Question for the engineers


I’m working on configuring my monitors according to the steps outlined in this excellent article “Monitor Wizard: Establishing Project Studio Reference Monitoring Levels” –

I think I’ve got it right. The SPL meter was calibrated with a reasonable degree of accuracy and, as the venerable Bob Katz puts it, I found it very liberating to monitor at a set, known, dBSPL. My hearing has really changed for the better as a result of this process. In attempting to calibrate my monitors, I realize that I’ve also calibrated my own hearing. I’d call it a significant step.

What I could use some help on is making sure I’m establishing correct line-up and generally at least on the right path. I don’t mean gain-staging tracks for a mix, I’m trying to confirm just the basic line-up for the Pink Noise and Tone from Cubase’s Tone Generator. I downloaded the reference tracks from Katz’s site and those do line-up nicely with the output from the TG, so that all seems OK. Anyway, here’s here’ss a picture of the TG sending Tone (-20dB, 400Hz).
k-20 Scale Line-up.jpg
The channels are set to 0.0 dB (channel meters reading at -20), the reference is -20dBFS, and the Monitor scale is K-20. I used -3 VU on the meters because that seemed to be a better line-up for them than 0 VU (more headroom, more natural ballistics, imho) Obviously this does not show that the final output is now either 83dBSPL or 90dBSPL (and I’m still working on calibration, but things are so much better now).

My question is, am I getting this right? Any advice or comments about this is welcomed and needed. Thanks in advance.


Free graphic :laughing:
Equal-Loudness counturs.png

Looks right to me…

Not sure I’d knock down the VU meter plugins to -3dBVU though. I find it far easier to read a needle hovering around 0VU because of the visual ‘break’ between black and red lines on the meter. And after all, if you’re going to use a meter then it needs to be easy to read.

I would also offer as an alternative to consider tweaking the meters in the channels. Right now your reference level -20 is slightly above the break from blue to… uhm… cyan(?)… You can change that to whatever you want, and I’ve set up the meter coloring and fallback time so that I know that if the meters on a track hover in a certain area a certain way I’m hitting the level I need to be at roughly.

Mattias, thanks for responding. I agree about lining up the VU meters to 0 VU. I’ve attached a K-12 Line up with the VU Meters calibrated to 0 VU (RMS -15dBFS), channel gains at 0.0 dB. Better?
K-12 Scale Line-up.jpg
So, yes, please pardon our appearance while we establish some better meter colors and better breakpoints. In addition, I need to work with meter fall back timing, I don’t have a good grasp on those settings for Cubase. My Greenie screwdriver only seemed to scratch the screen (kidding). Do you have any preferred settings you might suggest for fallback timing? I’ll have to hunt this topic down in the Operation Manual.

Again, thanks for the confirmation and good advice. Maybe you remember when something similar happened for you? My ears are really in a much better place from doing this process. All of it a result, in large part, if not completely, to the posts on this forum and where those posts took me. So long for now.


Getting slammed with boring work right now and my brain is tired… but briefly; my point about the VU meters was just that to me it’s easier to read them if the nominal level is “0VU”, so if their relationship to your RMS value is correct I’m not sure (I need more coffee for that)…

As for the built-in meters; I can’t really remember now, but I’m guessing my fallback time is in the 300ms range or whatever a VU meter ballistics are. I might have tweaked that a bit because I wanted to get a feel for being in the -24LKFS loudness range and while it’s close to VU metering it’s not exactly that. But I think at the very least my starting point was 300ms.

Yes, I completely understood that and do agree with you. I “grew up” with VU meters always lined them up to 0 VU in terms of unity gain line up. 1K = 0 VU (+4 dBm, 600 ohm load). I think the VU’ meters I’m working with in the screen shots are telling me that 0 VU is giving us a dynamic range of -15 dBFS?

I’m really not clear on this point? I really need to understand dBFS better. I use 32-bit float files at 48K and it sounds fine. However, I also can’t say that the meters I’m using are themselves completely trustworthy, but they probably are – benefit of the doubt. I’ll check further on that.

I’ll take a look at that and thanks very much for the good suggestion. I like the idea of working within -23dBFS at 83 up to 90 dBSPL on the monitors but I’m still working on it. I see, at least in theory, how the setting might be adjusted to better fit within a dBFS scale of choice. Thanks for helping me tune things up and reach for a new level.

