Beyond proper levels inside your DAW, it is crucial to be listening properly through your studio monitors. Scott shows how to calibrate your room with pink noise and an inexpensive SPL meter in order to listen properly while editing and mixing for optimum results.
- [Instructor] Remember, sound is extremely subjective. What might trigger the level meters over or under target values, or even accurately in your DAW, might actually sound harsh, brash, unintelligible, or too quiet in real life. In this movie, I'm going to give you a few techniques to master your listening environment, so you'll know what you're hearing will translate well to other systems, rooms, and listening scenarios. Let's start with speaker monitors.
You want to be using professional-grade reference monitors. The important thing about reference monitors is that they have a flat frequency response. This tells you unhyped and accurate information across all frequencies. These are different than home-grade stereo speakers like Bose or Sonos, which tend to hype pleasing frequencies to make music sound better. This isn't good for accurately mixing sound, since you'll get a skewed idea of how your mix is, and it won't translate well to your audience's systems. Next, let's talk about your listening room.
The general rule is that you want to have your speakers placed symmetrically in a room, ideally along the short wall, if the space is rectangular. Next, you want to sit with your ears at the same height as the high-frequency driver, or tweeter, of your speaker systems. Then, a good starting point is to form an equilateral triangle between your head and both speakers, angling them inward around 30 degrees. Finally, we want to cut down as much room reflection as possible.
A room with tile floors and bare walls will sound boomy, and you'll experience a buildup of unwanted reverb, making an accurate assessment of your mix very challenging. But don't go start carpeting your walls or putting up egg crates to solve this. The only way to cut down unwanted reflection is with specialized acoustic material that's able to absorb problematic low frequencies. There are many companies that sell these solutions, like GIK and Primacoustic, to name two. But what about headphones, you might ask.
If you have a bad-sounding room, can't you mix on headphones? Unfortunately, while headphones are good at checking details in a mix, they skew our perception a bit too much to provide a good reference of how your mix will translate. Once we have our speakers and room set up, the best way to translate our mix levels is to calibrate our speaker loudness using an outside loudness meter and keeping our speaker monitor volumes set at that level for all mixing. To do this, you need an inexpensive SPL meter from RadioShack, like the one on the left you see here.
Or there's even an SPL level app for your phone. You can play pink noise in your DAW, which is a reference test tone. It sounds like this. (static noise) Then you want to turn up or down your output or speaker volume control to hit a specific SPL reading for each speaker. For a small room, this will land somewhere between 74 to 78 dB SPL, with the meter set to C-weighted and slow.
Once you get there, you want to mark this spot on your volume knob and always mix at this level. You can double-check if it's correct by playing another production with properly mixed dialogue and making sure the dialogue is an easy-to-listen-to level, not too loud or too quiet. By keeping this mix level, you'll be able to trust yourself when it comes to volume. If a voice sounds too loud, it is too loud, and it should be mixed quieter. And that will translate better to the outside world.
I hope these tips will lead you to produce more consistent audio that translates well to your intended audience.