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What is the optimum volume for mixing?
Old 14th July 2011
  #1
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Shaggy2039's Avatar
What is the optimum volume for mixing?

I did a search and surprisingly didn't find this.....

If I were to hold up an SPL meter in the mix position, is there an optimum level for mixing?

I've read that mixing too loud is not recommended (ear fatigue) and if you mix too low you won't really be able to tell what's happening in the lower frequencies.
Old 14th July 2011
  #2
80-85db I believe.

I think the biggest factor besides ear damage of being to loud is the consistency.

Mixing at low volumes is good too though. I like to mix it up, 85 db, really quite on the monitors, headphones, standing at the back of the room, standing on my head, etc..
Old 15th July 2011
  #3
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Thanks, dude.
Old 15th July 2011
  #4
I mix at around 70dB, occasionally run up to around 90 but spend more time below 70 than at 90
Old 15th July 2011
  #5
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I listen at lots of different volumes. Personally I find 80dB a bit too loud, so I stick around 65-75dB. Honestly you should be moving that volume knob up and down periodically to see if things stick out, become harsh, etc.

My opinion is just do what's comfortable to you.
Old 15th July 2011
  #6
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I don't think I listen at the same level for more than ... 2 mins tops. Constantly changing. My right hand is sometimes on the level knob, like on the gear shift lever in a car driving in tight city traffic. My ears and head fall asleep if I stay on the same level for long, like going speed blind on the highway. I shift, quite loud, medium, extremely low and with lots of different listening perspective changes (like mono, M/S, isolating frequency bands etc). Too loud is bad though, it wastes the hearing, causes it to get numb which affects your mixing choices at lower levels. So wait with the final blasting listening until you're done for the day.

And yes, you're 'supposed' to listen between 80-85 db and not change.
Old 15th July 2011
  #7
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I listen at 50-70 which is comfortable.
The room is quiet.
80 starts to be unpleasant.
90 is painful.
Old 15th July 2011
  #8
Here is a brief thread that gives you an easy way to set up your monitoring, without using an SPL meter, though it's nice to have one and know how to use it. It's basically about two things 1) The Fletcher/Munson curve and 2) naturally getting you to use the right compression.

OK, time to do monitoring calibration... k-system?
Old 15th July 2011
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonwagner View Post
80-85db I believe.
Only if you are at least 13' 4" away from your speakers. If you are under that far away from your speakers you need to drop the calibration level.

If you are two feet from your monitors you don't want to be using 85dB SPL. Your sense of volume will be all thrown off. You'll need to use something like 76 or 70 dB (as others have mentioned).
Old 15th July 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
Only if you are at least 13' 4" away from your speakers. If you are under that far away from your speakers you need to drop the calibration level.

If you are two feet from your monitors you don't want to be using 85dB SPL. Your sense of volume will be all thrown off. You'll need to use something like 76 or 70 dB (as others have mentioned).
I sit about 3 feet away so this good to know.
Old 15th July 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldeanalogueguy View Post
I listen at 50-70 which is comfortable.
The room is quiet.
80 starts to be unpleasant.
90 is painful.
But isn't the whole reasoning behind monitoring at around 80-85dB that the ear's loudness response is most linear at this level?

From my understanding of the equal loudness curves, an 80Hz 1Hkz sine wave will be equal in intensity to around an 86dB, 100Hz and an 86dB, 10kHz tone. That is only a margin of 6dB either way, besides the obvious dip around 3-4kHz, which are almost identical in slope in both ranges. Down at 50dB, there is a 10dB margin for 100Hz and what looks like about 7-8dB for 10Khz. 70dB is probably fine, but to consistently monitor down at 50dB could make for a mix that lacks tops and bottoms.

Jus' sayin'.

Cheers
Old 15th July 2011
  #12
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^ It's all relative though; I assume that everyone mixes with references

If you're referencing at equal loudness to your mix, then you can avoid the hearing curve stuff being as much of an issue.
Old 15th July 2011
  #13
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Adkins's Avatar
80db
Old 15th July 2011
  #14
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Are we talking A-weighted or C-weighted?

