Then comes the flood of varying responses, but the most common is to see somebody suggesting peaks at -6 or -3 dB. You had to be careful not to clip the input which could easily sound bad. The suggestion for peaks no higher than -6 dB was a safe and general recommendation for good reason back then.
Digital audio has advanced by leaps and bounds since those days so putting too much thought and effort into peaking at -6 dB or -3 dB in your DAW is more or less of a waste of time. As a mastering engineer, I really only care if the peak levels of an unmastered mix hit 0 dBFS decibels relative to full scale on a bit mix file.
If the mix is being captured from an analog source, you may want to be a bit more conservative and attempt to keep the peaks around -6 dB because some cheaper and even some decent analog to digital converters can sound a bit harsh when the very top range of the input level is used, but hopefully your ears already tell you this.
Beautiful dynamics, and adequate headroom for mastering work. The peak levels are irrelevant. The thing to avoid with digital mixing entirely in the box is sending in mixes for mastering that have some form of peak limiting applied to the master fader. This could be anything from an actual peak-limiter, or perhaps a compressor or other type of plugin that creates a hard ceiling at 0 dBFS or lower and prevents what would otherwise be clipped peak levels from actually occurring.
Also, if you are planning to release the material on vinyl, this can be very vinyl un-friendly, and for the most part uncorrectable in the mastering stage. An example of a mix that has already been heavily peak-limited, or is simply clipping the DAW mix bus and saved as 16 or bit fixed point.
Irreparable damage has been done and I often reject mixes like this when they come in for mastering, or at least ask for a better starting point which can usually be accommodated with proper communication. It also means that any additional analog or digital processing just ends up making it worse or marginally better at best.
The audio is in a delicate state at this point. Although this mix is technically not clipping and the peak levels are at -6 dB, this mix has clearly hit a peak-limiter or brick-wall of some kind and is not an ideal place to start mastering from. This is false headroom. There are three main ways LUFS are measured. Integrated LUFS measurements measure an entire song or piece of audio from start to finish, and is often done in an offline process faster than real-time instead of playing the entire piece of audio from start to finish.
Short-Term LUFS measures the average loudness but only looks at a 3 second window, so it will more closely follow the dynamics of a mix as it plays. Momentary LUFS is a very fast measurement that is somewhat explanatory in name in that it displays the loudness in real-time as the song or material plays. The numbers change very fast during playback. Back to peak levels though. If you are mixing in the box and have some occasional peaks that clip 0 dBFS, one option is to attempt turning down the mix in the DAW, but that can get tricky when FX sends that are post-fader are involved or there is other complex bussing and routing within the mix.
The beauty of most modern DAWs is they allow for you to save a mix as bit floating point or some even allow saving as bit floating point and more will follow soon. Saving a stereo mix that clips your DAW mixer output as a bit WAV will result in a waveform that has unrepairable damage to the peaks. It paints the mastering engineer into a corner and is often considered not vinyl-friendly.
Again, not a good starting point to master from. However, saving a mix that clips your DAW output as a bit or bit floating point WAV instead of bit means that any peak levels that exceed 0 dBFS are actually preserved and the mastering engineer can effectively turn the level down to work with the mix and retain all the peak info for the mastering process. What looks like a brick-walled waveform at bit suddenly looks and sounds like a useable mix at bit or bit floating point when properly gain staged.
This allows for useful mastering work to still be done without compromise. One point of confusion here is the difference between recorded bit-depth and the bit-depth of the processing done by your DAW and plugins. You can record something at bit or bit fixed point but as soon as any digital processing is done, the bit-depth will increase to floating point.
Some DAWs and plugins work at bit floating point and some at bit floating point but the difference between the two is really spitting hairs. Everyone should have good intentions of never hitting 0 dB on the master fader of your DAW mixer when mixing, but in reality, the mix level can creep up as you work and you can run out of headroom. It happens. One thing that has become common these days, at least for me, is to receive two versions of the mixes for a new mastering project.
One version of the mixes has all the mix bus processing applied that was there during mixing and mix approvals.Why is it essential for me, and what I need to know about it? When you are mixing, you want to find the space in a mix for all the instruments and vocals.
So no sound or frequency band will interfere with other sounds that are present. We concern ourselves mainly with the dB level of each track when mixing music. We do this because as we add tracks to the arrangement, the overall output level will probably increase, and we want at least 8 to 10 dB headroom when we start Mastering. What this means is that broadcasters want their content to be broadcast at a constant volume.
