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Bob Katz's "K System" - Nuts N' Bolts Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 18th September 2011
  #31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
Nicholas -
No mastering engineer worth their salt ever does that regardless of what metering system they choose to use or not use. Instead the client determines that through their approval of references, and requests for revisions if things aren't to their liking.

I'd say it's very easy for an experienced ME to know where to gauge a client's tracks average levels (as well as their relative perceived loudness) in comparison to where other similar releases are (in terms of historical, recent, current examples, along with genre based expectations) simply by knowing where things usually sound in their room versus the position of the attenuator on their monitor controller, maybe with occasional glances at a VU and a PPM, and knowing where their general listening levels are (i.e. one somewhere around the optimal place to take the Fletcher-Munson curve into consideration - i.e. 83 - 85dB spl, one place quieter than that - say around 75dB, and one place momentarily cranked up around 90dB or above).

I agree with DC that to me the K-system seems just like an unnecessary complication of the above - and like him I need to add that no engineer I have ever worked with or learned from has ever used it.

I'd suggest just getting an spl meter, and keeping it at your desk and glancing at levels as you determine where your monitor controller level generally is placed for what tracks you are working on. Eventually I think you'll find this becomes way more intuitive. Obviously standard VU and PPM meters are great to have as well.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
1+

Nice Steve!!
Old 18th September 2011
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
If the words "geats" means "beats" I have a feeling you're quite mistaken - considering that a well known story is that one morning all the other Atlantic Studio's engineers came in and had found that all the meters had been blacked out with paint by Tom right before they came in and when they inquired why the heck he had done that he told them that they just need to listen more.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
This story sounds like an insurance nightmare. What an irresponsible thing to do...... Lol. You people sure do idolize the rich!
Old 18th September 2011
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post

That's why I agree with what Bob Katz is trying to do. Not necessarily that everyone use his system per se, but that the ME mind becomes more focused and concerned with this issue.
amazing..... all this talk about listening, & yet the conversation immediately turns to ethnographic verification of it's implementation rather than the substantive imperative of the OP..... All it will take is one user to hit to falsify their underlying claim -- that the K-system has no practical utility -- Wait! Perhaps the theory gestappo are overlooking an ME who does use it..... Oh who could it be...... An ME who does use the K-system...... Drumming fingers...... Bob Katz?..........

Now, if you tell me K himself doesn't use it, my belief in the universal laws of gravity will, indeed, lessen.....
Old 18th September 2011
  #34
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How can you eliminate problems if you don't have constants? You'll never know what is the real root of the problem.

I see it as a very valiant attempt to create a constant--a frame of reference--and I believe this is very useful. Particularly for people with less experience and those learning their craft. Maybe that's why no one can name a "big name" (except Bob) engineer using the system--I suspect those "big names" have already subconsciously established their own version.

For people like me, it has been a very simple and clear way to have a repeatable level and--this shouldn't be overlooked--understand what my level meters are showing me.

(And a little thing that hasn't been mentioned: I like the idea that a mastering engineer on the other side of the world could say to me "this is mastered at K-14" and I could, accordingly, set my volume to K-14 and listen back at the same volume.)

I think so many people (even very experienced ears) are fooled by loudness. If more people started using this system, it would not matter whether we were hearing a master with a huge dynamic range or hearing a master with a heavily squashed dynamic range, we would be able to listen back to it at the same perceived volume. At that point, we could accurately assess the quality of the master without hotness of level colouring our judgement. If an individual listener would like to listen to the master even louder--well, they can turn up their volume. That's the real point of the K-System, as I see it. Yes, it is idealistic, but it's admirable and I, for one, like it and use it.

P.S. and thank you to the OP for such a clear guide - I think there will be plenty of people who find that very useful.
Old 18th September 2011
  #35
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Never understood it myself. If I am recording a lute recital or a Rach symphony, I use all the encoding bits on the CD to deliver the music, so both program material will be kissing the underside of -0.5dB.

The listener can turn the volume up or down, they need the exercise anyway.
Old 18th September 2011
  #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
Now, if you tell me K himself doesn't use it, my belief in the universal laws of gravity will, indeed, lessen.....
He can't. It would cause a feedback loop. No one likes the sound of a feedback loop. Gravity would still be with us.
Old 18th September 2011
  #37
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Is there anything more predictable on GS than the the usual suspects coming out to knock this well intentioned and useful idea? This is so dull.

