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Mastering that is targeted for streaming

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Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby gtrmatic » Wed May 15, 2019 11:44 pm

Greetings, in Logic Pro X I have recently completed a mix and have bounced it to a single audio file to be mastered in a separate project. Before bouncing the mix, I slapped a meter on the stereo buss of the mix and the LUFS level peaked at -15 LUFS-S. The true peak on the mix peaked at +.1 (not good, as it should not exceed 0). My understanding of the mastering process for streaming says to then apply a “brick wall” limiter during the mastering phase and set the limiter so the mix does not have a true peak higher than 0 (although I’ve been using -.2). Also, the limiter should be used to control the LUFS level to about -14 (using Spotify’s benchmark) but this is not an issue in this mix.

The song is intended principally to be streamed. I don’t want to unnecessarily compress the mix anymore to better retain the quality and dynamic range of the song. Based on this goal, it would seem that I would need to employ a limiter only to ensure the mix does not have a true peak higher than 0 and to ensure the mix does not exceed standard LUFS level guidelines (e.g. -14 LUFS is commonly used). However, the mix is already well within the LUFS range since the mix is peaking at -15.2 LUFS. Based on this scenario, is it acceptable to use the limiter only as a means to keep the true peak below 0? I don’t think additional loudness is a worthy goal in light of the normalization processes applied by the streaming services. Also, if the mix peaks at below -14 LUFS, (let’s say a hypothetical -21 LUFS) can I simply rely on the streaming service to apply their normalization process to bring up the level when the song is streamed? Is there an LUFS level that is considered too low? I ask this because the streaming services apply a normalization process to bring the song up to their specific level (e.g. Spotify uses -14). Finally, if the mix itself never exceeds the true peak and LUFS thresholds, is a limiter and mastering itself even necessary in light of loudness issues? Please note, I’m asking this question only from the perspective of loudness and not from the perspective of other mastering benefits (e.g. phase issues, compatibility with other mixes on an album, etc.). All guidance and recommendations are greatly appreciated.
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby Dave B » Thu May 16, 2019 8:17 am

Two quick comments before the smart chaps wade in :

1. The limiter should only catch the peaks that are exceeding (?) 0dB. If you set your limiter at the end of your processing chain (before the meter in my case), it should just catch the odd peak.

Also, the limiter should be used to control the LUFS level to about -14

This is either you mis-typing or mis-understanding the idea of LUFS mixing. The limiter purely catches _peaks_ - it is the entirety of your mix that determines how loud you mix is.

2. For streaming services, you should not be using the peak LUFS, but the Integrated LUFS value for the track as a whole. That's what the various platforms use (to differing standard rates), so reset the meter, play the track and then check the integrated value.
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu May 16, 2019 12:42 pm

gtrmatic wrote:...the LUFS level peaked at -15 LUFS-S. The true peak on the mix peaked at +.1 (not good, as it should not exceed 0). My understanding of the mastering process for streaming says to then apply a “brick wall” limiter during the mastering phase and set the limiter so the mix does not have a true peak higher than 0 (although I’ve been using -.2).

The integrated loudness level could go a touch higher for Spotify, but it is absolutely in the right ball park for all the streaming services.

However, the True Peak level is too high. It shouldn't be higher than -1dBTP, and there is a valid argument to keep it below -3dBTP. Note: one or three decibels, not point-one!

The reason is that although the true-peak metering format, is a lot more accurate than conventional sample-peak meters, there is still an inherent tolerance margin in the readings because total accuracy requires a much higher oversampling rate than is practical. Most True Peak meters use 4x oversampling, which has an error margin of 0.6dB. So the ITU has ruled that the maximum acceptable True Peak measurement should be no higher than -1dBTP... and in that way even if the meter is under-reading by 0.6dB, the actual reconstructed true peak will still be 0.4dB below converter clipping...

A subsequent recommendation was made that, when the audio is distributed via a lossy data codec system (eg MP3, ACC etc), the true peak level should be kept below -3dBTP to give the codec sufficient headroom to process the signal without internal transient clipping.

...is it acceptable to use the limiter only as a means to keep the true peak below 0?

Yes... but below -1dBTP as a minimum, and ideally a bit lower at -3dBTP...

Also, if the mix peaks at below -14 LUFS, (let’s say a hypothetical -21 LUFS) can I simply rely on the streaming service to apply their normalization process to bring up the level when the song is streamed?

Some streaming services do, but some don't... so check with the specific services you want to use. Better still, adjust your track to suit the specific target loudness of each service.

Finally, if the mix itself never exceeds the true peak and LUFS thresholds, is a limiter and mastering itself even necessary in light of loudness issues?

Technically, no.

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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby miN2 » Thu May 16, 2019 1:42 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:...True Peak...shouldn't be higher than -1dBTP, and there is a valid argument to keep it below -3dBTP. Note: one or three decibels, not point-one!

I'm often left wondering why people ignore this. Even mastering engineers. It leaves me mystified. I've personally seen a 2.7dB increase in peak level when going from lossless to lossy, so a -3dBTP recommendation for lossy seems to be right on the money!
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby blinddrew » Thu May 16, 2019 9:06 pm

Interesting video here on Ian Shepherd's site that touches on how different sites using different methods will give you different levels of volume adjustment: http://productionadvice.co.uk/billie-ei ... bw2HTNU.YV
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby Zukan » Fri May 17, 2019 9:49 am

It's times like this that Mastercheck Pro comes in handy. Having said that Hornet's ELM 128 meter has a built-in normalisation function that acts to achieve the LUFS Target you choose. You stick it at the end of the master bus and let it do it's job.
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby gtrmatic » Fri May 17, 2019 9:03 pm

My heartfelt appreciation to Dave B, Hugh, miN2, blinddrew and Zukan! Also my apologies for not responding sooner. I greatly appreciate your guidance and input! Dave B, I’ll definitely be focusing on the integrated LUFS. I went ahead with -.2 dBTP (grateful I didn’t go with -.1). For future mastering I plan to go lower. miN2, that’s very interesting and a little scary about the 2.7 dB increase in peak level. I’ve read some of Ian Shepherd’s articles but will check out the recommended video. Zukan, thanks for your recommendation for the MasterCheck Pro and ELM 128. Great suggestions! Again, thank you all for your time and attention. I love this forum. Have a great weekend!
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby ken long » Thu May 23, 2019 10:57 am

Not sure how accurate this is but might be useful for a ball park.

https://www.loudnesspenalty.com/
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Re: Mastering that is targeted for streaming

Postby gtrmatic » Mon May 27, 2019 4:28 pm

Thanks Ken! I appreciate it!
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