K-System metering is a standardised method of measuring and setting audio levels that was developed by German mastering engineer and producer, Bob Katz.
The K-System provides a consistent and accurate way to set levels for mastering and mixing, and is widely used in professional audio production. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of K-System metering and how it can be used to achieve better sound quality.
The K-System is based on the concept of a reference level of -14dBFS (decibels full scale) for digital audio. This reference level corresponds to a peak level of +10dBu on an analog VU (volume unit) meter. The idea behind this is that by setting all audio levels to this reference level, the dynamic range of the audio is maximised, and the audio will have more impact and clarity.
I find that calibrating my meters in my DAW using K-14 helps to ensure I keep a reliable reference level, so I can be confident I'm not going to overload my outputs, and have optimising gain-staging through the whole mix chain.
The K-System also includes three different metering scales: K-20, K-14, and K-12. The K-20 scale is for use in high-dynamic range applications such as mixing classic music or film scores. The K-14 scale is for use in mixing and is the reference level. The K-12 scale is for use in broadcasting and streaming.
Using the K-System metering scale can help audio engineers to make more informed decisions when setting audio levels, and it can help to achieve a more consistent and professional sound. It is important to note that the K-system metering should not be used as a replacement for one's own ears and personal preferences, but as a guide to achieve a balance of audio levels, dynamic range and headroom that is suitable for a specific platform or medium.