LUFS… WTF ?!?
(And why aiming for -14 isn’t the right answer for online loudness)
We talk about loudness all the time on this show, but how do you actually measure it ? How big is a “loudness unit”, and why are there three different kinds ? What does LUFS stand for, anyway ? How do you loudness match two files using LUFS measurements, and what free software can you use to get started ?
In this show we answer all these questions and more – plus Ian explains the simple technique he uses to optimise loudness for all the online streaming platforms, and why it isn’t about aiming for -14 LUFS.
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The modern remaster of Stairway to Heaven starts @ -24 LUFS (short-term) and reaches as high as -8 LUFS by the end. The integrated loudness is -14 LUFS
Whereas Back In Black starts @ -12 LUFS (short-term) and reaches -6 LUFS within the first chorus. The integrated loudness is -9 LUFS
These measurements both apply to recent re-mastered versions – the original releases will have been at lower levels. But even so, when I set the playback level of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by ear, ‘Back In Black’ needs to be turned down by 2dB to sound right. Whereas if we were setting loudness by integrated LUFS value, we’d have to turn ‘Back in Black’ down by 5 dB to get it to -14 LUFS ! This would sound much too quiet in comparison to “Stairway to Heaven”, in musical terms.
Matching the short-term loudness at the loudest point however, suggests… 2 dB.
Measure integrated loudness for free on Mac: r128x-gui (Scroll down to the “Binaries” section to download)
iZotope RX (Use Window > Waveform Statistics)
Klanghelm VUMT VU Meter plugin