Best Speaker Level for Audio Editing?

MadMaverick wrote on 5/17/2016, 3:47 AM
So I have some Mackie CR3 Multimedia Monitors like these:

A few members on here spoke highly of them, and I decided to purchase them sense I needed some high quality, yet affordable sound monitors for editing and whatnot. I'm quite pleased with them. The quality is great, and they're very loud.

This kinda threw me off with my sound editing, since there's a drastic contrast when it comes to these monitors, and the speakers I was using before, which were just cheap ones that came with my computer. I always figured that most people viewing my work (on YouTube) would probably have basic speakers like these, and that as long as it sounded good on mine, then it should sound good on theirs, as well as on their smartphones or tablets.

I'd have the knob on my old speakers turned half way, and that's the level I'd keep it for audio editing. With these new monitors of mine though, everything is so loud, and that's great. I'm not complaining. It's just that I'm not sure what level to have them set on when editing.

If I have the knob turned half way with these, everything is so loud. I usually barely even have to turn the knob all that far to hear music or videos with these. So how far over do you guys usually turn your knobs? Do you go nice and deep? ...okay, I was just messing with you with that last sentence lol.

Also, I've always found sound levels in video to be something of a headache. I always have trouble deciding how high or low different audio should be, and it's always seemed like I could never get it QUITE right. I guess this kinda thing depends on the ear of the beholder, but any tips here would be appreciated.

I've asked this on a separate video forum before, and was told that there's just too many variables to say "speech should be at this level and music at this level".

Another member used these basic guidelines:
"Spoken word peaking at 6db and siting between 12db to 6db.
When you have a spoken word with music try keeping music to between 18db to 24db or less.
When you have just music try keeping peaking at between 12db and 6bd or less.
With mixing audio it's a must to keep everything flowing with out jumps from one source of audio to another.
By keeping the spoken word peaking at 6db this gives you a bit of head room to move up 3db if required.
Also by using this as a guide this is easier to get a mix together.
Adding more tracks containing audio adds to the overall sound energy that is present. More tracks = more dbs."

Let me know if you agree with his guide or not, and what methods you use. Also, feel free to share any tips or advice. Thank you.


musicvid10 wrote on 5/17/2016, 6:21 AM
Peak levels mean nothing, unless they are clipped, which is wrong.
Compare your loudness aurally with a known good reference audio, and be done with it.

Perceived or relative loudness can be monitored with LUFS/LKFS metering, and Apple's internet recommendation is 6dB louder than broadcast limits. Peak, average, or RMS scales are all notoriously poor indicators of loudness, which is an entirely different concept than volume or gain.

There are MANY scales used to quantify audio levels, all as different as night and day. Usually expressed in dB, it is absolutely necessary to label the reference scale being used to convey any meaning to the numbers. What you quoted, using unlabeled dB values as POSITIVE integers, is totally strange, and without any logical meaning or context for digital audio, the highest dBFS value being 0.

When you say 12dB, are those red jelly beans, or orange, green, yellow, or licorice?
If you need a number, -18 dB Integrated LKFS is a good starting place for the internet.
rs170a wrote on 5/17/2016, 7:10 AM
Here are two stickies from the Gearslutz forum that are well worth reading and understanding.

Speaker calibration tutorial for students

Standard mixing levels for movie theater, DVD, broadcast TV, commercials, etc.

musicvid10 wrote on 5/17/2016, 8:09 AM
One might get the impression from reading the first thread Mike linked that there is some connection between integrated K-type of loudness measurements and perceived speaker levels, or SPL.

There is not. The measurements are useful for relative comparisons only.
There has never been a substitute for a good reference recording, and experienced ears to go with it.

musicvid10 wrote on 5/17/2016, 8:21 AM
Mike's second link is a gold nugget; a comprehensive reference for anyone who is comfortable with the terminology. It just earned a browser bookmark.

For those who will never learn the science, Ive used Santana "Abraxas" as my go-to stereo music reference for four decades now; your choice will be different, but pick one or two and stick with it.
rraud wrote on 5/17/2016, 11:34 AM
Without double posting my response, The OP queried this in the VP audio forum.

I prefer Thomas Dolby's 'Pulp Culture' ('Aliens ate my Buick') for PA system sound/EQ reference. Steely Dan is a favorite for many.
musicvid10 wrote on 5/17/2016, 8:34 PM
You have good taste in music. I'm a fan of Chick Corea, Brubeck, and Elton John these days.

MadMaverick wrote on 5/18/2016, 4:42 AM
Thanks for the info guys, but I'm kinda confused. I'm no sound expert, and I don't understand all the jargon.

I simply wanted to know what level you should generally have your sound monitors (speakers) set on when doing a mix... another words, how high or low your knob should be turned. I'd always have my old speakers set half-way, but these new ones are so much more loud and professional.

I've noticed that when viewing more professional productions on YouTube, that I'd have to turn my generic speakers all the way up. I read on one of those links that a concern was for their video sound to be loud enough. What sounds loud enough on a professional set of speakers generally doesn't seem to sound very loud on a basic set of speakers that come with a computer. It sounds like the recommended pro levels for Television, DVD or whatever are lower than internet. YouTube is the main outlet that my content is distributed on.

I always kinda figured that as long as everything was mixed well and evenly, then people could simply adjust their volume... but on generic devices turning the sound all the way up may not even be loud enough if it was mixed on a pro set of speakers. So with these new speakers I'm kinda thrown off here.

I was also simply referring to the sound levels in Sony Vegas, as well as what decibel level music, dialog etc... should generally be, and what you guys do/recommend.
Byron K wrote on 5/18/2016, 5:14 AM
Here's a good video about perceived loudness.vs metered loudness.
musicvid10 wrote on 5/18/2016, 6:27 AM
It's not simple, and there is no answer to your question because of the multitude of upstream variables, only a couple of which have been touched on in this thread.

Your speakers should be set to levels that are pleasing to you when listening to your chosen reference recording, and that are not the product of upstream distortion, then they are to be left alone while you are doing your mix. Once again, there is no meaningful correlation between numbers or knobs that you set and the sound pressure levels that you hear. This is not trivial, and needs to be understood before moving forward.

The only question you can ask is, "Does it sound too loud, too soft, or just right?"
There is no number for "just right," and anyone saying there is, is full of it.

Therefore, you are seeking a qualitative answer, not a quantitative answer. Even if you bought an expensive SPL meter, the "79s" calibration levels you would set are a starting point only!

So if your new speakers have to be turned down to match the loudness of your old speakers, you are only saying that the new ones are more efficient. Nothing else.

Employ a reference recording, keep upstream true peak levels below 0dBFS (no exceptions, use limiting or modest compression as needed), trust your ears, and learn from your mistakes. The numbers are essentially meaningless for your purposes, unless your work will be broadcast.

riredale wrote on 5/18/2016, 2:35 PM
MadMaverick, I am not sure I understand what you're asking.

When I edit video with audio, I set the volume knob so that I can comfortably hear what's happening, but not so loud that it wakes up the dog at my feet.

So I guess you need to get a dog.