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Setting up levels on monitors/interface

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by Nutti, Aug 28, 2013.

  1. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member


    I recently bought a db meter to check the levels on my monitors and set everything up properly. I have a set of tannoy reveal 602a directly into a presonus firestudio project and I use presonus studio one professional 2.5.2 as my daw. I've read that pink noise should be around 83-85db right where I have my ears while mixing so I downloaded a wav file of pink noise at 96khz -3dbfs.

    My tannoys are wired to the firestudio by xlr to trs cables and levelknob is set at 1/2 volume. I loaded the file in studio one and have channel and masterfader at 0db. My db meter is set at slow C weighting and as I turn my masterknob on the interface it reaches about 1/2 way for the meter to show 84,5db. Fine. Now when I set a song to play at these levels it is really loud, 92,5db on the meter with same settings.

    What am I doing wrong?

    Could someone please post a good tutorial vid on this or explain step by step here. I'm thinking I use the wrong file, my daw is always at 48khz and the file was at 96khz, could it have something to do with it?

    Thansk for any help on this

    Sent from my GT-I9300 via Tapatalk 2
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    You did one thing right, you now know how 84.5db levels sounds.

    Pros will correct me if I'm wrong but there's no rull that says 83db is the only volume you should use to mix. Actually it's quite the oposit. You should mix at very low level and make spot check at higher volumes once in a while. Using higher volume will help get a better perspective of bass frequencies. People wandering why their mix only sound good at High volume should know that it is because it as been mixed at high volume. Everything sounds better at higher volume. I don't know how many times I've been ask for EQ changes and I would say, OK! I'd change nothing but go to higher volume and the customer would say AAHHH, it's much better !!

    Mixing at low levels also prevent your ears to get tired quickly...
  3. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Thanks for the reply!

    I measured a song to se where I've been before doing anything and that was around 65db. Ive been satisfyed at that level and find myself even pulling the volume down after a few hours. Now that I bought the db meter I tought Id check and set everything properly to pro level of hearing.

    Sent from my GT-I9300 via Tapatalk 2
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    A commercially produced and mastered song or an unmastered mix project? A commercially mastered song' RMS level might come in at anything from a reasonable -14dBFS to -12dBFS up to a ridiculous -6dBFS, which is not where you want to be during the tracking and mixing phases.

    What's the RMS level of the pink noise file? It should have the same value as your target mix level (I use -18dBFS).

    If the song you played is one of your mix projects or unmastered mix files then the calibration is working, telling you you're mixing too hot. When the calibration is right you can pay less attention to level meters and mix by ear.
  5. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    I never checked the rms levels, I've just gone by peak so I don't think I'm going all that hot but I need to get back to you on that one...never checked the rms level on the noise either (stupid me).

    As far as the song goes that I had playing I'm not sure either...it was a collab work of one mp3 file that I'm adding drums to, but it might be that the dude has mastered it already cuz it peaks almost at 0db

    Sent from my GT-I9300 via Tapatalk 2
  6. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    I'm in the studio testing and I set the gain on the pink noise to peak at -6db where my mixes would have their absolute peak before mastering. I set the levels to 84,5db and then played a song I mixed witch peaked at -9db and is showed a peak of 80,7db on the meter and average at 77db. I made notes on where I find 77db, 73db and 62db on the interface so I got some numbers where I know the db:s are.

    So now to the rms on pink noise is -15,5db at this setting and the song is about at -20db rms.

    Is this correctly done now?

    Sent from my GT-I9300 via Tapatalk 2
  7. godchuanz

    godchuanz Active Member

    Hi Nutti,

    In your case, what probably happened is that your speakers were set to 84dB on the pink noise file at -15dB RMS, but the songs you play through the speakers are mastered to be probably at -8dB RMS or maybe more, resulting in you hearing them at ear-shattering volumes >90dB.

    I assume you are trying to set up your system for mixing? In any case, do check out the K-system. What you basically want is to calibrate your speakers to 2 or 3 volume levels, e.g. K-20 and K-12. For example, when you are mixing, turn your speaker knobs to a setting where a file that is -20dB RMS will play at roughly 83dB on your dB meter. When mastering/playing mastered audio files, turn your speaker knobs to a setting where a file that is -12dB RMS will play at roughly 83dB. Since you set your speakers such that you always aim to mix audio at roughly 83dB, you have a pretty good reference point of how the mix / master really sounds, without falling into the "louder sounds better" trap. Plus, you avoid mixing/masering your song too hot.

    What I do is I set my speakers to roughly 78dB at K-20 (I find 83dB a bit too loud), so that I always mix in the DAW software with this speaker setting. I then set the "speakers volume" on the computer to 50% or less, that would make a mastered song playback at a comfortable volume in an audio player. Because the DAW uses ASIO, it's not affected by the O/S audio volume setting like an audio player would, so I can set both at pretty good volumes. I don't do mastering myself, so I don't need another K-setting :) If you do, just set your speakers to K-14 or K-12 or K-9 (!!!) instead. :)
  8. Mo Facta

    Mo Facta Active Member

    This post is basically correct but I would like to offer some further insights.

    Everyone's ears are different but 83dB was chosen by by Bob Katz because it is what he has concluded is the volume at which the majority people's ears are most linear in terms of tonal balance. As you might know, the ear's response is not frequency linear at all volume levels. I'm sure for one person it may be 83dB and for another 85dB, but generally it's accepted to be in that region. The Fletcher Munson curves explain it all:


    The K-System is a calibrated volume control system that enables you to mix without having to worry too much about levels internally. It lets you get on with mixing because if the vocals, etc are comfortably heard at that fixed volume, you know you're in the ballpark. If your volume knob is marked to produce C-weighted pink noise playing at -14dBfs RMS (in the case of the K-14 calibration for pop music) at 85dB SPL (slow response) it will calibrated in such a way that you can make an easy call as to whether your internal levels are too loud or not. The beauty of the K-system is that it forces your ears to be the ultimate judge. This is also why a fixed volume control is key.

    And I'm quite surprised to hear that some people here find 83dB too loud. Maybe it's just me but I find it almost on par with someone talking loudly in a room. However the point about listening to material at varying volumes is also good advice. Using the K-system to get your initial balances and then cranking it up or down now and then is perfectly acceptable.

    For more reading on the subject, here ya go:


    How to Make Better Recordings Part 2

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers :)
  9. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Thank you for the replies! I must say that at this point Im lost in this subject. Ive got to many things going on in my head to get this right. Last night I did go with doing it step by step from an tutorial video from Rick Naqvi from presonus.


    As I also use studio one as my daw this seemed simple. One error though. He uses a studiolive mxer as interface and can set it to unity, while I use a firestudio project and firestudio I don't have a 0db mark on my master output knob. This got me all confused and I tried it by putting my master out on my interface to max and set the monitors after that. I actually went with 77db and played a song I was working on witch then peaked at 90db. Crap!

    I think I need a video for a person that has 60IQ to get this right. I don't get it otherwise, I'm totally lost in all the reading Ive done and mix everything up. It's good you guys trying to explain everything but it just gets to complicated for me right now and I have way to little time to spend on trying to get this right. I would just like to have the simpliest way to get my monitors set up without failure. Does this make any sense?

    Sent from my GT-I9300 via Tapatalk 2

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