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If you’re a studio engineer or producer, then you already know just how important it is to improve your ears.
The best producers tend to be those who are meticulous. They can hear every detail in a mix and know how to tweak every instrument to get the results they’re looking for.
Getting to that point, though, can take years if not decades of experience. That is, of course, until ear training apps came along.
In this guide, we review SoundGym and whether it can help you improve your ears.
What Is SoundGym?
SoundGym offers online ear training for producers and engineers. “SoundGym” is a clever play on words, as the idea is to “work out” your ears and “level up” your auditory fitness.
The exercises revolve around core listening skills such as frequency detection or compression.
Their learning environment promises to be friendly, competitive, personalized, technological, and surprising. This is a hands-on review, so we’ll be going in with an open mind to confirm this for ourselves.
SoundGym’s online platform gives you the opportunity to meet your colleagues across the world and share your knowledge, compete with friends, and find inspiration for that next project or mix.
Although you can get started with SoundGym for free, you can also upgrade to Pro to access more games and features.
They even declare themselves “the future of audio education.” To that extent, their platform is open to institutes, teachers, and students alike.
In an earlier review, we looked at Train Your Ears, which is another app dedicated to ear training. We will be comparing SoundGym to Train Your Ears throughout this review, but in the future, we will also be looking at them side by side.
- SoundGym is an online ear training platform
- It’s home to a variety of exercises that test your ears for frequency detection, gain and dynamics, and a whole lot more
- SoundGym offers you the opportunity to connect with people in the community
- You can test drive the platform for free or upgrade to Pro for more features
- Train Your Ears is basically a direct competitor to SoundGym
How Much Does SoundGym Cost?
You can try out SoundGym with a limited feature set for free. But you can unlock all 18 sound games, complete workouts, focused training, progress tracking, and more premium sounds by upgrading to Pro.
SoudnGym has three plans you can choose from:
- Monthly: $24.95
- Yearly: $7.90/month billed annually (this isn’t entirely clear from their pricing table)
- Lifetime: $316.00
The SoundGym Experience
This was my SoundGym experience, almost exactly as it unfolded:
Starting An Account
Regardless of whether you want to try out SoundGym for free or take advantage of their Pro features, you will be required to create an account. So, that’s where I got started.
After entering my details, SoundGym had me confirm my email address. Fortunately, this was a quick, painless process.
I was then greeted with a bit of introductory info and was asked which listening skills I wanted to improve. For the intents and purposes of this review, I ticked all. But these are the skills you can choose from:
- Frequency recognition
- Detect EQ filter types
- Compression and dynamics
- Sound location and stereo impression
- Detect gain level differences
- Distortion and sound quality recognition
- Set delay time accurately
Ear Test (Frequencies)
After setting up your account, you will immediately be prompted to take your first audio workout (ear test). Your goal is to find the boosted frequency.
Now, I admit I was taken aback a little when SoundGym dumped me right into my first exercise without warning, but I thought, “Why not? – I’ll give this a try.”
I was given the option of turning the boosted EQ on and off so I could make my best guess at which frequency was boosted. I wasn’t sure, so I guessed around 6,000 Hz. I was wrong. The boosted frequency was around 900 Hz.
And before I knew it, I was dropped into my second quiz. I was given a different audio sample to work with, but aside from that, the workout was the same. This time around, I guessed the correct range and earned some points.
By now, you can probably see where this was going. I kept playing this game for a while to see where it would take me. First, I passed stage one and moved onto stage two, which was more of the same.
But eventually I was met with a “game over” screen.
Gain & Dynamics
After clicking on the “continue” button, I was brought to a screen indicating that the Peak Master had tested my frequency detection (ah, I’m beginning to see how this all works).
My next mission was to set gain and dynamics, so I jumped right in.
The goal of this test is to select the right amplitude difference in dB. I’ve got a bit of sound engineering experience behind me, but I knew going in this one could be a bit of a challenge for me (fun!).
Inside this workout, I could toggle between “Before Gain” and “After Gain” and choose from one of two answers (good, this is multiple answers). Audio wise, I was given drumbeats to work with.
I thought I might not do all that well at this, but I ended up picking it up relatively quickly.
Next, I would be tested on stereo impression – where the sound is in the mix (left, right, center, etc.)
This time, I was not given the ability to toggle between imaging and no imaging, which made this a little hard.
Choosing A Training Program
After the ear training session, I was given my results (which weren’t great to be honest, but I was writing this as I was taking the tests).
Now, I was told, it was time to choose my training program.
At this point, I was given the option of continuing with free trainings or upgrading to Pro.
And at long last, this is the point at which I arrived at my dashboard.
The dashboard is where you’ll be presented with everything SoundGym has to offer.
From this screen, you get access to the menu (Gym, Community, Stats, Learn, Contests), your personal stats, all the games you can play, BeatRace (beat making competitions), as well as the Ear Doctor (test the highest frequency you can hear). This is where the SoundGym experience opens and begins to diverge.
I have already given you an overview of what the overall game experience is like, so for the rest of his section, I’d like to focus on other SoundGym features.
The SoundGym Community
On their homepage copy, the community is something that caught our attention, so we thought we’d take a quick look inside.
