calibrating monitors for k system

I only recently came across the topic of calibrating monitors to k system.
Is this essential to do?
I produce dance music.
in 15 years of reading computer music I never once came across the topic.

anyone any clues?

Bob Katz’s How To Make Better Recordings in the 21st Century–An Integrated Approach to Metering, Monitoring, and Leveling Practices article, where he proposes the K System.

Horse’s mouth!

thanks.i know about the k system,but do I really need to calibrate monitors?

You calibrate monitors in order to be able to mix by ear. If your speakers are too loud then if you mix by ear your mixes will be too low, and vice versa. I don’t do music but post, but when you learn a room and the monitor levels you can basically just mix by ear and you end up very close to where you want to be.

I have to say though that I don’t really see the point in using the K-system for dance music. To me it seems intended to get mixes with reasonable amount of dynamic range. However, i don’t really hear that at all in most dance music. And if you’re talking about EDM then I really don’t hear it. Maybe I’m just ignorant though, and I confess to hating about 99% of all EDM I’ve ever heard… I mean, REALLY hate it…

So anyway: I would recommend you just measure some commercial music that you like that’s in the exact same style that you produce and see where it ends up on the K-system meters. If it’s outside of their range then “why bother”?..

The K system is about what to associate with the recommended mixing level reference of 83dB SPL cited in the article I linked to, as that is considered a reasonable average upper listening level. Mixing stereo at that level is then likely to give the best and most balanced sounding mixes for your listeners.

The perceived relative loudness of different frequencies changes with level, with bass and treble frequencies perceived as progressively less loud the lower the level of listening. That 83dB SPL level is where those differences are minimal. Mixing with that as a reference level means that your mixes will track peoples’ loudness perception curves more naturally. Mixing at lower levels means that when people do listen to the material at that level, the frequency balance will not be as you mixed it.

Of course, if the target audience plays your material at another level, you may need to mix at that level, though over 83dB SPL, the frequency loudness differences remain much the same. That means just because some may want to wreck their ears playing it very loud :open_mouth:, you don’t have to mix at those ear-wrecking levels :stuck_out_tongue:.

While you may not need to actually ‘calibrate’ your monitors, you should get to know what level 83dB SPL is, just so you have a reference point. As long as you know what meter reading and external level control settings give you that level, that is all you actually need.

However, if you mix for different genres with markedly different levels and tonal balances, or your equipment is used by others, then a more rigorous standardisation and calibration of your audio paths may be required.

You choose which K-number according to how much dynamic range your meters need to show for your type of material.

thanks for replies
u say “mixing by ear”
as apposed to mixing by?

Non-biological instruments, like meters.

well off course meters wil be used as well

Hi guys and girls.
im just getting round to sorting this now.
my room is small about 6ft by 5ft 3 stud walls and one concrete wall
if I play my monitors at this level its too loud,so wot is the point of me calibrating my monitors if I cant listen to them at that level?
is using the k14 level meter in control room mixer not enough?

You NEED some treatment on parts of those walls to reduce standing waves, as well as just absorb some of the reflective energy that might be over-contributing to overall levels and just plain confusing the sound.

Did you measure the actual levels to get to 83dB SPL?

You can get apps for your phone that you can use to get you in the ballpark.

Meters, of themselves, can help you keep under 0dB FS, but, without monitor calibration, they do nothing to help you mix at levels that will mitigate against loudness dependencies.

hi,i have a digital sound level meter.i measured to 80db I thought that was correct level.
I have shelves on the walls with magazines and one side has 3 shelves of 12"singles 2 turntables would this not be helping a bit?

83dB SPL is the reference level.

They would tend to disperse sound, rather than absorb it. That is still a good thing, as it prevents standing waves, which are really bad for listening or mixing.

You may still need some acoustic foam panels to provide some damping of the room, especially if there are still bare panels opposite each other.

can u explain to me why I need to listen to the monitors so loud?as I said its a small room and I live in a semi detached house so the volume is to loud and bound to be disturbing neighbours.
I have the k 14 meter in control room mixer.
can I not turn the volume down?
sorry if im sounding naïve,but im trying to get my head round this

Looking at the equal-loudness contour (originally Fletcher-Munsen) curves, the lower the level, the sensitivity to low and high frequencies decreases more rapidly than for 1KHz.

The practical result of that is that mixes you did using a monitor reference level of 63dB SPL would be likely to sound OK when listened to at about 63dB SPL, but would most likely be overly bass and treble heavy when listening at 83dB SPL, just because, to sound balanced at your mixing level, you would have had to increase them.

