The mastering story…

So, you have just finished mixing and mastering your song! It is the best in the world, the next top 1 hit in the USA. You are Beethoven of the modern age, you are at the top of the world!

 

Now let’s upload that thing and wait for millions of dollars to pop into the bank account!

 

The uploading gets finished and the song starts playing…

 

Let’s enjoy the hard work now!

 

The song finishes playing and the next starts up. This artist is known to you, it is one of the top artists in your song genre. You listen carefully, and on first glance, it seems that his song sounds much better than yours. You go back and forth, and yes, it sounds a lot better!

 

Damn! (the millions of dollars have just left the chat)

 

What the hell is going on!?

 

You investigate, and it seems that your song is waaaay overcompressed, and it sounds like crap compared to the other commercial songs!

 

OK, this can be handled, it is not the end of the world, there are still chances to make it right.

 

You go online and start googling just to find out that some online streaming services like Spotify use the loudness normalization.

 

What a stupid invention! Back in the good old days, you would just compress the crap out of the song until the blood comes out from the listeners ears. Who gets louder wins, and that’s it, super simple! Now almost every streaming service has loudness requirements. What a nonsence…

 

Now, you grab a free loudness meter from the internet and start experimenting. After a couple of minutes working you figure it out, and actually, your song starts sounding much better than before! What a great coincidence, it seems that lowering compression made the dynamics a lot better, and now the transients sound much punchier!

 

You quickly upload it and start comparing it to the artists before, and yes, it sounds great compared to it!

 

Having not to worry to be the loudest as possible made the room for more dynamics and transients which made the song much punchier and pleasant to listen!

 

Let’s crank those speakers and enjoy transients kicking the chest! It seems that this wasn’t that stupid and complicated after all…

 

Millions of dollars here I come! 😎😎😎

Now seriously!

All jokes aside, mastering audio these days needs to touch the loudness standards. This can be confusing since requirements differ from service to service, so I wanted to create a simple table containing all presets that are included in the Youlean Loudness Meter so you can easily find out what you need to do.

All presets are actually based on the ITU-R BS.1770 algorithm, some with a slight variation like AGCOM 219/09/CSP where the relative gate is set at -8 dB.

Also, LUFS and LKFS is absolutely the same measurement. They are just used in different countries.

I will update this table regularly since these standards tend to change.

The table contains the official recommendations for different services. If you follow these recommendations you won’t have any trouble.

In some cases like with streaming services, you can bend the rules a bit though, but more about that in the next blog post…

Do I need to include any more presets in the Youlean Loudness Meter?

Let me know in the comments below!

Table last edited: March 20. 2020

recommendations table

Film, TV and Gaming

EBU R128

Use case: TV Broadcast – Europe

Max Integrated: –23 (±0.5) LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

EBU R128 S1

Use case: TV Broadcast – Europe

Max Short Term: -18 LUFS

Max Integrated: –23 (±0.5) LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

ATSC A/85

Use case: TV Broadcast – USA

Max Integrated: –24 LKFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link 

OP-59

Use case: TV Broadcast – Australia

Max Integrated: –24 LKFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link 

ARIB TR-B32

Use case: TV Broadcast – Japan

Max Integrated: –24 LKFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

AGCOM 219/09/CSP

Use case: TV Broadcast – Italy

Max Integrated: –24 LUFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link 

ASWG-R001 HOME

Use case: Sony Computer Entertainment Platforms

Max Integrated: –24 (±2) LKFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

ASWG-R001 PORTABLE

Use case: Sony Computer Entertainment Platforms

Max Integrated: -18 (±2) LKFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

Online Streaming

AES Streaming

Use case: Recommendation for Loudness of Audio Streaming and Network File Playback

Min Integrated: -20 LUFS

Max Integrated: –16 LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

Spotify

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –14 LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

Spotify Loud

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –11 LUFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link 

YouTube

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –14 LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Apple Music

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –16 (±1) LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

Apple Podcast

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –16 (±1) LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link 

TIDAL

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –14 LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Reference: link (non-official source)

Amazon Music

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –14 LUFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link

Amazon Alexa

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –14 LUFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link

Deezer

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated: –15 LUFS

Max True Peak: -1dB

Netflix

Use case: Online Streaming

Max Integrated Dialog: -27 LUFS

Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link

Grab the FREE version of Youlean Loudness Meter and make your master sound much better

60 Comments

  1. Would be useful to know if other sites like Soundcloud or Reverbnation or even say Bandlab, who offer an online mastering service, also have these limitations. I do not use any online mastering, just my ears and your plugin.

    Reply
    • As far as I know, these sites do not use loudness normalization. I will check again just to make sure if something hasn’t changed in the meantime…

    • Can someone explain why so big hits songs on Youtube are way louder than -14 lufs, some are have -9 lufs. And when i download the song to analyse it, the true peak exceeds 0 db. I’ve try different plugins, Daw, computers, same results. I have to upload my song to Youtube ( -12lufs)and it seems way quieter than these songs

    • Hey Marc, can you tell me the name of the song on YouTube that is louder than -14 LUFS so I can check this out?

  2. thank you Julijan….great info & wonderful app / plugin, use it every time ; )…!!!

    Reply
    • No problem Cyril! It’s awesome to hear that! 😉

  3. Are there any guidelines for peak (momentary) loudness or loudness range for any of these services?

    Reply
    • No. As you can see from the table, there are not even the requirements for short term loudness in most of the presets.

      The table provides everything you need to know (and what is recommended).

  4. Good information, but even better is that you started a a blog!

    Nevertheless, I still await eagerly your YouTube tutorial videos so I can get the most from your Pro plugin!!

    Reply
    • Thanks Federico!

      There will be videos too in the future for sure!

  5. I don’t understand why max true peak is at maximum – 1 dB. This makes no sense to me as you just lose the 1 dB of dynamic range or visually your vertical resolution. Lossy compression algorithms may overshoot while encoding/decoding audio but I never saw an overshoot on a compressed – 0.4 dB max true peak signal. – 1 dB limit seems wrong to me. Anyhow if that is the standard I guess I have to accept it.

    Reply
    • The reason why there is -1dB true peak requirement is that indeed encoding/decoding audio will overshoot a bit, and limiting to -1dB true peak ensures that you will always be safe from clipping.

      Different encoding/decoding algorithms will overshoot more, or less, also compression of the audio will have a huge role too.

      I will suggest that you don’t worry much about -1dB threshold since you will indeed lose headroom, but it won’t be that much and the benefits of not clipping are huge!

    • Just want to supplement the previous answer to the question of recommended peak level -1dB. There are Digital Peaks and True Peaks, where the former applies to your DAW and or other DAW before the file is submitted for distribution.
      As soon as the conversion process starts there is a risk of extrapolating adjacent peaks. In practice, the codec tries to redraw the peak curve and a higher True Peak is formed. Don’t know if I have used the correct terminology but that is how I perceive and describe the phenomenon.
      My practical advice is to normalize up and down April 0.5-1 dB back and forth a few times and see if the true peak stops shooting over (cheating).

  6. Thanks Julijan for a great plugin – after the free version I bought the pro – it is worth every Cent.
    Can you please explain the difference between Spotify and Spotify Loud.
    My last Master was like this:
    Momentary Max = -7.95 LUFS
    Short Term Max = -9.27 LUFS
    Integrated = -12.09 LUFS
    Not really suitable for Apple Music or Spotify and many others I guess. So I will redo it an Master an Integrated -14 LUFS….for youTube I just might get away with -12 LUFS.
    Thanks again and all the best!
    C

    Reply
    • Thanks for your support Chassy!

      Spotify Loud preset is actually a louder version of the original preset. Spotify Premium users can choose the loud preset which will play audio at -11 LUFS, so this preset will make sure that those people also have a good listening experience.
      IMO, if you are mastering for pop, house, etc. this preset should be a better match than the original one.

    • Wat was the integrated (program loudness) of the mix when normalized to -1 dB peak level?

  7. Thanks for your work and contribution

    Reply
    • No problem Pablo! 😉

  8. Excellent work Julijan.
    The extras that come with the paid version are more than worth what you charge.

    Reply
    • Thanks Roy! 😀

  9. Hey Julijan,

    Great list with valuable information. However, it would be good if you could clarify that these are targets for playback normalization. It’s easily interpreted as targets you can use for mixing/mastering. A rock track mastered at -14LUFS will most probably playback softer than for example a -9LUFS mastered track even with normalization turned on.

    I think the best advice to give if you want to be loud is to not overcompress OR under compress. Give people a span and let them use their ears to find the target that’s right for their music. For most pop, rock or EDM I wouldn’t go louder than -8LUFS integrated and no softer than -12LUFS. That said, some track sits best at -7LUFS and others at -13. You have to use your ears to win in this game.

    Reply
    • You are absolutely right Johannes! There is a lot of confusion about mastering and what LUFS target you should aim for. This will be a subject for a completely different blog post.

      I won’t change this article though since these are official recommendations, and in some industries like TV they are pretty important and required by law!

    • After thinking a bit, I decided to better clarify this, so I have updated the article. Hopefully, this will be better explained now.

      Thanks for the suggestions!

  10. great stuff, thanks Julijan.

    Reply
    • No problem! 🙂

  11. Hi Julijan. Great info and thanks for the YouLean plugin and regular updates.

    Reply
    • No problem Ian! 😉

  12. Keep up the good work, looking forward to future blog post.

    Reply
    • Thanks Mikal! 😀

  13. Hi Julijan,
    I just purchased the Pro version but can’t seem to drag N drop a wav file into the stand alone version. Is this not possible? or am I missing something?
    Thanks in advanced.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support! This might be a bug. I will check it out.

    • BTY I’m on a Windows 10 Pro computer

    • Thanks. Let’s continue the conversation over the email.

    • I uninstalled the program and redownloaded the software, installed all works great.
      Must have been operator ignorance. LOL
      Thanks for your fast response to my message here.
      I’ve been using the free version and had to purchase the Pro. Love it!
      Thanks again.

  14. What’s better than the Youlean Loudness Meter plug-in? A blog about loudness by the maker himself.
    Congratulations on this new endeavor Julijan; one from which, I know, we’re all going to learn so much!

    Lic. Ezequiel Morfi | TITANIO
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    PS.: would you care to make a proper downloadable PDF file from this whole post? I’d love to distribute it among my students. (If I just give them a link most will simply not go, as you know…).

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Morfi!
      I won’t be making the PDF since this information will probably change in the future, so it is always best to go to the website to get the most current information.

  15. Hi Julijan, could you make a preset for Netflix spec?
    “Average loudness must be -27 LKFS +/- 2 LU dialog-gated. Peaks must not exceed -2db True Peak. Audio should be measured over full program according to ITU-R BS.1770-1 guidelines.”

    Reply
    • There is a plan for Netflix preset, however, I did have some issues implementing it, but I hope it will be ready soon.

    • I asked Netflix why they chose 1770-1 (which doesn’t use gating) and not the current 1770-3 (which does), this is their reply:

      “Dialog Intelligence (Dialog Gating) can be added and used in conjunction with any of the 4 standards. It’s most commonly associated with BS.1770-1, as in the Dolby Media Meter implementation. This is why we selected BS.1770-1 when we moved to dialog based measurement.”

      As far as I know the Dolby Media Meter is proprietary and discontinued so it seems a curious decision.

    • Thanks Bill.

  16. of this algorithm referred to as LKFS or LUFS  (Loudness Units Relative to Full Scale).  Over time, the standard began to apply to pretty much all broadcasted programming, including Netflix and other online distribution platforms.  In fact, you’ll now find it on essentially every audio spec sheet out there these days, including other mediums such as broadcast radio, podcasts, and online music services.

    Reply
    • Indeed, that is true!

  17. Further to my request for a Netflix preset, I noted that Dolby’s speech gating technology (which Netflix uses along with 1770-1) is free for developers to integrate in their products.

    Reply
    • Thanks Bill.

      The Netflix preset is coming in the next update!

    • Hi! Greetings to all! I present my case!
      I am working on some videos for Instagram to promote my music! The truth is that I have been testing and the audio is distorted! I use Youlean for the medical and export like this:

      Integrated: -19

      Loudness Range: 9
      Peak Loudness Ratio: 15
      Momentary Max: -15
      Short Term Max: -17
      True Peak Max: -4

      If anyone knows how to solve these errors in the
      audio of the videos on instagram I would appreciate it, greetings !!

