How loud does my music need to be and how do we measure it in 2023?
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We got a very interesting question on Instagram.
An experienced engineer who does great work but took a relatively long break from music production was wondering about how we measure loudness today, whether RMS was still relevant now that we have LUFS, and whether we can still master as loud as we did years ago, without negative consequences when our songs are played next to others on streaming platforms.
And he's definitely not alone. Many people seem to be confused about different ways of measuring loudness and also the always changing trends and opinions on the topic.
So today we're answering these questions:
- Is the loudness war over?
- Do I need to know or care about this if I'm not mastering myself?
- Should I (or my mastering engineer) aim for a certain target?
- How do I use and read my loudness meters correctly?
To answer the question directly, we also explain the difference between RMS and LUFS:
RMS: “Root mean square”. The average level of your audio signal, measured over a longer period of time, and close to what your ears perceive as the loudness of your audio.
LUFS: “Loudness units relative to Full Scale”. This is a loudness standard designed to enable the matching of perceived audio levels. So that different signals (or songs) will sound equally loud, no matter what the dB meter says. Loudness Units (or LU) is a unit that describes loudness by taking into account how our hearing perceives volume. Not just pure sound pressure or amplitude, like “dB” does. And again, “FS” means “relative to full scale”. So, for example, -18 LUFS means “18 LU away from the maximum of 0”. The difference between -23 LUFS and -18 LUFS, for example is 5 LU.
Loudness Units (or LU) is a unit that describes loudness by taking into account how our hearing perceives volume. Not just pure sound pressure or amplitude, like “dB” does. And again, “FS” means “relative to full scale”. So, for example, -18 LUFS means “18 LU away from the maximum of 0”. The difference between -23 LUFS and -18 LUFS, for example is 5 LU.
Then we're sharing how we do it in our own projects:
- How loud do we master and why?
- How do we measure it?
- How important is it to us?
And one final word of caution:
Be careful about different RMS settings on your meters! AES-17 on/off makes a 3dB difference. One RMS value doesn't necessary equal another RMS value.
Be careful when comparing anything, basically. There's many different ways to measure loudness and volume and it's easy to get confused and compare different things without noticing.More details on that in the episode
Mentioned On The Episode:
TSRB 155 - Automatic Episode Transcript - Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Benedikt: People might be like, why do we have those things? Then there is professional industries that you have to worry about this, and there is a standard that you just have to know about, but in music, do whatever you want and make it sound.
Malcom: This is to stop people from blowing up your TVs and computer speakers with their ads being cranked too loud.
Benedikt: Hello, and welcome to the Self Recording Band podcast. I'm your host Benedict Tine, and if you're near to of the show, welcome. So Stoke, you're joining us. You're hanging out with us today. If you are already a listener, welcome back. Thank you for. Coming back. We really appreciate you. Thank you for listening. Today is all about mastering and loudness, so we're gonna talk about how loud do my songs actually need to be. And we got a very interesting question that I got on Instagram. So, and this question was all about like loves versus rms, like average volume, loudness, these types of numbers and ways to measure that. And we're gonna talk about whether or. Any of that actually matters, what we think about it, what you need to know, and what you can like basically ignore, because some of that stuff might not be as important as you think. So we're gonna talk all about that and uh, have a mastering conversation. And as always, I'm here with Malcolm Owen Flatt, my friend and co-host.
Malcom: Hello, Benny, how are you?
Benedikt: I'm doing good. How are you?
Malcom: I'm doing great as well, man. Yeah, I'm excited about this topic. Um, and you, you said a, a mastering conversation, but I would argue this is very relevant for, uh, for our mixers and, and for our artists as well. Um, the, for anybody that is not doing any, their own mixing or mastering, um, because. Actually, I would say that the people that ask me about this the most are the people that aren't doing those things. They're, they're the artists that have paid for somebody to mix and master their song. They're confused. So we're,
Benedikt: yeah, you're
Malcom: we're kind of having a conversation. So it's, uh, public knowledge for all
Benedikt: Yeah, you're right. Exactly. Because then yeah, you're totally right. When I'm master for people, I often get, why is that so loud? Can I have a quieter version? Because somebody said, I sh it should be a minus 14 lefts or something. Or the opposite, like, why is that so quiet? Everything I listen to is louder. And they think that there is sort of a standard that and, and, uh, and so yeah, you're totally right. It's actually, uh, relevant for people who don't do their mastering as well. Anyway, we gotta talk about this and I'm, I think. Wait, what? Malcolm, we can't skip the banter. I'm, I'm very sorry, but we have to talk about something. At first. I wanted to just dive into the show now because usually at this point we do that. But now since we rearranged things in the beginning and sort of started with you, the, the, the topics so that people don't have to wait, uh, as long, uh, I kind of forget that. We still should talk about other stuff too. So what, what did you do this weekend? I can't start an episode without catching up with you.
Malcom: I didn't get up to much, honestly, man. I, I had like the chillest weekend ever. Um, uh, the people that have listened to any episodes lately, um, are probably aware that I've got a YouTube channel going, and I've been like going so hard on that. It's just like all consuming. I'm, that's my personality type. I get into something and then I. Overdo it.
Malcom: I sensed that. Yeah, exactly. Like I'm just like, I, this is me now. My identity is a wildlife photographer, uh, and a YouTuber. Um, and I like, I like that about myself because I feel like I get. I, I developed skills really quickly because of that, but it's really easy to burn out on it and, and lose interest. So I forced myself to take a break from all of it. And I didn't take a photo and I didn't film a video or even open my, like, edits or anything for YouTube all weekend and just was like, all right, I'm on break. So, hung up with my brother, you know, took it chill, uh, had a family dinner last night. It, it was really nice.