Mastering is a small world. You guys heard of ATSC A/85 or EBU R128? Standard reference levels have their place and this is a solid idea no matter what you call it. It would behoove some industries to grasp the concept since it is now attached to the law in the United States. No one's forcing this on anyone. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people chasing their tale with crushed inputs when they should just listen louder--getting volume electrically instead of acoustically--half a clue about monitoring is the right direction. It is a useful concept to be aware of and use as you see fit. Otherwise it's ok to be a cowboy, but the crusade is unnecessary.
Old 18th September 2011
  #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
Is there anything more predictable on GS than the the usual suspects coming out to knock this well intentioned and useful idea? This is so dull.
Just sharing our opinions. The basic idea is flawed, is one view. It's not an indicator of quality, is another. It's worse than not using it, yet another.


DC
Old 18th September 2011
  #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
Is there anything more predictable on GS than the the usual suspects coming out to knock this well intentioned and useful idea? This is so dull.
What I see is successful Mastering Engineers saying that they don't use it or need it. On the other side I see a lot of lesser experienced engineers saying it is the greatest thing since not being required to wear powdered wig. Should one be swayed because the one notable user of the system is it's namesake?

I feel it is flawed theory and not useful practice when it comes to mixing music (only) or CD Mastering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
Mastering is a small world. You guys heard of ATSC A/85 or EBU R128?
Heard of it? I live it. Care to share with the class reference SPL recommendations for a room the size of a typical mixing and/or mastering room? You see 83 anywhere on that document? Or do you see a number lower than that?

You wanna draw the line between mixing for TV , hitting an LUFS of -24 +/- 2 and a True Peak excursion of -2dBFS for the 5.1, -6dBFS for the LtRt and CD Mastering?

You should also ask the experienced mixers if they think their mixes SOUND better now BECAUSE of mixing to ATSC/85 or EBU 128..................

Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
Standard reference levels have their place and this is a solid idea no matter what you call it.
You have yet to convince me it has a place in CD Mastering. Film, I get.

By the way, I probably spend more parts of my day mixing in a calibrated environment. I mix TV and Film. Interesting to note that when you mix a film, once the room is calibrated, there is no reason or desire to look at meters. In fact, they are a distraction! Films are mixed by ear.

And to the people who say, "You have to have a constant", "*anything* is better than just using your ears (ie, hoping for the best)" are missing a very fundamental lesson : training your ears to hear it correctly takes time and effort!! It takes TIME to become a good mixer -- and it matters what you DO with that time. I estimate that it takes at least 10 years of working in audio to become a good mixer -- post or music. There are some films that sound terrible that were mixed in a Cal'd environment. And there are some that are wonderful. What's the constant? And what's the difference?

Next thing I am going to develop is a tuning fork that rings at the right pitch when there is "enough" red in the picture you are color correcting. I think this has big potential! Who's with me?

Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
It would behoove some industries to grasp the concept since it is now attached to the law in the United States. No one's forcing this on anyone.
Which is it? Law? Or choice?

By the way, the "law" does not require a monitor volume referenced to a certain dBC SPL; it only requires a Loudness Measurement and Peak Values.


Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
Otherwise it's ok to be a cowboy, but the crusade is unnecessary.
I prefer to be a lone Knight who loves cattle wrastlin'!
Old 18th September 2011
  #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minister View Post

And to the people who say, "You have to have a constant", "*anything* is better than just using your ears (ie, hoping for the best)" are missing a very fundamental lesson : training your ears to hear it correctly takes time and effort!! It takes TIME to become a good mixer -- and it matters what you DO with that time. I estimate that it takes at least 10 years of working in audio to become a good mixer -- post or music. There are some films that sound terrible that were mixed in a Cal'd environment. And there are some that are wonderful. What's the constant? And what's the difference?

!
The point! K-system is helpful for TRAINNG one's ears. May even cut down "hoping for the best" by waiting 10 years *in the hopes* that you will magically develop golden ears. How? Osmosis? Moreover, you seem not to understand that you're not espousing a technique but promoting faith in blind luck (that nothing is wrong with your ears that day)......
Old 18th September 2011
  #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
EBU R128?
That is very well thought out and implemented. It is directly applicable to the problem purports to solve, and solves it in a transparent and easy to understand manner. It was vetted and agreed upon by the professional organizations affected by it. It also helps that there will be fines for not following it.

See the difference? The K-system does none of this. I doubt it would get very far as an AES standard. I doubt it has even been submitted.

