Monitoring levels...

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Michael Fossenkemper, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I've been changing my monitoring levels lately and I'm really liking the results. I'm just wondering what others are monitoring at. My trend in the last year has been lowering my level. I don't have a set level per say, it mostly depends on the type of music but in general it's hovering around 70-80 db. I'll crank it at the end of the day just to check a few things but in general I'm keeping it lower. As a result, the mixes are more dynamic. Which I thought was strange because I would think the opposite would be true.
  2. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    I would say the same 70-80db and sometimes a little more.
    I find it very refreshing to turn the volumen a little down and discover more details that way.

    I don't think it's strange.
    When the volumen is set right(lower than you think) you can really hear the bad artifacts of compression in general.
    I don't think that it requires much sound pressure before the ear starts to compress on it's own, that's why I keep it low just like when we speak.

    Best Regards,
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    If you look at the Fletcher Munson curves (see http://) you will see that about 83 dBSPL is the flattest part of the curve so most folks will tell you (see also that you should be monitoring about 83 dBSPL for the best overall frequency response and sound. What level you really listen to depends on your own situation.

    Hope this helps.
  4. iznogood

    iznogood Guest

    do you guys have dB meters and adjust as you master??
  5. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    It would also depend on your monitors as well, and amp for that matter. There are a lot of factors at work other than the fletcher munson curve. I do have an spl meter but I rarely bring it out. Only really when I'm calibrating my room. I do keep it handy when I'm doing DVD-V titles and want to check the level but not when I'm working on music.
  6. joe lambert

    joe lambert Distinguished Member

    I always monitor at the same level. I never touch my volume knob. I have a dim switch if I want to cut the level for whatever reason. I could not work confidently if the volume changed during a session. I do have a meter to check things whenever necessary.
    My monitoring SPL is 90DB (give or take a db depending on the material) It's loud but I have very good power amps and monitors that perform at this level easily so there is no distortion. I can do this all day and my ears are fine. This is the level I'm comfortable at. It's necessary for me when listening to what's going on accurately in the low end.
    If you have an amp that starts to distort at 75-80db that will fatigue your ear a lot more than a higher SPL that is not distorted.
    Making sure you have the proper amplifier is critical when playing at these type of levels
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    ??????depend on your monitors and amp????????? WHY?

    Do different amplifiers put out different SPL levels? I don't think so. They may put out different SPLs because the gain of the monitor amp or the load of the speakers maybe different but you are measuring an acoustical level not a power level of the amplifier.

    SPL is a measure of LOUDNESS and two different amplifiers or two different sets of speakers may sound different but if you read your SPL meter you could get them to the same "level".

    Not sure what you meant?????

  8. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    different monitors and amps have different curves not to mention the room. so you are dealing with different curves as well as your ears curving at different levels. So at 83db your ears may be the flatest but maybe not your system, or maybe so. that's what I mean.
    My monitors sound great loud, I can push a clients nose in 3 cm with sheer spl. I do like to crank at times but I approach the masters a different way at different volumes. When I'm working on a project I don't touch the volume knob either, I set my dim and can kick it off if I need more volume to check something. I also find that every room has a saturation point where it just kicks in and rocks. I like to stay away from that area as it tends to sound very good.
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Sorry what "curves" do you mean frequency curve or power curve or a power supply curve or a combination of two of them? Not sure but what you are saying but it goes against most of what I have experienced and read. Maybe a better explanation from you in regards to "curves" ? Thanks. I don't want to be a PITA but when people start using "curves" when they are referring to a power amp I don't really understand what they are describing. Power amps should be a strait wire with gain PERIOD but we all know they sound different driving different loads and different speakers. Is that what you are referring to?

  10. Barefoot Sound

    Barefoot Sound Active Member

    All speakers generate different response, phase, impulse, etc., "curves" at different power levels. Some to a greater degree than others. It's simply a fact of life with devices that are typically only about 1% efficient. Power generates heat, and heat alters the electromechanical properties. Passive speakers are especially affected because the crossover and conjugate network responses depend directly on the driver impedances. Of course, one of the definitions of a great speaker is good response uniformity across a broad power range. Many speakers don't live up to this definition.

  11. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Like most speakers I know of, they have there own freq curve of some kind and that also changes with level. they don't have the same curve at 70db as at 100db. also amps sound different as we know. some are brite some a dull and this changes as the gain or load changes. Add this to our ears curve changing and there is a lot of things changing at different levels. basically what i'm saying is the level where your ears are flatest may not be the level where your system is most acurate.
  12. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :D Hey folks, I see no right or wrong remarks in this topic, in fact, this is a REALLY good thread. These physics that work for and against us goes way beyond just the preference of Mackie vs. NS-10's.

    Terms like,

    Curve variance

    Where your ear may be most flat vs. system accuracy

    Response, phase, impulse and their resulting curve.

    Electromechanical properties and efficiency.

    Crossover and driver relationships.

