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Thread: How should I configure my studio monitors for mixing?

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    How should I configure my studio monitors for mixing?

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    I have 2 Adam Audio A5X's and an M-Audio Fast Track I've had in a box for years. How do I set the right volume levels to begin recording and mixing music? Currently I put the monitor's volume to max and then played music on YouTube adjusting the master volume on the audio interface to a comfortable level. Is this an acceptable method? If I bought a sub woofer, would I do the same?

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    It doesn't really matter actually, that way you do it is fine.
    Music Producer & Mix Engineer , Los Angeles
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    I'd say otherwise. Firstly, using Youtube for reference is a bad idea for several reasons, not least of which is massive inconsistency in level and audio quality, which alone should make you wary. Proper gainstaging doesn't only apply to input, but to output as well. Setting your monitors to maximum level and controlling the level from beneath will tend to introduce noise into your output that won't be present in your music, which means you won't be hearing an accurate representation of what's going on, unless the amps driving your monitors are perfectly noise-free.

    If you want to get great mixes, consistency in gainstaging at both ends is critical, especially when you're learning. Get a digital copy of a really well-mixed and -mastered album (Dark Side of the Moon is always a winner in this regard).

    If you can access the settings of the output channels on your sound card, set them to unity (0dB) and set the level on your monitoring system so that the room is filled nicely. Set your monitors up so that your seating position is equidistant between them when your controls are in easy reach.

    I'd also stay away from a sub until you get your shit together. If you're going to get a sub, use one with speaker level inputs that run through the sub to your nearfields. This will help with consistency.

    Get yourself a copy of Bob Katz's awesome book Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science. Read it well, several times, and go through the ear-training stuff therein until it all starts to slot into place.

    With all of the above, you'll have a great chance at developing the single most important piece of equipment in your studio, namely yer lugholes.
    Last edited by hackenslash; 07-03-2015 at 06:48 PM.
    Dogma is the death of the intellect

  4. #4
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    agree on the bob katz book

    which is why I am surprised you say use music to do the setup rather than using pink noise
    1. pink noise playing in your daw at nominal level of either
      • -20dBfs (soundtrack/ambient) or
      • -14dBfs (television/radio broadcast) or
      • -12dBfs (pop/hip-hop/country/etc)
      - these are known as k-20, k-14 and k-12 respectively
    2. interface outputs should be adjusted to nominal 0dB-RMS
    3. at your listening position have a sound pressure level meter or an app that will do the same thing.
      settings should be: C-weighted and slow
    4. adjust the levels of each monitor independently until you get a reading of 77dBSPL. Note this position on the volume control for each monitor using liquid paper/nail polish, fluoro marker etc
    5. now bring both monitors up to the previously marked levels - your spl reading should now be 83dBSPL (when you add spl of the same values from different source points, it is the equivalent of adding 6dB at the point of reception) - it could read 83.02dBSPL but this is the correct number

    your monitoring position is now calibrated for whichever k-system value you choose to use at the 40phon level within the Fletcher-Munson curves

    once calibrated using pink noise then play different known albums and singles to better understand your levels

    any subsequent adjustments you make should be with your output level controls on your interface

    make a note of the received spl levels at your listening position so that you understand how you are changing your perception of the music you hear

    also be aware of the following international and local standards regarding exposure to spl over time (these are known levels that constitute safe working practices in Canada, The UK, USA, Australia and other countries):

    83dB-SPL is the level of exposure that you can sustain over an 8 hour period before you begin to notice detrimental effects to your hearing
    increasing the SPL by 6dB (i.e. 89dB-SPL) will reduce your listening period by half (e.g 89dB-SPL means 4 hours maximum exposure)
    decreasing the SPL by 6dB (i.e. 77dB-SPL) will increase your listening period by double (e.g. 77dB-SPL means 15 hours maximum exposure)

    SPL Level Time before hearing impacts begin
    71dB-SPL 32 hours
    77dB-SPL 16 hours
    83dB-SPL 8 hours
    89dB-SPL 4 hours
    95dB-SPL 2 hours
    101dB-SPL 1 hour
    107dB-SPL 30 minutes
    113dB-SPL 15 minutes

    note that depending on which text/standard you read, hearing impacts are almost instantaneous and irreversible once we get to 120dB-SPL-130dB-SPL (the threshold of pain in hearing) - this is because the instantaneous impacts (C-weighting or 100phon curve) are more important than the average/RMS exposures
    Last edited by bandcoach; 07-24-2015 at 10:52 PM. Reason: Cweighting not A weighting
    BC: I've been making music since Before Computers were common in music
    Abnormal thoughts and insights available here
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    Quote Originally Posted by bandcoach View Post
    83dB-SPL is the level of exposure that you can sustain over an 8 hour period before you begin to notice detrimental effects to your hearing
    increasing the SPL by 6dB (i.e. 89dB-SPL) will reduce your listening period by half (e.g 89dB-SPL means 4 hours maximum exposure)
    decreasing the SPL by 6dB (i.e. 77dB-SPL) will increase your listening period by double (e.g. 77dB-SPL means 15 hours maximum exposure)

    SPL Level Time before hearing impacts begin
    71dB-SPL 32 hours
    77dB-SPL 16 hours
    83dB-SPL 8 hours
    89dB-SPL 4 hours
    95dB-SPL 2 hours
    101dB-SPL 1 hour
    107dB-SPL 30 minutes
    113dB-SPL 15 minutes
    + 83-85 is also the most natural volume where you will mix most accurately. Any louder or quieter and you arent hearing your mix as naturally as you could be. Thats the main reason I learn to calibrate to 83-85.
    For Electronic Music Production + Engineering Tips follow me on Twitter @KodidAudio
    https://www.twitter.com/KodidAudio

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    Quote Originally Posted by bandcoach
    which is why I am surprised you say use music to do the setup rather than using pink noise
    I agree completely, but I also know that a lot of newbs have trouble getting this technical early on. Having something that you know is bang on and letting your ears do the talking is a better approach for some. Once you know what you're about, pink noise metering is definitely the way to go.

    I've been at this a very long time.
    Dogma is the death of the intellect

  7. #7
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    as have I, and I do not see that I should tell someone who is new to the scene to skip what is a very important component of getting a solid, repeatable sound out of the gear they are using
    BC: I've been making music since Before Computers were common in music
    Abnormal thoughts and insights available here
    Tutorials and other ideas available here
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    YMMV. As I said, I agree completely, and I agree that you should give the best advice. I give it as I see fit, based on several decades of teaching music tech.
    Dogma is the death of the intellect

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    Thanks for the tips guys. I saw a YouTube video on the pink noise thing but assumed it was some "broscience"

    I got a pdf of the book mentioned. Thanks.

  10. #10
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    assumed it was some "broscience"
    Not remotely, and I should point out for clarity that bc is exactly, 100% correct. My intent was only to provide an easily graspable solution that most with ears will get. When I set up a new room, I follow the pink noise protocol detailed by bc above.
    Dogma is the death of the intellect

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