a better royalty rate on spatial music.

In the rush to remix back catalogues, Dolby Atmos Music studios have popped up like multichannel mushrooms. Mix gurus of the golden stereo age of music have done well. There’s more remix work than you can wave a de-gaussing wand at. Meanwhile, the current crop of pop stars are routinely releasing spatial versions of releases, as you’d expect. For everyone else, it’s not a ‘given’. Stereo still reigns. The extra cost of a spatial remix hardly seems worth it.

But what if you could make spatial part of your production rather than a pricey bolt-on?

NORMALISING SPATIAL

For spatial to become normal, like stereo, a few things need to fall into place. Dolby acts as gatekeeper, with Dolby Atmos Music being the preferred format and certainly Apple’s anointed format (along with Amazon Music and Tidal). So the Dolby software tools need to be accessible and easily integrated into everyday workflow.

Pro Tools has stolen a march on the opposition with its integration but others are catching up. For example, Logic now has all the Dolby software panning and production tools onboard (as you’d expect from an Apple product), as does StudioOne and Steinberg’s DAWs. More will no doubt follow.

If your DAW remains resolutely stereo, never fear, Fiedler Audio has a package that provides a fairly neat workaround – I’ve been experimenting with its Dolby Atmos Composer package with Reason, and getting some good results.

The Dolby tools provide a ‘Binaural’ option. You can monitor in everyday headphones using Biaural mode. It is, after all, how the vast majority of the consumers of the music will be listening to spatial. So, in theory, you could be smashing through spatial mixes on a laptop and your Apple Airpods. In theory. In practice, monitoring spatial in a studio with multiple loudspeakers is preferable. Far more preferable. But pulling together a room that allows you take care of spatial monitoring isn’t straightforward and out of reach for all but the professionals. Until now.

NEED TO KNOW

Audient Oria
Immersive Audio Interface & Monitor Controller
  • PRICE

    A$3995

  • CONTACT

    Studio Connections: studioconnections.com.au
    Audient: audient.com

  • PROS

    • All-in-one spatial monitoring system
    • Superior monitoring/control app
    • Pro audio specs
    • Affordable

  • CONS

    • 60-day SoundID subscription needs negotiating

  • SUMMARY

    Oria is an out-of-the-box monitoring platform that provides a straightforward spatial on-ramp for any studio looking to upgrade. What’s more it helps open up the world of spatial music production to anyone willing to make a realistic investment and happy to take the ride. I did it for under A$10k (~US$6500). Something to consider.

GOING EXPONENTIAL

For the early adopters, setting up Dolby Atmos studios, all the technical challenges may not have been initially crystal-clear. Seeing past the fact you need a butt-tonne more studio monitors (and places to put them) isn’t easy. The numbers ‘7.1.4’ roll off the tongue reasonably easily but (to state the obvious) those numbers add up to 11 studio monitors and a sub. Twelve! Dolby Atmos practically maxes out at 9.1.6, which (need I remind you) adds up to a hefty 15 studio monitors and a sub! I mean… where’s the lava lamp going to go?!

But if you get over the shock of how to acquire so many speakers and map out out how you’re going to accommodate them in your studio then you’re faced with further challenges.

Your audio interface need lots of outputs. Most interfaces go big (as much as you can afford) on the inputs and are more parsimonious on the outputs. After all, we’ve been living in a stereo world… perhaps with a set of alternative monitors and an Auratone.

In the brave new world of Dolby Atmos Music mixing you need many more outputs. But even if you have the outputs you need some way of controlling all those outputs simultaneously – a monitor controller, effectively.

Even with all those considerations handled – enough speakers of the same breed, enough space to accommodate them, a way of positioning/mounting them, enough outputs on your interface and a way of controlling them – how do you know that all those monitors in your space won’t just sound like a total shemozzle – with multiple arrivals and strange summing/cancelling resulting in a poor monitoring experience?

What you need is a system that provides not only the requisite ins and outs but a control app and a way of optimising the room to get the best monitoring results. This is what the Audient Oria represents.

ORRIGHT?

Phew. So we finally got to talking about Oria after the world’s longest review intro. If you made it this far then I commend you. But if you’re going to set up a Dolby Atmos monitoring space you’re definitely going to need patience and perseverance, so stick with me.