    Sound changes with amps driving different loads of different speakers.

    Room saturation points.

    Loudness and our old friends Fletcher & Munson.

    Undistorted SPL

    Ranges of monitoring levels and its effect on the perception on dynamics and the detection of compression effects.

    This is ALL GREAT STUFF, man... I dig this forum! Doesn't get any better anywhere.


    P.S. LOL, This reads like a workshop schedule at an AES conference
    :) .
  13. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Please read this informational document,

    (Dead Link Removed)

    before discussing anything more to do with levels and "curves"

    It speaks, much better than I seem to be able to communicate, to what we have be discussing.


  14. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Thomas, what Bob K is talking about is loudness in this article. And I think most of us agree with his practice, I know I follow it when working with audio for DVD and Broadcast. I also follow it to a certain extent when working with music. What it doesn't take into account is different types of music and how the listener plays back this kind of music. It also doesn't take into account the system that is reproducing this kind of music. For instance, a pair of urie 813's are not effecient enough to sound good when played back at -6db below 83db spl. Where as a pair of ns10's will sound much better. The frequency curve of a monitor system changes with level. Some more than others. as you run pink noise through a system and turn up the level while measuring it, The frequecy curve is going to change with the level because of the reasons barefoot outlined. So depending on the monitoring system, it may sound better at 75db as opposed to 83db or may shine at 90db. I'm talking about frequency response in relation to level, not level alone.
  15. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    interesting document, I've read it before...

    But I must agree with Michael that there's so much more to it than just using the level where ears(normally!) has the flatest response.

    As with everything else you have to make a compromise between your gear and your ears.

    You must also realise that when you accept that the ear has a "flattest point" then different audio gear in different rooms also have a "flattest point".

    ...with the higest quality gear this point seems to be wider than with just good quality gear.
    And as Michael says: the room also has a level where it plays music best.

    Another thing is that i have experienced systems to have much more differences in response on different levels that the ear has... but maybe that's just my ears? or what?

    The system I have now seems to have forgot all about that though :lol:

    Best Regards,
  16. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Here is another thing to throw in there to make it even more confusing. AIR. How much air is between you and your monitors. We all know air is an effective low pass filter. certain systems sound better or worse than others depending on how far you are away from them. I did a little test the other day and measured 80db spl at 10' and listened, then 80db spl at 5' and listened. sounds different. Is that the air or my head just being more in line with the tweeter or both or maybe it's the speakers and amp. Also how humid the air is. Do masters from humid places sound brighter than from dry places. Is that why all latin music sounds too bright for me? It's pretty mind numbing to think of all the variables that are at play with a system without even taking into account taste. What's the most accurate, 10' with 30% humidity? How about humidity in relation to drivers and cabinets? is the paper cone more accurate with more or less humidity. Should I turn my airconditioner higher or lower? hmmm now temperature comes into play. if I turn my airconditioner higher, does that bring my amp temperature below it's optimal operating temperature? I need an aspirin, which is another variable. If I take to many aspirin my ears ring, will I compensate for that if I master with a hangover?
  17. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    he he... :lol:
    I don't believe in compensatin.
    Doing things where you have to compensate just makes things worse.
  18. Barefoot Sound

    Barefoot Sound Active Member

    Yes, simply having a reference level doesn't solve the issue of power dependent response. Like Michael mentioned, the spectral power density going into the speakers depends on the source material. So, with some music the tweeters might be working hard, while with other music the woofers are feeling it.

    Another basic thing to consider is the listening distance. Identical speakers with identical reference levels at their listening positions require different power inputs for different listening distances. Increasing the listening distance by 40% nearly doubles the power requirement.

  19. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    To follow your logic to the Nth degree I would want to have the Gratefull Dead's full concert sound system to master their music on since that is what people are use to hearing it on? Or would I give a client a different master for his home stereo, for his car and for him to play on the club system were he normally performs?

    I have a good set of speakers a good power amp a very well designed mastering room and I use these every day when I am mastering. I know how the monitoring system translates into other playback systems and I know the system inside and out. I leave the monitor gain control at the point that produces 83 DBSPL in my room and I turn out very consistant masters. I even have a good quality (not radio shack) sound level meter to check my levels.

    I don't have a number of different speakers nor do I change amplifiers or my acoustics to compensate for various types of music. I use the same speakers, the same amplifier and the same acoustics for everything I master. I guess I may be missing something here because almost every mastering engineer I know does things pretty much the same way I do it.

    Could you please explain what you mean by your comments. I guess I am just thick headed today.

    Thanks in advance.

    This is a very helpful thread for me.
  20. Barefoot Sound

    Barefoot Sound Active Member

    I think you have exactly the right approach Thomas.

    As I've said, I agree with others here that speakers, and to a much lesser degree amplifiers, change their response characteristics with power. I don't agree, however, that one should change levels depending on the music. My argument about power dependence essentially boils down to choose equipment that is less power dependent.


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