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Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

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Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby Omnil93 » Sat Jul 04, 2020 5:25 pm

Hi everyone, first post here so I apologize if its a topic you all are tired of addressing but Im having a hard time finding a definitive answer. Im mastering an EP I recorded and my problem is this: when I compare it to other "commercial" releases, its about half as loud. Now, Im not new to mastering but Ive always done it for myself to listen to on my system. In that sense, Ive always mastered so that the level never peaks above 0.3db on my master fader. But now Ive been reading that your song should never go louder than -16Lufs. I have no idea what a Luf is, but I do have a plugin that will tell me how loud my mix is in them. So when I mix to this level, it never peaks over -6db on my master fader. Its seems like Im doing the correct thing according to what Ive read, but Im about half as loud as almost everything out there. WHY? Ive read that its to ensure that it doesnt distort or become over compressed during streaming, but when I compare other songs streaming in, say, Bandcamp Im still half as loud, and I dont hear any distortion or terrible compression in their songs. What am I doing wrong? I know being the loudest isnt that important, but people tend to perceive louder as better, and I dont want to be dismissed by a listener based on that. Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby CS70 » Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:17 pm

Have a look at my post here: https://www.theaudioblog.org/post/avera ... irrelevant

It's normal that your master sounds lower when you master to -16LUFS, because it *is* lower.

That may or may not be a problem depending on where it will be played. Depending on the situation, you may need more than one master. If you're printing a CD, make a master hard limited to -0.3 or even 0 (so long the limiter takes in account the intersample peaks). If you plan to release on streaming outlets which do loudness normalization, my usual recommendation (which is in the post) is to make it a little louder (to make sure it's not too quiet) and let the streaming site normalization algorithm bring the level down the dB or two to bring it in line with the rest... but make sure the master rocks also at lower volume. If you want to release on vinyl, you will need one more master.
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby Omnil93 » Sat Jul 04, 2020 9:55 pm

CS70 wrote:Have a look at my post here: https://www.theaudioblog.org/post/avera ... irrelevant

It's normal that your master sounds lower when you master to -16LUFS, because it *is* lower.

That may or may not be a problem depending on where it will be played. Depending on the situation, you may need more than one master. If you're printing a CD, make a master hard limited to -0.3 or even 0 (so long the limiter takes in account the intersample peaks). If you plan to release on streaming outlets which do loudness normalization, my usual recommendation (which is in the post) is to make it a little louder (to make sure it's not too quiet) and let the streaming site normalization algorithm bring the level down the dB or two to bring it in line with the rest... but make sure the master rocks also at lower volume. If you want to release on vinyl, you will need one more master.

Great post man! It was very informative. Pardon my ignorance, but if I read it correctly then normalization is just a decrease in volume, correct? If thats the case, what problems do mastering to -0.3 all around pose? Why would I be able to for cd, but not streaming? Thanks again for your help! Its much appreciated.
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jul 04, 2020 10:16 pm

You've got two different but related measurements going on. One is an absolute measure of peak signal, the other is a programme-specific measure. There's no reason why you couldn't master to -16 LUFS and -0.3dBFS. It would work fine for streaming services but it would sound quiet compared to a lot of CDs.
So if you wanted to get it comparable to some modern CDs you'd need to apply a few tricks to get your loudness up to around -10LUFS or possibly even higher.
The problem then is if you load that to itunes (say) they'll then assess your tune and say "whoah that's too loud for the rest of our content" and turn it down 6dB or so.
This means on streaming your music will be the same loudness as everything else on itunes, but it'll be a lot less dynamic and generally a bit dull because of that.
But, because it's never that easy, not all streaming services aim for the same level. And some will turn stuff up as well as down.
Hence CS70's suggestions about aiming just a bit over that target will also give you a bit of slack for something like youtube as well as itunes/tidal etc.
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:20 am

blinddrew wrote:There's no reason why you couldn't master to -16 LUFS and -0.3dBFS....

Small (pedantic) point of order... but there is a reason! Loudness normalised (streaming) services generally require peak levels to be below -1dBFS, mainly in an effort to avoid problems with inter-sample peaks.
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:37 am

Omnil93 wrote:...if I read it correctly then normalization is just a decrease in volume, correct?

That's a common outcome, but thee implications are far wider ranging than that.

The CD market became distorted (in both sense of the word) by the 'loudness wars' madness of wanting every disc to sound as loud as it possibly could. As there is a fixed headroom limit in the CD format, that meant crushing the dynamic range so that the music peaks were barely any higher than the average level -- and it's the average level that mostly determines the perceived loudness.

So, when material mixed /mastered in that kind of way is moved onto a loudness normalised platform, it has to be turned down so it sounds as loud as everything else. The average level on CD might have been at -6LUFS, say, and it now has to be at -16LUFS when loudness normalised. Peaks on the disc might have been at -0.3dBFS, and they will now be at -10.3dBFS

What we have now is a track with very little dynamic range (because it was created that way), and of the same loudness as everything else. So it sounds really flat, lifeless and dull when compared to material which was optimised specifically for the loudness normalised platform -- tracks which will have the appropriate loudness of -16LUFS (say) but with big dynamics and peaks up to -1dBFS. That kind of material will sound punchy, dynamic, interesting, exciting, involving....

And that's why you need either to make two completely different mixes for the two release platforms, or alter the way you mic, to retain or introduce more dynamics, and find a compromise position where it works acceptably on both platforms.

But long term, CD is dead, loudness wars have gone, and loudness-normalised is the future... and it is inevitable that hyper-compressed uber-loud tracks will not get played in the future simply because they sound flat, lifeless and terrible in comparison to more dynamic tracks that take advantage of the headroom built into the loudness-normalised format!
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby John Willett » Sun Jul 05, 2020 11:10 am

Omnil93 wrote: I have no idea what a Luf is,

LUFS = Loudness Units Full Scale
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby Folderol » Sun Jul 05, 2020 11:19 am

... and I learned a few extra details here :thumbup:
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby CS70 » Sun Jul 05, 2020 11:28 am

Omnil93 wrote:Pardon my ignorance, but if I read it correctly then normalization is just a decrease in volume, correct? If thats the case, what problems do mastering to -0.3 all around pose? Why would I be able to for cd, but not streaming? Thanks again for your help! Its much appreciated.

Indeed, no problems at all - other than mastering at -0.3 normally implies limiting, which is not the same process as raising volume.. and therefore more often than not it changes the sound (a little or much, depends on the settings). And mastering to high peak levels usually changes is in a way that makes the mix sound worse when the clean gain (aka volume) is eventually jacked down.

But if you simply clean-gain up the mix (paying attention to intersample peaks) with no compression (or with little compression) it will make no difference whatsoever. Just be aware it will be gained down again by streaming services, so make sure it still sounds good at any reasonable level.
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jul 05, 2020 11:29 am

John Willett wrote:
Omnil93 wrote: I have no idea what a Luf is,

LUFS = Loudness Units relative to Full Scale

FTFY :ugeek:
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Re: Master is quiet compared to commercial release.

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jul 05, 2020 11:57 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
blinddrew wrote:There's no reason why you couldn't master to -16 LUFS and -0.3dBFS....

Small (pedantic) point of order... but there is a reason! Loudness normalised (streaming) services generally require peak levels to be below -1dBFS, mainly in an effort to avoid problems with inter-sample peaks.
I stand corrected!
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