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Youtube normalization vs album master

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Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Tasukete » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:59 pm

Hi everyone!

So I've "finished" mastering my album, I'm happy with the results (as happy as one can be without going completely insane hehe), it's an experimental instrumental album which has a fairly wide dynamic range, but all in all it's leveled except one track which has a progressive build up to a point where it is louder than the rest, but within the context of the track (and the entire album) this is intentional, and when I hear the whole album in one take I never have to reach for the volume knob. It gets loud, yes, but in the sense that it's sonically more intense, filled with stuff going on, and as I said when I listen to the whole album in one take it feels just fine to me, and even if I scroll through the album and jump to that part, it doesn't sound incoherent from the rest, just more in your face because of the nature of the track itself.

OK, so I want to publish this album on YouTube, and when I try this it lowers the volume of the entire album by about 5.4db! I know that it normalizes it in order not to force users to dial down the volume, in relation to a standard in other music, but my perception is that the volume I ended up with is basically the same as from commercial albums of different genres, give or take a db.

I listen to a ton of music on youtube, and all I want is for people who are watching it a certain volume normally, to experience the album precisely at that same volume, so in effect youtube is achieving the exact opposite of what the normalization is supposed to do, because now in order to keep the same perceived volume I have to turn the volume UP! Since I'm the composer I know how it should sound, so I can just turn the volume up, but the idea is for people to get this volume by default... If you don't know how the music should sound, you might just leave it as it is, because it is still an acceptable listening level, it's just that the auditory experience is very different.

So I read somewhere that the trick to fixing this change in volume from Youtube is making sure that the loudest part in the audio is -9db short term lufs, and I've checked and the very loudest peak in my album (not surprisingly on that track I referred to) is -3.8 (using izotope insight 2 loudness tracking).

The thing is, no matter what I try to do, eq, compress, true peak limit, dynamic eq, saturation this number is only changed by a bit before starting to completely deform the sound... At most I can reach -5 for this peak. Whatever I try it sounds overcompressed, or I lose air, presence, too much frequency content, every detail I worked on production-wise starts getting ruined... :(

The only thing I can do is lower the gain on the entire album, which defeats the purpose and all the work I put in the mixing process in order to get that loud volume in the first place.

I've listened to it on speakers, monitors and multiple headphones, and for me the sound is good as it is. Yes it is loud, yes it might be a bit too loud, but in any case it's 1 or 2db too loud, but youtube is lowering it by waaaay more.

So I guess my question is, how can I "tell" youtube's algorithms that the volume is just fine so it doesn't drastically change it? how can I keep more or less the same perceived loudness, but change the loudest peak short term LUFS by several db without sounding squashed or ruining the texture of the sound? Is there a specific plugin that can help with this?

Another question would be: Does anyone know how and why this happens? If I listen to the entire album from beginning to end, at the exact same volume level as other music on Youtube, and the experience is totally fine, then why does Youtube consider this to be so different? Could my ears be deceiving me this badly?

Thanks a lot for your help!!! :D

PS: I'd appreciate any advice you can give me without needing to listen to the album... I understand though if this isn't possible.
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:17 am

In a way you have it the other way around, there’s no ‘right volume’ for a composition, but it’s the listener that decide what he or she wants.. so a track should sound reasonably good and give the desired emotional payback in a wide range of levels, and you decide what you ‘save’ at the boundaries: for pop is usually the vocals at extremely low level and no crazy bass distortion at high levels, for other genres I guess it depends.

As of loudness, generally the algorithm integrates over a shifting time window, so in graphic terms what matters is basically the total area under the waveform, not so much the short transients (which is what you tend to act upon with limiter and compressor). You’ve gotta turn down the main level.
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Ramirez » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:46 am

I think you’re looking at this the wrong way around.

Youtube is bringing your overall album level down so that it can maintain the level relationship between tracks that you’ve worked so hard on.
It doesn’t matter that there is an overall change of -5dB or so because you don’t know what the listener’s volume knob at home is set to anyway. They might be listening at 5dB louder than you to begin with...

It is doing this precisely so you don’t have to compromise dynamic range in order to get your tracks to compete with others - the more you limit, distort and reduce the dynamic range of your tracks, the more Youtube will turn it down!

In my book it’s a good thing- you can now forget about having to peak-limit and destroy your music in order to compete with other material. Just concentrate on getting it sounding exactly as you want it, then Youtube applies a global gain change (which doesn’t affect the sound nor dynamic range) to bring it in line with their standards. In terms of effect on your music, this gain change is no different than the user at home raising or lowering their volume knob - something you have no control over anyway.

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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Zukan » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:56 am

I suggest you get hold of Nugen's Mastercheck and mix to the meter using whatever streaming service targets you load. Another good meter is Hornets which has a built-in normalisation tool for exactly this situation. Once you have finished mixing if your target is not achieved it will normalise to achieve the target. Useful tool.
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:44 am

Tasukete wrote:I want to publish this album on YouTube, and when I try this it lowers the volume of the entire album by about 5.4db! I know that it normalizes it in order not to force users to dial down the volume...

