Stop Compressing For Loudness


#1

I’ve talked about this a bit over the years, but here you go.

Ignore the guy introducing.

What’s funny is I started out without compressing and limiting, and then got talked into it over time only to basically return to what I was doing before.

If you are going to stream, don’t worry about loudness.
Turn it down.
Focus instead on transients, dynamics, and giving a bigger frequency range in the extra space you get out of turning it down and opening up that head room.

If you’re not going for streaming and mixing/mastering for parties, do whatever you want because it never mattered anyway.

Cheers,
Jayson


#2

Only thing I use compression on is vocals if needed, which is most the time for mine to keep them somewhat level.


#3

He’s not releasing DNB on Hospital Records though, he’s worked for artists like Chaka Khan, Grammy-nominated folk music and so on… If you want your track to sound consistent with other tracks in genre-specific playlists, popular artists within the genres and so on when people download your tracks, it’s not a bad idea to compare to current top artists in the respective genres. I don’t think I have any released commercial DNB track on my PC that has been mastered according to the Spotify recommendations or similar LUFS levels, some are a bit higher, some are lower, but all I tested were far away from the recommended dynamic range and loudness. Have to check osme more current releases soon though and will report back…


#4

My loudness between 7-8-10 LUFS


#5

That is the point.
He’s not saying it’s what is happening. He’s saying you should stop.

Because people aren’t going to play just DNB when they hear your music. They’ll hear your song and for all you know, the next thing will be Mozart, Kenny Rogers, or NIN.

Further, if you aren’t compressing down and everyone else is, then you will sound bigger, more full, and better than the tracks before and after you that do.

There’s no reason to keep doing it (other than artistic choice).

I would definitely get that down more.
-14 is a decent guide to go with (since non agree, -14 is sort of middle ground).

Though to be honest, since they’ll turn your central LUFS up, I’m going more towards the direction of -20 possibly and just blasting the entire range as much as possible with peaks.

When I very first started, I made the mistake of applying TV regulations to music and aimed down at -24. Now I’m seriously considering that ballpark once again.

I do wish there was offline playback software that worked like these services so I could listen to my own playlists of music I have and see how it would be processed by such streams.
It kind of sucks to master for a stream, shove it into an offline playback app that doesn’t augment like streams and it’s way quieter.

Meh. Oh well.

Cheers,
Jayson


#6

Yeah, that’s not his meaning.
He’s specifically talking about the master channel (or the equal of compressing heavily on every track).

Cheers,
Jayson


#7

You should stop compressing for loudness,because compression does not guarantee loudness.actually,compression being some kind of auto-loudener is one of the most bizarre things that people just seem to accept as truth,but loudness is not quite as simple as decrease dynamic range and you automagically have something that sounds loud.not in the slightest.if you overcompress stuff it might just sound exactly like that.overcompressed.overcompressed does not necessarily=loud though

There’s lots of reasons as to why you maybe don’t want to or even shouldn’t overcompress stuff and loudness is not default one of them


#8

I would be hesitant to master so low and let the services turn it up only because when they turn your track up (from say -20 lufs to -14), you’re even more at the mercy of how the service sounds and what they do you your track than you would otherwise be. Best case you won’t notice a difference, but worst case they throw it through a very obvious brickwall limiter and it sounds very different from what you intended.


#9

Yeah, it’s possible.
I’ll be experimenting with a couple singles. See how it goes.

Mostly, however, I’ll stick to about -14 most likely.

Cheers,
Jayson


#10

With dance music like DnB people will absolutely hear your music only in the context of other DnB. Most DJs play music that is pretty similar.

I know what you are saying, like on Spotify or whatever. People might consider multiple mixes. A DJ mix and a radio mix. A lot of dance songs are too long too long for regular radio play as well so a shorter arrangement is in order too


#11

Yes. DJ cuts should be separate from what you cut for streaming.

The trend among industry mastering engineers to do separate cuts for streaming now is growing. Some are even doing separate cuts for different services so they can do the encoder for themselves.

That’s not realistic for most of us, I don’t think (I could be wrong here), because most services like Distrokid et. al. don’t allow you that option. You supply a wav, and they send it out. That’s it.

If there’s an option to select a cut, then I’ll be doing that in the future. I used to do that for SC, back when I used SC, because their wav to mp3 conversion is worse than if I just make it myself.

Cheers,
Jayson


#12

Loudness wars. We all better fight together it or nobody wins. People complain why it is like that, surely it makes no sense to crank it all up. But here’s my issue - I’ve heard amazing stuff that was loud as hell and that’s a peak engineering to me. If someone can pull that and still make it sound amazing, what is the problem we’re looking at? Dynamics sometimes really don’t matter in music. If ears request some brutal audio assault, why not go for extremes rather than following traditional mixing and mastering etiquette. They all can exist independently but intentional digital clipping with compression artifacts actually might sound cool within album concept. Everything is a creative process. Think of genres that emphasize fully digital realms: PC music, post-digital, glitch… Where audible clipping becomes a part of sound design.