C-weighted tends to give a higher figure (up to 10db higher) especially with monitors with plenty of bottom end.

I tend to listen/work at around 85db C-weighted. That's peak level.

*edit* Actually to be fair I tend to enjoy listening to music at 85, but when I'm working I can find myself pushing it higher up to say 92db. Then I'll catch myself and pull it back a bit
Old 15th July 2011
  #15
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loud and soft

Generally when listening for balance, pitch, and timing you should monitor at very low level.

When listening for EQ, monitor louder.

It's also important to have a level that you know and are familiar with. I have three different spots marked on my monitor controller for this purpose. It's helpful to know your low setting really well and once you do, you'll notice that you don't have to look at your meters so much and you'll just know what loudness to go for based on experience without looking at your 2 bus level so much. Repeatable levels are important if you're working in the same room a lot.
Old 15th July 2011
  #16
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75-80db when I want it at the loudest .

85% of the time I have the mix turned down whisper quiet setting levels and other things .

Headphones when adding effects .
Old 15th July 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arksun View Post
Are we talking A-weighted or C-weighted?
If people are calibrating with noise (or music), they shouldn't be using A ... so, C hopefully
Old 15th July 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timlloyd View Post
If people are calibrating with noise (or music), they shouldn't be using A ... so, C hopefully
And there's also the speed, or rather the time period the averaging is taken. On most common cheap SPL meters it can just be expressed as slow and fast, fast giving the higher reading of course with slow being more akin to RMS level.
Old 15th July 2011
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
Only if you are at least 13' 4" away from your speakers. If you are under that far away from your speakers you need to drop the calibration level.

If you are two feet from your monitors you don't want to be using 85dB SPL. Your sense of volume will be all thrown off. You'll need to use something like 76 or 70 dB (as others have mentioned).
The output of the speaker is relative to the listening position and your target SPL. But so long as your system can accommodate it the SPL can be whatever you want, wherever you choose to sit. You don't calibrate your distance for SPL. You calibrate your SPL for distance.

The sense of relative volume between mix elements, the sound stage, the hearing of fine details, all of those things change with distance, distance from the listener to the speaker, distance of the speakers from each other, distance of the speakers from boundaries as well as the overall speaker design and the room. SPL in general however, can be optimized for whatever distance. You can listen 2 feet away at 85dBSPL, but your actual output levels from your speakers will be different than if you are 10 feet away. In either scenario the SPL can be exactly the same at the listening position.

Whether or not your "sense of volume" will be a problem has more to do with lack of calibration and usually excessive SPL at whatever distance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaggy2039
If I were to hold up an SPL meter in the mix position, is there an optimum level for mixing?
There is a typically recommended range for setting the maximum playback volume at the mix position for mixing but exactly where it lies varies depending on a few factors. Usually the range that I've heard quoted is anywhere between 79 to 85 dBSPLc. I find 85 a bit loud. I'm comfortable at 83 and that's where I have my playback calibrated at as maximum. But I typically don't mix there continuously. I typically mix much lower, but when I'm checking the overall balance I'll bring it back up to 83. I'm constantly bouncing between quiet and 83.
Old 15th July 2011
  #20
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I mix at very low and very high levels, and also spend time at the 82-85db SPL midpoint. The first thing a band does when they leave the studio is go out in their car and turn it all the way up. I need to know what happens at that level, so I spend some time with the volume up.

My experience has been that mixing on tiny speakers at low SPL is great for balancing levels and judging the fullness of the mix, making sure the bass doesn't disappear on small speakers, the sibilance is under control, and the "myspace listen" will be good. It's also good for writing automation of levels.

Mixing at high SPL on a full range system tells me what the "thump" factor is, and helps me sort out "ouches" in the upper mid frequencies. The big factor when mixing is recognizing and quantifying what sounds good and bad in your room, and knowing how to turn bad sound into good sound. I also use about 6 sets of speakers in various locations for reality checks, and do much of the blending while monitoring my stereo mix in mono.
Old 21st July 2011
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand View Post
The output of the speaker is relative to the listening position and your target SPL. But so long as your system can accommodate it the SPL can be whatever you want, wherever you choose to sit. You don't calibrate your distance for SPL. You calibrate your SPL for distance.