    • Hi Jesus,

      Can you contact me so we can investigate this case: https://youlean.co/contact/

  18. Hi Julijan, I used Loudness Penalty website to know how Spotify would reduce the volume of my song. I’ve found out that it will turn it -7.3db down (the song is -9.1LUFS YouLean and iZotope Insight), I thought it was a bit aggresive, but it became a fact when I tried the website (while playing Spotify) with a song called Let Me Love You (-8.1LUFS YouLean and Insight) and gave me the value of -5.3db for Spotify. I was kinda shocked, well, actually I was more puzzled that shocked, but as far I can’t realize why this happens. It makes no sense to me. Can you please explain why this happens and how the algorithm (Spotify’s) works?

    Reply
    • Spotify uses the replay gain algorithm for measuring the loudness currently. This algorithm is a bit different than the ITU-R BS1770 (LUFS). However, they do plan to switch to LUFS algorithm and they have stated on their website to use LUFS as a guide, so you should not worry that much about the loudness penalty since it is a bit misleading in this case.
      You can find Spotify’s exact requirements in the table above!

    • Yes Julijan, but the part of -14LUFS is not true. If I turn Let Me Love You -5.3db down I get -12LUFS(+/-0.5) and if I turn my song -7.3db down I get -16LUFS(+/-0.3), so it’s not soooo similar to the LUFS algorithm.

  19. Hi, I was just wondering if anyone knows what the recommended LUFS level is for mastering music that is going to be used directly on TV? The genre is Hip-Hop instrumental beats used as background music on TV Shows. (although it could be the same standard for any genre).

    I have heard that the TV editors often end up turning down the music they use anyways, so I wonder if it’s even worth it trying to crank and compress the masters to compete with the loudness of today’s big-budget radio artists.
    I try to get the Integrated levels on my masters to about -9 to -10LUFS, and the Short Term around -8 to -9LUFS, but sometimes it can be tough to get it sounding right, considering over-compression and dynamics.

    If the TV Broadcast levels are usually between -22 to -24 LKFS, then the music is gonna be used at a much lower level anyways. But if the music I give them sounds too quiet compared to other people’s tracks that the Music Supervisors and TV Producers are choosing from, they’re more likely to choose the significantly louder ones instead of mine, because naturally the human ear thinks that louder is better if it’s not distorted or too compressed.

    Any insight or info on the recommended TV Broadcast levels would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Joe

    Reply
    • Hi,
      Do I need to sign up or log in to have my post read and able to be seen? I wrote a post 3-4 days ago, and it still says that my comment is awaiting moderation.

      Thank you.

    • Sorry about that Joe. It seems that I missed your comment. I need to manually approve all comments because of the SPAM.
      I will answer you right away!

    • In your case, you should master that Hip-Hop song like any other Hip-Hop song with a similar style. Since this will be used for TV, you can have a bit more dynamics, however, I don’t recommend to add too much dynamics unless your song is a show major theme since it could collide with the dialog. You should check how to deliver the audio for your TV station. In most cases, your country regulations apply so you will need to normalize audio to -23LUFS for Europe or -24LUFS for the USA for example. If that is the case, there is no need to worry about sounding quieter than the competition since everybody will be around -23LUFS. In that case, more dynamics can actually be a benefit!

  20. Hi Julijan,

    No problem. Thank you for your reply. Ok, sounds good. I will keep that in mind.
    Yes, there is certainly quite a bit of difference between -9 to -10 LUFS, and -24 Broadcast.
    If anyone else has any input or experience with mastering levels for TV, I would love to hear about it. And if not, best of luck!

    Thank you,
    Joe

    Reply
    • No problem Joe. If I can help you more, let me know!

  21. Do you have a recommendation for Instagram?

    Reply
    • Hey Dan,

      Instagram does not normalize the audio content, but you should always be at least -1 dB true peak or less to avoid the codec distortions. (I would go -2 dB true peak max)

  22. Thank you very much for this info. Ive been looking all over the place for Spotify specs and there is a lot of misinformation out there. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for uploading in VIMEO, I believe they offer better Quality of sound but they don’t have any info on that. Thank you very much!!

    Greetings

    Reply

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