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Bob Katz's "K System" - Nuts N' Bolts Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 14th September 2011
  #1
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Bob Katz's "K System" - Nuts N' Bolts

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.

Last edited by Nicholas West; 18th September 2011 at 09:25 PM.. Reason: Add term RMS
Old 14th September 2011
  #2
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Thank you, thank you!
This is the comprehensive analysis that I've been waiting for.
I, too, have read Mr Katz's tome a few times (its sitting on my desktop right now as a matter of fact) and still not understood exactly how to apply all the information-even after having some basic knowledge of what the system does and how to implement it.



atb,
kjb
Old 14th September 2011
  #3
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Mark 83dB SPL at your meter reference level (generally 0VU) and you have your own K system! It just isn't called the K system.

It is an interesting system but I have yet to meet an ME that uses it...maybe Australia is a bit behind.
Old 15th September 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben F View Post
Mark 83dB SPL at your meter reference level (generally 0VU) and you have your own K system! It just isn't called the K system.

It is an interesting system but I have yet to meet an ME that uses it...maybe Australia is a bit behind.
I am not aware of anyone that uses it either. Also, the fundamental error in the system is that the customers volume control is not fixed. It incorrectly tries to tie the cinema calibration system (no volume control in a theater) to the world of CD mastering, with needless complexity and more technical distractions.

So, yes, find 83-85 SPL in your room, mark it and move on. But remember that your work must sound good at all levels, not just some imaginary "reference" point...................


DC
Old 15th September 2011
  #5
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Dave Collins, considering your discography and experience one can certainly not argue with your point. You've done just fine with this craft!

However, I think Bob Katz's main point of his system is actually not in conflict with your values...he wants to get CD mastering engineers away from the practice of just robotically ramming every track right up to the top of the meter no matter what, thereby destroying musical value in the process. To sound good....at all levels. No matter how far up or down you turn a track that has a 2 db dynamic range, it always has the same relentless, mindless, blaring quality. Let AM radio do that to it if it wants, not the mastering engineer.

He wants future mastering engineers to try to preserve one of music's greatest attributes, dynamic range, while simultaneously keeping things centered around a repeatable, industry standard competitive level. I think this is an admirable wish for the craft of mastering; I agree with it.

As far as the complexity of implementing it....there are far more complex things going on in mastering studios. I was a disc mastering engineer (I mean..VINYL) for two years.....THAT was complex....and FINICKY!
Old 16th September 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
Dave Collins, considering your discography and experience one can certainly not argue with your point. You've done just fine with this craft!

However, I think Bob Katz's main point of his system is actually not in conflict with your values...he wants to get CD mastering engineers away from the practice of just robotically ramming every track right up to the top of the meter no matter what, thereby destroying musical value in the process.
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
Old 16th September 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben F View Post
Mark 83dB SPL at your meter reference level (generally 0VU) and you have your own K system! It just isn't called the K system.

It is an interesting system but I have yet to meet an ME that uses it...maybe Australia is a bit behind.
I have a few very well known spots in my stepped monitoring pot that I use a lot, but I also turn it way up for fade ends and the like. A lot of Bob's stuff never made any sense to me - Weiss presets and TC 6000 settings, or consulting a chart to eq out a boomy note for example. I too have never met a K system user, unless the K sometimes stands for 'King' that is!

King Willy
Old 16th September 2011
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Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
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.
This is what I've been doing for years, for the sole purpose of alerting me of when my ears are fatiguing. If I'm finding that I need to crank up my attenuator a bit and am getting a reading past 90, that's my cue to stop and take a break because the Fletcher Munson effect is setting in (which essentially means that my optimal listening range at my position is about to get skewed because I'm about to increase my monitoring levels, which I think is a bigger issue than calibrating any meter, as useful as they are and all).
Old 16th September 2011
  #9
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It's interesting, the disconnect between sound engineers who work in the movie business and those who work in the music business.

Since movie theaters have industry calibrated sound systems, and movie goers have no volume controls, movie and consequently DVD audio mastering is much more highly disciplined and rigorously controlled, resulting in more consistent and higher sound quality across the board (one of Bob Katz's original points, btw). I think many pop music engineers could learn much from a more highly disciplined approach to dynamics.

