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Setting up Logic for 5.1 mixing


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First of all, a disclaimer.

By no means am I an expert in this. If you feel any of the presented ideas are wrong, feel free to reply and correct me. Hey, after all, we're all trying to learn here.


This guide will help you set up your surround speakers for mixing in Logic. The guide assumes that:

- You have a 5.1 speaker system already with already assigned outs via Logic settings.

- You have an SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter. You can get one from Radioshack or Guitar Center.


Setting relative speaker levels

1. First, download, unzip and open the Logic 9 project at the bottom of this post (Surround_Setup.zip)


2. Turn down your speakers. Pink noise can be potentially neighbor unfriendly. ;)


3. Un-mute the track labeled 'Pink noise'.


4. On the Master fader, you will notice there is output sent out to all channels. Turn up your speakers to a volume you usually listen at.


5. Get off your chair, set it up where you usually have it when mixing and place the SPL meter on the chair. The SPL should be pointing at the ceiling and needs to be as close to where your ears will be as possible. Some SPL can be mounted to a camera tripod, which makes the task easier. Make sure your SPL has proper volume range set (if you don't know how, start from the highest setting like 120 and go down until you start getting a reading). Use 'C' weighting and fast response if your SPL has these options.


6. Now we will make the pink noise play out of each speaker separately, so you can adjust their levels. In the Logic session you downloaded, go to the 'Multichannel Gain' plugin and mute all speakers but Ls. Measure the dB level, mute the Ls speaker, un-mute the L speaker and measure its loudness. If they're the same, you're in luck. If not, there are two ways of fixing this. If you have some external control over your speakers (like an audio receiver or the little Creative Speakers control remote), set the levels there. The advantage is that you will have your speakers tuned for other applications outside of Logic. And that's a good thing, as you want to listen to commercial surround mixes on your mixing setup to learn the sound.

If you do not have any external control over your speakers, use the sliders in 'Multichannel Gain' plugin to adjust levels.


7. Compare dB levels and adjust volume for all speakers, including LFE (your subwoofer).



After adjusting the subwoofer level you might feel that the sound of your favorite albums is somewhat flat. Do not compensate right away.

Give it a day, start with a fresh ear and you might just find that you were simply used to an exaggerated bass coming from the subwoofer.

IF you still feel it's too flat, it's not a bad thing to have the woofer go around 2dB higher than the rest of the speakers. Just don't over do

or you will not have a proper reference.



Checking speaker phase

1. To check if your speakers are properly wired, un-mute tracks in pair. Start with Ls and L. On top of the 'Multichannel Gain' plugin, click 'phase invert' on one of the paired tracks. If the sounds is less 'beefy' and weaker, you're good. IF not, you may have to reverse your speaker wiring


2. Repeat for all channel pairs (i.e. Ls+L, L+C, C+R, etc.).



Checking speaker delay

If you have a big room you may experience speaker delay. That means the sound from rear speakers will reach you a few milliseconds later than the sound from front speakers.


1. Mute the 'Pink noise' track.


2. Press play to engage the looped snare sound.


3. Initially, it will be panned between front/rear right speaker. If you are hearing one hit, then you are good. IF the sound you're hearing seems to have two attacks, you will need to adjust the delay. Again, it is preferable to use your external speaker settings but if you have no other options, there is a 'Sample Delay' plugin for you. If the sound from rear speakers is delayed, you will need to delay front, center speakers to make up for it.

Use your ears as a guide on this one and play with the delay until you hear a single hit coming if from all directions.


4. Usually setting the front/rear balance is all you need to adjust. Otherwise move the surround panner between other speakers and adjust where necessary.




And that's it. After the calibration, I am enjoying a much more balanced sound from my 5.1 setup. Not only is the bass a lot tighter but the spacial separation improved a lot.

If you made any adjustments inside Logic, I suggest you save the Master fader settings as a Channel strip. This way you can load up the calibrated settings every time you mix in 5.1.


I hope this helps some of you out there. Surround mixing in Logic is fun and worth giving it a try.

Any feedback is appreciated.



And if you want to listen to some great 5.1 mixes, try:

- Porcupine Tree 'Deadwing', 'Arriving Somewhere', 'Fear of a Blank planet' (all mixed in Logic)

- Peter Gabriel 'So'

- Nine Inch Nails 'Downward Spiral'


Logic 9 session + snare sample

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