Cubase should provide a template for line-up. Maybe I’ll eventually create one and upload it. Maybe someone else will beat me to it. It might even sell. The Bob Katz files are helpful and appreciated, but it would be good to have the equivalent of the old alignment tapes for our modern DAWs.

Anyway, have some coffee and I hope you didn’t have a mind-numbing breath-removal week or something like that. Take care for now.

I’ve had coffee now… but I’m still stressed out… :frowning:

Anyway, judging from your k-12 screenshot you’re getting 12dB of headroom above your reference level. I think the way to go about this is to look at it as two somewhat separate steps: The first is to calibrate ‘internally’ within your DAW, and the second ‘externally’, in this case relative to monitoring.

Internally you have 12dB of headroom because you’ve set up your meters in your Control Room so that the signal you’re sending - which is -12dBFS RMS - reads “0”. The “0” is just a visual reference for you, and not an absolute value. It’s the exact same thing with your VU meters. Your true headroom is whatever is left between that reference signal and clipping. So from your -12dBFS RMS reference signal and 0dBFS (clipping) there is 12dB. That’s your headroom. And in Control Room your meter reflects that by showing “12” as a maximum value (or you can think of it as +12).

Once you have set your meters up this way inside of your DAW you can calibrate your monitors accordingly. In at least Nuendo you can set a reference level in control room. It’s very handy. The reference level is essentially an “offset” from unity gain, or zero change. So what this means is that as you try to set up your monitors relative to the signal you’re sending them you can actually adjust your monitoring path not only on the speakers (or power amp if they’re passive speakers), but also in Control Room.

The reason I said that you should think of it as two separate steps is really based on my experience having to deliver files for broadcast (I’m in post production). So the absolute levels of the files I deliver have to be right-on spec or else I have issues. So all my metering internally will reflect that. In addition to that I have set my monitoring path in such a way that if I click my “reference” button in Control Room mixing a TV show by ear will put me usually within 2dB of my target, which is within spec (i.e. spec says -24LKFS +/-2dB, and I typically hit -24LKFS +/-1dB mixing by ear).

So the great thing about Control Room is that with the reference level button I always get my monitoring chain back to a specific setting. I can use the “dim” button when things are too loud, or I can turn reference off if things are too soft (my reference is set to -6dB I believe). But regardless of what I do to the reference level in CR the meters show what I need to know, and I have other professional meters (iZotope Insight) in the relevant part of the chain which all show the actual level of the signal that I’m actually delivering - not the one that goes to the speakers, if that makes sense…

Anyway, judging from your screenshot the k-12 image shows that you have 12dB before you hit 0dBFS in your DAW which is no-no-land, and means you have 12dB headroom. Then you can set levels in your room so that that feels good to you. If that’s 85dBSPL or 83 or 79 I have no idea, it really depends on your ears and your room…

See, I knew I should have had more coffee before writing that :wink:

-24LKFS is a special measurement and standard that relates to broadcast levels in the US. In Europe it’s -23LUFS if I remember correctly. So those measurements don’t really correspond to music mixing or mastering. I only mentioned those as an example for how I go about setting my reference levels on meters. It wasn’t really advice for you to hit those numbers. I think you are heading in the right direction looking at the K-system, which will put you at least 4 to 8 dB louder than me in terms of absolute levels on the final product.

Good idea actually… +1

Yeah… if only… more like cleaning up Dan Rather’s soft spoken voice filled with weird mouth sounds and “s” that sound like the whistle on a steam train… with an air conditioner running in the background… Give me some breaths to remove and I’ll be happy…

…back to work…


Thanks for clearing up so much for me. I looked up LFKS as well. Thanks for catching that. I like the Loudness scales but need to work with them some more. I saw that LKFS is a K-weighted scale, interesting.

I feel a lot more certain about how to allocate headroom and work with the Internal Vs. External monitoring issues. That’s been the important part of all this for me. Thanks for looking over the screen shots and for taking the time to post. I do have a few other things I’d like to discuss, but it will have to wait until later. I had a moment and wanted to reply. Take care for and, believe it or not, I know the S of which you sssssssssssssssssspeak. :slight_smile: