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Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

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Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby darmento » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:47 am

I’m doing some final mastering on an album that I’m sending off for digital distribution to CD Baby. I’ve set all the tracks to target -14 LUFS with a true peak set to -1.5. This should be good for Spotify and other streaming services. But what about for mp3 downloads thru iTunes Store, Amazon, ect.?
Will the masters that I have set at -14 LUFS and -1.5 peak be changed to a louder level by ITunes? I am worried that my -14 masters will sound much quieter than other mp3s. I ran some misc mp3’s from iTunes that I downloaded thru my Waves WLM meter and I’m seeing a LUFS averaging -9. That’s 5 points louder than the master I’m submitting.
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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby blinddrew » Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:40 am

It's a bit of a 'how long is a piece of string' question really as they all use different targets and frequently different measures, not just LUFS. Some sites turn up, some only turn down.
But that being said, itunes should be around -16 for streaming so I'm a bit surprised that you're getting such high results on the downloads. Though it might work like SoundCloud in that downloads and streams work in different formats. Not an itunes user though so can't really help any further.
Worth having a look at the https://www.loudnesspenalty.com/ site and lob your tracks up there to see how they stack up.
FWIW, in my experience (which isn't a lot) having a target like -14 is a useful guide, but it's just a guide. The track should be as loud as it needs to be for the style music.
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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby James Perrett » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:22 pm

Some sites will only adjust the loudness if you are playing the track as part of a playlist so, if you are listening to individual tracks, they will be at their original loudness.

My approach is to master at a level that feels right for the material - if it comes out at -9LUFS then that's fine (and some of mine do end up at this sort of level because they're loud garage rock). I don't tend to do any heavy limiting as I often find that the loud mixes already have enough compression on them but I'll check that the master still works at a lower level.
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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:29 pm

darmento wrote:I am worried that my -14 masters will sound much quieter than other mp3s.

You're comparing loudness-normalised (streaming) material with peak-normalised (CD release) material. The latter will almost always be perceived as louder.... and it will also be much more compressed/limited/squashed.

So if you want comparability for both markets you'll either need to make two distinctly different mixes (or masters), or find a happy compromise that doesn't sound too quiet when played on a peak-normalised format, and isn't so loud that it gets turned down too far on a loudness-normalised format.

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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby The Elf » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:44 pm

'Mastering' is all about delivering content suitable to the target. In this instance why not create two products, each suited to their target?
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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby darmento » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:43 pm

My question is, does itunes do any normalizing or compression their end to the files they receive? Will the file that I send them with a peak set at -1.5 be normalized closer to zero?
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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby Dave B » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:16 pm

darmento wrote: I ran some misc mp3’s from iTunes that I downloaded thru my Waves WLM meter and I’m seeing a LUFS averaging -9. That’s 5 points louder than the master I’m submitting.

As I understand it, iTunes / Apple music stores meta data about the loudness of the track within the file and I _think_ that what it stores is the amount to reduce / increase so that when the level matching is turned on (which is something that the user can do in preferences), it can play at a constant level.

Given that some albums were mastered quite hard, it's not unknown for the to be around -9 LUFS. All that it means is that iTunes will turn them down to match levels.

So you aren't really comparing apples and oranges here. If you master according to the 'Mastered foriTunes' standards, then the system will compensate accordingly.
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Re: Setting LUFS for Streaming vs mp3 Downloads

Postby Dave B » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:17 pm

darmento wrote:My question is, does itunes do any normalizing or compression their end to the files they receive? Will the file that I send them with a peak set at -1.5 be normalized closer to zero?

I suspect that they do loudness rather than peak level matching...
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