It's a shame that music mastering engineers are often bullied by clueless producers, musicians or record company marketing or A&R guys into making crappy sounding headache inducing CDs. Not always, but often enough for it to be a shame.

The loudness war is a misguided attempt to take volume control out of the hands of the end user and put it into the hands of the musicians / producers. But they shoot themselves in the foot trying to do that because in the end it doesn't work like that; users control their own volume whether the music has 2 db dynamic range or 30. And so they destroy their own music for posterity, in the name of that BS.

Of course there are many MEs doing stunning work on high end projects; but there are many down in the trenches who become hacks in the name of never-attained and arbitrary "loudness".

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.
Old 16th September 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
It's interesting, the disconnect between sound engineers who work in the movie business and those who work in the music business.
Then you understand that the K-system attempts to connect the two, where there is no such connection?

Quote:
Since movie theaters have industry calibrated sound systems, and movie goers have no volume controls, movie and consequently DVD audio mastering is much more highly disciplined and rigorously controlled, resulting in more consistent and higher sound quality across the board (one of Bob Katz's original points, btw). I think many pop music engineers could learn much from a more highly disciplined approach to dynamics.
Nonsense. It has nothing to do with "discipline," nor does it have any relation whatsoever with sound quality.

Quote:
It's a shame that music mastering engineers are often bullied by clueless producers, musicians or record company marketing or A&R guys into making crappy sounding headache inducing CDs. Not always, but often enough for it to be a shame.
While this may be true, it's naive to think that monitor standards, Turn Me Up stickers, or some crazy meter that turns green when it approves of your level has anything to do with mastering levels............

Quote:
Of course there are many MEs doing stunning work on high end projects; but there are many down in the trenches who become hacks in the name of never-attained and arbitrary "loudness".
Oh, the loudness is definitely attained.

Quote:
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.
Exactly the opposite, the mind is now distracted by calibration, meters and the alleged relationship between K-levels, musical styles, and any sort of reality.

Just find a comfortable level and forget all the other stuff. Turn it down low for a bit, crank it up loud for a bit.

It's all you need.........


DC
Old 16th September 2011
  #11
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Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Just find a comfortable level and forget all the other stuff. Turn it down low for a bit, crank it up loud for a bit.

It's all you need.........


DC
Yep! And bear in mind that most mastering engineers worth their salt have a good idea what levels work for which jobs, experience is a hidden thing whereas some Heath Robinson metering crap is not.

King Willy
Old 16th September 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Bowden View Post
I have a few very well known spots in my stepped monitoring pot that I use a lot, but I also turn it way up for fade ends and the like. A lot of Bob's stuff never made any sense to me - Weiss presets and TC 6000 settings, or consulting a chart to eq out a boomy note for example. I too have never met a K system user, unless the K sometimes stands for 'King' that is!

King Willy
Never used the K-System too. But I've found Bob's system of consulting a chart to eq out boomy notes VERY usefull. Works really great...
Old 16th September 2011
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Originally Posted by echoRausch View Post
Never used the K-System too. But I've found Bob's system of consulting a chart to eq out boomy notes VERY usefull. Works really great...
You may be right, I just use my ears.

King Willy
Old 16th September 2011
  #14
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Thank you for this. Great concept for *informing* one's ears..... Can't just "just use the ears" unless one depends on personal genius or something....
Old 16th September 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
It's interesting, the disconnect between sound engineers who work in the movie business and those who work in the music business.

Since movie theaters have industry calibrated sound systems, and movie goers have no volume controls, movie and consequently DVD audio mastering is much more highly disciplined and rigorously controlled, resulting in more consistent and higher sound quality across the board (one of Bob Katz's original points, btw).
Dunno - I can think of plenty of movies with mediocre sound as well that would get so loud in the theater on occasion that I would go reaching for the ear plugs (and then have to pull these out to hear obscured dialog).

Quote:
It's a shame that music mastering engineers are often bullied by clueless producers, musicians or record company marketing or A&R guys into making crappy sounding headache inducing CDs. Not always, but often enough for it to be a shame.
I'm never bullied - pretty much all my clients are courteous people that are great to work with. Again - it's not the ME's record - it's the artists - and we're just there to assist with their vision. We do that by presenting references so that they can actually hear exactly what they will get on their release - which they get to either approve or they get to ask for revisions. So unless you are proposing a mastering engineer owned label (of which they are actually a few out there) or if it's the mastering engineer's personal project (I'm an active musician so occasionally put out releases myself in fact) - then it's simply NOT their call as to what master actually gets approved!!