But I'm, uh, like itching to do some more filming after this podcast here,
Benedikt: Well, that sounds like a, like a plan and like this is Yeah. Good for you. That you got to take this break early, basically, because, uh, sometimes we notice it when it's way too late and then it's very hard to stop or like make yourself stop. So take those
Malcom: Yeah, it, it's hard to stop, but it's also like, what I'm afraid of is getting back, um, cause I heard recently, I can't remember the percentage, so I'm not even gonna try. But a certain percentage of people that burn out never return to what they burnt out from. And like, I'm talking true burnout, you know, like where you're like, I think some people listening to this will know what I'm talking about. Um, but like, I don't want that. I love doing this. Um, and, and I, uh, yeah. It's like you gotta respect your passions and, and give them the space they need at at times.
Benedikt: Yes, 100%. That sounds like a fun, fun weekend though. And uh, yeah, we gotta push your YouTube channel, um, more often because it's really, really cool and, uh,
Malcom: Yeah. Just it's my name guys. Just go find Malcolm own flood on YouTube. You'll find me there.
Benedikt: absolutely for sure
Malcom: Yeah. What did you, what did you do Benny?
Benedikt: Um, it was a mixed thing. So what did I do? We visited some friends on Saturday, so that was chill. Um, we visited my mom yesterday. That was also cool, but also a couple annoying things too. I had some repair work at home to do and I, sometimes I enjoy that stuff, but some, some things I just hate uh, and in this case it was like I should have just hired someone to do that and not tried myself. Like, it was just so frustrating. Um,
Malcom: we're similar in that.
Benedikt: Yeah, I, I, yeah, I dunno. Yeah. probably,
Malcom: I actually, speaking of burnout, I wanted to call you out on something, Benny, I, because you sent me a message. You, you've, you've sent me some I'll call digital assets that I needed for, for helping with, uh, this podcast and, and our, our educational platforms. And I was like, sweet. But then I was like, wait, what? What time is it in Germany right now? And I looked and it was like one in the morning or something crazy. It was, it was very late. Um, and I was like, Benny, what are you doing man? You can't be working right now.
Benedikt: Yeah, you're right. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. But yeah, you're totally right. I shouldn't be doing that, but that's just who I am. Sometimes as you said, like if I do something, I, I won't stop until it's done. And then
Malcom: You get very excited about it. Yeah. And, uh, I could tell from the email that you had like, figured out the, the most optimal, efficient way to, to handle the, the, the problem we were figuring out. And I was like, man, you're, you're a.
Benedikt: Dude, I love that stuff so much. I'm such a nerd when it comes to that. I love spreadsheets and mapping out sort of, you know, like these are things that are completely irrelevant to our audience, but like the, the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of a, of a business, especially an online business, that sort of stuff. I love that. It's like a strategy game almost a little bit, and it's like building something cool and then figuring out problems and then when it works I get all excited and
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. And you're, you're really good at planning for future problems. I think you're like, I'm gonna figure it out. So good that it's going to eliminate what would've been a problem in the future.
Benedikt: I'm trying. I'm . I'm trying. Yeah.
Malcom: Yeah, it's hard, it's hard to predict the future. Um, but honestly, I, I feel like listeners, if you are looking for value from this crazy banter, um, it's the amount of forethought that goes into ideas for this, the self recording platform, um, self recording band platform that, uh, like apply that to your band there's like, you can think, think ahead beyond just whatever is on your mind that, that week and, uh, and you'll, you'll benefit from it.
Benedikt: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, totally. Yeah. And then actually I did one music related thing also. Um, that, but that, that's not like my job, but for my band, I, you, you remember the dark glass micro tubes infinity thing that we talked about on the last episode? Uh, I ordered that because I wanted it , so,
Benedikt: I ha yeah.
And now I want, I want to try it for my band and for my sound because I really like it. I tried it and it's awesome. And now I, I wanna do that. And then also I order ordered, uh, like a couple of things to get an a base that I haven't used in a while. I wanna get that back in shape and try it and swap out my, my current setup. So I just ordered a bunch of music gear, which is always fun,
Malcom: Uh, very fun. Very fun. So did, did you get that pedal or is it on its way?
Benedikt: Uh, it's on its way. I just ordered it this weekend. I did a bunch of research and then again, the way I, the way I am is like, I didn't just order the pedal. I thought about, well, then I have my tuner, anti petal and I don't like cables in front of me, and I will accidentally step on it and like move things and I'm, so, I got a little tiny pedal board and avoid, organize the cables. It's just two things, but still I want to have it organized and neat and I wanted to back for it so that I can get it to the gigs and like I, all these things. So, . Yeah. I spent a little ti a little time researching that and, and uh, got it all together and as soon as it's arrive, it arrives, it'll set it all up.
Malcom: Very cool. I'm excited to hear how you like it. I've been thinking about guitar gear a lot lately as well. I, my latest video was on if I should sell my camper because it's like literally collecting dust
Malcom: which is something I never thought I'd save with how much I actually love that tool. Um, but like I'm just not using it and I'm like, what should I get? Is there. Like smaller, more like, cause I don't play live professionally anymore, so do I need a camper? Is there like a, a dad rock version? You know, Um, and uh, so looking into what, what other options are out there since I bought my camper and you know, surprisingly, there isn't as many things as I thought that, like, play at that level. Um, You know, there's like the, the neural solutions, which are amazing. Uh, the ax of X stuff is also really cool. Um, but as far as like a, a step down from a pro to ring grade, not a lot of things that I was impressed with so far, but it's gotta be coming.
Benedikt: It's true, it's true. Um, have you tried the Helix stuff?
