Faking the Fletcher-Munson curve for monitoring at low volumes

Discussion in 'Mixing, Post-Production, and Effects' started by AlexRuger, Jun 3, 2018.

  1. AlexRuger

    AlexRuger Senior Member

    The short story is this: my hearing is dramatically deteriorating at a rapid pace. Along with that is also extreme sensitivity to "loud" (say, 60 dB or louder) sound. The cause has not been found yet, and it's unlikely to be noise-induced hearing loss. I'll go into details if you guys want, but that's not the point.

    I am trying to find a way to monitor effectively, but it's proving to be very difficult. I'm having to work very quietly -- I haven't felt the need to measure yet, but if I had to guess, it's somewhere between 45 and 60 dB -- and my mixes are suffering. I've never been one to work loud, but it was always loud enough for the Fletcher-Munson curve to work to my advantage (probably around 70 dB, to 85 dB at the absolute loudest).

    I can't trust my ears at these levels, though. And out of fear of damaging my very-fragile-at-the-moment ears, I can't turn up loud enough (even for a very short time) to verify that what I'm doing -- especially in the low end -- is right. I feel like I'm mixing blind.

    I'm thinking of crafting the equivalent to room correction EQ, but for my ears. It should work, right? Even if it's a pretty complex undertaking? An EQ curve (plus maybe a bit of multi-band compression, to account for the fact that the Fletcher-Munson curve isn't linear) that adjusts the EQ of the music when played back at, say, 55 dB, to sound to my ears as if it were playing at 85 dB. I suppose I'll need a mic in my room to monitor the SPL coming from my speakers, which then causes the EQ/multi-band compressor/whatever on the master accordingly...

    Put simply, if I'm monitoring at, say, 50 dB, I want to hear the low end relative to all other frequencies (...well, all frequencies compared to all other frequencies...just using the low end as a simple example here, since so far that's been the most problematic) as if I'm monitoring at 85 dB.

    Anyways, does such a thing exist? Anyone tried anything similar?
  2. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    I don't think there's a ready to go solution. In Hifi world there's a simple 'Loudness' button for listening full range at low level. It's more or less a smilie curve eq. Should work well for you too but you need to calibrate it to your ears by listening to a lot of reference tracks.
  3. Divico

    Divico Senior Member

    Never heard of anything similar.
    Google gave me this: http://www.vst4free.com/free_vst.php?plugin=Fletchy-Muncher&id=2239

    Ive read once on a hifi forum a thread about customizing headphones to your ears. Meaning adjusting EQ to your ears individually. Interesting but as youve already stated our ears are not linear. Indeed there isnt just a smiley curve going on but also compression. Our ears also compensate high volumes with something comparable to a wideband compressor to protect our hearing.

    You have pointed out that your ears are already damaged. Highly probable that this also affects your frequency response. Maybe you should do a hearing test. The normal one doctors do is unsufficient though cause they check just a few frequencies. With a calibrated system you should be able to do it at home.

    My idea:
    Measuring the threshold of hearing for specific frequencies you should have a rough idea how your spectrum looks like and where you have problems. Correct with a graphic EQ with lots of bands to get the best result.
    Before delving into the hell of multibandcompression and stuff go easy and add a smiley face EQ on top. Ask a college to check your mixes afterwards to see if they have improved.
    Fab likes this.
  4. synergy543

    synergy543 Senior Member

    Dec 11, 2004
    The Internets
    I built many of the presets in the Sony DPS-F7 Dynamic Filter and one of them was for dynamic volume frequency compensation using the Fletcher-Munson curves as you describe. In your case though, if its due to hearing loss, you should definitely get your hearing tested and have a base line for comparison. And more important than compensating for such frequencies (the notches can be extremely deep), you should focus on protecting your existing hearing. Sometimes you can have pain at the frequencies where you have hearing loss if the volumes are too loud. This is the ear's natural protective mechanism. Your best bet though is likely a fixed EQ curve designed to work at a lower volume monitoring level. However, with hearing loss, its not uncommon to have losses of 40-60dB and the typical EQ usually only compensates +/-12dB so don't expect that an audio EQ will flatten your hearing. Again though, most importantly, protect what hearing you do still have. Good luck.
    rrichard63 likes this.
  5. gsilbers

    gsilbers Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com

    Kyle Preston, NoamL and SillyMidOn like this.
  6. AllanH

    AllanH Senior Member

    Oct 11, 2015
    Central Coast California
    I am always concerned about not hearing things correctly (monitors, background noise, my ears, etc.). I've found it useful to always look at the spectrum of the mix/master to make sure that a track "looks" like I expect. I realize that does not provide quite what you're asking, but it could be a help to overcome your concern.
  7. Divico

    Divico Senior Member

    If I asume correctly this device does exactly what I wrote. Hearing test of 8 frequencies and correcting it with a 8 band EQ.
  8. AllanH

