Audio volume level


adis-a3097 wrote on 3/9/2020, 9:06 AM


What's your monitor reference level?

john-brown wrote on 3/9/2020, 9:26 AM


I have no idea. How and where does one find that?

john-brown wrote on 3/9/2020, 12:29 PM


Very informative article, but it doesn't help me know what is my "monitor reference level." Are you talking about a level above which the metering colour changes from green to yellow? Like -20 dBFS? See Step 1 in the article and my comment.

What is your "monitor reference level?" How did you select it? How did you set it in Vegas?

The article mentions a need to set a consistent reference level. If I use the YouLean Meter or Melda MLoudnessAnalyzer then I would probably select a reference level of about -15 LUFS.

We are talking about amateurs making home videos, not professionals with a commercial studio set up specifically for audio. The objective is simply to get a consistent perceived level over the duration of a video, and an overall output that is at a level more or less consistent with other content that plays on whatever medium we are playing back on, TV or YT so that we don't have to make volume adjustments from a TV program to a video or from one video to another or within a video. I think that we have taken this thread way beyond what was intended.

Below, I have quoted the steps in the article and what I see are the main relevant points. However, I use headphones mostly, so see that part near the end. Most of us amateurs don't have a dedicated studio setup.

The article concludes with a recommendation to "acquire and start using a BS.1770‑style loudness meter because this is likely to become the standard in the future." The one shown in the image from Cubase does what YouLean and MLoudnessAnalyzer do. Note that the article was written in 2014.

The article states: "If you're serious about recording and mixing you need to set a consistent reference level to which you can always return....There's also a growing movement to set levels according to the material's overall loudness, rather than the signal peaks....In both cases, it makes a lot of sense to extend these gain staging and loudness concepts all the way to the monitors, the listening environment, and ultimately our own ears. In essence, what I'm talking about is establishing a reference listening level in the control room, to use as a reliable base from which to make aural decisions.

...If you're not used to it, working with calibrated monitoring levels will involve a few small changes in working practices. The most obvious change is to always starting a mix session with the monitoring at a 'calibrated' reference point. For some it may also involve finding and using more appropriate meters, or using existing meters in a slightly different way, too."

Step 1: The first stage in establishing a calibrated monitoring level is to decide on a preferred digital 'operating level'. I can see no way to change what is in Vegas' mixer to set an 'operating level'. However, I can set one in YouLean or MLoudnessAnalyzer.

Step 2: The standard test signal for acoustic alignment is pink noise, which sounds like a waterfall, with a smooth top‑end. Ideally, it should be a band‑limited pink noise signal in mono, and at an RMS level that precisely matches the chosen digital operating level....If you want to work at a different operating level you'll need to adjust the pink noise signal accordingly. Go to step 6 to see what to do with this.

Step 3: All Monitoring systems have volume controls...So, what we need is a volume control that can be set to a precise calibrated position when we want to adopt our reference level. Some monitor controllers have a dedicated preset level setting for this purpose, most have a specific '0' mark on the volume control scale, and at worst you can add a chinagraph pencil mark to the control panel yourself! I have an M-Audio M-Track interface and I have the output set to what is comfortable for monitoring with my headphones, and I usually leave it there.

Step 4: An SPL meter will be required to measure the acoustic sound-pressure level produced by the monitors....the absolute precision of the SPL reading is not very critical for setting up the monitoring in an independent project or home studio. Matching levels consistently between different speakers, and for the system as a whole at different times (such as when the monitors are changed) is what matters for most people. The only time absolute SPL accuracy is critical is if trying to conform with a specific SPL standard used in other studios with which you want to share work. I don't have one, I'm using headphones and occasionally cheap speakers, and I am not trying to conform to anyone else's SPL standard.

Step 5: The next step is to decide what reference SPL level to use, and this, I am afraid, is where it gets a little vague!...The recommended reference monitor SPLs for different room sizes are shown in the Room Size vs Reference Level Table ...It should be noted, however, that these figures are recommendations rather than absolutes, so consider them as starting points and if you find that you prefer working with a slightly higher or lower reference level, that's fine. Just keep a note of the level you've calibrated your system to work at so that you can match the level if you need to recalibrate for new monitors at some future point.

Step 6: All that's needed now is physically to set the monitor chain's gain structure to set the correct reference level. SPL metering and pink noise to calibrate the speakers.