Malcom: Okay. I did and I really didn't like it, but I think I made a, may have made a mistake. Well, on that test, um, we, what we did is my band was touring and I had my camper and we were like, this is amazing. We're not packing around, uh, an extra giant cab or amplifier. We just have this little thing and our stage volume. Problem is significantly better as well. So I was trying to convince Sam, the singer and guitarist in Band Rascals, the other guitarist, uh, to, to get one as well, . And, uh, so what we did is, well, we decided like, well we should have a spare amp on the road cuz if mine or his brakes. Having a spare is a really good idea. And, uh, so we just rented a helix for that tour as the spare amp, and then I played around with it while we were driving around in the RV between shows. And I didn't like how it sounded, but I, thinking back to it, it was all through the built-in headphone amp and maybe that's just garbage, you know, . So I never got to plug it into like my studio mains. I never got to plug it into, uh, like, uh, an f fr fr speaker. Uh, so I, I don't think I really gave it justice like a, a real test kind of.
Benedikt: Okay. Okay. Yeah. Fair
Malcom: headphone app sounded terrible.
Benedikt: Okay. . Yeah, I mean, interesting because I thought that I was pretty impressed by it and I went in, I always didn't want it to sound good or I, I assumed it didn't sound great just because it's line six and at that point that I tried it, like line six had like, was not particularly known for like super good sounding digital amps, and they've made great stuff. before, but you know, they get a bad rap and they have some crappy amps. They have some great amp sims if you compare it with the GR Right. IRS and stuff. But you know, but I didn't expect a lot of it. And then I tried it and I was kind of blown away, honestly. And I really, really like it. So might might have been the headphone amp.
I don't know. I really
Malcom: Yeah, it might have been. And I, I will say that I liked the user interface quite a bit. I thought that was actually pretty cool. And the, uh, the effects like, like, yeah, the, the, their delays are really fun always. Um, but, uh, but yeah, maybe that is the way I should go, but
Benedikt: Yeah, maybe try it. Try it. Yeah. The cor cortex, the quad, uh, cortex is obviously amazing, but also not really cheap, so,
Malcom: that's the one I want, but it's like it's way overkill,
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Honestly, if it's just for playing at home, I, I would probably just get an, an and plug into my laptop or something, you know, if it's just for myself.
Malcom: that, that is the, like we're, we're essentially having my video as a podcast now all of a sudden, . Um, but like that 99% of the time, that's all I need. So like, plugging in and using one of my neural d s P plugins, um, And I still haven't tried that plugin you got me to buy last week, by the way, that audio assault one. But, uh, like though that, that, that checks all the boxes for me. Totally happy with that. But I am not gonna sell my camper and not have something around in case like, you know, like my buddy wants to jam and you know, I need an amp for actually playing in a room with somebody in that case. Right.
Benedikt: Does it have to be digital?
Malcom: Not necessarily, but I am a believer.
Benedikt: Oh yeah, totally. Now I'm just saying because there is one amp that I was also so surprised. It's like, it's not you anymore. Not at all. But it's it's one of the newer Marshalls though, but it's still, I don't know, 15 years old or something. I don't know. But there's the jvm, um, there's a, a 50 watts and the a hundred Watts version.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've seen those for
Benedikt: And I was so surprised when I, when I heard that, because it has kind of, it's, it's all analog, but it has all the different types, the types of marshal circuits in it. It, you can have an 800 or 2000, a 900 a j, um, a jmp, a plexi, all that stuff is built into one amp, basically. Uh, and then like it's, I don't know, eight channels or something crazy like that.
Benedikt: I was really surprised by how great the thing sounds. And it also has an, an output with, um, like a di XLR output with a speaker simulation or something on it, or at least a filter or something. So, um, it is an a tube amp, but you can use it at home. You can use it without a cab and it sounds pretty decent.
Malcom: that's pretty cool. But would I sell my keer to get it? Probably not.
Benedikt: Ah, exactly.
Malcom: think I'm stuck with the keer until like a new thing comes around that is like, uh, essentially I just need Keer to make something with a better user interface and smaller, I think.
Benedikt: Alright, cool.
Malcom: We have really gone into the guitar rabbit hole,
Benedikt: excite me. So that was today's episode. I'd like, this is an episode in and of itself. Um, no, we wanted to talk about loudness, so. I think I'm gonna start by reading out that question now. So that question comes from, and please, please, ex, um, sorry if I, if I, uh, put your name now. Taylor. Uh, I think it's Taylor Voltz. Uh, anyway, Taylor, sorry if I got that wrong. Uh, but Taylor sent me a message on Instagram and he was saying, um, I was a professional audio engineer from 2008 until around 2015, until I got burnt out. They have it burnout.
Benedikt: a year ago, I re I rediscovered the joy of making music, but obviously a lot has changed.
Back then, r m s was king with loudness and these days it seems to be outdated and loves. L U F S is the new standard. I don't really understand why loves is more popular than r m s. Do you still use rms or should I abandon it? That was his question. And his productions, he sent over a link, and I know a band that he's working with and he's, he knows what he's doing. So Taylor is not a beginner. He's a true professional. He makes awesome sounding stuff. So he knows what he's, talk, what he's talking about. And I found that to be even more interesting because that just goes to show that you can make amazing work without really diving deep into these types of numbers and, and things, you know, so I, I just wanna say that so that people know that Taylor's not a, a beginner, he's really pro, but yeah, it's, I think it's a good question and I found it interesting that he asked that.
Malcom: It's a great question and yeah, I think anybody that's released music has probably come across like some kind of YouTube video warning them about not getting their loves wrong or their song's gonna sound terrible, yada, yada, yada. There's, there's a lot of. Kind of like fear-based content out there, that seems to be built around scaring musicians on releasing their music at a certain volume, which is fascinating.
Um, so, so it's definitely a good question. Not surprised we got it. Um, and happy to dig into it.
Benedikt: Should we start by. Maybe we should say what loudness actually is, because we assume that people know it, but maybe not everybody's aware of what that actually means. So RMS and L U of S are ways to measure loudness. And loudness means not like peak volume, not the number you get when you measure with a, like a, a sound pressure meter. When you measure, measure how loud something is, you get a sound pressure. But that's not the loudness, that's just the peak. Um, sound pressure, the peak volume and loudness is an average volume measured. Short period of time, and this is how we, how loud we perceive something. So it's not a short burst of something loud, but it's like how loud does the song or the signal sound to us? And some, the funny thing is if you measure sound pressure, if your tube just different sources. And one sounds clearly louder than the other. It doesn't mean that it also measures louder on a sound pressure meter, but it can be that the loudness is higher because it's more dense, it's less dynamic, and it's, you perceive it as louder. So loudness is an average, and in your jaw, if you look at the. Channel meters, depending on your setup and everything, but it could be RMS or peak. But typically you see peak values, and this doesn't tell you much about the loudness, about how loud it feels or how loud you, how you perceive it. It tells you something about the maximum volume of the signal. But again, a signal that has. A low value there on the peak meter can be louder or sound louder than another signal that peaks higher because the average loudness is higher of that one, the first one. So yeah, and, and we measure that, um, with, there's different ways to measure that and RMS and L U F S are. Two different ways to do that. RMS stands for root mean square, and it's the average level of your audio signal measured over along a period of time and close to what our ears perceive as the loudness of our audio Lefts, however, stands for loudness units relative to full scale. This is what LS stands for, L of S, and this is a loudness standard designed to enable the matching of perceived audio levels so that different signals or songs will sound equally loud no matter what the DB meter says. So loudness units, l u is a unit that des, that describes loudness by taking into account how our hearing perceives volume and not just pure sound pressure or amplitude like DB does. Right? And again, FS means relative to full scale. So for example, minus 18 L U F S means 18 L loudness units away from the maximum of zero. And the difference between say minus 23 lus and minus. 18 Loves, for example, is five U loudness units. L U f S is based on rms. It's like very similar. So it's also similar readings actually with the difference that it takes into account. Um, our hearing, which means it's like frequency dependent. R m s is just the sheer level. Average. Basically an L U of S takes into account our frequency dependent perception of volume. And so it's closer to how we perceive, um, loudness. But if you compare the two, it's actually not far off. It's pretty similar, but a song with a lot of low end can measure differently from a song with a lot of top end and less low end, for example.
Malcom: yeah, yeah. Our ears just perceive those sounds and frequency is different so that it's going to yield a different result.
Benedikt: So does that matter? Do you need to know all that stuff?
Malcom: So I think you don't need to know all that. Um, it's fun to know and I think. By learning that it's gonna help you with this conversation. Benny and I are gonna have to, to kind of understand enough to be able to forget about it.
Malcom: it's like you can like, understand it and be like, okay, now I get it and I can stop thinking about that forever.
Um, Is kind of what I think, but uh, yeah, I I'm curious if we're gonna have the exact same opinion on this. I don't think it really matters if we do, but, uh, it's, yeah, it's fascinating. So, so just to summarize there though, RMS and, and L U F S or lus, we call 'em, um, there, there're Yeah. Two ways of measuring the loudness of your audio And Lus have become pretty popular over the last few years because they are. Seemingly more accurate, um, because again, it's based on how our ears would perceive the frequencies. , I think we'll dig into why I, and maybe you Benny, don't really think it's that important for you to be tracking it either.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, totally. So my opinion is there is. A reason for why loves is there and it makes sense that it is there because as I, the thing that I just, uh, said, it was just something I, I read, by the way, what I just read there, the definition of loves and rms that can be found at our, on our website. If you go to the self recording bent.com/audio terms, I haven't said that much on the podcast, but I have a whole like huge. which are like blog posts that are connected together where I explain all kinds of different audio terms and definitions and um, yeah. Things that, that I, that people keep asking me about. So it's a huge collection, like a, a glossary or something of, of, of these things. So if you go to the certificating ban.com/audio terms, and then you scroll down and you find general audio terms, Production process, routing and processing microphones, pre ems, converters, interfaces, cables, connectors, et cetera. And if you click on any of those categories, it spits out a list of terms with the definition below it. And RMS and lus are on the, on that list too. And I just read that out there. Um, so I just basically did research and, and copied and pasted the definitions and put my own thoughts, um, to it and all of that.
So I think what I just said in that definition for loudness units and loves, It's there so we can compare two different songs and make sure that when they're on a playlist together that they are, that it makes sense that one is not way louder than the other, basically. Because with RMS you can do that two, but it might be slightly off because our hearing doesn't work that way. We have like the frequency thing, and with L U F S, it's, we can get closer to that and it makes it easier to be like, okay, we're gonna master this compilation or this playlist or whatever, and if we make everything an average. I dunno, X Y L U of S. Then everything will be perceived about this at about the same loudness sort of, or we can like streaming services, use this to apply loudness, normalization so that on Spotify, whatever you play, regardless if it's from the eighties or from the two thousands or whatever, it's gonna be about equally as loud. And so, yeah, that's why it's useful because it's more accurate than rms, but honestly in. From a practical standpoint, I don't really care because A, I'm not mixing or mastering for any of those targets. I just make it as loud as I think it should be for it to sound good. And if that is quiet, I will just stop and don't care. And if it's crazy loud, I'm also happy. I just give the song, the density, the impact, and uh, the compression, the volume and all that, all of that that I think it needs regardless of how loud other stuff is. So I really don't think about that. Spotify's gonna normalize anyway, and even if it's not normalized, even studies have shown that it doesn't really matter because people just use their volume knob and adjust
Benedikt: like nobody has ever sold a single record more just because of some ilio s value. It's just not a thing. Studies have shown that people don't prefer louder music, but they also don't prefer quieter music. So it's, it just doesn't matter to me. All that matters is that when you turn it up loud, you don't make it worse. Uh, sonically or do it intentionally. What it's all about intention. Right? And if I lose impact because of loudness, I won't do it unless I, unless somebody specifically asks me to do it. But then maybe I'll do it. Yeah. But sometimes it just needs to be loud and sometimes it needs to be distorted or even clipping a little, and that's what it needs. So, um, I don't really care. On the other hand though, RMS has a practical application. Sorry, I just wanted you to finish that. The thing like RMS has. A practical application for me because I still, and you, Taylor, I assume you did that too, or I still do that. Um, I still use a view meter, a plugin view meter on my mix bus that is calibrated to my, where zero on the view meter is minus 18 rms. And I use that for my game staging process because I know that if I have any sort of, um, analog mix, bus compressor, emulation, or if I run out of the computer into my actual antelope mix bus or if I have. Um, the same is true for buses or channels as well. Like I just use it as a game staging thing because most of those analog boxes and their emulations are calibrated to minus 18 or minus 16 or minus 20 or something like that. And I just wanna know that I'm hitting these boxes at their at, at their sweet spot, and I can intentionally go louder or quieter, but it just helps me. Um, know that I, that I hit it about right, and this is just a good, like a best practice thing. And there I just use good old r m s and the view meter that's calibrated to a certain value.