Oria is a smart, stealthy-looking USB-C audio interface. Designed for Atmos mixing, it’s back panel is dominated by speaker outputs. There are 20 TRS jacks, allowing up to 9.1.6 spatial mixing along with two pairs of stereo outputs – handy to keep your stereo mixing entirely separate from your spatial mixing. If you have monitors that accept digital inputs then you can use the 16-channel AES D-Sub connector. Apart from the USB-C connector, inputs are handled by two ADAT ports, while an optional Dante card provides further options if your studio leans towards networked audio – making the Dante card optional keeps costs down for the standard model. There are two mic/line inputs on the front panel on combi jacks. Rounding out the back panel I/O are the wordclock ins and outs on BNC sockets. You can make Oria your clock source or slave to your favourite clock source.

The way Audient has approached the I/O schema is clever. Not only does it act as an all-you-need, USB-C interface straight out of the box, it can easily integrate into an existing setup with pre-existing audio interface(s). For example, you may already have a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 that you’re happy with. Oria can take the ADAT outputs of the Scarlett interface and handle the spatial monitoring aspects. Alternatively, if, like me, you don’t need an interface with piles of physical inputs, then Oria may well be the only interface you need.

FRONT UP

The front panel of Oria is simple. Apart from the aforementioned mic/line input section, there’s the multichannel monitoring display and a handful of carefully selected control pushbuttons and two independently controllable headphone outputs, which is a nice touch.

Audient pushes the attributes of its Oria control app. Use the control app and you can tuck the Oria hardware away in your rack. Of course, it does mean you need to have your computer tethered to Oria to enjoy the benefits of the app but it’s a handy locus point. Depending on how many displays your computer can run, you might consider giving the Oria monitoring app its own display, along with the Dolby software on another. If you struggle to run three displays, then good news, Audient is about to drop an iPad version of the Oria monitoring app.

the SoundID inclusion is ‘genius’ … it accounts for the most vexing and time consuming part of setting up a Atmos Music studio – the fine-tuning and the acoustic compensation

PROFILE

The monitoring app is the best way of monitoring, calibrating and controlling Oria, and once you spend the time getting to know the app you begin to get a sense of how deep and powerful Oria is. I’ll round out more of the features of the app in a box item but for now I want to focus on one of the most important aspects of Oria – how it helps to optimise your Atmos listening environment:

As far as Oria terminology goes, Profiles is an important one to understand. A Profile describes the monitoring configuration, all the speaker calibration settings (EQ, trim and delay) that go with that as well as the output target mode (essentially the desired overall output EQ contour).

Oria has all you need to create a Profile. Each output has (up to) 16 bands of EQ, trim and delay control (in increments of 0.01ms). There’s also a Bass Management/Crossover control for each output, where frequencies below the crossover threshold are removed from the signal path, and redirected to the subwoofer channel.

These Profiles are stored in the DSP of Oria (not your computer) and can be selected on the unit itself as well as the app.

CALIBRATION CALL

I did mention that Oria has the necessarily DSP power and features to handle the speaker calibration settings of a room Profile. But it doesn’t mean it would be easy or quick to configure.

Dolby has some minimum guidelines about the size of an Atmos Music monitoring space and the positioning of the speakers. Ideally, all the loudspeakers would be perfectly equidistant from listener’s head in the monitoring sweetspot, all within the context of an acoustically benign room.

In reality, it’s tough to find the perfect monitoring space for Atmos, that not only provides the right acoustic conditions but the dimensions to accommodate a theoretically ideal spatial listening environment. After all, it’s not so much about creating a pleasant or vibey listening space, it’s about having a mixing environment that will reliably translate to Airpods, Atmos-enabled cars, and other certified Atmos rooms.

So (again, in theory) you can use Oria’s Trim, Delay and EQ setting to calibrate and harmonise all the speaker outputs, or you can use a calibration system that does the work for you.

Audient has chosen to provide both options. You can manually calibrate your setup or you can use Sonarwork’s SoundID system, which comes bundled with Oria.

SOUND IDEA

Bundling SoundID is a genius idea. SoundID isn’t the only speaker calibration kid on the block but it is one of the two most accepted in audio circles. SoundID is a specialist provider of calibration systems, and the Audient connection isn’t the first time we’ve seen it team up with other manufacturers. As an off-the-peg item, SoundID calibration settings would normally live on your computer. In this case, the calibration settings reside in Oria’s DSP, which has its advantages – keeping latency to a bare minimum and reducing the strain on your DAW’s computer.

