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About LUFS meters, and the loudness war

posted on #1
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Hey all,

I thought that some of you might be interested in this short but good introduction to the topic of loudness:

[youtube]tMGIgJAsJpw[/youtube]

All my uploads have an average (integrated) -16dB while my true peaks stay at -1dB (to prevent distortion from a simple MP3 conversion for instance).

There are many LUFS meters from different makers on the market, and some DAWs like the free (as in freedom, for a compiled version you are still supposed to pay *something*) Ardour ( see ardour.org ) can even automate this, and make it a simple choice and a one-click solution when exporting your music.

Btw: what Ardour doesn't do is accepting MP3 input - you'll have to change those to .wav with other tools like the also free Audacity first.

Hope this helps some,
and cheers,
Wolfgang

P.S. (Edit): here is the export dialog of Ardour, as an example for the selected DVD-A (48k) output. See the top line, and the choices there? It's as easy as that, no matter if you have a good and dynamically mixed track, or an overly compressed one - it will stay at -16dB and -1dB:

[img]https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7831/46797346491_cd78073535_o_d.png[/img]

You can find the screenshot in its original size at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wjlonien/46797346491/sizes/o/

Cheers,
Wolfgang
Edited by wjl on January 19 2019 14:41
posted on #2
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Totally agree with you friend. I use a LUFS meter calibrated at -23 db and a limiter if the result is too low as a loudness.Reaper has preordered actions to do this in one step.
posted on #3
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Excellent posting Wolf. Im experimenting with Loudness meters now and man they are important in ways it didnt dawn on me before.

Due to the Cares act here in the states, some politicians Thanksgiving was ruined because a commercial got too loud on the TV. While I dont give a damn about that politician or her meal, it resulted in standardized loudness levels.

Soundcloud is -15 LUFs
Youtube I believe is -12 or -13

Im thinking -12,-13,or -14 here.

That is actually an awesome Loudness meter from MastertheMix. Their stuff is great but man are their interfaces strange but they make sense.
Edited by LittleWing on May 24 2020 03:59
posted on #4
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Hey Joe,

thank you and you're welcome, and yes this normalization discussion - at least here in the EU - started with ads being too loud (the typical scene being you falling asleep in front of your TV set, until the ads start coming in and blast you awake again).

About absolute numbers:

Jonathan from iZotope (commercial product which I don't have or use) says there aren't any, and it's all about context. This following video shows him explaining a lot of good and important theory without making it a direct ad for the company he's with, so I thought that might be useful:

[youtube]irgdcYD5hFE[/youtube]

There's another one which I saw short before this one, and that one *is* about those targets like Youtube (-13) or Apple Music (-16) or Soundcloud, and it shows how to get there with Reaper, which some people here like a lot, and which is why I watched this:

[youtube]0wPnlND92QU[/youtube]

So if you combine these two and take Jonathan's advice of what he calls a 'best practice' effort when mixing/mastering for streaming services, it may explain why I am going for output levels of -1dB true peak and -16 LUFS integrated, and like I already showed above, this can be automated with some simple exporting choices in Ardour, thanks to people like Robin Gareus (see https://github.com/x42/ for his cost-free x42 stuff) and his meters (in https://github.com/x42/meters.lv2 he shows the real fancy stuff).

So to illustrate my point and also to back up what Jonathan said in the above video, here's the output analysis of my latest track here in the 'loops as of yesterday:

[img]https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/49928512473_0fc7b708a9_o_d.png[/img]

(link to the image on Flickr is https://www.flickr.com/photos/wjlonien/49928512473/ in case you want to see it there)

As you can see, I've hit my target level with just choosing the wanted output like in my first post. The loudness range is 6.0LU which shows that this is probably no classical track with lots of dynamics, and the true peak of -1.6 dBTP shows that for my target (-1) I could have gone even higher, that's what Jonathan as a mastering engineer would go for - make it louder until you hit -1 to still be on the safe side for conversions into MP3 and other formats. And sometimes when I see peaks at this stage I think about that 'crest factor' and go back into the single tracks to tackle those peaks a bit, so that the end product can be a bit louder overall - but I'm not doing this too often since I normally levelled out during mixing the single tracks.

So for me, using -16 means that I could go on and upload all that stuff into any of the streaming services without thinking too much, or looking at levels again. And it plays nicely here I think.