So on a prac from a practical level, I still use r m s and I don't care about loves.
Malcom: that's a, yeah, that's a great application for sure. That, that makes a ton of sense.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. I look at it at the end though, at the l u s just because I wanna know, I look at my limiter, what, what it tells me and how, how loud it is, because I wanna know, but honestly, I, I didn't even have, I wouldn't even have to do that. I just also, my monitoring is calibrated, so like, and calibrated means it's just set to one setting that's always the same. So, and I know it's so well that I can just tell if it's loud or not. I can tell when I'm mastering, I don't, I wouldn't even have to look at the LOFs thing because I know immediately if this is a quiet or a loud master, and that's all I.
Malcom: Yeah. . Totally. Um, yeah, so going back to what I mentioned earlier in that might call it misinformation, um, about laughs out there, is that people seem to think that if you release it too loud, uh, Like you're, you've, you've gone, you've got two low of a lefts number, meaning like, it's kind of high. Like say you've, you've asked your song to negative three lefts, which is insanely loud,
Malcom: It's gonna be like penalized when you throw it onto YouTube or Spotify or something. It's gonna get turned down to get closer to their out, like their preferred lus kind of thing. Yes, it would get turned down, but it doesn't matter. is the, is the reality because it's, it's. Like the quiet songs are getting turned up, the loud songs are getting turned down. Like it's, it's all getting averaged to a laugh value anyways. Um, so, so you don't really need to worry about that. What you need to worry about is just how your song sounds. Does it sound as loud, uh, on its own? As you would like. Um, and that comes down to what Benny was saying, like, is it like sometimes things need to be crunchy, clipped, or like really dense and those are kind of characteristics of a very loud master, um, and mix. So, so it's all about just making it sound the way you want. Um, and then you, you can absolutely, and, and maybe should if, if you. New to it, um, like compare against other songs in your genre to make sure that you're in a ballpark. That that is kind of like where the general loudness of that genre is. You know, so if you're, you're in a, like very loud rock genre and you make a, a mix that is, Negative 20 L U f s, which is not loud at all. Your mix is probably gonna sound really overly dynamic compared to those other mixes in that genre. What I just said makes sense, but would never happen because you would know your mix sounds totally weird. , it would sound really weird. , you wouldn't be happy with your mix and then check and be at negative 20 L U F s if you're doing a dense rock mix, right? It's just not gonna happen. So how I. Is, I just mix. I make it as loud as I want, and then I always do check the lus, but it is purely for curiosity, essentially. Um, I'm like, oh, where did I land? And sometimes I'm surprised by that number. I'm like, oh, that's, that's actually louder than I thought it would be. I probably will not change anything because of that reaction. It's, it's like, it's very unlikely that it's going to impact my decision. The, the only thing I have been using it for is actually YouTube because I've been doing a mix for my YouTube video and then checking where it's at and sometimes it's louder than it needs to be and I'm like, oh, I can actually back that off and still be plenty loud and I don't need my voice to be crunchy.
Benedikt: Yes. Yes.
Malcom: Right. Um, Yeah. So it's like, why wouldn't I back it off? Because it's just dialogue, right? But with, but with music, it's just like, all about just making the mix and songs sound as good as I want. And then, um, I, I mentioned that I always check it and it's not very impactful. I will mention that when I'm mixing a collection of songs, like for an ep, I'm glancing at that to make sure that that mix ended up in the same loudness sweet spot as the other songs on that release. They should be kind of in the same ballpark you. Um, so that's maybe another practical use is keeping a collection of things together and some unity in, in their apparent loudness. Um, but really it's, you just gotta worry about making the song sound how you want.
Benedikt: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And yeah, you're totally right. The, the voice thing makes sense. I do it there too, just to know that. Yeah. It's, it's enough, basically. And then it might make sense whenever you, I, I think it's really handy when, say you're mastering, I don't know, a compilation or something, as you said, like in context with other songs. It's very easy to just compare, uh, to just make the doll show you the loves values of the, of those songs and then adjust real quick. And then you get really quickly, you get. An an an average sort of loudness across the record that just works. It's easy to mix to, to mix and match different songs from different mastering engineers of different eras even, and just make them sound about the same, um, volume wise.
So for that, it's better than r m s I think because it's more accurate. But for individual songs, yeah. Again, we don't really care, I think now.
Malcom: But even in that situation, we're still gonna be listening to those other songs, right? Like our ears are still going to tell us that, Hey, this, this sounds quieter . If it sounds quieter, that means that the lu's value is probably lower, right?