The idea is that the huge disparities of perceived loudness between different material (that used to be prevalent) is largely removed. It's a system that's here to stay, so best to get used to it and learn to make the best possible use of it.

Now, as long as YouTube's normalisation process simply reduces the level of the entire album by a consistent 5.4dB (in your case), then there's no problem as the relative level differences and dynamics between the different tracks are maintained as intended.

(Skip this sidetrack if time is short!)The problem comes when each track on an album is assessed individually and so each one is adjusted for perceived loudness independently of the others. That inevitably destroys intentional inter-track dynamics, and that can be disastrous.

This is a difficult circle to square because if you're playing a whole album you want the inter-track dynamics to be maintained, and so the album needs to be loudness-normalised as a whole, with a consistent loudness adjustment applied consistently to all tracks -- which is what seems to be the case in your situation.

However, what happens when people play individual album tracks in playlists alongside other material? In that situation any intentional relative volume offsets between tracks that worked in the context of the whole album become irrelevant and -- worse -- counterproductive when tracks are auditioned individually. So, in that case, you probably want each track to be loudness-normalised individually, so that they stand up properly alongside other material...

So we end up with different requirements depending on different circumstances, and although the normalising strategies are getting more intelligent, I don't think this problem has been entirely solved yet.

Having said all that, though, this potential dichotomy doesn't seem to be the issue you're complaining about...


...my perception is that the volume I ended up with is basically the same as from commercial albums of different genres, give or take a db.

Perfect. The system works then! ;-)

...now in order to keep the same perceived volume I have to turn the volume UP!

The same perceived volume as what? You've said it has the same perceived volume as other commercial albums on YouTube. However, If you mean the same perceived volume as a peak-normalised CD version... well then no, it won't be.

But then why should it be? It's a completely different platform. I'd no more expect a track played on the radio played through my hi-fi to sound exactly the same volume as the same track coming off the CD player, or dubbed onto cassette, or from the TV. They'd all be playing the same material, but all with slightly different absolute levels because of the different media and the varying alignment levels of the different sources.

This is why manufacturers of audio equipment put large user-controlled Volume knobs on them... ;-)

Since I'm the composer I know how it should sound, so I can just turn the volume up, but the idea is for people to get this volume by default...

But they never will, because they all have their own volume controls and their own individual listening level expectations and requirements. Someone listening late at night, say, isn't going to want the replay level as loud as someone in the day, for example. You can't prescribe an absolute reference listening level for Joe Public. And you can't demand that your music should always be played back louder than someone else's.

So I read somewhere that the trick to fixing this change in volume from Youtube is making sure that the loudest part in the audio is -9db short term lufs...

If you want the YouTube replay to have the same perceived volume as your CD master, you need to make sure that your CD master is loudness-normalised to the same target loudness, rather than peak-normalised.

The problem is that YouTube isn't using the R128 normalisation standard, so the values displayed on a standard R128 meter (in LUFS) won't tally precisely or consistently with the YouTube processing. Nevertheless, if you aim for an Integrated Loudness target of between -12 and -14LUFS you should be about right -- and as far as I know, it is still the Integrated Loudness value you need to look at, rather than the Short-term value, although the YouTube processing may also place some weight on the peak Short-Term values in a similar way to the short-form TV programming restrictions which are based on peak Short-term values.

Mastering engineer Ian Shepherd has done a lot of research into YouTube's processing and has written about it a lot, so it might be worth checking out his website for more info:

http://productionadvice.co.uk/youtube-loudness-normalisation-details/

The only thing I can do is lower the gain on the entire album, which defeats the purpose and all the work I put in the mixing process in order to get that loud volume in the first place.

No, it really doesn't! Replay volume is something the user controls. The relative volume between tracks is something you control.

Turning down the average level of the entire album for your CD master simply makes the whole album a little quieter, and your listeners can adjust for that with their own volume control if they want to. But the dynamics within your music are not changed in any way.

So I guess my question is, how can I "tell" youtube's algorithms that the volume is just fine so it doesn't drastically change it?

You can't, and the reason you can't is because the volume isn't 'just fine' for reproduction on a loudness-normalised platform. Instead, you need to reprogram your head away from the peak-normalised paradigm which is, at long last, an antiquated and obsolete notion!

At the end of the day, you don't really have a problem. As far as I can make out your only complaint is that playing your album from YouTube comes back quieter than the mastered file on your computer or CD. ... and that's really not a problem because if you want to hear it louder you can turn up the volume control on your own listening system.

But the benefit is that all those other listeners of YouTube won't need to adjust their volume when they play your album between those of other people's because it will have the same perceived loudness. Yay! :D Finally, gone are the days when we all had to tweak the volume control each and every time a new track was played...