Quote:
The loudness war is a misguided attempt to take volume control out of the hands of the end user and put it into the hands of the musicians / producers. But they shoot themselves in the foot trying to do that because in the end it doesn't work like that; users control their own volume whether the music has 2 db dynamic range or 30. And so they destroy their own music for posterity, in the name of that BS.
So don't buy their releases as a response to this. If enough people have similar responses the artists and labels will figure out that crushing their releases is a negative thing to do and will request more dynamic levels. I think we've been seeing a bit of this in the past couple years in fact.

Quote:
That's why I agree with what Bob Katz is trying to do.
It doesn't matter whether you or any mastering engineer agrees with what Bob Katz is trying to do. What matters is that your client does as well!!!

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 16th September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
Dave Collins, considering your discography and experience one can certainly not argue with your point. You've done just fine with this craft!

However, I think Bob Katz's main point of his system is actually not in conflict with your values...he wants to get CD mastering engineers away from the practice of just robotically ramming every track right up to the top of the meter no matter what, thereby destroying musical value in the process. To sound good....at all levels.
And yet Dave (and many others like him) did it without the (dubious) prescription of K-Metering. Shouldn't that tell you something? Best way to learn a craft is to study the greats of the craft, then try to get your work to compare with theirs. Then develop your own style and sonic imagination. You can't identify one top ME who uses K-Metering. It is nothing but training wheels, and in fact quite cumbersome and a detriment to learning what good sound is and providing an excellent service to clients.

I have never known any ME I have worked with to, as Brad Blackwood says, "default to stun". If there is a problem with loudness, is it REALLY the fault of the ME, who is providing a service to a client?? And if they are an inexperienced ME, why K-impose something on them that the Masters of the Craft do not themselves utilize or believe in? The efficacy of the prescription is discredited.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas West View Post
It's interesting, the disconnect between sound engineers who work in the movie business and those who work in the music business.

Since movie theaters have industry calibrated sound systems, and movie goers have no volume controls, movie and consequently DVD audio mastering is much more highly disciplined and rigorously controlled, resulting in more consistent and higher sound quality across the board (one of Bob Katz's original points, btw). I think many pop music engineers could learn much from a more highly disciplined approach to dynamics.
I work on a lot of movies, TV, and music only projects as a composer and mix engineer. Let's examine yours (and Bob's) proposed connection more closely.

First of all, the standard is 85 SPL. Do you also know that the recommendation is to be at least 16 feet back from the monitors in a room that is greater than 5300 feet cubed in volume? And these are the tiny tiny sized Dub Stages. Most stages have consoles back 40, 50, 75 feet. The rooms are over 100 feet long, 60 feet wide and have 20-25 foot ceilings. How large is the typical Mastering room? Theater sized? How far back does the ME sit from the monitors? Over 16 feet? Why is this significant? Try playing back Steady State PINK at 85 in a Theater at the mix position (recommended to be 2/3rds back) and then play back PINK at 85 dB SPL in your room when you are 2-3 feet from the speakers and tell me which sounds louder. In a small room, the PINK will sound significantly louder, by at least 6dB! It is NOT recommended to align a small room to 85 SPL b/c it will not translate to a Dub Stage or properly aligned Theater. A Mastering and mix room is small compared to these rooms. The K-Metering fails to account for this.

Also consider what is the primary element in film soundtracks, dialogue. Also remember that 85 SPL is an alignment level, not (always) playback. Movies can be quiet and they can be quite loud.

Here is another thing you can test for yourself. Take the sound of your favorite movie and play it back in your car. Hear everything?

You also seem to assume that movies are not loud. Have you heard The Mummy Returns? 300? Transformers III? THEY ARE LOUD! Ever been to a Festival where half the films were poorly mixed in a tiny room by someone who doesn't know what they are doing? It can be PAINFULLY loud. Directors are pushing levels up. And yet, why not? A Director should have the choice to make his or her movie sound loud and in your face if that is their vision. You don't have to like it.

