Det är rörigt hos musikverket och det rör till det i en av Sveriges mest framgångsrika kulturinvesteringar. EMS studion har odlat både framgångsrika kompositörer och Sveriges avtryck på den musikaliska världskartan och jag kan inte tänkta mig en värld utan denna fantastiska instutition. Hjälp till att behålla EMS som den stöttepelare för nytänkande musik den är och har varit sedan 1962.
Saintpid is in full swing after a well-deserved vacation!
Recently I’ve discussed True Peak limiting in some different contexts, with an interested client, a friend and an upset discussion on Facebook with mastering people who defend their right to have +3dBTP peaks on material “because it sounds better “… Well … I’ll let them continue to commit misconduct, just leave me out of it so that I can do my job.
As more and more streaming services shift to measuring with True Peak, it will become obvious why handling ISP is important. Today, for example, if Spotify gets a file at say -10LUFS, limited to 0dBFS (dB Full Scale) but with +2.5dBTP (dB True Peak), they’ll reduce the gain about -3 to -4dB (with the loudness setting set at normal). When Spotify eventually switches to True Peak, the same master suddenly will drop -5 to -6dB, so instead of being as loud (or louder) than the average track, it will be quieter. Guess whos phone will start to ring when artists and record companies realize that this is the case.
Back in the days, you created a master for a final media, it could be cassette, CD or vinyl. After a CD was pressed, the mastering engineers responsibility pretty much ended. That’s no longer the case, nowadays you have to make sure it’s up for all kind of post mastering processing. A good master should hold up for both fixed media such as CD or vinyl, but also distribution over the internet, where the audio will both go through loudness normalization and conversion to a new format as well as traditional broadcast. Your master ain’t sacred no more and staying under the True Peak zero is one of many things required by a good master today. When I choose myself, I deliver my masters with -1dBTP. It happens quite often that my clients want a louder master, then they get more compression as well as a file with -0.3dBTP. No matter what they prefer, they will sound just as loud online but the -1dBTP file may sound a bit better. However, the -0dBFS master with True Peaks at +2dB, no matter if it sounds good or not, will be quieter and you don’t want that, do you?!
Hello lovely customers,
Since you’re so kind to trust me with mastering all this music I actually earned enough to take some time off this summer. Saintpid will be closed between the July 7 – August 8th. If you want to book a mastering session in August or later in the fall you can do so by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form here on the site!
See you in August!
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: http://siggidori.wixsite.com/skonrokk-studios/single-post/2018/06/04/Spotify-is-now-more-dynamic-than-ever
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.
Saintpid had the honor of mastering Cajsa Zerhouni’s debut album “My Billie”. Listen to it on Spotify or your preferred online streaming service!
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 (http://joelambertmastering.com) 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 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!
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: http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=ReplayGain
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:
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: https://www.saintpid.se/spotify-lower-their-loudness-target-by-3db/