More Spotify and loudness

Have you looked at Spotify’s settings recently? Volume Normalization (Set the same level for all track) has moved from “Advanced Settings” to the first settings page, and you can choose Loud, Normal, or Quiet. With Loud, they restore their previous settings and land at about -11LUFS, with normal -14LUFS and Quiet runs as low as -22LUFS! If you let me decide, put it on quiet and adjust your playback gain with your amplifier to a level you’re comfortable with, this way all music from Metallica to Mozart will work together without any problems with limited peaks or volume.

My colleague Sigurdor Gudmundsson’s have more details in this blog post:

Penalty check!

During Dynamic Range Day 2018, Ian Kerr from Meter Plugs and mastering engineer Ian Shepherd released the Loudness Penalty tool, where you get to know how the various music platforms will turn your music up or down (mostly down). For example, if you get -6dB as a result with Spotify, it means that you could maintain 6dB of dynamics by relieving compression and limitation and still have the same sound but with more pressure and a sense of more air in the mix. Material turned down by -2, -3 maybe -4dB on Spotify can be considered normal but when these numbers start to be -8, -10 or maybe -12dB, you’re doing something wrong and your material will probably be perceived as quieter and far less punchy than tracks well mixed and mastered.


Dynamic Range Day 2018

Today is D day, today is Dynamic Range Day!

My mastering colleague and mentor Ian Shepherd set up Dynamic Range Day 2010 in an attempt to get the right side to win the loudness war, that’s us who prefer not to squash audio into horrific turds. The situation was pretty bad back in 2010, it has gotten way better as most popular streaming platforms normalize the perceived loudness of all music so it playback at about the same volume no matter how squshed or dynamic it is, there’s no longer any point in squashing audio to win a few decibels since it will just be turned back down again. The world slowly starts to wake but the fight is not over, Ian continues with Dynamic Range Day until the war is won!

Visit the page, listen to the live webcast and join the Facebook page!

Dynamic Range Day 2018 is on April 27th

Cajsa Zerhouni

Saintpid had the honor of mastering Cajsa Zerhouni’s debut album “My Billie”. Listen to it on Spotify or your preferred online streaming service!

This is what we do…

The magic behind mastering isn’t really magic, it is knowledge and experience (and a great sounding room and, most of the times, seriously expensive gear and speakers ). This video from Sonic Scoop with mastering engineer Joe Lambert ( show you how small changes add up to something that sounds so much more than some EQ and a couple dB of gain. This is what we do, it’s both easy and the hardest thing in audio you can do at the same time.


Spotify lower their loudness target by -3dB

Spotify uses Replay Gain which is one of the earlier (if not the first) technique to even out the volume between both individual tracks and whole albums so that the listener perceives every track equally loud no matter how hot the original master is.
After some user complaints about their playback level, Spotify added a 3dB boost to the Replay Gain specification and it’s those 3dB’s that’s now been removed!

So what’s the big deal?
Here’s the thing with Replay Gain, for most popular music it’s great… Even with a 3dB boost. In 99% of the top 50 hits, the only thing that will happen is that Spotify will turn down the volume with anything between 1-3dB. It won’t change the audio other than turn it down, pretty much as if you lower the volume yourself. But if you play a really dynamic and mostly quiet piece of say classical music or jazz, Replay Gain will add loads of gain to accomplish the same perceived loudness as in the top 50 tracks. By doing so, the very dynamic and mostly quiet recording will clip at it’s loudest section, sometimes by several dB’s and thereby cause distortion.
Spotify has dealt with that problem by adding a limiter post Replay Gain, however, it doesn’t sound that good and would need to be more transparent to be considered a good solution. all that said; With the 3dB boost removed that scenario are less likely to happen and the Spotify listening experience will be much more enjoyable. So, overall, well done Spotify!

What’s next!
Here’s my wish-list to Spotify:

  • Improve your Limiter and make it ISP Aware or…
  • [better] – Scan every file for their highest peaks and only increase the playback level if the peaks remain below 0dB or…
  • [best] – Skip Replay Gain and implement the AES recommendations for streaming music (-16LUFS, -1dBTP… Quiet masters are only pushed up to -1dBTP).
  • Add uncompressed playback if the client’s internet speed allows it (I know they’re experimenting with switching codecs to increase quality at low speeds, this would be the next step)
  • Spotify actively tries to trash the EU volume regulation of PMP’s which is just stupid and played a big part in the initial 3dB gain to the Replay Gain standard (I don’t know the status of the issue, a quick google says it’s a status quo).

– You can read more about Replay Gain here:




Automated Mastering Services

About once a week I get the question -“What do you think about automated mastering services such as Landr?”. There’s a very short and a profoundly more detailed answer. I tend to go for the short answer since the real answer is a lecture and I’ll probably lose you half way through. The short answer is: Remove mastering from that sentence and I’ll tell you it can be a useful tool to test your mix. Keep mastering in the sentence and I’ll tell you that it sucks monkey balls.
Luckily I stumbled across an article written by Mastering Engineer Justin Perkins (Mystery Room Mastering) that pretty much cover everything there is to be said about Landr and similar services, so from now on I won’t answer, I’ll just give people this link:

What Automated Mastering Services Can’t Do For You



Spotify Album mode?

It seems like if Spotify silently implemented an album mode to their loudness compensation algorithm!

I was doing some online loudness experiments when I happened to notice that the volume varied on a track in Spotify depending on how I listened to the track. If I browsed my way to the album it was quieter than if I were listening to the same track from a playlist.
Spotify has been criticized for not taking the inherent dynamics within an album into account when compensating for loudness so I was quite happy with my findings. Especially since I just finished master an album for a movie that had huge dynamic differences and I had done some crazy edits to trick Spotify to interpret the loudness in a way so it wouldn’t totally ruin the dynamics of the album and even if it worked it may have sounded better without those edits.

Test it yourself
I made an album with three versions of the same song. The masters are pretty much the same except that they have different loudness targets. The tracks are named with the original files LUFS value, the True Peak value (dBTP) and the Sample Peak value (dBFS). After uploading it to Spotify I created a playlist with just the quietest and the loudest version (if I included all three Spotify handled it as an album play). I played the same part of the track from the Playlist followed by the Album version and measured it all with IzotopeRX and here’s the result.
Note that the original LUFS value is the whole track while the Spotify measurement is made from just the loudest part of the track. I choose to save me some time since what’s matter is that it measures differently and not the values themselves. If I would’ve measured the whole track from the Spotify stream it probably ended up at about -11* (the Spotify target) and not -9LUFS.

*Spotify has since this test was performed lowered their loudness target by -3dB. You can read more about that here:



10 (or 11) tips before sending your files of for mastering

We have a list of things to consider before you hand them over to your mastering engineer but my friend and colleague, Sigurdór Guðmundsson, did an extended list with some great additional points. Head over to his site and get inspired!

Skonrokk Studios

Skonrokk Studios

New price list

We’ve adjusted our prices to make it more profitable to master several songs e.g albums or EP’s while a single song cost slightly more. Instead of our packages we created a calculator where you easily can get an estimate of your project.

Calculate your price here!

You can always contact us for special quotes/delas if you feel your project doesn’t fit the per track pricing.