H
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Matt Houghton » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:08 pm

Do people actually listen to whole albums on YouTube? And if they do, then surely they're prepared to reach for the volume control! The comparison with other tracks is only really relevant if you have individual tracks in a playlist. Though I guess if you open with a really quiet track that could be an issue as it may not grab attention. In which case... maybe reconsider the track sequencing on the album?! :headbang:
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby blinddrew » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:55 pm

Matt Houghton wrote:Do people actually listen to whole albums on YouTube?
Regularly! :)
Matt Houghton wrote:And if they do, then surely they're prepared to reach for the volume control!
What?! And use all that extra energy? Surely there's an app for that? ;)
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:00 pm

blinddrew wrote:
Matt Houghton wrote:Do people actually listen to whole albums on YouTube?
Regularly! :)

That's 'cos you're old... like me. We were brought up with the concept of a body of related music -- ie. the 'album' -- rather than disparate individual tracks.

I am regularly frustrated by my daughters' (both 20-somethings) complete disinterest in, or appreciation of, the concept of an album of related material and the idea of just sitting and listening to one artist's work for 20, 30 or 40 minutes. They live in a 'shuffle' world... and I think they are in the majority these days!

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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby The Elf » Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:27 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:We were brought up with the concept of a body of related music -- ie. the 'album' -- rather than disparate individual tracks.
A reason I HATE :madas: listening to 'best of' compilations!

I still relish the idea of an album as a body of work that takes me on a journey. I pity those that will never discover that joy. :(
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:01 pm

Tasukete wrote:OK, so I want to publish this album on YouTube, and when I try this it lowers the volume of the entire album by about 5.4db!

Have you checked by how many db YT lowers a range of other peoples' uploads?
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:07 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I am regularly frustrated by my daughters' (both 20-somethings) complete disinterest in, or appreciation of, the concept of an album of related material and the idea of just sitting and listening to one artist's work for 20, 30 or 40 minutes. They live in a 'shuffle' world... and I think they are in the majority these days!

(totally useless and personal opinion follows :D)

Indeed. I was never friendly with albums and loved when CDs came around because I could skip instantly instead of keeping "fast forward" or "rewind" pushed!

And that's because of the filler. Only a very small fraction of albums did not/do not have filler material, stuff that got there just because the artist had to do 45 minutes of music or whatever. I and deeply hated it!

I do miss the possibility of creating a story, but the thing is that very few albums ever made really created a story.. as artists, we have varying levels of production, and we know it. Some stuff you have to publish. Some, you may. Some, you shouldn't. :)

Singles allows the artist (and people) to choose what's best. I do like that.
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:11 pm

But part of the joy of the journey was reading every single word printed on the album jacket back and front over and over again while listening again and again!

And Blinddrew - I’ve often wondered about a wireless app to raise and lower volume so I don’t have to get my fat ass off the couch - BUT then I remember that with albums your ass is up anyway every 20 minutes or so if you don’t have an automatic replay turntable :P
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:13 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:But part of the joy of the journey was reading every single word printed on the album jacket back and front over and over again while listening again and again!

Very true that! My main gripe with digital distribution is that all you have (and you can make) is a square image.

I loved making the sleeve of our cassette tape!
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:18 pm

Life can be cruel sometimes :lol:

Ah yes - even cassettes had that foldout page sometimes. Although I couldn’t read those fonts anymore without assistance.
I will admit YouTube is now how I listen to music. A good tune can survive crap visuals but good visuals can only distract from a crap tune temporarily I find.
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:22 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Life can be cruel sometimes :lol:

Ah yes - even cassettes had that foldout page sometimes. Although I couldn’t read those fonts anymore without assistance.
I will admit YouTube is now how I listen to music. A good tune can survive crap visuals but good visuals can only distract from a crap tune temporarily I find.

I never owned a turntable so cassette (and a cheap mono player) was all I had as a kid. Loved these foldouts. We're two on the fonts, amazing luck that the drawing software has a zoom tool. Actually anything computer. Was trying to read the instructions on some canned food the other day, realized that there wasn't any shift+mouse wheel available and happily proceeded to take a phone picture of the label and zoom it. Ah, technology! :D
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:24 pm

that is brilliant. Thanks for the tip.
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby blinddrew » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:26 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
blinddrew wrote:
Matt Houghton wrote:Do people actually listen to whole albums on YouTube?
Regularly! :)

That's 'cos you're old... like me.

::: raises objection! :::

::: checks date of birth :::

::: retracts objection :::

The only (sensible) thing I'd add to the discussion is that I think the EP has a key role to play here. For artists of limited funds, or those at the beginning of their careers who maybe don't have their repertoire developed, an EP gives you the opportunity to have tell that story or show the sense of progression, without having to either find the funds for a full album or pad out half a dozen great songs with three or four filler tracks.
I agree with CS70 about that, I like listening to an album, but sometimes i like the skip button too... ;)
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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:28 pm

Whether it's the square format of a CD or the multi-page folded format of a compact cassette, many if not most such 'album jackets' need you to work under a bright light with a magnifying glass to have any chance of being able to read the content.

This to me rather defeats the object of providing relevant, useful and potential fascinating information in the first place :beamup:


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Re: Youtube normalization vs album master

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:29 pm

Martin Walker wrote:Whether it's the square format of a CD or the multi-page folded format of a compact cassette, many if not most such 'album jackets' need you to work under a bright light with a magnifying glass to have any chance of being able to read the content.

This to me rather defeats the object of providing relevant, useful and potential fascinating information in the first place :beamup:


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