But the reason why I describe the SoundID inclusion as ‘genius’ is because it accounts for the most vexing and time consuming part of setting up a Atmos Music studio – the fine-tuning and the acoustic compensation.

Audient makes the SoundID calibration process an integral part of setting up Oria. It’s not some optional fairy dust or ‘get out of jail’ card if you can’t get good results. SoundID is part of the process.

The Oria package ships with a SoundID measurement mic and a 60-day SoundID license. When you launch Oria for the first time you’re handed over to the SoundID room calibration process. It takes about an hour to take the measurements and create a Profile for room. The Profile settings are then imported into Oria and SoundID need not be sparked up again until you need to create another Profile.

The results are stunning. SoundID brings clarity, balance and focus.

Unfortunately, the 60-day trial means your Profile(s) will go ‘pfft’ after two month. You will need to make your own arrangements to subscribe to SoundID to retain your Profile(s) or manually recreate the Profile using the Oria DSP tools.

I totally understand that Soundworks needs to get paid but surely the arrangement could retain the Profile(s) that are already in the Oria DSP. That way, as soon as anything changes, speakers are added or the monitoring position tweaked Soundworks would be the first port of call to add new Profiles. But currently, the calibration doomsday clock starts ticking as soon as you spark up the SoundID bundle.

In other words, factor in the price of a SoundID subscription into the cost of Oria, unless you’re a whiz with Smaart or have another plan.

NEXT GEN

Oria is a generational product. It’s professionally spec’ed and provides a well-resolved spatial monitoring solution for any commercial studio looking to upgrade. That, to me, is a given.

But where Oria breaks new ground is the way in which it’s helping to create a new market. Any producer who wants to enter the spatial game now has a realistic pathway that’s not just binaural.

I did it for under A$10,000, and it’s been like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. I haven’t yet oriented myself and I have plenty of homework to do. But I’ve made the transition and I’d rather not turn back.

SPECS

Mic inputs

  • Gain: 60dB
  • Max Input Level: +18dBu
  • Crosstalk: <105dB
  • THD+N: 0.0015% / -96dB
  • EIN: -129dB
  • CMRR: -85dB
  • SNR: 100dB
  • Frequency Response: ±0.5dB 20Hz–40kHz
  • Input Impedance: 1.5kΩ Balanced

Line input

  • Gain: -10dB to +50dB
  • Max Input Level: +18dBu
  • THD+N: 0.0015% / -96dB
  • Input Impedance: 4.7kΩ Balanced

DI/Instrument Input

  • Gain: 60dB
  • Max Input Level: +18dBu
  • THD+N: 0.16%
  • SNR: 100dB
  • Frequency Response: ±0.5dB 20Hz–40kHz
  • Input Impedance: 370kΩ Unbalanced

Line Outputs

  • Lineup Level: +18dBu
  • THD+N: 0.0006%, -105dB
  • Dynamic Range: 126.5dB
  • Crosstalk: -123dB
  • Frequency Response: ±0.3dB 10Hz–40kHz
  • Output Impedance: <100Ω Balance

DSP Latency (Round Trip)

  • 44.1kHz – 6.5ms
  • 48kHz – 6.3ms
  • 88.2kHz – 5.5ms
  • 96kHz – 5.4ms

ORIA SOFTWARE

The Oria monitoring app is excellent and provides easy access to the unit’s hidden depths.

From a monitoring perspective the app provides a neat visual of the loudspeakers in your space, which can be solo’ed and muted.

All the Oria front panel controls are replicated on the app, indeed they can be finessed, controlled and monitored, including the headphone levels.

The metering can be exploded and popped elsewhere in your screen real estate for ‘always there’ scrutiny.

A low latency software mixer is a welcome inclusion – handy for on-the-fly mixes when you’re recording, say, vocals via the mic input with other (digital) inputs, and feeding back to a headphone mix.

The app’s System panel takes care of all the important housekeeping including the likes of the clock source, the role of the Function button, Dim, AES routing, downmix Dolby Renderer options and more.

The iPad version of the app promises to be a welcome option if running a second or third screen isn’t an option.