We rely very heavily on our ears to give us a sense of the right volume. But the thing is that best tracks are carefully mastered by using our eyes and tools, along with our ears. It will tell us if our arrangement is broadcast compliant. They are both sine waves in nature. The greater is the distance between the two peaks means more power, and that results in a more volume. Audio sources like speakers or headphones have a design limit on the amount of power they can handle without distorting the signal.
The signal or music we are producing must be able to be reproduced without distortion by the receivers speakers and earphones, etc. The bigger the variance, the more power or volume. That is why we work with levels that are measured with negative to zero. With positive dB ratings, we go into the red our, and signal will start to clip and distort. When either the Peaks or the RMS in a signal are too high, the signal will distort because the receiving devices are not designed to handle that amount of volume.
What’s The Difference Between Decibels and LUFS?
So we calibrate to zero across all audio devices, from audio production to audio reception. A music arrangement will have an overall or average loudness. This is measured in RMS. If we mix and master the arrangement and there is a drum hit giving us a peak that we keep below 0dB, the rest of the arrangement might be too soft. The reason for that is because the momentary high volume is a peak in the arrangement.
That is why we use compressors and normalization to master to an average RMS perceived loudness. Check our post how to maximize the loudness without clipping or distorting. But we must always remember that it is a dynamic range variance in loudness that will allow music to change expression as the arrangement develops.
So movie soundtracks will often have a big dynamic range as they move from peaceful to tense. The organizations TV stations, Radio Stations, and Internet Broadcasters want their content to adhere to a broadcasting standard.
Developed by the International Telecommunications Union and adopted by most broadcasters and many governments are including this standard in broadcasting legislation. LU meters will provide us with: LU — I. Where I is Integrated measured over the whole track. Music production should always sound pleasant, dynamic, and equal in terms of the perceived loudness.
These meters display in dBFS and only tell you whether your audio signal is clipping or not going red. To measuring audio loudness, we now have loudness units relative to full scale. LUFS enables the normalization of audio levels and matches how we are receiving the sound.
Have a look at the meters Below being used on a mixed track arrangement.Why do I need to know these strange appellations? As a professional sound designer you will eventually stumble across technical terms referring to audio levels and loudness.
So far so good. But in order to make your audio sound pleasant and meet industry requirements, you need to know a thing or two about setting your audio levels right, and how to approach loudness when creating audio. These meters display audio in dBFS decibels relative to full scale and only tell you whether your audio signal is clipping or not. The new standard for measuring audio loudness is LUFS loudness units relative to full scale. It was developed to enable normalization of audio levels, and matches how our ears actually perceive sound.
LUFS meters will also tell you the integrated loudness of your audio, which is similar to RMS root mean square but more truthful in terms of our hearing.
Your audio should always be loud enough. Especially in broadcast media TV, radio, etc.
This is to ensure healthy sounding audio and to avoid those annoying dynamic bumps between commercials and programme audio. When mixing to LUFS values, your mixes will sound more consistent. The dBFS scale only measures the electrical level of the sound. If you try mixing to a level of e. If your dBFS peak levels go higher than -3dB, you might be in trouble. You also have the chance to win this plugin for free before March 9 by participating in this Audiodraft Challenge.
This scale is used for amplitude levels in digital systems e. The scale refers to the amplitude of a signal compared with the maximum which a device can handle before clipping occurs. This is a loudness standard designed to enable normalization of audio levels. Loudness Units or LU is an additional unit. It describes loudness without direct absolute reference and therefore describes loudness level differences. The scale is actually dBFS, but measured with a true peak meter.
In digital systems, 0 dBTP would equal the highest level number the processor is capable of representing. Measured values are always negative or zero, since they are less than or equal to full-scale. True Peak — A maximum absolute level of the signal waveform. It measures the peak levels of samples and intersample peaks.
RMS — Root mean square. The average power of your audio signal, and close to what your ears perceive as the loudness of your audio. Audiodraft for Audio ProducersMusic Production. How loud is loud enough?As I have covered in several articles about audio loudness which we now measure in LUFSthe community had already established LUFS as de facto standard for online stereo content, and Google had supported that consensus.
