You are here

Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby conew1987 » Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:23 pm

Basically what it says on the tin:

When setting up initial levels to pink noise, can that be done with headphones? Or does it give you a false response? Thoughts?

Thanks in advance!
conew1987
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:21 pm

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby ef37a » Mon Sep 24, 2018 11:31 pm

Do you mean you want to calibrate the headphones (to say 85dBc SPL) ?

If so, a bit tricky I would say. You could hang a true rms* AC meter on the headphone feed and set the level with reference to the manfctrs specification but that data is often confusing, poorly presented or not even given!

Perhaps setup the pink noise on monitors at the required level, feed same to cans then keep adjusting, whipping off/on until the levels match?

BTW, have you seen the excellent feature on headphones in the current issue? I do hope there is a similarly deep follow up about headphone amplifiers?

*won't be very "true". Unless it is a very expensive meter the response dives off a cliff past about 2kHz. They are only true rms for power line frequencies.

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9440
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Wonks » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:02 am

It's all about relative loudness, so if the levels balance on headphones they should still balance as if you were using speakers. At this stage you should have everything panned centrally, with no effects, so it's all mono. It's all about setting up a good initial balance, after which you can then make musical decisions about relative levels.

The only drawback to the pink noise method is if your high frequency hearing limit is quite low (like me), when things like cymbals and hi-hats become very difficult to balance as they contain a lot of noise-like sound anyway and everything merges into a single sound. Here I find it's easier to set their levels by ear as normal once the other instrument levels have been set.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6058
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Now even grumpier than Ivan in his heyday.

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby ef37a » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:26 am

Hi Wonks.
Another problem has come to me about comparing speakers and cans with noise?

That October article pointed out how difficult it was to get a subjectively flat frequency response or one that agreed with any given set of monitors? Add the personal "head fit" situation and wide band noise could make it difficult to get a meaningful judgement?

Maybe just a "chunk" of noise, band limited to 400-1,000Hz would be better? Or just 400Hz sine?

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9440
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:35 am

conew1987 wrote:When setting up initial levels to pink noise, can that be done with headphones? Or does it give you a false response? Thoughts?

Yes it can. The balance might be slightly different from that done using speakers, though, especially if you're working in stereo with lots of extreme panning, just because the ears/brain work in a slightly different way when different sounds are heard in different ears (which can't happen when using speakers). Consequently, you might be better off working in mono to set your initial pink-noise-balanced levels, and only then develop the stereo panning as you polish the mix.

H
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 21751
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Wonks » Tue Sep 25, 2018 9:36 am

Dave, this is not about calibrating the headphones. This is about the Eddie Bazil/Zukan method of setting a balance for your instruments and vocals against a constant level pink noise source.

The beauty of it is that as long as the pink noise source in your DAW is a true one, then it almost doesn't matter what you are listening on. Any peaks or dips in the frequency response of the monitors or headphones will affect the level of the pink noise at those frequencies just as much as they affect the sound you are setting the level for, so matching the level of sound to the pink noise should be easy.

Easy except for those sounds with a lot of noise in themselves, where level matching then becomes a lot harder.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6058
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Now even grumpier than Ivan in his heyday.

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby ef37a » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:45 am

Wonks wrote:Dave, this is not about calibrating the headphones. This is about the Eddie Bazil/Zukan method of setting a balance for your instruments and vocals against a constant level pink noise source.

The beauty of it is that as long as the pink noise source in your DAW is a true one, then it almost doesn't matter what you are listening on. Any peaks or dips in the frequency response of the monitors or headphones will affect the level of the pink noise at those frequencies just as much as they affect the sound you are setting the level for, so matching the level of sound to the pink noise should be easy.

Easy except for those sounds with a lot of noise in themselves, where level matching then becomes a lot harder.

Oh! I'll get me coat....

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9440
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:36 pm

No worries Dave ;)

Another vote for pink noise mixing under headphones - I do it all the time with good results.

Kick drums and bass synths can sometimes be tricky to balance up with the pink noise signal, which is why I'm so pleased with the extended low end response of my AKG K712 Pro headphones (which makes this easier).

I also find balancing really high sounds (hi-hats, cymbals and so on) easier under headphones, as you're bypassing the audible changes of moving your head about, which can result in quite big changes at these frequencies if you're not careful, especially if your room acoustic isn't spot on.

The other thing that's worth pointing out is that whether you are pink noise mixing with loudspeakers or headphones, the actual playback level isn't critical - I started off at normal monitoring levels, which can be wearing on the ears when you're listening through continuous pink noise, but subsequently found that even at fairly low playback levels you're likely to achieve the same balance (in other words, you can forget about Fletcher-Munson effects, as you're listening to the 'difference' in volume between the pink noise and each of your playback tracks).


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 12729
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Zukan » Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:01 am

I always mix to noise using headphones for the same reasons Martin has outlined.

The process is actually really useful in getting your level and pan mixes in the general ballpark. It is also a great technique for managing the headroom as you are forced to attenuate rather than boost when using pink noise referencing.
User avatar
Zukan
Moderator
Posts: 7124
Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:56 am

So when you are doing this under headphones are any of you using the Sonarworks program for headphones? Or could that defeat the purpose? (I can't imagine how but I'm asking anyway)
Logically using the Sonarworks could mean easier balancing of the low end but I've discovered my sense of logic sometimes is wrong!
User avatar
ManFromGlass
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1470
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:00 am
Location: In the woods in Canada
 

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Wonks » Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:55 am

As I've already said, any frequency variations caused by the headphones (or EQ like sonarworks) affect both the pink noise and the track equally. You're only trying to match the volume levels, nothing else. So you can do it with or without Sonarworks.

But as I've found out elsewhere, not all noise generator plug-ins are the same, so it's worth testing out the ones you've got through a frequency analyser scope plug-in. The standard Cubase tone generator plug isn't as good as the free Melda one, which is far smoother and less peaky (so more random). I haven't tried any others. Note that to see the true pink noise slope on the analyser, you'll have to dig in to the scope's options, as the default is a 3dB slope to compensate between intensity and SPL, which will need to be set to 0dB (so it shows white noise as flat and pink noise as a downward triangle from low to high frequency). This can be done in the Melda MAnalyzer, but I haven't checked whether this value is accessible in any other scope programs.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6058
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Now even grumpier than Ivan in his heyday.

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Zukan » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:01 am

ManFromGlass wrote:So when you are doing this under headphones are any of you using the Sonarworks program for headphones? Or could that defeat the purpose? (I can't imagine how but I'm asking anyway)
Logically using the Sonarworks could mean easier balancing of the low end but I've discovered my sense of logic sometimes is wrong!

I think it would be far better to use the referencing system you are used to to conduct the mix. I use Audeze headphones so no need for Sonarworks and if I had to use it then I would stick to whatever profile I settle on from the outset.
User avatar
Zukan
Moderator
Posts: 7124
Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2003 12:00 am

Re: Can you set levels to pink noise with headphones on?

Postby Darren Lynch » Fri Oct 19, 2018 12:25 pm

I also value the pink noise method for the moment you switch the noise generator off - an instantaneous reveal of your track and you immediately hear what's too loud, what's too quiet. Quite a different experience to A/B'ing against another music track. I always use headphones when balancing to pink noise. No issues other than the acknowledged difficulty in setting bass sounds precisely. What pink noise referencing is great for is balancing all the mid-range detail - which after all, is where most mixes are won or lost.
Darren Lynch
Regular
Posts: 479
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2003 1:00 am


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users