Step 7: You should find that material that hovers around or just above the digital operating level on the DAW's meters is comfortable to listen to, without being too loud or too quiet. Moreover, material that replays high up on the meters should sound too loud, and material that is well below the operating level is correspondingly quiet. As you get used to this arrangement you should find that you are able to build mixes entirely by ear without looking at the meters at all — and find that they actually sit well in relation to the defined digital operating level....This is another situation where a calibrated monitor volume scaled in decibels is quite useful, as the amount you need to turn the level down to restore the expected loudness indicates just how much louder the music is compared with the system reference. In this way you can compare the loudness of mixes in progress with reference tracks in a meaningful way. My understanding is that I get my monitoring equipment set up so that the volume is at a comfortable level, anything louder or softer will be noticeable - to my ears, if I'm good, without ear fatigue. Note the part in the middle about commercial CD's being much louder.

I use headphones and keep the output levels consistent. Near the end of the article under "What about Headphones" it states, "It's actually very difficult to accurately measure loudness on headphones at home. Therefore, the best approach is simply to set sensible speaker levels, as discussed in the main article, and then adjust your headphones to give a similar subjective level — and, if needs be, make a mark at the reference level on your headphone amp's level control." That's what I do and thus my need for help from YouLean or MLoudnessAnalyzer.

adis-a3097 wrote on 3/9/2020, 3:17 PM

Oh, man, you need to get one of these:

if you're into any kind of serious work. And I stress work - gotta loose them headphones, can't work like that.

Tomorrow I'll be writing some more, no time now. :)

john-brown wrote on 3/9/2020, 3:35 PM


Looks good. Thanks for the tip.

However, not serious work unless someone hires me, just play, but it's embarrassing to have to adjust the volume a couple of times in the middle of a video with friends and relatives. Same with them watching a DVD/BR and having to do this without me around.

There was a link to another article in the one that you mentioned, particularly the part about "The Effect of Loudness Normalization,"

Keep in mind that we're not mixing instruments and vocals. We're mixing already mixed music and vocals/narration.

For anyone interested in seeing the YouLean Meter in action, here is a link to a good tutorial about it:


adis-a3097 wrote on 3/10/2020, 12:20 PM

Where was I? :)


So, you take this file:

unrar it, import into Vegas, play it, and on Loudness Meters (View => Window => Loudness Meters) it'll show around 3 LUFS [-20 if Absolute (right click on Lodness Meters => Loudness Scale => Absolute -23LUFS) is ticked].


It' should read 0 (-23 in Absolute mode), but since Vegas simply duplicates mono channels and doesn't compensate for it there's a 3 dB overall bump in level. So, unlock master faders:

pull down right channel, like this:

and now you'll see 0 (or -23 Absolute) on L. Meters.

Turn down Volume on your amplifier. Switch it on, switch on your SPL meter, turn Volume up somewhat and go to your listening position. Take measurement. If it reads 85 dB (set response to slow, weighting to C , hold out your hand to avoid boody reflections) you're all set. If not, raise/lower Volume untill your SPL meter reads 85 dB. Ideally, your right channel reads the same - if it's an integrated preamp/poweramp combo. Mark your levels (your Volume potentiometer on amp), put an R on your mark. For "Refenrence". Good system sould be capable of 105 dBC per channel without audible distortion (common engineering practice allows for 6-8 dB margin above max. dB needed).

This is an 12", 300 W, 91 dB/1W/1m, 30 - 30.000 Hz @-10 dB capable monitor that I use since '96. Meets most of the requirements:



Now, at that monitor SPL level, you listen. Alot! - just to get some "muscle memory". That's serious levels, serious work. Start with this:

or this:

If you feel you should lower/raise the Volume - don't! It's just because you're not actually listening, not paying attention. Know your dynamics!

This one's good too:

That's 85, per channel. "Cinema". Not "music", which is 85 with both channels driven, like this:

Re-listen all you have at your disposal, all of your music library and you'll know what's ok and what's overcooked:

That one is waaay over the top, like, 16 dB or something (-7 LUFS integrated). :)


Now, if you lower the monitor Volume to 76 per channel (by 9dB) as suggested for smal rooms, for bradcast, you're not in -23 LUFS domain anymore, you're in -14. So, welcome to Streaming! :)

On mixing at that level - later. Maybe.