Benedikt: Yes, totally, totally. So, and I don't really know why, why that is still a thing and why people still recommend these weird like numbers and people think they should aim for that because it never made sense to me for musically, and it still doesn't. I know that some of, I mean those people. Some of those people who recommend this in their blog and podcasts and YouTube and stuff, they know what they're doing of course, and they know what they're talking about and their masters might also sound great and they will likely also make louder masters if it is what it takes. I think their intention is actually, is actually good, so they. They wanna avoid people destroying their masters by going too loud and, and losing the impact and all of that. But you always have to add that you're absolutely allowed to make it louder if it's not getting worse. So that is always the, the other side of it. So yes, be careful and yes, minus 14 might be enough. But it might also not be enough for in some genres. And so you can't always go louder. Um, that that's the thing. And as you said, being turned down on Spotify is not a problem at all. And, and to this day, people say the B loudness wars are over because of. Is is over because of like volume, uh, loudness, normalization and that sort of stuff. But to this day, most of the masters that I listen to, most of the music that I listen to, if I like, download the, the high risk version, import it into my dawn and measure it. Or if I measure the stream from Spotify, sometimes it's like three or 40 bees of dynamic. And that's it. Like that dynamic range, like it's, it's still smashed and squashed and loud and all of that. Most of it actually. So I don't know if it's over and I don't even think that is a war. Point anymore. It's not about being the loudest, it's just about making a crazy, impactful, super dense, modern sounding master, and some genres just need that.
Malcom: Totally. Yeah. It, it's, so I think the, the intention of the, the people that were originally suggesting like negative 14 L u f s for Spotify, I think is the number, right? Um, they, they, they came from the, the loudness wars at its peak where people were making things loud just because they thought they had to, um, to make it competitive and, and at the expense of the mix, right? But now what we're saying, There's no need to do that. So you can make it as loud as you want if it suits the mix, but you can also make it really as quiet as you want to. It goes both ways. Um, so you don't have to be afraid of going loud, but you don't have to go loud either, right? It, it's like either situation's gonna work out fine as long as the mix is what you want. Um, so it is like good information that like, hey, yeah, your mix can be negative 14 and sound great. And it's, and Spotify's gonna think not mess with it. That's, that's awesome. Um, Like, I haven't mixed a rock song. That would sound good. A negative 14 ever.
Benedikt: No. No, not at all.
Malcom: yeah, so, so I think the, the flip side is people that don't have the experience of, of, of mixing and mastering are like, oh God, I gotta, like, my mixes are way too loud. I gotta make 'em way quieter and somehow get 'em to negative 14. That's not the case at.
Benedikt: No, exactly. And now back to your original question, Taylor. So I kind of switched, I, I still use RMS because of what I said, the calibration of the, the view meters and all of that. But on the master, Um, I, I just switched to L U F S and it wasn't even a con like an intentional thing or conscious, I just did it because the, the limiters just show l u s now and I just got used to it. And so I didn't even make a, an effort there or like had to learn anything new. I just got used to it and it's pretty similar to R m S anyway, and now I just look at the number. So yeah, and I use it. And what I wanna say is it's helpful sometimes because, not because I want to aim for a certain target, but. For example. For example, if I'm working on a very dense, loud rock song, which is what I do most of the time, and I apply the amount of limiting that I think is right for the. And the amount of compression and all of that. And I think I'm done, basically. And then I, I have a feeling that it's still a little quiet and, but more limiting or more compression, just makes things worse and crunchy or whatever. And then I look at the loves numbers and it confirms that, and it just, I just see that I'm at minus nine or 10 or something where I feel like with the amount of limiting and everything, I should be louder than that. That sometimes happens, but. Important information for me because that tells me that something's wrong with my mix. Probably, probably with the balance or the frequency balance might be that I have way too much low end and so I can't limit as hard or compress as hard, um, without it be like cr be becoming crunchy or weird. Um, it might be that the song needs that and that's fine, but it's also might mean that that just something is off with the balance. It might mean that I, that my snare is three to be too loud, and so I can't really limit or compress as hard. The snares just sticking out too much. So usually these numbers tell me things about the mix and then I can go and fix it, and all of a sudden I can go way louder without it causing problems. Because the loudness is not only in the master, the loudness happens in the mix. It's a matter of balance and EQ decisions and, and all of that. And then at the end, it's just a touch of limiting. And I, I, I can get it crazy loud, but if I'm not able to do that, it's probably that I missed something before the mastering actually.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's for, for Taylor's question. That's like the ideal answer that I would give too for the rest of our audience who are self recording bands who probably aren't mixing Orma Stream, do they need to worry about it?
Benedikt: Um, no, I don't think so. As long as you hire someone. No, I don't think so. As long as you hire someone who knows what they're doing, like just trust the mastering engineer. If it's a good professional mastering engineer, they know all that stuff. That's. , all they do all day. And if they send you a master that sounds great and you agree that it sounds great, then don't even think about the volume. Just, you know, be happy that it sounds great and put it out there. And you can always ask for, I mean, you can ask. For a louder version or something if you want, but then they will probably explain to you why they made it that way. And then you can maybe compare a louder version. I don't know, you have to talk to your engineer, but I would in first and foremost, I would just trust them and, and, and if you thi and all that matters is that you agree that it sounds great, and if you do, and if it translates well to all kinds of listening systems and it doesn't sound weak in comparison to other stuff you listen to, then just be happy and release it.
And you don't even have to look at the numbers because they don't matter.
Malcom: Yeah, every once in a while when I'm mastering, I'll spit out aloud and, uh, and a slightly quieter version, like a more dynamic version, um, and, and just be like, Hey, I really thought it sounded cool, pushing this a little harder than it's normal for this genre. Uh, but. Maybe I'm alone on that. So here's the other ones. Let me know what you think. And, um, and like, you know, that, that, like, it loudness is a creative decision at the end of the day. Um, so, so it's like, yeah, you can, you can experiment with that and, and find, uh, something that might just bring it more in line with your vision for what your sonic footprint is. Maybe you're meant to be loud, maybe you're not meant to be loud. Maybe you're meant to be quite dynamic and, uh, and stand out that way.
