Hi Bob. First off, thanks for this informative site. I write, produce and mix electronic music in my homestudio setup. I use a pair of Adam A7 nearfield monitors (love them). I usually mix at a level of about 85dbA for about 2 hours at a time (with about 40minute breaks in between) to a maximum of 4 sessions per day to make sure I don’t stress or damage my ears to much. But one thing that I keep asking myself: ‘At howmany dB must I mix to get a mix that will translate well to a big system?’ ‘To get a mix that holds up well’ ‘And is that better to be measured in dBA or dBC?’ So what is the ideal amount of dB(A or C)to be doing a mix at with this kind of music? Thank you in advance for your time and advice. All the best, Glen.
Dear Glen: When I master, I try to master at a consistent level because I know my monitors and how they will translate at all levels without having to check at different levels (most of the time). Every time I recheck at different levels and on different monitors I see that I had success (most of the time). This only works in a well-calibrated mastering environment, and for me, that’s around 83 dB SPL (C weighted, slow) in my room for forte passages. About 80 dB for mezzo forte, and so on. This works with midfield monitors at about 9 feet from me in a very-well-calibrated room.
But when you mix, the material may not yet have been optimized for best translation, your monitors may be too close to your ears to tolerate loud levels or able to take those loud levels. I’m surprised you can tolerate your Adams at 85 dB (A or C) when they are nearfield. Nearfields at that level can be quite fatiguing, so to be honest, I think you are listening too loud for the health of your ears at that monitor distance. Most mix engineers like to listen at various levels to check that their material translates. The more precise your monitoring, the more confident you are in its performance and its headroom and the monitor’s distance from you is at least midfield, the less you will have to check at different levels or even with different monitor speakers. I do not have any alternative speakers in my mastering room, and only occasionally I check the playback on a set of hi-fi speakers in another room.
Since you are asking, I recommend you listen at least sometimes at around 83 dBC/slow in your room with the music playing, because this will give you the most linear playback and judgment especially of the bass frequencies. And also be sure to to check at different levels and distances to see how it translates. Even walk out of your room and listen outside the door. Integrate all that information together. And when in doubt send me a mix before mastering and I’ll give you my opinion on how you are doing.
I hope this answer helps,