The sense of relative volume between mix elements, the sound stage, the hearing of fine details, all of those things change with distance, distance from the listener to the speaker, distance of the speakers from each other, distance of the speakers from boundaries as well as the overall speaker design and the room. SPL in general however, can be optimized for whatever distance. You can listen 2 feet away at 85dBSPL, but your actual output levels from your speakers will be different than if you are 10 feet away. In either scenario the SPL can be exactly the same at the listening position.

Whether or not your "sense of volume" will be a problem has more to do with lack of calibration and usually excessive SPL at whatever distance.

There is a typically recommended range for setting the maximum playback volume at the mix position for mixing but exactly where it lies varies depending on a few factors. Usually the range that I've heard quoted is anywhere between 79 to 85 dB SPL. I find 85 a bit loud. I'm comfortable at 83 and that's where I have my playback calibrated at as maximum. But I typically don't mix there continuously. I typically mix much lower, but when I'm checking the overall balance I'll bring it back up to 83. I'm constantly bouncing between quiet and 83.
Tell that to the MPSE, MPEG, IEEE, EBU and Dolby! They've been wrestling with this for decades.

The point is. A speaker at 30 ft away, when turned up to reach 85dB SPL(pink, RMS) at the listening position, material WILL FEEL QUIETER than the same material through a speaker at 2ft away when turned up to read 85dB SPL at the listening position.

It's the reason why films are still mixed in very large dub stages and it is why the Dolby spec still mentions the smallest room allowed to be dolby certified is 20 ft long.

Try it if you don't believe me. Sit 10 to 15' away from your speakers and mix a song from beginning to end with the speakers calibrated at 85dB SPL. Go back two weeks later and mix the song from scratch again, but this time with the speakers 3' away from you, recalibrated to 85dB SPL.

Then the next day compare the mixes... You'll realize what I'm talking about. the perceived frequency response changes too. That's why there is the "X Curve". Google it for more info... There are some articles by Loan Allen of Dolby and others about it.

I deal with this ALL THE TIME when predubbing movies (especially music for movies) in small studios and then taking it to a larger studio to mix. Same exact ref level, most of the time it's the same or similar speakers too.

Also just to point out to people because it hasn't been clearly stated yet. When we talk about 85dB SPL... that doesn't mean you play a CD of your favorite artist and adjust the speakers until the song is at 85dB SPL. That is NOT calibrating your speakers.

Calibrating your speakers means first ensuring you have a +4dBu output to the speakers. To do that, set your entire monitoring path to unity. Then you use a sine wave, -18 (or -20, or -14, or whatever you want) dBfs should equal +4dBu (1.228 Vrms) out of the output.

Once you have done that... you switch to pink noise, also set to -18 (or -20, or -14, or whatever) dBfs. You turn your amplifiers (not your monitor knob) up until that pink noise sits at 85 dB SPL C Weighted (slow response). Or if you are 3' from your speakers you turn it up to whatever level you decided (70dB, 76dB, etc).

Once you get your speakers to the Ref level. you NEVER touch the speaker volume ever again. (well not "NEVER", but you get the idea).

The point is, after doing this, if something sounds too loud you DO NOT turn the speakers down. You turn the track it is on down. If something sounds too quiet, you DO NOT turn the speakers up. YOu turn the track it is on up. Your song may end up being 68dB SPL RMS at the listening position when you are done mixing. It won't always be 85dB SPL just because you calibrated your speakers to 85. Make sense?

This is kind of intuitive when working on a mixing console, but isn't so obvious when working in a daw with a mouse and keyboard. It also isn't so obvious when dealing with systems that use different ref levels. Music CDs for example, are mastered. They are no longer at -18dBfs = +4dBu = 85dBfs. So you shouldn't use them as your ref source. You can listen to them afterward and adjust the trim on the inputs on your monitor section for the CD player. But DO NOT change the level of your speakers or monitor knob.