    AllanH Senior Member

    Oct 11, 2015
    Central Coast California
    A technical comment: If you get your ears tested at an audiologist, you can always make a monitor insert in Cubase (may Pro) to compensate without affecting the mix. Sort of like a "room eq".
  9. jneebz

    jneebz Senior Member

    Sep 28, 2013
    Portland OR, USA
    If you see an audiologist, make sure to tell them you're a musician/mix engineer and they can expand the testing frequencies to cover more of the spectrum. Otherwise they will most likely just test baseline frequencies.
  10. gsilbers

    gsilbers Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com

    actually yes, my guess its that it does the test automatically for each ear and reverse the eq curve and its a hardware eq/phase unit so it can be placed inbetween the source and listener.

    similar idea than sonarworks in that once you have the measurement you can do your own eq/phase adjustment in your daw.
    Divico likes this.
  11. ironbut

    ironbut Senior Member

    Jun 9, 2015
    eugene or
    I suggest you pick a few reference tracks and experiment with them.
    They need to be recordings that you know and love (you should know them like the back of your hand).
    Play it at a level that is comfortable and eq it to have the tonal balance that you remember.
    Do a couple of recordings the same way and switch between them so your ears don't adapt while you refine your eq.
    After you have a few references try listening to them a few times during a work day.
  12. Alexandre

    Alexandre Member

    Aug 18, 2015
    Eating has a big impact on health obviously.An anti inflammation diet such as the ketogenic diet (no grains no dairy etc) can have dramatic positive impact on health.Dr Mercola has good info on it...
  13. Tod

    Tod Senior Member

    I agree with reference tracks, as many as you can get. Then download Span, it's free, and learn how to use it in Group mode. Let your eyes be your ears.

    It's no substitute for good ears, but it can help. I've lost the high end above 4Khz and I use it all the time.
    MartinH. likes this.
  14. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    This Span?

    I have tinnitus and can't fully trust my ears either. When letting "your eyes be your ears" would I just visually compare how different professionally mixed tracks in the same genre "look" compared to mine?
  15. Divico

    Divico Senior Member

    MartinH. likes this.
  16. Tod

    Tod Senior Member

    Yes, I'll have up to 6 instances of Span when I'm mixing and mastering a song, each with a different reference song.

    In the picture below I show Span in one of my mixes. I've been using this for the last couple of years, and it's significantly improved my mixes. In this one I've got Span set up with 3rd octave smoothing, the green envelope is my reference and the red is the song I'm mixing.

    This is the actual song I'm showing in the picture.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
    MartinH. likes this.
  17. studiostuff

    studiostuff Senior Member

    Dec 15, 2015
    I'm not meaning to derail your thread, but have you considered having someone else mix your tracks...? My experience has shown me that having another set of ears at the final mix always improves the result.

    It's not unusual, at that point in the process, to be extremely fatigued, and my ears could benefit from a couple days of the rest of my body eating and sleeping properly.

    Yep. There is additional expense, but at the same time, having another opinion about the mix is frequently worth it.
  18. synergy543

    synergy543 Senior Member

    Dec 11, 2004
    The Internets
    While that's not a bad idea in itself, the OP was asking about applying Fletcher-Muson curves to monitor at a lower volume and still hear a mix balance similar to what he might hear at 85dB. The Fletcher-Muson curves affect all humans regardless of their hearing ability so its not a bad idea at all, there just is no commercial tool to my knowledge to implement this other than the Sony DPS-F7 program we worked on many years ago. The problem is that as levels change, the curve changes too, so really a dynamic EQ is needed rather than a static one. However, for practical purposes I suppose a static EQ correction might be better than none and this is often what that "bass boost" knob is on hi-fi stereos.
  19. studiostuff

    studiostuff Senior Member

    Dec 15, 2015
    The OP started by mentioning his hearing was deteriorating at a rapid pace. I read it. I think the point I was trying to make was sometimes the best plan is to hire appropriate help when one knows that one is out of ones depth for any reason.

    I'm skeptical that any EQ device will make up for listening accurately to the mix (ISO 226 and F-M), and having the experience with mixing that will produce mixes that translate to the wide variety of playback situations. YMMV
  20. Tod

    Tod Senior Member

    Hi synergy, I agree, in the latter 1980s I put a program together with Quick Basic to apply a certain percentage of Fletcher-Muson curves to my 27 band graphic EQs I had for my studio monitors. I set it up so I could select from 50% to 100% of the curve. I think I settled on 80%, it's been to long ago to remember, especially with my old brain.

    I've still got the same control room and the same monitor system, the EQs have never been changed. I've got a bi-amped system and the only thing I've had to replace are two amplifiers.

    Since Alex seems to be working very near one audio level, 60dB, he might get by with a fixed EQ.

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