Geek Out with Nathaniel - Episode 3 - Calibrated Listening Levels


Adrian and I are marking down the listening level for mix sessions. This can be really helpful to you and to clients when you're working on the same project over multiple sessions. Everyone gets accustomed to what "loud" sounds like in the room, and as you get used to it, you can take your eyes off the meters and your ears will tell you if you're in spec.

To do it, download the calibration files from the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee). Put "MidRngPinkNoise_-20dB.wav" on a new track in your session, and set the fader for unity gain (make sure the master fader is also at unity gain). Then pan it hard to one speaker and play it in loop mode. Get an SPL meter, set it to C weighting, slow mode, and hold it at the listening position, but pointed to the loudspeaker. Turn the gain knob on your monitor up and down. You might find that working on a mix for the web, or on a music mix that you're in the 65db range. I discovered that our television clients like to mix at 73db, some of our film clients like it at 77db. Crazy-dynamic film mixes in bigger rooms than ours can be set to 85db.

Keep in mind that calibrated levels are not terribly important for tracking. But they're great for mixing. And if you're disciplined, you can set the level at the start of a project and never change it. This will result in more consistent mixes without any guesswork.