BTW, I would whole heartedly support some version of ITU128 as an iTunes option. Even if it defaulted to "on".
Old 18th September 2011
  #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
The point! K-system is helpful for TRAINNG one's ears. May even cut down "hoping for the best" by waiting 10 years *in the hopes* that you will magically develop golden ears. How? Osmosis? Moreover, you seem not to understand that you're not espousing a technique but promoting faith in blind luck (that nothing is wrong with your ears that day)......
Do I EQ the bass or the Kick Drum? Or both? OR do I leave them alone. What is the relationship of the bass to the drums? How do I get my drum "picture"? From the o-heads or the spot mics? What style of music is it? Does a light do off when you get it "right"? There, now it is perfect. What? The client doesn't like it? But my readout that I printed, that I showed to the band, says it is "right"!

How loud should the guitars be? How much reverb is enough? What should the pre-delay be? Should I delay before I go into the verb? Should I EQ the return?

How much noise reduction should I apply to this audio? What kind? How far can I go with it before I get digital squirrels? Will the client approve?

In Mastering, how much K-Stereo should be applied to the Deguelo re-issue?

It takes years to learn music styles, hearing the problems, fixing the problems, and know when to leave it alone and stay out of the way.

As I said, you put in time, but it is what you DO with that time. You have to apply yourself! Mix or Master and be proud of your work. Then compare it to one of your heros. Oh, sugar pops! I have a LOOOOOONG way to go. Believe me, I thought I was getting it a few years into it, then was sadly mistaken when I compared my work to the Giants of the craft. No lights went off, no room calibration, no HarBal analysis, .... my ears were still developing.
Old 18th September 2011
  #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minister View Post
Do I EQ the bass or the Kick Drum? Or both? OR do I leave them alone. What is the relationship of the bass to the drums? How do I get my drum "picture"? From the o-heads or the spot mics? What style of music is it? Does a light do off when you get it "right"? There, now it is perfect. What? The client doesn't like it? But my readout that I printed, that I showed to the band, says it is "right"!

How loud should the guitars be?

How much noise reduction should I apply to this audio? What kind? How far can I go with it before I get digital squirrels? Will the client approve?

In Mastering, how much K-Stereo should be applied to the Deguelo re-issue?

It takes years to learn music styles, hearing the problems, fixing the problems, and know when to leave it alone and stay out of the way.

As I said, you put in time, but it is what you DO with that time. You have to apply yourself! Mix or Master and be proud of your work. Then compare it to one of your heros. Oh, sugar pops! I have a LOOOOOONG way to go. Believe me, I thought I was getting it a few years into it, then was sadly mistaken when I compared my work to the Giants of the craft. No lights went off, no room calibration, no HarBal analysis, .... my ears were still developing.
But none of these things PRECLUDE use of K-System.
Old 18th September 2011
  #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
But none of these things PRECLUDE use of K-System.
Dear Mr. Lunchbox,

Thank you for Mastering our Record, I learned a lot by attending the session. As you told me, your monitors are Calibrated to 83 dB SPL. The music sounded pretty good in your studio. Being of a curious mind I went to Radio Shack and bought an SLM and took it home. I calibrated my home stereo, which actually sounds pretty decent to my ear, to play back at 69 because that is the level that my girlfriend and I like to listen to music. As I listend to the first song, I thought, "What happened to the bass?". My GF couldnd't hear it much either, but she's not technical, so she doesn't count. So I went to the next song. Too little bass. So, I pulled up some music similar in style to mine on my iPod setup through my home stereo and there was a decent amount of bass. Then I put my system up to 83. Oh, there was the bass. But I want my music to sound good at all levels, is this possible? Or can I only play this back at 83?

Thanks for your help.

Signed,

Mystified by low end loss.
Old 18th September 2011
  #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minister View Post
. But I want my music to sound good at all levels, is this possible? Or can I only play this back at 83?

Thanks for your help.

Signed,

Mystified by low end loss.
lol..... Since you haven't spent at least 10 years DOing audio, your opinion doesn't count.


Though an interesting point. Emperor Palpatine, you are swaying me.....
Old 18th September 2011
  #46
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I use k-system here and it has been very useful for me..
Old 18th September 2011
  #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taturana View Post
I use k-system here and it has been very useful for me..
Can you answer the low-end question posed by minister, albeit obliquely, posted above? I'm curious now. Pls & thx
Old 19th September 2011
  #48
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Here is quite an interesting presentation created for the Linux Audio Conference of 2011.

http://lac.linuxaudio.org/2011/download/lm-pres.pdf

They are encouraging the use of the EBU R-128 Loudness Standard, but note they also mention the K-System as giving the most accurate overall loudness indication of any metering system commonly in use right now.
Old 19th September 2011
  #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by editronmegatron View Post
@ Nicholas West

Ha, ha. Greetings and salutations!