Source: here. I have been calling it LUFS since I first started covering the topic in June ofand in many subsequent articles. Here is the current list of relevant standards I compiled as of publication date of this article, from softest to loudest. This includes both ratified, proposed and de facto standards:. This is because I know that TV stations and networks sometimes reject content that is outside its published standards, i.
Having our show at a lower volume than the host voice is not a good user experience. In addition, even though certain platforms including Spotify renormalize the audio content they receive, I prefer avoiding re-encoding of a very lossy format like MP3. If such a conversion must be made, it is much better made directly from the uncompressed master. MP3 and VHS are or were distribution formats, not production formats. They are best kept to a single generation.
I am currently more concerned about the That was five months ago. Even though my first reaction was panic and frustration, I decide that this is not a war worth fighting. I have many causes for which I fight, including the proper name of the Castilian languagethe proper name of the United Statesthe proper name of Americathe elimination of forced water fluoridation worldwide and the proper display of non-integer framerates in camera menus.
However, after analysis, changing the previous de facto standard to be two LU louder is really not a bad thing, especially since the de facto standard was just that.
I recommend you do the same, using the tools that you have. If you need to publish different versions for different venues, include the standard or target in the file name. By the way, Auphonic. I will publish articles when each new tool I choose to cover adds support for LUFS, either with factory presets or via a user custom preset. Stand by for upcoming articles, reviews, and books.
Sign up to my free mailing list by clicking here. Most of my current books are at books. Suscribe to his BeyondPodcasting show at BeyondPodasting.
Subscribe to his Tu radio global show at Turadioglobal. Unauthorized use is prohibited without prior approval, except for short quotes which link back to this page, which are encouraged!Today, the most fundamental audio issue of all is control of loudness. Every day, millions of people adjust their volume controls over and over. Music recordings from the past often appear to be significantly softer than modern Pop and Rock recordings, and in a television context, promos and commercial are generally much louder than e.
No wonder that it is always the volume buttons on remote controls that get worn out the first! Since the early days of digital audio, the most common way of determining the level of a given piece of audio has been to measure sample-peak level.
However, this method is easily deceived and in the effort to appear louder than competitors, many producers and mastering engineers have found it necessary to use excessive amounts of compression, limiting and maximization, which not only make audio highly inconsistent in terms of loudness compared to e.
Rather than counting the samples, level should be measured by how loud the listener perceives a given piece of audio - in other word s,Perceived Loudness in combination with a new, improved way of measuring peaks called True-peak is the solution to the problem. For this purpose, a number of international broadcast standards have been developed based on thorough research and circumstantial listening tests performed by independent organizations such as Communications Research Centre CRC and McGill University in Canada.
Further, expertise from external research institutes and manufacturers in the film and music industry - including Dolby and TC Electronic - has been brought into the equation as well. For an overview and in-depth explanation of the various broadcast standards, please click here: Broadcast Standards. In fact, e.
Many other countries throughout the world are currently in the process of legislating in this particular field, which is a clear sign of how serious the issue has become in digital Nand with multi-platform broadcast. In other words, there is no doubt that this is the way of the future for broadcasters. To sum up, audio is precious and deserves to be reproduced respectfully. For ages, sound was a natural phenomenon, only existing in the exact moment it was being produced, but technology allowing for recording and reproduction of audio has changed that once and for all.
Now, beautiful audible moments can be captured and reproduced to enjoy at any time. However, technology can also be abused, which, as described in the above, is rarely beneficial to the music and film-loving listener. For example, excessive and inexpedient use of compression, limiting and maximization causes audio to suffer considerably.
With the new broadcast standards - and the equipment that allow for compliance with these standards - production, post and broadcast professionals now have a valuable and efficient set of tools in the ongoing fight against the Loudness Wars. With the new broadcast standards, cross-genre program material can finally co-exist, and volume knobs and buttons can expect a longer life, while audiences will get a far more pleasant listening experience. Everybody wins!
Rather than trying to measure audio level by counting samples sample-peak levelcircumstantial research has proven that even though two pieces of audio may be measured to be equally loud using the sample-peak method, they may very well be perceived as being very different in terms of level. Studies based on substantial listening tests performed by independent organizations such as Communications Research Centre CRC and McGill University in Canada have helped developing a method to measure audio level based on perceived loudness.