This is where the "dim" button came from. If you want to turn the volume down but don't want to move the volume knob (since it is calibrated), you can hit "dim" and drop the level temporarily. Turning dim off, puts you back to your Cal'd level. This is also on film dub stages you see there is no "volume knob" or "monitor volume" knob on the console. If there was one, it's usually removed. Once the system is calibrated you should never touch the volume knob again... otherwise you are now messing with how you are going to mix and perceive level/loudness.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch
The point is. A speaker at 30 ft away, when turned up to reach 85dB SPL(pink, RMS) at the listening position, material WILL FEEL QUIETER than the same material through a speaker at 2ft away when turned up to read 85dB SPL at the listening position.
I'm not convinced that is entirely true the way that you have worded it. We are getting into a discussion where terms like "relative" and "apparent" start to play a role.

Maybe it's a good idea to clarify first.

I'm saying that when calibrating your system that you choose the distance and then calibrate the max SPL for that distance as it correlates to the monitoring system you're using. It might be true that the apparent volume of the same SPL reading changes according to distance. But that doesn't mean that you should calibrate your distance according to your SPL. It should always be the other way around. SPL can be controlled on the fly with a monitor controller. Listening distance is best utilized when it's fixed. The point of calibration is establishing a reference point for your monitors and your monitor controller that you can return to on the fly so that you maintain perspective, which is why the variable element in calibration is the SPL, not the distance IMO.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AstralPStudios View Post
I listen at lots of different volumes. Personally I find 80dB a bit too loud, so I stick around 65-75dB. Honestly you should be moving that volume knob up and down periodically to see if things stick out, become harsh, etc.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk106 View Post
I don't think I listen at the same level for more than ... 2 mins tops. Constantly changing.


I constantly ride the monitor level. I want to hear stuff when it's low as well as loud but at the same time I don't want harshness when loud. So yea, check your mixes at all levels.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #24
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In my country when the sound level of your working environment exceeds 83dB it is classified as dangerous, there should be a yellow warning sign on the door and you should wear hearing protection. heh

This goes for factories, construction sites...

In other words that's the level the authorities, based on medical research, have decided is where it gets dangerpus and potentially damaging.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arksun View Post
Are we talking A-weighted or C-weighted?

C-weighted tends to give a higher figure (up to 10db higher) especially with monitors with plenty of bottom end.
Thank you! It amazes me that this thread continues with folks quoting "spl" numbers left and right without including weighting or meter response settings.

I hang out around 85 dBc (slow) most of the time, but often dip lower (and in mono), and occasionally crank it up briefly.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #26
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Very, very low. Conversation levels.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #27
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SuperiorInferior's Avatar
 

With or without headphones
Old 22nd July 2011
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand View Post
I'm not convinced that is entirely true the way that you have worded it. We are getting into a discussion where terms like "relative" and "apparent" start to play a role.

Maybe it's a good idea to clarify first.

I'm saying that when calibrating your system that you choose the distance and then calibrate the max SPL for that distance as it correlates to the monitoring system you're using. It might be true that the apparent volume of the same SPL reading changes according to distance. But that doesn't mean that you should calibrate your distance according to your SPL. It should always be the other way around. SPL can be controlled on the fly with a monitor controller. Listening distance is best utilized when it's fixed. The point of calibration is establishing a reference point for your monitors and your monitor controller that you can return to on the fly so that you maintain perspective, which is why the variable element in calibration is the SPL, not the distance IMO.
I agree with you. But when people automatically start trying to use 85dB SPL (Cweighted) just because they read it somewhere... they need to know that isn't correct in all situations.

The apparent or relative perceived volume is ultimately the most important part for a mixer, since the mix is based on what the mixer perceives from his/her listening position.

Try it if you have access to a big enough room. Set a pair of speakers 20 or 30 ft away and another set (you can use the same model/type or different a type/model) 2 or 3 feet away. Calibrate each speaker to be 85dB SPL C weighted with pink noise. then start playing music through and switch between the speakers. You'll notice things you want louder on the far speakers feel too loud on the close speakers and vice versa. In order to get the relative balance to feel correct when switching between the pairs, you'll find that you need to calibrate the close pair quieter than the far pair.
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