Welcome to Gearslutz! Where you post stuff, happily [and perhaps even after working on it for some (possibly extended) period of time].

And it gets immediately shat upon by the friendly, good natured residents.

Do not be discouraged, or alarmed. This is normal.

Your dissatisfaction with the loudness war is good.

Using the E system here currently.
Thanks so much for the welcome, Editron! It's great to "meet" you and thanks for the encouragement.
Old 19th September 2011
  #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
Can you answer the low-end question posed by minister, albeit obliquely, posted above? I'm curious now. Pls & thx
sure... easy enough...

i use it while mixing and mastering, just to keep a solid reference.. but i also check the mix in various volumes... as well as different sources.. once you do get a nice balance it sounds quite nice...
i also have to say that bob katz himself masters quite well using it btw... he is most likely my favorite mastering engineer too... he mastered one of my last productions and i was very very pleased with the results.. and no, the low end doesn't "disappear" at low volumes, it plays very well everywhere and i have gotten really good reviews on the sound of the record... i also have to say i asked him to do a conservative volume master. Since it was an instrumental jazz album, i did not care about volume but i really cared about the sound results...I quite enjoyed the natural sounding eq he used on it too... not too bright or dark.. just right..

actually, that was exactly why i hired him for the job... and my expectations were 100% fulfilled.
Old 19th September 2011
  #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taturana View Post
sure... easy enough...

i use it while mixing and mastering, just to keep a solid reference.. but i also check the mix in various volumes... as well as different sources.. once you do get a nice balance it sounds quite nice...
i also have to say that bob katz himself masters quite well using it btw... he is most likely my favorite mastering engineer too... he mastered one of my last productions and i was very very pleased with the results..
Thanks buddy! So it's a red herring to suggest the K-System prsents an obstacle to good low end balance. Thought as much.
Old 19th September 2011
  #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
Thanks buddy! So it's a red herring to suggest the K-System prsents an obstacle to good low end balance. Thought as much.
sure... it really holds no ground at all...
Old 19th September 2011
  #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
They are encouraging the use of the EBU R-128 Loudness Standard, but note they also mention the K-System as giving the most accurate overall loudness indication of any metering system commonly in use right now.
Which is remarkable considering it contains no psycho-acoustic weighting at all!

Or do they mean that listening to the actual apparent level is the best way?


DC
Old 19th September 2011
  #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taturana View Post
i use it while mixing and mastering, just to keep a solid reference.. but i also check the mix in various volumes... as well as different sources.. once you do get a nice balance it sounds quite nice....
That sounds quite sensible. And can be very effective and instructional. But it is not the K-way. For that, your monitor knob must ex vi termini remain fixed. You have Uncalibrated your monitor chain.

But it is a good way to check for low end translation.

83 SPL for anything over -10dBFS is PRETTY LOUD. So your bass energy will increase. You can't really know how much low end energy you will lose when it is played back at a lower volume until you lower your playback. But you also wanna check that the bass is not overwhelming when cranking it to 90 or more. I do this all the time when I mix music before sending it to mastering.

I also spend MOST of my TV mixing time mixing on small speakers and a very low volume. I find I can pack the mix better. Even if I have to hit ATSC 85.
Old 19th September 2011
  #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Which is remarkable considering it contains no psycho-acoustic weighting at all!

Or do they mean that listening to the actual apparent level is the best way?


DC
I think they mean that by checking your RMS level against the K Meter every once in a while during mastering you will have the most accurate indication of where your loudness actually is, as opposed to where you think it is heard through the prism of listening fatigue, long hours, client pressure, aggressive EQ or compression, etc etc. That's the value I can see in any loudness meter, anyway.
Old 19th September 2011
  #56
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It shoudl be the H (for headroom) system

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
Hello everybody; I'm a newbie to this great forum, and I'm really happy to make all of your acquaintance. I thought I'd chime in with my recent beginners experience with the Bob Katz "K System".

Like so many thousands of people working with the technical aspects of mixing and mastering digital music, I became interested in Bob Katz’s “K System” of playback level standardization.

