Music Production Monitoring Levels
Monitoring serves as a means of ensuring that the engineer and producer are fully aware of the specific contents of the signal being captured.
The monitoring equipment, which consists of loudspeakers and power amplifiers, must show every aspect of the recording to a level of detail that only a very small number of listeners could perceive.
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A listener with a high – priced hi-fi system might indeed hear something that isn’t heard in the studio, and it is obvious that this should never occur.
The level of detail perception in a recording that professionals can hear must be higher than that of consumers.
The seemingly simple issue of how loud you listen while mixing should be given considerable care if you want the greatest results.
Because there is a genuine risk of hearing impairment, it is simply idiotic to listen at unbearable volumes for extended periods of time.
But first, let’s get the lecturing over with. If you realize that your hearing has become noticeably muffled or that you have a high-pitched ringing in your ears after a long day of mixing, you most likely have some degree of hearing loss.
Also, there is no single “perfect” level. Loud listening enhances your ability to emotionally connect with the music, but it can also be exhausting, unsafe, and unsuitable for analytical listening.
Loud listening steadily eats away your hearing, and once the sensitivity is gone, there is no turning it back.
Actually, the majority of the most well-known mix engineers favor mixing at low volume. Think about Allen Sides, for instance.
He asserted in an interview that he only hears what is being recorded aloud for about 20 to 30 seconds at a time, and that he does his most important balancing at a volume that makes it easy for him to have an usual conversation while the tape is being played back.
So use professional judgement and take care of those ears! Protecting your most valuable item need not be a source of fear.
Use additional care when wearing headphones because the peculiar listening experience they create makes it easy to listen at uncomfortably loud levels.
Also remember that drugs and alcohol can interfere with your hearing system’s natural defense systems, so ride defensively if you’re impaired.
However, picking your monitoring level involves more than just avoiding injury, largely because our irritating ears vary our perception of frequency balance depending on how loud we listen.
For mixing purposes, you really only need to recognize one such brief conclusion that increasing the volume will make you hear more of the frequency extremes while low key listening will concentrate your ear more on the midrange.
If you’re curious to learn more about the psychoacoustics of this effect, graphs like the well-known equal-loudness contours will give you the actual details.
But there are also other elements at work. For instance, background noise tends to mask more low-level information when you monitor quietly because, as a safety measure, our ears actually reduce the dynamic range of what we hear at high volumes.
At varying loudness levels, we perceive frequencies differently. So, if you want to perfect your mix, how loud should you be monitoring?
Okay, so there isn’t exactly a perfect setting, but it turns out that for larger control rooms, 85 dB is the ideal monitoring level.
Mix engineers now use it as a standard. Because of the equal loudness contours of the human ear as well as how the brain perceives what the ear communicates it, 85 dB appears to give you the flattest hearing curve.
Turn up some of your favorite recordings and listen to them at this new reference level now that you know what to set your monitor level at.
Learn how the kick, bass, vocal, and all the other fine details of their mix sound. Your ability to evaluate your own mix has improved as a result.
If you glance over and notice you’re pushing the volume level past that mark after mixing for a while, it’s time to step away and give your ears a rest.
This is a small advantage of having that reference threshold on your monitor knob.
You also need to be aware of how your creation behaves when played at various volumes.
When the volume is extremely low, for instance, it is simpler to judge whether the most crucial musical components of a mix are loud enough for aggressive widespread listening conditions, whereas any traces of upper-spectrum harshness will typically get to be glaringly evident at club listening volumes.
It’s necessary for the mix engineer to actively decide which volume levels are most crucial for the particular musical genre in question, even while listening at a number of volume levels will help you maintain perspective on how your mix translates across all platforms in general.
In low-volume home, vehicle, or workplace listening environments, a teen pop/rock mix, for example, would require significant high-frequency amplification to maintain its clarity, yet the same amount of zing blasting out through a club sound system however would likely rip your eardrum apart!
It’s also critical to realize that, due to the thrill of loud listening, even a poor mix can sound strong.
In fact, I consider it a solid sign that I need to concentrate more on the sound if I find myself straining to reduce the monitor volume when mixing.