Edit: oh, I almost forgot: if you're making a whole album it's also a very nice touch to level out the tracks - so that your audience doesn't have to grab their volume knobs all of the time (and you're not risking to blow away their brains in case they listen with headphones on) :)

Hoping that this is useful again,
have a nice Sunday everyone,
cheers,
Wolfgang
Edited by wjl on May 24 2020 16:40
posted on #5
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That's very informative vids Wolfgang. Thanks for posting them.
cmdr_chill
posted on #6
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Between Coronavirus and my nasty tumble down some stairs,now that I have time to focus, Im trying to establish a workflow and organization to all this new software and toys I have.The REAPER vid you posted was handy. I set my output meter to -13.5 now. The good lord knows Im probably the worst offender of blowing peoples ears wide open with loud mixes.You can check out this guys website. he explains Youtubes and Soundclouds limiting/compressing standards.

LOts of good articles here.

http://siggidori.wixsite.com/skonrokk-studios/single-post/2017/08/29/Loudness-normalization-in-online-streaming-services-are-they-using-LUFS-values-to-normalize-to

Also the free version of Youlean Loudness is pretty functional. The PRO version gives you Spotify and Youtube presets but you really dont need them. You can also set alarms. But the free version is perfectly fine for a checker.

https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/

[img]https://static.wixstatic.com/media/2ac57d_4a18b3bb8b714884a8856af30bd8871f~mv2.png/v1/fill/w_630,h_729,al_c,q_90,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/2ac57d_4a18b3bb8b714884a8856af30bd8871f~mv2.webp[/img]
Edited by LittleWing on May 24 2020 16:50
posted on #7
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My standard approach is to set the loudness to -11 LUFS. But first of all your mix should be well balanced. For example if your lower frequencies are too dominant you'll never achieve a loud mix regardless of the LUFS number. Another factor is how you master your tracks. A mastering chain with only one Ozone Plugin/limiter will be very quit compared to a mastering chain whith multiple limiters, tape saturation plugins etc.
posted on #8
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But... if each successive addition is mastered, it could get in a mess. I'd have thought it therefore better to at least aim for lower LUFS - perhaps -14 to -16 to make it easier to mix in the next addition?
posted on #9
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I don't really get what you mean. The -11 LUFS are meant to be the loudness of the final product for the purpose of listening on your devices not for the upload on streaming portals (I don't have the experience how they would process a track with a higher LUFS than recommended).
Edited by eothen on April 28 2022 17:56
posted on #10
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eothen wrote:
I don't really get what you mean. The -11 LUFS are meant to be the loudness of the final product for the purpose of listening on your devices not for the upload on streaming portals (I don't have the experience how they would process a track with a higher LUFS than recommended).

I assumed as we're on this site doing what we do that's what we were discussing. I must have misunderstood. :)
posted on #11
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I dabbled in this art some, coming up with the perfectly loud mix. Using the tools I have at my disposal, I came up with a routine that is fairly dependable for loudening the mix without a meter.

But, the more I dabble with such masterpieces, the less I listen to the voice within that pleads each piece has a natural volume 'setting' and not every piece should be mixed as 'hit'.
Michael Bender
posted on #12
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Minus 11 is too loud IMHO - and like LittleWing showed above, even -13 LUFS would be additionally crushed by every service except Youtube's. And because I like *dynamics* I stay with the more conservative recommendation of AppleMusic, and with -16 LUFS. If I would export for the radio, it would have to be -23 of course according to the R128 recommendation from the European Broadcasting Union.

While recording, everything in my DAW is at -21 LUFS and at -6 dBTP, that leaves enough headroom not to overdrive at any stage, even if I use a bit compression on my own tracks. I don't normally use brickwall limiters, since they do what their name says - the signal runs against a 'brick wall', and is cut off as a rectangle, which is the nastiest of all distortions.

Gladly I'm using Ardour, so setting the target loudness is a one click for me... It even lets you output different tracks for different target platforms if you wish, but for here -16 LUFS is perfect IMO.

We don't have a 'loudness police' around here, but very often I get tracks which seem to be capped quite hard already, so even normalising them doesn't bring dynamics back, or eliminate distortion. That can only be done by those who upload...
Edited by wjl on April 29 2022 04:07
posted on #13
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The mixing/mastering approach will depend on the music genre I guess. If you mix/master a rock or jazz track the dynamics will be very important and you'll avoid clipping/distortion. On the contrary if you watch how professionals mix/master modern rap music a hard hitting (even distorted) 808 is way more important than dynamics and they use limiters with extrem settings to achieve this goal. From that perspecitve I think no approach is wrong or right only what are your preferences/main focus.

Btw I don't care too much about loudness/distortion when I upload something to Wikiloops (mostly I've only have the softcliper on the master). My tracks are only slightly mixed most of the time :)
Edited by eothen on April 29 2022 10:17
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