However, although I read his article “Level Practices” from beginning to end at least 30 times in a row (and many other of his articles very closely), I felt a nagging confusion as to the actual nuts and bolts of putting his system into operation in the real world. It seems the more I read about the “K System”, the more it confused me and it seemed like important parts were being left out of his explanations. Like, step by step, how is this actually done?

Certainly, by reading the many discussion and argument threads about the K System in this forum, one can get a sense of how much confusion and uncertainty there is around what you are supposed to actually do to implement it.

The concept of standardizing studio listening levels is a fine one…but Mr Katz’s article is so dense with history, scientific facts, justifications, hopes and dreams for his system, technical explanations, descriptions of various meter systems, references, side explanations…..I just couldn’t get a clear handle at all on using the system itself .

Like many engineers and scientists, his mind seems to operate in 20 directions at once and although he is the creator of the system, he is possibly not the best person to explain the actual mundane usage of it to the average guy. Not that I am, but I thought maybe that by trying to write a clear hands-on explanation of how I set it up myself, according to my possibly flawed understanding of it, I could firm it in my own mind, and maybe help a few people out there who might be feeling similar confusion and uncertainty about what this was all about.

Anyway, after banging my head on this for at least two weeks the penny dropped for me, and I began to understand the basics of it (I sure hope so!) and how to implement it in my modest home studio, where, despite the absence of $650,000 worth of top drawer equipment, it still has immense value. It is working for me. It is in this spirit that I offer here my nuts ‘n bolts of the minimum basics of using Mr Katz’s “K System”. If Mr Katz someday reads this, I hope he will make any comments on it he pleases, positive or negative.

The first thing you have to do is calibrate your monitoring system, most importantly your monitor volume control.

In most all studios, the monitor volume control is a simple pot with a vague ring of numbers around it relating to nothing, which many engineers are continually tweaking and fiddling with according to their feelings of the moment, making the entire recording or mix process a slippery game of moving targets. The goal of the K System is to turn the monitor volume control into a precision instrument and central part of your recording and mixing process, enabling you to work under definite and precise listening conditions so that you can really define, compare and analyze what you are listening to and how your work is going and how it’s going to turn out.

To calibrate your monitoring system, you’re going to need a sound level meter.

1 – Go to Bob Katz’s digido.com site and download the stereo pink noise .wav file. This is a file of standard pink noise recorded at a level of -20 db (There is also a pink noise file which is only the right channel, and one which is only the left. These files might be useful if you have no way to mute your speakers individually).

2 – Open the pink noise file in your DAW and LEAVE IT at -20 db level. Leave it just the way it is. Do not change its original amplitude in any way, or resample it at a louder level, equalize it etc etc. The average peaks of the waveform should read approximately -20 db on your DAW screen.

Turn your playback loop function on so that when you play the file and it finishes playing, it starts playing again from the beginning automatically.

Make your studio room as quiet as possible. If there's a door, close it. If there are windows, close them. If there's a radio on somewhere, turn it off. As much as possible, you don't want any extraneous noise leaks to influence the readings of your sound meter.

3- Set up your sound level meter (I put mine on a tripod). Position it firmly in the exact place and level your head is when you monitor your speakers. If you are using nearfield monitors, the speakers and your listening position should form an EQUAL-sided triangle; no matter how far apart or near together the speakers are, your listening position should be the bottom point of that triangle.

4- Set your sound level meter for C – Weighting, Slow Reponse. Set the range control on your meter so that it’s appropriate for measuring sound between 75 – 85 db SPL (Sound Pressure Level) in strength.

5- Mute your right speaker completely; not with any kind of pan or balance control (everything like that should remain in the center), but by using a mute button, or by literally turning it off or even disconnecting it if you have to. Again, DO NOT do this with a pan control; leave the panning of the file exactly in the center.

6 – Point your sound level meter microphone directly at your left speaker without moving it from its center position between the two speakers. That’s why a tripod is so useful for this; you can just pan the meter around towards the speaker without disturbing its position between the speakers.

7 – Press play and start playing the noise file. Now with your MONITOR VOLUME CONTROL and NOTHING ELSE, slowly adjust the volume of the sound from the left speaker as you watch your sound meter, until it reads 83 db SPL on your sound meter. If you have some kind of graduated or detented monitor volume control, and you are using self-powered monitor speakers, you might have to use some combination of the monitor volume control and the volume control on the back of the speaker to get it exactly 83 db on the meter. But get it exactly 83 db on the meter.

