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Bob Katz - K-System Metering & Analysis Plugins
Old 24th February 2012
  #1
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jnorman's Avatar
 

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Bob Katz - K-System

i have been trying to figure out how to best "master" my mixes of chamber music for my various clients. also, trying to avoid having a real mastering engineer convert my mixes into "pop" songs due to general lack of experience with classical material. (yes, i know there are some ME's who do understand classical.)

after considering packages like izotope ozone, and reading about so many of you who dont really master at all, other than volume envelopes or gain riding, with perhaps a little mild compression or limiting, i finally ran across the bob katz K-system, which looks like exactly what i would like to learn to do properly. i read the AES paper:

http://www.aes.org/technical/documen...s.cfm?docID=65

which is quite intriguing and interesting - but being an apparent dummy, i had a rather difficult time understanding clearly how you actually put it into practice.

anyway, for those of you who arent familiar with the K-system, you might find the article worthwhile. and for those of you who know this method, perhaps a bit of guidance to us who are new to it would be appreciated.

thanks.
Old 24th February 2012
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The idea behind K-System isn't that much different from EBU R.128 or, even closer, Dialnorm.
Basically all are about achieving a certain average loudness or level, not so much looking at peak levels.
The exact numbers in that document aren't that important, and they depend on the room and the mixing environment. It is about the engineer feeling comfortable listening to a mix with the correct/desired loudness, and about forgetting that monitor level knob. Once monitor level is calibrated, you know your loudness is right when you're comfortable listening. That's what people call "mixing by ears".
Then, you need to start looking at the dynamic range. You can get the same loudness with very dynamic stuff peaking at 0 dBFS that you can get with heavily compressed stuff brickwalled at -18 dBFS, for example.
Old 24th February 2012
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thanks pk.

i did run across this thread, which offers some step by step to setup, but is followed by a lengthy debate over the actual value of the system, how few actual ME's use such an approach, general debunking of the whole idea, etc. -
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/maste...s-n-bolts.html

so, still confused. do we master chamber/classical music with compression/limiting/eq, or do we gain ride/volume envelope the peaks and raise the level to where nothing clips? if we actually hire out the mastering, what do we tell the ME about what we want as a final result? i have released 7 commercial CDs now, and literally every one of them is over-mastered, too loud, too "pop" sounding, too bright (regardless of what i tried to convey to the ME, who apparently knew better than me what was needed) - and with whatever iTUnes does when ripping the mp3's sound simply gob-awful loud and over bearing on itunes - i have no idea how to remedy that...
Old 24th February 2012
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Old 24th February 2012
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welcome to the k-system.

this page is alittle more consolidated than the pdf doc.

Level Practices (Part 2) (Includes the K-System)

Some like, some hate...........I love.


Lots of plugs are coming through with k-meter installed.

or...for rtas....blue cat has one......

au and vst voxengo has a free one.


Mix to k-20.master to k-20 or k-14.

Reference the rms not the peak in the meter.
Old 24th February 2012
  #6
Quote:
Mix to k-20.master to k-20 or k-14.
In classical we tend to mix lower than that to preserve all the peaks. It is considered bad practice to place any type of dynamic processing or master volume adjustments before the end of the mixing process.

I like K metering, as it is a nice standard to judge the loudness of a recording, though it is a little tricky in classical because dynamics shift based on context. I try to finish my recordings with K20 in the forte sections. With that, the limiter only clips the loudest random hits and usually maintains full dynamics of the ensemble. Of course you have to judge whether whatever is being cut off negatively affect the dynamics, and if so, lower the average level or make manual adjustments. Some big hits need to stay big hits.
Old 24th February 2012
  #7
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I have never found this "problem" to be difficult or confusing to sort out. With a 16bit CD, you want all the encoding bits possible to represent your audio, therefore no matter what the material is, whether lute or symph orchestra you make sure the highest peak kisses the underside of -0.5 dB or so.

If there is wildly varying material on the program then use limiting to mow the tops off or reconsider the programming on the disc.

With varying material I always boost the lower mean level items anyway to reduce the need for the listener to get up and change the volume.

This business of having some calibrated level and throwing away bits for quieter material is crazy talk.
Old 24th February 2012
  #8
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I have aligned my monitoring so that -20 dBFS sits at 85 dB SPL (slow C weighting), thus peaks are at 105 dB SPL. This is a comfortable level to listen classical material, where the average level is around -20 dBFS or so.

Massive material (orchestral, organ) I master so that absolute peaks hit -0.3 dBFS. Chamber/solo so that the peaks go to 6-3 dBFS. Yes, technically speaking this wastes one bit from the precious 16 bit CD resolution, but people expect quieter music to be, well, quieter, and they are not playing it not as loud as orchestral music, so no resolution is actually wasted. System noise stays just as low, and probably they actually play chamber music at even lower level than mastered, so the system noise is even lower. No limiting, no compression, the real thing.

How many people listening to classical music get up during the quiet passages to turn up the volume, and curse the engineer for giving too much dynamic range? I am not going ride the gain for them, because ten times more people would get mad at me messing up the real dynamics or the performance.
Old 25th February 2012
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Slightly different for broadcast. Location recording peaks to about -6dBfs (goofroom!). Preparation for broadcast means, after normalising to -1dBfs. manually raising quiet passages where there is sustained level under -30dBfs. Also depends whether your recording is going to be played in a 'live concert program' or chucked in amongst "commercial" recordings with their own dynamic ethos. Ears (and what is between them) matter here.

But then the following has to be factored in: the console jockey who thinks your level is a bit low on the meters and rides your output (generally controlling dynamic range in an inferior manner), and finally passing through the automatic multi-band tweeker, that is invariably part of the chain these days. These problems are addressed by feeding back to the presenter that your recordings are designed to play back at standard fader stetting, and choosing a dynamic range as above on the understanding that the output processing will generally reduce the dynamic range from about 30dB to 15-20dB (quite mild processing at out classical station) which is regarded as acceptable in broadcast environment, except for the mobile listening situation (100kmh on the freeway with the windows down, which is more like PA than broadcasting).
Old 25th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petrus View Post
How many people listening to classical music get up during the quiet passages to turn up the volume, and curse the engineer for giving too much dynamic range? I am not going ride the gain for them, because ten times more people would get mad at me messing up the real dynamics or the performance.
Of course I am not talking about within a single work, I do not adjust levels between opening and slow mvt, for example. I am talking about a CD or concert where you might have The Armed Man followed by a madrigal, I will boost the gain of the madrigal. No compression anywhere just changing mean levels.
Old 25th February 2012
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The impetus for Bob "inventing" the K-System was the SMPTE standard of 83dB SPL for pink noise (C-weighting) at 0vu or -20dBFS-- thus yielding the magic K-20. THis stuff is from Bob's book and I can't urge everyone strongly enough to get a copy. At least if you want to be able to establish a playback level you can trust AND REPEAT.

Rich
Old 25th February 2012
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
Of course I am not talking about within a single work, I do not adjust levels between opening and slow mvt, for example. I am talking about a CD or concert where you might have The Armed Man followed by a madrigal, I will boost the gain of the madrigal. No compression anywhere just changing mean levels.
This OK, my misunderstanding. Totally different kinds of music on the same disk (or same radio program) is a problem. Levels can not be same, but the quiet pieces can not be as low as they naturally should.
Old 25th February 2012
  #13
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The benefit of the K-System is awareness of the relationship between electrical levels and acoustic listening levels. ATSC A/85 also explores this. Having this understanding is probably more important than any gear used.
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