Studio Monitors plays a vital role in Mixing and arguably monitoring it in a right way is the most important part of mixing. Without being able to hear the music properly, you won’t be able to mix it. Your monitors, room treatment and your positioning are all critical factors in ensuring you’re able to deliver mixes that translate to different speakers. Studio monitors play an important role in mixing and mastering an audio track or a song. They have a flat frequency response, making them the best to use in recording and mixing studios. Calibrating your monitors helps your ears to become habituated to a standard level of volume which enables you to listen to sound in your environment more accurately. It’s also another great way to preserve your hearing.
Calibrating your monitors is the process of understanding and setting the level coming out of your DAW relative to the SPL that’s leaving the speaker. This lets you know that when your mixer is set to unity or your output level is at a marked spot that you’re able to hear the volume level your speakers are calibrated to.
You also have to make sure that both speakers are accurately reproducing the same level of audio. No two pieces of electronics are the same so just setting the two volume controls to the same level isn’t enough to ensure consistency between both speakers.
In order to calibrate we’ll need to use pink noise. Pink noise is a tone that consists of every frequency band at exactly the same level. This makes it the ideal tool for many types of acoustic measurements including speaker and room calibration.
Things required to calibrate Studio Monitors
- Tone Generator ( Pink Noise )
- SPL Meter ( C weighted Scale )
Steps To calibrate your speakers :
- Turn the independent level controls on the back of each of your studio monitors all the way down.
- Set your interface output to unity if there is one. If it doesn’t have a unity level, then you can choose where you’d like your output knob to be when you reach the desired level you’re calibrating to. Mark the spot on output knob with a white china marker or a piece of console tape.
- You’ll need to set up a track in your DAW with a tone generator to output pink noise. Most DAWs have a tone generator built in. Set the level to -18dbfs (you can use -20dbfs if you want more headroom). If you did step 1 correctly, then you shouldn’t hear anything yet. (We are calibrating to -18dbfs because it is considered to be the equivalent of 0 dBVU which is the sweet spot for analog gear)
- Now you’ll need an SPL meter. You’ll need to make sure the SPL meter has a C-weighted scale. Unlike the A-weighted scale, the C-weighted scale does not cut off the lower and higher frequencies that the average person cannot hear which makes it more suited for calibration purposes.
- Point the SPL meter at the sweetpoint in the center of the speakers where you would typically have your head. Make sure the meter is at about the same level as your ears.
- Pan the pink noise all the way to the right, so it’s only coming out of the right speaker. Start turning up the volume knob on the back of the right speaker until the SPL meter reads 78-85 dBs depending on what you decide to calibrate your speakers at. I’ll be calibrating my speakers at 80db. If you’re sitting closer to your speakers, you can calibrate them lower. Renowned mastering engineer Bob Katz likes to monitor at 79 dB
- Now pan the pink noise to the left and repeat step 6 with the left speaker.
You’ll now know where you should be keeping your monitors output level to ensure you’re listening at the desired level.
In conclusion, never forget to calibrate your studio monitors. It hardly takes any time and is pretty straightforward. Mixing thru headphones might cause ear fatigue. The difference between mixing with your monitor speakers and your headphones is NIGHT and DAY. When you listen to a mix with speakers, the mind actually fills in the middle of the sonic picture with a phantom center channel. Headphones take away the mind’s ability to accurately fill this phantom center channel so the mind will place the center channel in an indeterminate location. Hence your mixes will never sound the same through headphones as they do through monitor speakers.