Background Briefing: An Interview with Audient's Andy Allen

AudioTechnology talks with Andy Allen, Product & Marketing Manager at Audient, to discuss the development, features, and market potential of Oria.

AT: Andy, can you tell us about the origins of Oria?

Andy Allen: The genesis of Oria dates back about two years ago. I was attending a NAMM show and I noticed a growing interest in Atmos, especially with Apple’s push for spatial audio through its AirPods. It was clear to me that there was a shift from Atmos being an academic concept to a consumer-focused technology, which sparked the idea for Oria.

At the show, several respected industry contacts from speaker and software brands independently approached me, expressing a need for an affordable, high-performance Atmos solution. They wanted something similar to the MTRX Studio but less complex and costly. With Audient’s expertise in interfaces, mic preamps, and consoles, it felt like an opportunity we could address. Thus, the concept for Oria began to take shape.

AT: What were some of the key challenges and features identified during the development of Oria?

Andy Allen: We conducted extensive research, interviewing about 30 to 50 producers, engineers, gaming sound designers, and post-production technologists to pinpoint the most demanded features. One of the early challenges was determining the optimal speaker configuration, and we settled on 9.1.6 as the max output, suitable for most setups beyond larger cinema rooms and post-production facilities.

Another significant challenge was room calibration. Many users were intimidated by the complexity and cost of proper room calibration, which is essential for accurate Atmos monitoring. Partnering with Sonarworks was a natural choice for us. They democratised room calibration, allowing users to easily measure and adjust their rooms without needing an acoustician. This partnership enabled us to deliver high-quality DSP required for real-time, multi-channel processing directly on the Oria unit.

AT: How does Oria address the needs of users who switch between stereo and Atmos setups?

Andy Allen: One of the features I’m most proud of is how Oria can integrate into an existing Atmos room and make monitoring much easier. I talked to a lot of studio people in the development of Oria and the lengths many had to go to to switch between Atmos and stereo monitoring was pretty extreme. Oria make it easy to switch between stereo and Atmos with the push of a button.

AT: You mean switching Profiles?

Andy Allen: That’s right. Switching Profiles is the main way to interact with Oria. I love the fact that all you have to do to switch from, say, stereo to immersive is via a click of the Profile setting and that not only changes all your calibration/DSP but also your input potentially – if you want it to be fed from somewhere else – and your output. It makes A/B’ing easy.

It’s worth noting that we added four additional stereo outputs that are relay-switched to ensure true stereo monitoring, not just down-mixed versions. This allows users to maintain accurate calibration profiles for both stereo and Atmos setups, enhancing their workflow efficiency.

AT: Let’s return to the Sonarworks integration. I love how the SoundID Profile seamlessly loads into Oria. One gripe: I understand why you only bundle a demo version of SoundID but I wish it could have been a, say, one or two Profile demo, rather than losing your Profiles entirely after 60 days.

Andy Allen: I understand what you’re saying but we decided to keep the cost down by not bundling a full version of Sonarworks SoundID. Some customers won’t need it and those that do can pay for a Sonarworks license. We’ve been very upfront about the arrangement.

If you subscribe to Sonarworks after 60 days, you don’t lose your Profiles, they just need reactivating, which only takes a few moments.

AT: Can you elaborate on the software side of Oria? How did user feedback shape its development?

Andy Allen: The software was a critical component of Oria’s development. We went through numerous iterations, constantly refining the user interface based on feedback from our initial research group. The goal was to create a simple yet powerful interface that addressed the complexity of existing solutions.

We designed the software to be intuitive for everyday use while providing advanced features for power users. This balance ensures that users can easily switch between different monitoring setups without getting bogged down by complicated controls. The seamless integration with Sonarworks for room calibration further simplifies the user experience.

AT: How much potential is in the untapped home studio and semi-pro market?

Andy Allen: Oria was a risk commercially because it targets a market that didn’t previously exist at this price point. However, the response indicates a growing interest from home studios and semi-pro users. Affordable immersive audio solutions like Oria, combined with lower-cost speaker setups, make Atmos accessible to more creators.

As technology continues to evolve, and with companies like Apple pushing for more immersive content, the market for spatial audio will likely expand. The potential for applications in gaming, film, and even future technologies like the metaverse means there’s a significant untapped market for Oria.

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