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K System: The Ultimate Tutorial

The K system has been blown way out of proportion in terms of its complexity. Maybe it’s due to lack of understanding or the general difficulty of following how-tos in a forum but I think a video and blog post are much better media for communicating this idea.

K System Simplified

The K system is nothing more than using pink noise set to -20dB Integrated LUFS (or RMS) in your DAW and making that equal to a reference volume at your listening position. Depending on your room’s volume and personal tolerance, that can range between 70dB-85dB. You should aim for a level that feels “comfortably loud”.

K-System Express

[20230923-This is an old post from 2017, abbreviated and meant to be a companion to the explaination in the video. Please keep this in mind while reading. Thanks.]

Why Pink Noise?

k system requires pink noise which produces a flat, mostly invariant response like this
Electronic Ocean Sounds

Pink noise approximates music but without dynamics and harmonic “holes”. You don’t want to use regular music because the dimensions of your room will respond to different keys in unique ways.

What Do I Need to K-System?

You’ll need an SPL meter (preferred, or phone app), a pink noise file, an RMS or EBU-R128 loudness meter (Meldaproduction has a free one in their MFreeFXBundle) and a DAW.

How Do I K-System?

  • Import the noise, set it to -20dBFS RMS or -20LUFS integrated. Turn on your SPL meter, place it at your listening position and set it to C weighted, slow response.  You’ll be aiming for a dBC level of about 72-76dB.  Pick any level and stick with it for now.
  • Turn just one monitor on and play the noise.  Turn up the volume until it’s at your target dBC value.  Repeat for other speaker.  Sub can be on.
  • Boom, you’re at K20.  It’s useful for mixing and correlates roughly to 0dBVU.
  • In order to do K14, and from there you can figure out any other scale, just turn the noise UP in your DAW to -14dBFS RMS/LUFS.  Compensate by turning down your monitors until you hit your dBC target value.

Sum It Up

The whole idea is that you want to be listening at the same volume no matter how hot the signal is in your computer.

The main secret is to keep everything consistent – your levels but also the pink noise file you use, your SPL meter, your listening position and your loudness meter.

Hope this was helpful.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Consider subscribing on YouTube.  I’m generally focused on music so expect more of that than tutorials.