It’s obvious that there will always be a discrepancy between what was mixed and what is listened to in any particular situation, due to things like individual ear response and listening environment. However, at least if one is used to mixing in a calibrated environment, one can get to know what the mix will sound like in various other environments, so that there will not be too many ‘surprises’ in store for listeners.

Basically, mixing at a reference level of 80dB SPL will probably not produce mixes sounding much different from those using 83dB SPL. The important thing is to be in that ballpark, and consistently, otherwise one might be tweaking mixes between sessions unnecessarily.

That 83dB SPL is about the minimum level above which the frequency relationships remain the same, so if your genre(s) don’t have too much dynamic range, you won’t need to mix at levels higher than that, even if most listeners use much greater levels.

However, if mixing wide range material, one will need to closely match the intended listening levels, just so the frequency balance still sounds natural for the lower level sections.

Well CLA mixes at very low levels. You can actually speak easy over it. And…

… And he ain’t a bad mix engineer.
So as always, it depends. How good do you know your speakers, room, references etc etc…

The 83dB SPL reference level (with 103dB peaks) is perfectly acceptable if you’re listening in a big space, like a cinema or a film dubbing theatre, or even a very large and well treated commercial studio control room.
Unfortunately, it will be completely overwhelming in a smaller space, because the listener is inevitably sitting much closer to both the speakers and the room boundaries.
The very different nature of early reflections makes the level seem, psychoacoustically, much higher than it would be in a larger room.

The recommended reference monitor SPLs for different room sizes are shown in the Room Size vs Reference Level Table:
Room Size vs Reference Level

Room Size Room Size Reference Level
Cubic Meters (m3) Cubic Feet (ft3) dB SPL ©

566 > 20,000 83
284 – 566 10,000 – 20,000 80
143 – 283 5,000 – 10,000 78
42 – 142 1,500 – 5,000 76
< 42 < 1,500 74


I don’t think you have a mixing room larger than 20.000 Cubic Feet, so adapt to your situation :wink:


Her is an answer from the man Bob Katz himself, taken from his website’s FAQ:

K-System and ITU-R BS.1770 (EBU R-128)
Sindre Saebo wrote:
Hi! I just read your book “Mastering Audio” with great interest, and plan to implement monitoring with the K-system in my project studio. Just wondering: How does the K-system relate to the new standard ITU-R BS.1770? I understand both are based on average metering, do they behave very differently in use?

"Hi, Sindre. Good question! I hope you enjoyed my book.

In use the current K-System meter is LESS ACCURATE as a loudness meter than ITU-R BS.1770 (EBU R-128).
But no one has yet implemented an exact ITU version of the K-System. Depending on the amount of bass in the music, how much compression you use and other factors you will see more or less correlation to actual loudness in the standard K-System meter, as much as 2 or 3 dB difference.

The size of the loudspeakers you use may affect the “absolute loudness” part of the K-System , but ITU will help on relative loudness if you are comparing one program you master to another.
If you find a company you like who produces a K-System meter, please encourage them to add an ITU compatibility mode. Regardless, the K-System meter is still far more useful than a simple peak meter.
I recommend ITU meters now that have a variable 0 LU, such as the TC Radar meter and the Grimm LevelView.
It’s a new world and we may no longer have need for the K-System, for many reasons.
I’ll have a lot more to say about that in the near future.

I hope this helps, Bob"

I also hope this helps :slight_smile:

Notice that the K-system is a monitoring system, made as an attempt to “trick” us into larger headroom/dynamic in our mixes and masters. This by setting a fixed monitoring level.
The scale you use within your DAW is of NO use, if you don’t adjust your monitoring system/hardware accordingly.

The EBU R-128 is on the other hand a Media Delivery Standard (or close to), meassuring the ctual media file, chunk, mix itself. And…

… And from here on it doesn’t matter how loud or not anyone are monitoring during mixing, as long as it is delivered within the specs, and… Sound great, as in intended or to the clients satisfaction.

Lear your room, learn your speakers, make the clients happy with the end product, and deliver on spec, is my advice.
For inf, iTunes radio uses -16/16.5 LUFS as their delivery spec (on air). Spotify and other streaming services are following in the same -16 LUFS area. So no need for mastering our mixes too loud in the feature.
Great times ahead :mrgreen:

The man is not attached to his creations. Kudos.