Also, people here mentioned some valid points. If you follow these “let’s turn it down” procedures in a genres like D&B your dynamics won’t impress anyone. Normalization in streaming services tries to equalize audio and that’s a fair game. But if someone is making a mix your lower LUFS tactic will stick like a sore thumb from the rest of their track list. Love it or hate it but that’s just how it is. Again, all of us decide to fight it or nothing happens.

Trying to get tracks as loud as possible is also a great exercise in music production. It’s way more than just grabbing a limiter and cranking it up. There are multiple steps that you might want to consider. If you can make it loud surely you can do the opposite just fine, maybe even better because this makes you think more in-front. For example, loudness might highlight issues in a mix like it having too much of low end. “Why can’t I get it at that loudness level without hard audible clipping and this other artist can?” Get back to your original mix and re-balance some layers. Lots of trial and error but it’s worth messing with hard limiting, trying to industry-standardize your music to see how it all might sound if it was on some label or something like that.

Finally, bad production is a bad production. Mastering engineer can’t save a trainwreck of a track. And bad music is forever a bad music. Everything can be technically correct and precise but over-engineering and super surgical processing isn’t a greatest idea either. Tastes matter too. In general, supreme clarity and loudness can coexist together.


#13

Personally, I’m not fighting it.
It’s silly to fight it.

Streaming has to try to regulate normalization otherwise levels will be all over the place.

Compress for artistic style, sure. But if you compress to get it loud and toss it on a stream, you won’t achieve that loudness you aimed for by doing that.

Cheers,
Jayson


#14

You could try Loudness Penalty from meterplugs…it costs $49. I don’t have it myself, but I’ve heard a lot of good things from others who’ve tried it. That said, I do own their K-Meter, which is a simple, but highly useful plug. It’s not going to actually change your music and let you play it back to hear what it’s going to sound like, but it will show you how much your track is going to be adjusted by the sites in question, which basically lets you take action when mixing to allow for such changes.

Loudness Penalty was developed by Meterplugs and Ian Shepherd, the UK-based production and mastering engineer who runs the Production Advice site.


#15

Artistic choice is def an important aspect, too, since sound and transients ar affected and if done well an extremely pushed sound can be nice and driving. But imho, even apart from clubs and parties, if you expect people to listen to your genre-specific tracks in genre-specific playlists in their media players, it still makes sense to look at what established artists are releasing in terms of LUFS.

If I listen to my own DNB tracks or really any DNB tracks apart from new releases and mixes that I check out, it’s mostly in DNB playlists in a simple media player, so I don’t want to stick out in any way in my own playlists that I throw into my media player.

I just checked some tracks of my fav artists in DNB but also in Hip Hop and even some OST stuff:

With regard to DNB, here are measurements for some good DNB releases, mostly Hospital Records I think, and including two releases from this year:

Hospital House Party (2020)
around -8.5 to -6 LUFS integrated
around -5.5 to -4 LUFS short term
Record among the tracks I measures on this release: -5.8 integrated & -3.9 short term - I think this is one of the most extreme measurements I made so far, and it’s for the most current release I have here.

Camo & Crooked et al. - Red Bull Symphonic (2020)
around -9 to -7 LUFS integrated
around -4.5 to -6.5 LUFS short term

Inja & Whiney - She Just Wanna Dance (Kyrist Remix) (2019)
-7.1 LUFS integrated
-4.3 LUFS short term

Shy FX feat. Stamina MC and Lily Allen - Roll The Dice (2018)
-6.0 LUFS integrated
-4.7 LUFS short term

A bit lower but still far from recommended levels:
UK Apache & Shy FX - Original Nuttah 25 (Chase & Status Remix) (2019)
-8.8 LUFS integrated
-6.4 LUFS short term

Hip Hop:
Lupe Fiasco (2020/2019):
around -9 to -8 LUFS integrated
around -7 to -5 LUFS short term

As a comparison: Lupe Fiasco (2006/2007):
around -9 to -6 LUFS integrated
around -7 to -5 LUFS short term

OSTs:
Final Fantasy VII Remake OST (2020)
around -13 (extremely chilled stuff) to -7 LUFS (the faster party-type tracks) integrated; all mixed, the party-type tracks are mostly between -7 and -9 LUFS integrated
around -11 to -6 LUFS short term
Funny thing, one of the re-edits of my fav track from the old OST has the lowest LUFS level I ever measured in anything with around -13.8 LUFS integrated lol, but it’s an extremely chilled song even featuring a lullaby part.