8- When your left speaker is set, completely mute your left speaker and turn on your right speaker. Point your sound meter at the right speaker, and repeat the above operation so that you get exactly 83 db SPL coming from your right speaker. If you are using self-powered monitors, the best thing would be to now LEAVE THE MONITOR VOLUME CONTROL ALONE so you don’t disturb the left speaker level, and balance any volume discrepancy between the right and left speaker using only the volume control on the back of the right speaker.

9- After you have exactly 83 db SPL coming from both speakers, mark this setting firmly, clearly and exactly on your monitor master volume control as ZERO. This is one of the most important parts of this operation. You want to be able to return to this exact level on your volume control. This will be your monitor volume setting when using the K-20 meter.

10- Now we will create the marking on the monitor volume control for using the K-14 meter. Mute the right speaker again as above, point your meter again at the left speaker, and adjust the monitor volume control so that now your sound meter reads exactly 77 db SPL (Make sure you do this AFTER you have marked your zero mark on the control for 83 db SPL). Then mute your left speaker, turn on the right speaker, and check that your right speaker also reads 77 db SPL on the meter.

11- When ready, mark this setting exactly on your monitor volume control as -6, or K14, or whatever you want to call it. Just make sure the mark is precise. This will be your volume setting when using the K-14 meter. In a perfect world, this mark should be 6 db below the zero mark.

12- Now we will create the marking on the monitor volume control for using the K-12 meter. Repeat step 10 above except set the monitor volume so that now your sound level meter reads exactly 75 db SPL. Do this as usual for the right and make sure the right matches the left.

13- When ready, mark this setting exactly on your monitor volume control as -8, or K-12, or whatever you want to call it. Just make sure the mark is precise. This will be your volume setting when using the K-12 meter.

Your monitor system is now calibrated for using the K System. You will now have three marks on your monitor volume control: Zero or K20, -6 or K14, and -8 or K12.


USING THE K SYSTEM

The point of the K system is to be able to monitor at a precise, repeatable volume level while working with recordings or masters of differing dynamic ranges, so that the average playback volume (also known as the RMS level, Root Means Square) among these recordings come out about the same and that the headroom before clipping is sufficient to contain the dynamic range of the material you are working with without having to destroy that range with over-compression or limiting.

The zero mark on each K meter scale is where, if your monitor volume control is set properly for the meter your are using, the monitor speaker loudness will equal the industry standard 83 db SPL. That zero mark is not a reference to a recording level, it’s a reference to a listening level. However, the headroom between that zero mark and 0 dbFS, the digital signal clip point, at the top of the meter, is different for each meter.

Using the system is actually rather simple…you choose which meter you need according to the dynamic range you want from your finished recording, set your monitor volume control to work with that meter, and then get a basic loudness level by adjusting the amplitude of your file so that the AVERAGE base level (RMS) of the material reaches the zero mark on the K meter.

Note that I said average level; not the peak levels or the louder levels in the material. The difference between the average or RMS level and the loudest peaks, often referred to as the “crest” ratio, is the headroom you have to work with above the average level, and your handling of that may vary according to the sound you like. But if you keep the average level of your material hovering around the zero mark of the K Meter, you will achieve a consistent and repeatable industry standard loudness of your mixes from file to file.

In very general terms, you would place the RMS level of the material at zero on the K Meter scale, let the louder peaks play around in and out of the area between zero and +4, and let the much louder highly transient peaks shoot into the area above that.

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Using the K20 meter. This is the meter with the most headroom and dynamic range:

1 Turn on, or set your DAW, for the K 20 meter.

2 Adjust your MONITOR VOLUME to your Zero point, the first point you marked on your volume control, which is the correct listening level for using the K20 meter.

3 Now you load your file to be worked on into your DAW. If you now adjust the amplitude of the material so that the base average (NOT the peaks!) level of the file is hitting the zero mark on the K20 meter, you will be hearing it at the standard 83 db SPL volume level from the speakers, and you will have 20 db headroom to work with above that point for your peaks and loud parts before the material reaches 0 dbFS and the signal clips. The signal clips above +20 db on this meter.

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Using the K14 meter. This is the meter most often used for pop and rock:

1- Turn on, or set your DAW, for the K14 meter.

2- Adjust your MONITOR VOLUME down to the -6 point, or your K14 point, or whatever you called it, which is the correct listening level for using the K14 meter.

3- Now you load your file to be worked on into your DAW. If you adjust the amplitude of the file so that the base average (NOT the peaks!) level of the file is hitting the zero mark on the K14 meter, you will again be hearing it at 83 db SPL volume from the speakers, but you will now have only 14 db headroom above that point for your peaks and loud parts before the level reaches 0 dbFS and the signal clips. The signal clips above +14 db on this meter.

This is because you now had to turn up the amplitude of the file to reach the zero mark on the K14 meter more, compared to what you had to do with the K20 meter, resulting in a louder file but leaving you less headroom and with less dynamic range available to you.

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Using the K12 meter:

1- Turn on, or set your DAW, for the K12 meter. This is the meter with the least dynamic range:

2- Adjust your MONITOR VOLUME down to your -8 point, or your K12 point, or whatever you called it, which is the correct basic listening level for using the K12 meter.

3- Now you load your file to be worked on into your DAW. If you adjust the amplitude of the file so that the basic average (NOT the peaks!) level of the file is hitting the zero mark on the K12 meter, you will again be hearing it at 83 db SPL volume from the speakers, but you will now have only 12 db headroom above that point for your peaks and loud parts before the level reaches 0 dbFS and the signal clips. The signal clips above +12 db on this meter.

This is because you now had to turn up the amplitude of the file even more to reach the zero mark on the K12 meter, compared to what you had to do with the K14 meter, leaving you with even less headroom, and resulting in a louder file but with even less dynamic range available to you.

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Note that with use of each successive K meter after K20 you have to turn the monitor volume control DOWN from the one before. This results in you having to adjust UP the average amplitude of the file you are working on in order to reach the zero point on the meter and get the same industry standard 83 db SPL monitoring volume level. And this in turn results in a hotter file and less headroom to work with before clipping. It also means you might have to choose to use some compression or limiting on your file to keep your peaks within that headroom and avoid clipping. Or not.

The K system enables you to standardize your playback listening levels while working with material of varying dynamic range, giving you varying headroom appropriate to the needs of the material you are working with.

Clipping is now much less likely, and most importantly this helps assure that your final product will preserve the dynamic range of your music while matching the industry standard playback loudness levels of today’s movie DVDs and other even newer emerging digital music media. This is important going forward as so many of these medias are merging into all-encompassing media systems.

As a general overview, the K20 meter is appropriate for music with a very large dynamic range, such as much classical and other kinds of acoustic music, or materal for home theatre systems, where you might want to preserve that range as it is and not squash it with compression or limiting. The K14 meter is appropriate for music which might need to be hotter overall and with less dynamic range, such as most pop, rock etc. The K12 meter is good for material which needs even less dynamic range such as spoken word, some kinds of rock etc.

After a while, by using this standardized system of monitoring volume, you will internalize the sound of it and be able to work more and more without reference to the meters at all, and in confidence that your levels are not clipping. This theoretically should contribute to better and more consistent sounding recordings overall.

The point is to make a great sounding mix or master that preserves and presents all the music as well as possible, not to try to pre-guess how loud the end user will want to listen to it. That is unknown, totally up to them, and totally within their control….their volume control.
very good summary

looks like it shoudl be called the H system
H for headroom

or perhaps CH for calibrated+headroom system
Old 19th September 2011
  #57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minister View Post
That sounds quite sensible. And can be very effective and instructional. But it is not the K-way. For that, your monitor knob must ex vi termini remain fixed. You have Uncalibrated your monitor chain.

But it is a good way to check for low end translation.

83 SPL for anything over -10dBFS is PRETTY LOUD. So your bass energy will increase. You can't really know how much low end energy you will lose when it is played back at a lower volume until you lower your playback. But you also wanna check that the bass is not overwhelming when cranking it to 90 or more. I do this all the time when I mix music before sending it to mastering.

I also spend MOST of my TV mixing time mixing on small speakers and a very low volume. I find I can pack the mix better. Even if I have to hit ATSC 85.
minister... i can see where you're getting at... i don;t take k-system as a dogma or religion... but i really enjoy having a fixed reference level.. it really helps to make better mixes/masters, but i am still pretty skeptical, always, so i do check it against other references, all the time... but most of the work i do in the past few years do take k-system as a huge reference, and i have everything set and calibrated as soon as i want it in the studio.. as i said, i am a big fan of BK's work... as an engineer and as a client.. and the quality of his work speaks for itself.

i also set my level in my own personal studio a bit lower than 83 spl... especially since i have a small room and i am not in this to write papers or follow anyone blindly.. I am just trying to get the best results i can, and from experience, my rooms sounds better in a slightly lower volume... so, in a metaphoric way it's one candle to god and another to the devil here... which does not invalidate a great theory by bob katz, and as matter of fact, it's his theory, and especially having a fixed reference level that i can go back to, and that i am used to work in, that allows me to slip past the scientific side of this and actually have a real world reference that works for me, which of course is always getting adjusted as time goes by...
Old 19th September 2011
  #58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taturana View Post
minister... i can see where you're getting at... i don;t take k-system as a dogma or religion... but i really enjoy having a fixed reference level.. it really helps to make better mixes/masters, but i am still pretty skeptical, always, so i do check it against other references, all the time... but most of the work i do in the past few years do take k-system as a huge reference, and i have everything set and calibrated as soon as i want it in the studio.. as i said, i am a big fan of BK's work... as an engineer and as a client.. and the quality of his work speaks for itself.

i also set my level in my own personal studio a bit lower than 83 spl... especially since i have a small room and i am not in this to write papers or follow anyone blindly.. I am just trying to get the best results i can, and from experience, my rooms sounds better in a slightly lower volume... so, in a metaphoric way it's one candle to god and another to the devil here... which does not invalidate a great theory by bob katz, and as matter of fact, it's his theory, and especially having a fixed reference level that i can go back to, and that i am used to work in, that allows me to slip past the scientific side of this and actually have a real world reference that works for me, which of course is always getting adjusted as time goes by...
Sounds like the T-System. And pretty sensible to me. This is, in the end, the point of most of the ME's who have contributed to this thread : they find a simple way that works for them.

83 is pretty loud in a small room, innit? Wonder why he recommends that high an SPL.
Old 19th September 2011
  #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minister View Post
Sounds like the T-System. And pretty sensible to me. This is, in the end, the point of most of the ME's who have contributed to this thread : they find a simple way that works for them.

83 is pretty loud in a small room, innit? Wonder why he recommends that high an SPL.
somehow... everything here happens to work in the t-system... one way or the other... hehe
Old 19th September 2011
  #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
I think they mean that by checking your RMS level against the K Meter every once in a while during mastering you will have the most accurate indication of where your loudness actually is,
No way, no how, by any means at all. The ear absolutely makes even the most advanced meter seem utterly inaccurate in terms of gauging actual perceived relative loudness. Why? Because loudness is determined not just from amplitudes but also from frequency content and transient shape. i.e. a 3kHz tone will sound a lot louder than a 150Hz signal with both metered at the same level, and a very sharp attack (such as an uncompressed snare hit) will get perceived as being louder than a slowly rising one even if they both achieve the same peak level. While there are in fact metering systems that attempt to take these factors into account (such as the Leq-A average level metering system) they still aren't as accurate as simply using your ears.

You also aren't taking into account that arrangements will not always be the same so that you won't always want to have consistent average levels by any means. i.e. a dense rock track with lots of overdubs and ambience will have to have way higher of an average level to sound as loud as a dry singer songwriter track with just an acoustic guitar and voice.

Where meters are extremely useful though is in calibration and being able to describe relative changes - so I do in fact use them everyday - just not to determine what average level I want to set a track to.

Quote:
as opposed to where you think it is heard through the prism of listening fatigue, long hours,
There's absolutely no listening fatigue involved in setting an album's general average level whatsoever. It's basically one the first decisions made in fact, as you want all the following tracks to be appropriately balanced in terms of average level relative to the first track. Bouncing between tracks from among the first you do to the last you do is a great way of making sure you are on target, way better than a meter can tell you.

Other ways of countering potential listening fatigue across a long mastering sessions are turning the volume way down while doing any transfers through the analog process chain, monitoring at a quieter level for brief periods, short breaks after a few tracks or longer ones after a lot, and briefly playing material that is very different from what you are working on.

Quote:
client pressure,
"Client pressure" is in fact not pressure at all but instead the concerns and desires you should absolutely be most concerned with meeting (while still creating an end product that meets all manufactures or distributors specifications) if you in fact want to do your job correctly.

Quote:
aggressive EQ or compression, etc etc.
the way any mastering studio worth calling itself one deals with this is by having a monitor controller where you can switch between sources at a single button push - the first being the untouched original source, and the second being the sum total of all processing applied and level matched as best as possible to the original. That way you can easily tell whether the changes you are making in fact are making the track subjectively better sounding - rather than just giving the illusion that it is simply because it is being monitored slightly louder than what it is being compared to.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
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