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Quick Tip: How to Calibrate Studio Monitors

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If you're looking for advice on how to improve the listening environment, the topic of calibrating studio monitors is one that often gets overlooked.        

Creating the ultimate listening environment can be a costly and time-consuming undertaking. This quick tutorial will describe how calibrating your monitors can quickly and easily improve the listening environment, with six small steps. 

Calibrating Studio Monitors 

There are three reasons why you should calibrate your monitors: 

1. Create a Fixed Volume Level for Reference

If you fix to a level, your ears become used to that level and how that sounds in that specific environment. 

2. Present an Accurate Representation of Frequency Range 

When you're mixing or mastering you need to take into account the Fletcher-Munson curve.

The louder the music is, the more lows and highs are heard compared to the mids. The chosen level for calibrating is one that gives the flattest response across all frequencies. 

3. Present an Accurate Stereo Image 

Studio monitors are not created equal. If you set the volume control of both monitors to the same position you may hear a difference in volume of around 0.5dB to 1dB resulting in an inaccurate stereo image.  

The Required Resources

The two additional resources needed are: 

1. Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter

They are many makes of SPL meters, both in hardware and software applications.

Whatever SPL meter you use, you'll require one that allows the options of C-weighted and slow response. 

Sound Level Meter Application

2. Pink Noise

An audio clip of pink noise to play through your monitors. 

3. How to Calibrate Monitors

To calibrate the studio monitors follow the six steps below: 

  1. Turn the volume of your studio monitors all the way down. The volume pot is often found at the rear of the monitor
  2. Set the volume of the audio interface's output level to 0dB (unity)
  3. Set the SPL meter to C-weighted and slow response
  4. Hold the SPL meter in the sweet spot of your normal listening position. You may find Rob Mayzes' tutorial on speaker placement helpful in locating the sweet spot
  5. Play the pink noise tone from your digital audio workstation with a peak of -20dB. (-20dB is the required output level for calibrating the monitors using pink noise) 
  6. One monitor at a time, turn up the volume, again using the pot at the rear until you get a reading of 75dB to 85dB on your SPL meter. The correct sound pressure level is about 75dB for a small room, 85dB for a larger room


It's worth noting that calibrating the studio monitors to the required sound pressure level could result in playback volume that is considered too loud. 

If this is the case, simply playback at a more reasonable level, one that is close to the target level whilst protecting your hearing.

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