I had an amateurish track once that I liked enough to put in genre-specific playlists (not DNB, it was some dancehall-type stuff IIRC), but it was mastered extremely low and I had to turn up the volume, since it was in a ususally loud genre, and I had to remember to turn it down again after the track. So what I did naturally was to disinfect it with 10 of my fav limitersand delete the original abomination so I could play it without having to think about volume levels… ^^ It only happened once so far. Similarly for mixes - I had to extremly limit non-pro stuff in some mixes I did, since it could not be traditionally mixed with pro releases without the treatment. Many DJs do not go that extra mile for a track even if they like it. I also know that from experience since that’s what I heard from other DJs before I was trying to include my own tracks in my own mixes and noticed that it was really hard to do…

TL;DR: my music collection is still loud as ever and I don’t want to stick out :wink:


#16

Yeah, I use them. I wouldn’t suggest anyone else because they have ins with the services to accurately reflect the methods used in those services.

But what I meant was a playback media player.
There’s still a huge gap between offline and online playback - as @metaside is basically at length pointing out.

You go to Pandora or Spotify and you’re in a normalized environment, but if you want that kind of experience with any music you own or make, too bad. It just hasn’t really made it yet.
Maybe it has and I’ve missed it, but I’m not seeing an app out anywhere that does offline play of your own personal library with normalization.

Yeah. That’s all offline stuff.

Now grab a real time lufs meter like Orban, calibrate it with a known pure sine lufs frequency, turn it on and play those through pandora or spotify and see what you get. It won’t be -8.

The topic isn’t offline albums.
If you want to make offline albums at -2, knock youself out.

But if you upload that to a stream instead of cutting a proper value fit for streaming, you’re going to get turned down.
Sure, it’s not a problem perhaps if the listener only listens to the same narrow genre on their stream, but most folks do more than just narrow genre play lists. Pseudo randomized radio style selection is also really common. Heck, Pandora has a “thumbprint radio” which will cycle through all content you have liked, regardless of genre.

Now, you can choose to not care (like a ton of EDM which mostly focuses on DJs over streaming). Cool. Do you.
If you push it onto streaming and have hopes of sounding loud, however, it won’t.

Cheers,
Jayson


#17

That makes sense - “Stop compressing for loudness” just sounded like general advice.

Well, it’s nearly ALL the releases I tested, apart from one lullaby-type track in an OSTs that came close…

Do you have some examples of current releases that are mastered according to the recommendations?

Also, which distribution services allow for different masters for streaming versus download? Those that i used so far do not do this.


#18

Yeah, that’s what the video and OP discusses. :wink:

No, but yes, but also no.
No, I don’t because it’s a massive list of data (see million song database), but the short answer is that we’re not there yet.

That’s the whole point of the Alan Silverman’s presentation. The man’s been around for a while. He’s not just some random youtuber.

And this wasn’t just anywhere. This was the industry MixCon 2019.
He’s speaking to industry engineers in that audience.

Now, those engineers don’t have the final word. The studio reps and/or the artist can still step in and force mashing regardless of what the engineer wants to do, but that’s aside from the point.

The point is you’re wondering if there’s a trend to the -14 range.
Not exactly, but there is a trend of pulling back from going up further.

Now, this only highlights #1’s on Spotify, so admittedly we’re not looking at the whole dataset (because that would be massive), but it’s not a bad way to sample data.

As you can see, by the end of the 2000’s, we were well on our way to pretty much a mean of -5 in the #1’s, but at this point we’re pulling back from that and starting to head the other direction…finally.

We’re nowhere close to what Alan Silverman, or Ian Shepherd are calling for, but the impact of the streaming limitations is not without influence.

No. That was my complaint earlier.
Mastering engineers that I’ve seen interviewed have spoken of doing this, but those are for major studios who can do that.

So far as I’ve seen, no personal distribution service allows this option per service.

Well, actually, I take that back.
You actually can, now that I think about it.
In DistroKid it has checkboxes for which services you’re distributing to.
So, really, what you would need to do is make a separate cut and upload it and select only the service that you intend it to go to.

The downside is that you’ll have multiple copies of this in your pile instead of one copy.
The upshot is that you’ll have a tailored copy for each (provided you did a good job).
I haven’t heard a good reason to do it for Spotify, but I have heard at least one Mastering Engineer say they weren’t impressed with iTune’s encoder and that if they can, they prefer to do that themselves. They didn’t go into details, and I haven’t done research, so I’m not really sure what the issue there is.

Personally, at this moment, it’s too much work to do it this way for me - making separate whole album distribution packages for each service, but if I was doing this for business and not as a hobby, I would absolutely be doing that.

Cheers,
Jayson


#19

Hey!

I did some more digging since I couldn’t sleep last night and I finally found an app for playing offline music normalized.

I’ve downloaded it and giving it a shot. I’m not saying this is a better way to listen to music, but since ReplayGain targets at the same LUFS as Spotify, it’s not a shabby way to see what you’re tunes would sound like in impression butt up against other music.

Cheers,
Jayson


#20

Thanks for all the info @Jayson! Gonna have to dive deeper into some aspects of this when I find some more time.

But WTF is that one track nearly hitting 0 in the 90ies? :open_mouth: