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In The Studio: A Look At Mixing Listening Levels

Either mixing too loudly or too quietly can fool your ears

By Bobby Owsinski November 18, 2015

This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.


One of the most critical and overlooked parameters when mixing is the monitor level.

Either mixing too loudly or too quietly can fool your ears to the point where you’ll end with a mix that will seem to be missing something later.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Audio Mixing Bootcamp, that explains a bit more about mixing levels and how to find what works best for you.


One of the greatest misconceptions about music mixers (especially the great ones) is that they mix at high volume levels.

Some do, and at excruciatingly loud levels as well, but most mixers find that they get better balances that translate well to the real listening world by monitoring at conversation level (79dB SPL) or even lower.

High SPL levels for long periods of time are generally not recommended for the following reasons:

(click to enlarge)

1) First the obvious one, exposure to high volume levels over long periods of time my cause long-term physical damage.

2) High volume levels for long periods of time will not only cause the onset of ear fatigue, but physical fatigue as well. This means that you might effectively only be able to work six hours instead of the normal eight (or ten or twelve) that’s possible if listening at lower levels.

3) The ear has different frequency response curves at high volume levels that overcompensate on both the high and low frequencies. This means that your high volume mix will generally sound pretty limp when it’s played at softer levels.

4) Balances tend to blur at higher levels. What sounds great at higher levels won’t necessarily sound that way when played softer. However, balances that are made at softer levels always work when played louder.

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About Bobby

Bobby Owsinski
Bobby Owsinski

Music Industry Veteran and Technical Consultant
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information and to acquire a copy of The Recording Engineer’s Handbook be sure to check out his website.


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