From the community page, you can still view the trainings you’ve completed so far, as well as your stats. But you can also see who has won specific competitions, people worth following, newcomers to the community, SoundGym merchandise, and more.
Basically, this is the social network aspect of SoundGym, as you can invite your friends to be a part of it, find your Facebook friends, and even share to Facebook. There’s a newsfeed in the center of the page where you can see recent updates from members.
You can see recent achievements, questions from community members, as well as people asking for feedback on their mixes. This could certainly be a fun place to connect and interact with like-minded people.
Some applications offer too much hand-holding. Others, not enough.
SoundGym is a great platform. It’s fun, colorful, and engaging. It features expert flat vector designs that would put some designers to absolute shame.
The games are relatively easy to figure out. Perhaps more so than the Train Your Ears app.
Coming back to the issue at hand, though, we felt like SoundGym didn’t offer quite enough hand-holding. And this, from our assessment, would be relatively easy to correct. A video here. A quick explanation there. Nothing overbearing.
So, in essence, we felt like we were plunged into the experience without much warning or expectation as to what’s supposed to happen next.
Once we reached the dashboard, it was all quite clear. But to that point, there were a few “huh?” moments.
In all, though, we liked the SoundGym experience, and we’ll share a little more about the interface, design, and usability later in this review.
How Much Training Is Available In The SoundGym Membership?
SoundGym offers the following 18 games (you can basically guess what each of them are just by looking at the title):
- Stereohead. Listen to two audio sources panned to opposite sides and guess how wide the stereo image is.
- Compressionist. Guess the compression setting.
- Balance Memory. Memorize the balance of a track and then see if you can set the mixer balance correctly.
- EQ Knight. Listen to two sounds and find the one that reflects the EQ settings you see.
- Peak Master. A Peaking (Bell) EQ filter is being used on the sound source. Your job is to figure out what the boosted frequency is.
- Dr. Compressor. One sound is more compressed than the other. Find the sound that’s more heavily compressed.
- DB King. Find the right amplitude change in dB.
- Filter Expert. Figure out which EQ filter is being used on the sound source.
- Kit Cut. A Peaking (Bell) EQ filter is being used to cut a certain frequency range. Figure out which frequency range is being attenuated.
- PanGirl. The sound source will be played somewhere in the stereo field. Guess the correct panning setting.
- Bass Detective. Find the frequency that’s being boosted using a Peaking (Bell) EQ filter between 50 to 400hz.
- Delay Control. Guess the correct delay time in milliseconds.
- Distorted Reality. One sound is more distorted than the other. Choose the correct one.
- Reverb Wizard. Between three sounds, one has a different reverb setting than the rest. Figure out which one it is.
- EQ Cheetah. A Peaking (Bell) EQ filter has been used to boost a frequency range. Figure out which frequency range has been boosted in 60 seconds or less.
There are some other odds and ends, however, such as the competitions and Ear Doctor tests. Additionally, there’s a virtual goldmine of training available if you proactively interact with the community.
SoundGym Design, Interface & Usability
So, we’ve gone over what SoundGym is, its pricing, as well as its overall experience and the amount of training available (you can play the games as much as you want, until you feel you’re a master of frequencies, reverb, delay, and so on).
One last element we’ll consider here is SoundGym’s overall design, interface, and usability.
SoundGym’s design is worth mentioning, if only because it’s attractive, beautiful, fun, and masterfully executed.
The Train Your Ears app utilizes a similar design style, and it was also well-executed. But does it measure up to SoundGym? Let’s just say it’s not entirely a close call.
Design is a matter of preference, and to that extent, some may not enjoy the Gym’s styling as much as we appreciate it. But we like that they’ve committed to a direction and have even stayed true to it.
There is nothing intimidating about their design, and even though the dashboard and community sections have a lot more going on, once you’ve gone through setup, it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
We liked that the user interface was uncluttered, especially the signup process and initial tutorials. It’s all too common that there is too much onscreen and the user is left scratching their head wondering what it is they should focus on. Not so with SoundGym.
We found everything easy to find, and nothing left us feeling lost. We always had a good idea of what to do next, except for when we were first getting started on the platform.
SoundGym is both a visual and auditory experience – something we think they’ve nailed.
There are some basic issues with usability. A little more hand-holding earlier on would be helpful. Again, noting extensive or overbearing. Just something simple, so the user has a better sense of what to expect and what’s coming next.
We found an issue with the Ear Doctor feature as well. Clicking when we heard the sounds (as we were directed to do), frequently produced unknown errors. There seems to be an issue that needs to get worked out here.
This was the only issue or error we could find in their training, though there could be others.
SoundGym Review, The Verdict
SoundGym is a great online platform. And the fact that it’s online makes it incredibly convenient.
It has a masterfully designed interface, though we wonder whether the developers sacrificed a bit of usability for design. Nothing they couldn’t address with additional debugging efforts, though.
The games were fun to play, and they were engaging to boot. You were invested in getting the right answers.
The community function is quite useful, and developing sound engineers and producers are bound to find it useful. Connecting with others is a great way to find inspiration and get feedback on your tracks. It allows for continual improvement.
So, can SoundGym help you improve your ear? You’re going to get what you put into it, to be sure, but yes, we do think it’s a great way to begin identifying the nuances and intricacies in sound.