Benedikt: Yes, totally. A hundred percent. By the way, if you wanna just experiment with that and do it yourself and you, but you don't really know how to get it loud or how to do that without distortion. If you go to the self recording band.com/master, it's M A A S T R. That is a link that leads you to master.io, which is, uh, an an AI mastering. Tool. There's different pricing tiers, but you can try it for free. And why I say that is if you go to that link, the self recording bank.com/master, you get, I think it's 10% off your first month or so. And, but you can try it for like, it's, uh, we partner with them and so you get a discount if you go through our link and if you. Try it for free. You can just really quickly compare three different loudness options. You can compare different color options of the master, but also different loudness options. And so you can just upload your mix or your demo, whatever you have, and, uh, compare the different volumes and then you can make a decision if like, What changes when it gets louder? Is it getting better or worse? Is it getting more dense? Does it feel differently? Is it really just volume? So you can do that, you can compare it equal volume, um, and, and you know, can play around with that a little bit. And that's an easy way to just get an idea of what like loudness actually is because all of those masters. Will peak at the same level basically, but they are not the same loudness. And you can then compare what that actually does to, to the sonics, um, to your song. So tools like that are, are a great way to just explore that. Or if you have ozone or some of those tools, you know, just play around with that a little bit and, and try and learn about the effects that it has. And I think more than anything, just trust your mastering engineer, that they deliver something that just works and translates.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah, you probably hired them for a reason.
Benedikt: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Malcom: we, we kind of, we got some points on. You're like, questions on here we are gonna address, and I think we kind of did address most of these, like, um, how important is this really? We, we addressed that. We, for, for our audience? Don't think it's important really at all. Um, should you aim for a specific target? Both of us seem to agree. No, you, you shouldn't. Um, That's not necessary other than maybe just having, making sure it's in the ballpark of other songs in your genre, if that's important to you. Um, and then, uh, there's a couple questions on here that I'm curious just for this is like the, the advanced nerd talk between Benny and I now. So , it's not necessarily important, but I'm curious. One question is how loud do we master? And then a question I wrote down is, um, do you use integrated short term or momentary L U F S metering? So let's start with, uh, how loud do. Benny you have, and and what I mean by that, because we, we just talked about how it doesn't matter, it just suits the song. But I'm wondering if you have something that you kind of like your taste regularly lands on.
Benedikt: Yes. Um, I think I can say that it's like, again, not shooting for numbers and it's a little different from song to song, but I'd say I land on between most of the louder.
Malcom: to, are you measuring with integrated or short term or momentary lefts?
Benedikt: Okay, so I'm, I'm measuring what's the default here? I'm, I'm sometimes switching between, it's actually a good question. See, that's how, how unimportant that is to me. I, in Cuba's in control room, I switch between all three of those just because I wanna know. But on the limiter, on the final limiter that I use, where I just look at it, it's short term.
Malcom: Yeah, me
Benedikt: It's not momentary, but short term. So not, not super short, but also not long. So I use short term as I'm mixing and mastering that makes most sense to me.
Malcom: To quickly explain those modes to people, and this is not, uh, exact by any stretch, but integrated measures pretty much. Continuously. So if you listened to the whole song with integrated on, you would know the actual integrated loves of your entire song averaged out where short term has like a, a short memory essentially. Um, I don't know what the length of that is, but it kind of is short enough that I can tell that. All right, this is kind of the average l u f s value of my course. The loud part of the song, right? And then at the verse, it's gonna drop back down again. Where momentary is like instant, instant, uh, like, it's like it's gonna change every snare, head so it's not a lot of value in that, where short term is like, okay, I can tell that this part of the song is, is around this loud
Benedikt: Yeah, so I, I don't really have a target, but I, for the loud stuff that I typically work on, I typically land between minus six and minus eight or something. So pretty loud. Like if it gets really loud, I can be minus five point something sometimes. But usually between if it says minus six point something, um, this is usually where I land. If it's a little more dynamic stuff, it can be minus eight. And I know this sounds crazy to some people because minus six, seven or eight doesn't sound like dynamic stuff, but in our world, like, or like the music that I mix, this is actually not super loud. If you, if you deliver a modern metal or punk rock or hardcore or something like that, mix or even like indie stuff. At minus eight, this is not gonna be super loud compared to other stuff. And then minus six or minus seven is pretty much standard. I'd say some, sometimes it's even louder than that. And if it get, if it's really dynamic stuff, then it can be minus 10 or so. But this is very rare. So it's usually between minus six and eight. And the funny thing is quieter things like, Sometimes I have to turn down, like if there's a record with a couple of loud songs and then there's one acoustic song, I sometimes have to turn down that acoustic songs, quite song quite a bit to make it work together with the rest of the record. Because the acoustic song without transient, without drums and all of that might get easily get up to like minus five or so without me doing anything just because it's like, it's like the static thing that doesn't have a lot of like short-term dynamics and stuff. And so I, I sometimes have to, not even. Make it louder, but I have to turn it down because it will sound louder than the loud metal song in a weird way. So
Malcom: Yeah. It is tricky. Um, yeah, I, I've got the same answer. Yeah. I'm, I'm between negative six and negative eight. Um, is kind of the average. I would say seven is, is probably where I expect things to land. That's like normally like, all right, I bet it's around there. But, uh, but yeah, up to again, negative five as well as probably as heavy as I've pushed things. I'm sure I've hidden the four at some point, but that's really loud. I think
Benedikt: Yeah. Sure, sure. Okay, cool. Um, now there's one thing I wanna say that you have to be careful with, and this is, and I wasn't even aware of that really. I mean, I've read about it and I like, but I didn't really matter to me, but. Not long ago I was on a mastermind, um, meeting with a couple of friends, like a mastermind group that we meet, meet, meet, uh, weekly. And we did a meeting in, in the real world, um, the, our first real life meeting. And we got together and we sat there. And then one of our people in the group, he said like, we talked about loudness, about all this stuff. And then he was like, wait, how do you guys measure your rms or loves values or whatever. And he used RMS still and not loves. And we were like, well, we, I. Whatever RMS meter I have in my doll. And then we discovered that some plugins, depending on the scale or the calibration they use, give you a 3D B different RMS reading compared to others. So there is the a EES 17, um, thing, if that is on or off, makes a 3D B difference. And as 17 is the standard, so most modern. Plugins that still have R M S reading, they give you the A A E S 17 standard. But then there are some, especially some older ones, and I think in his case it was a T-Rex limiter or something that has been around for a while that doesn't use that. A E ES 17 sort of measurement scale, whatever, and it's just off by 3D bs. So he was like, my masters are crazy loud and I'm always delivering at like minus eight. And I'm like, minus eight is not that loud. And he was like, yeah, listen to this. And I was like, yeah, that is loud. And we couldn't figure it out. And then we, we, um, yeah, we figured out that he was using a different RMS meter and mindset minus five and his set minus eight.