Without getting into the technical details, a so-called K-weighted filter curve based on the above-mentioned research results is applied to each audio channel, which basically builds a bridge between subjective impression and objective measurement. What tends to create confusion is that these terms are very similar and basically aims at describing the exact same thing.
However, in order to aim for a more 'traditional number, a relative measure has been defined: Loudness Units LU. Now, the broadcaster can set the target level regardless of whether it is or to 0 LU, and again, one LU is equal to one dB.Setting the LUFS Level in REAPER
For example, a single gunshot or a long passage of silence in a movie would result in a very broad Loudness Range even though it would not be representative in the big picture. Program Loudness aims at describing theaverage program material loudness. Sometimes, Program Loudness may also be referred to as Integrated Loudness.Find out if LUFs or decibels be used for sound measurement of loudness in your podcast and learn the difference between the two forms of measurement.
A decibel abbreviated dB is the unit of measurement for the intensity of sound. At a frequency of 1 KHz, the smallest sound that human ears can detect has an objective volume of 0 dB. However, a decibel is not an absolute level or unit of sound; it represents the amount of air pressure that the sound creates. As it grows in volume, sound displaces more and more air pressure and that is what people characterize as loudness. The decibel scale quantifies the different levels of sound in a more meaningful, manageable, and measurable way.
Despite the difference in names, these two are exactly alike as they describe the same phenomenon of measuring loudness. LUFS is a newer standard for measuring loudness and is considered as the most accurate. In practical applications, LUs are equal to decibels. Amplifying audio by 2dB is the same as raising its volume by 2 Loudness Units. The same applies for LUFS units. Loudness Units differ from decibels in a number of ways. First, a decibel simply quantifies the amount of air pressure displaced by a sound.
A Loudness Unit upholds the consistency of the resulting volume from the audio. Second, a decibel uses standard air pressure as a reference point in measuring the intensity of sound.
A Loudness Unit does not require a reference to measure the same loudness. The relationship between sound intensity that hits the eardrums and its perceived loudness is not linear. This scale reports all audio intensities as logarithmic ratios relative to the reference intensity.
Most normalization tools measure only at the peak points of audio. LUFS takes into account the average loudness of podcasts over an extended period of time.So, you have just finished mixing and mastering your song! It is the best in the worldthe next top 1 hit in the USA.
You are Beethoven of the modern age, you are at the top of the world! The song finishes playing and the next starts up.
This artist is known to you, it is one of the top artists in your song genre. You listen carefully, and on first glance, it seems that his song sounds much better than yours.
You go back and forth, and yes, it sounds a lot better! You investigate, and it seems that your song is waaaay overcompressedand it sounds like crap compared to the other commercial songs! OK, this can be handled, it is not the end of the world, there are still chances to make it right.
You go online and start googling just to find out that some online streaming services like Spotify use the loudness normalization. What a stupid invention! Back in the good old days, you would just compress the crap out of the song until the blood comes out from the listeners ears.
Now almost every streaming service has loudness requirements. What a nonsence…. Now, you grab a free loudness meter from the internet and start experimenting. After a couple of minutes working you figure it out, and actually, your song starts sounding much better than before!
What a great coincidence, it seems that lowering compression made the dynamics a lot betterand now the transients sound much punchier! You quickly upload it and start comparing it to the artists before, and yes, it sounds great compared to it!
Having not to worry to be the loudest as possible made the room for more dynamics and transients which made the song much punchier and pleasant to listen! All jokes aside, mastering audio these days needs to touch the loudness standards.
They are just used in different countries. The table contains the official recommendations for different services. In some cases like with streaming services, you can bend the rules a bit though, but more about that in the next blog post…. Do I need to include any more presets in the Youlean Loudness Meter? Would be useful to know if other sites like Soundcloud or Reverbnation or even say Bandlab, who offer an online mastering service, also have these limitations.
I do not use any online mastering, just my ears and your plugin. As far as I know, these sites do not use loudness normalization. Can someone explain why so big hits songs on Youtube are way louder than lufs, some are have -9 lufs. And when i download the song to analyse it, the true peak exceeds 0 db. I have to upload my song to Youtube lufs and it seems way quieter than these songs.
Are there any guidelines for peak momentary loudness or loudness range for any of these services? As you can see from the table, there are not even the requirements for short term loudness in most of the presets.
Nevertheless, I still await eagerly your YouTube tutorial videos so I can get the most from your Pro plugin!!