You should also look at what is happening in the Theater Chains. People are complaining because the movies (especially the adverts and trailers) are too loud. What does the Theater do? They turn it down. What happens when you go to see a movie in a Theater that you mixed in a calibrated room? It is too quiet!! (or worse, speakers are blown, there is constant buzz in the system.)

It is a mistake to assume that all the people in film audio (especially now) are "professionals" and everyone (now) in the music industry is a hack. Believe me, it ain't rigorously controlled in the film audio world.
Old 17th September 2011
  #17
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Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 

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Very well put, Tom (and Steve, DC and Willy). There's little more I can add, other than I've just given this thread a 5 star rating.
Old 17th September 2011
  #18
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Plush's Avatar
An outstanding thread. Consistency does not equal quality and it never did. All hail D.C. and Minister!
Old 17th September 2011
  #19
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minister's Avatar
It is also interesting to note that every time someone starts a thread on here trying to get their head around K-System calibration, when they finally crack it, and put up some mastered music they exclaim, "Holy FISH BOWLS! It's louder 'n a Ternado Sireeene!!!".
Old 17th September 2011
  #20
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LunchboxHo's Avatar
 

I would suggest that the salient line in the OP is "It is working for me.". To the OP: I really appreciate all your hard work explaining this, and found it helpful. Theory is important, too, IMHO -- a requirement for reflexive practice. The rationale may be shoddy, and it may benefit the trade little at this juncture, but *anything* is better than just using your ears (ie, hoping for the best), I think. I certainly found it a good insight into this proposed system. Thanks!
Old 17th September 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
..... but *anything* is better than just using your ears (ie, hoping for the best), I think.
See, this is where many would disagree. They would argue that *nothing* is better than just using your ears.

The K-system, Carnegie Hall chart, humming into a Treo to set the eq etc., only waste time and do not actually contribute to a better result.

Although you can't tell a guy that he isn't happy, I suppose.



DC
Old 17th September 2011
  #22
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LunchboxHo's Avatar
 

It reminds me of jazz students who say "I just play what I feel.". Well, you could have the flue. You could also just be not quite as interesting as you think. Theory & technique correct for arrogance, & all it's excesses, IMHO
Old 17th September 2011
  #23
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Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
They would argue that *nothing* is better than just using your ears.
Count me in, Listening is King!

It is music after all, it's an ear thing.

Occasional use of meters when needed.

What would Tom Dowd say?

JT
Old 17th September 2011
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
LunchboxHo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Tubb View Post
Count me in, Listening is King!

It is music after all, it's an ear thing.

Occasional use of meters when needed.

What would Tom Dowd say?

JT
So there's no skill involved? It's just an ear thing? All intuition guided by experience (ie, my sources tell me)? Not credible IMHO.

Tom Dowd would say nothing geats the K-System!
Old 17th September 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Tubb View Post
Count me in, Listening is King!

It is music after all, it's an ear thing.

Occasional use of meters when needed.
So you have eschewed the tuning-fork?

Quote:
What would Tom Dowd say?
He would think all this stuff is nuts, I imagine.


DC
Old 17th September 2011
  #26
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LunchboxHo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
So you have eschewed the tuning-fork?



He would think all this stuff is nuts, I imagine.


DC
Thread officially hijacked!
Old 17th September 2011
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post
Thread officially hijacked!
Not necessarily. Jerry uses a tuning fork much like Bob uses his Treo. I think they are both nuts.


DC
Old 17th September 2011
  #28
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LunchboxHo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Not necessarily. Jerry uses a tuning fork much like Bob uses his Treo. I think they are both nuts.


DC
Lol! Nobody uses Tibetan singing bowls?
Old 18th September 2011
  #29
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Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by LunchboxHo View Post

Tom Dowd would say nothing geats the K-System!
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
Old 18th September 2011
  #30
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Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Not necessarily. Jerry uses a tuning fork much like Bob uses his Treo. I think they are both nuts.

DC
Bwahahahaha! Yes Dave, I am nuts!

You don't have to be crazy in the world of music ...but it helps!

As to the tuning fork, I still use it on occasion, more for musical curiosity than EQ purposes.
Certainly wouldn't tell you the difference in 2.8k and 3.2k for instance.
I have no idea what a Treo is.

Cheers, JT
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