Malcom: So luckily, you know, he's got ears and was entrusting them, right? And not, not being stressed out about it and trying to push it further because he thought he had to be louder, you know? Um, so , so that's great. But that's hilarious because I'm sure that has led to all sorts of misinformation out there. And people having online forum fights about loudness because they're looking at different numbers that mean the same thing,
Benedikt: Yeah, that was our exact thoughts. Like we were like, if that has been a thing for so long and we weren't aware of it, like can you mention how many people, like they got into fights over this and, and they were meeting the exact same thing, but they were like free to be off and didn't even know, because nobody ever says AEs.
Malcom: like the people that are gonna be because you, you said it's, it's probably older plug-ins that are, uh, that are showing this, this negative three number. It those, those are like the traditional, you know, the people that have been doing this longer, older engineers. So like, it's like this new age, young age budding of heads where they think we're all crazy for going so loud, but they're going just as loud as we are.
Benedikt: Yeah, that could totally be the case and like, yeah, totally. And it's, so, it's, it's, it is probably like that because nobody, nobody ever says like rms and then they add a e s, 17 people just say rms. If you look online, people just say, mine is at minus eight RMS period, and nobody knows. What that actually means, because apparently there's different r m s values and so I'm just saying use your ears and make it as loud as you think. It, it, it's good for the song and be aware that these are, these are not the only ways to measure. There's a couple of different ways to measure loudness and volume and different DB values and, and scales and metering tools and whatever. And so, If you wanna compare, make sure you compare it to the same thing. That's so important because there's all kinds of different ways to measure this and it's easy to, to get confused. So if you get into an argument about this or if you like compare things, then make sure you're talking about the same thing.
Malcom: So what are the, what are the takeaways?
Benedikt: I think the takeaways are for Taylor. Um, if you are used to r m rms and your work sounds great, do what's been working for you and don't even worry about it if and if you wanna know. And learn about this. Just use some l u s meter, look at it every once in a while and just learn how it translates to your rms, and then you'll quickly figure it out. Um, I think that you should do that so that you just know how loud it actually is and when it reads a certain number or something, just to get a feel for it. But I wouldn't master for any target. Um, I, yeah, I, it's u it's a useful comparison tool, but that's it basically. And, and, yeah, your work is great no matter what. So
Malcom: Yeah, there we go. And for the rest of our audience, uh, don't sweat it. Just be happy with how your song sounds and as long as you're happy with how it sounds, you.
Benedikt: Yeah. Oh, sorry. I have to add one, one thing because I know people are gonna message us about this. It, there's still a reason for all these like standards and these measurement tools and the requirements for publishing all like, uh, or um, distribution and all of that. But it's not relevant for us in music as much because the exception, and that's where it's really where it really matters. The exception is like TV production, for example, broadcasting, there are certain standards where they just won't accept. You know the audio if it's not done to their standards. So there's TV standards, broadcast standards, but you don't have to worry about that. Even if you make music for tv, the person who has to worry about that is the final person that delivers it to the station, basically, or to that that does the final broadcast. They have to worry about it, but only they, because they are have these standards and they have to just, if you deliver a ma a master at minus five and they get it, they will turn it down by 10 DB or something, or. Or something, you know, these TV things are really
Malcom: there's. Maximum ceiling. Um, but then the, there's the loudness range, like the dynamic range is sometimes really small as well, so everything's gotta fit within this certain threshold. Um, can be, can be really tricky, but luckily as musicians you don't gotta worry about that.
Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. But I just wanna say there is because people might be like, why do we have those things? Then there is a reason because there is professional industries that where you have to worry about this and there is a standard that you just, um, have to know about. But in music, do whatever you want and make it sound
Malcom: This is to stop people from blowing up your TVs and computer speakers with their ads being cranked too loud.
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. . Exactly. . All right, very cool. Hope this was valuable. As always, if you got any value out of this, please share the podcast with your friends. Make a screenshot, post it on socials tag, Malcolm Owen, flood and Benedictine on Instagram or the self recording band or all of us. If we have any guests on the show, please tag them as well.
Uh, yeah, share it with your friends. Help us reach more people like you.
Malcom: Yeah, please do. Yeah. We love getting questions like this on Instagram too. It's uh, it's great for us to like know, okay, we should make an episode on this cause people are literally asking for it.
Benedikt: Exactly. All right, Taylor, if you got any follow up questions, hit me up. Let me know, . All right, bye-bye.
Malcom: All right, thanks. Bye.
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