Penalty check!

Under Dynamic Range Day 2018 släppte Ian Kerr från Meter Plugs och masteringsteknikern Ian Shepherd verktyget Loudness Penalty där du får svart på vitt hur de olika musikplattformarna kommer hantera dina masters volymmässigt. Får du t ex -6dB som resultat på Spotify så innebär det att du hade kunnat behålla 6dB av dynamik genom att lätta på kompression och limitering och haft samma ljudbild fast med mer tryck och samtidigt lufitgare. Att ditt material sänks -2,-3 kanske -4dB på Sppotify är helt normalt men när dessa siffror börjar bli -8, -10 eller kanske -12dB så gör du något fel och ditt material kommer förmodligen upplevas som tystare och lite klenare än sådant som är väl mixat och mastrat.

, Penalty check!, Saintpid Mastering

Cajsa Zerhouni

Saintpid fick äran att göra de sista justeringarna av Cajsa Zehrounis hyllning till Billie Holiday, “My Billie”. Skivan kom för ett tag sedan men nu finns den även att avnjutas på Spotify!

Det här är vad vi gör…

Magin bakom mastering är inte någon magi alls, det är kunskap, erfarenhet, fantastisk akustisk och högtalare som kan återge allt korrekt in i minsta detalj. Den här videon från Sonic Scoop med Joe Lambert ( visar hur man med små välavvägda förändringar kan åstadkomma något som låter väldigt mycket mer än lite EQ och några dB volym. Det här är vad vi gör, det är både det enklaste och det svåraste inom ljudteknik på en gång.

Music Mastering Masterclass with Joe Lambert |

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:



, Spotify Album mode?, Saintpid Mastering

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!

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

Skonrokk Studios

Ändrade priser

Vi har justerat våra priser för att göra det mer fördelaktigt att skicka fler spår för mastring, t ex album men även EP’s är nu billigare än tidigare medans enskilda spår kostar marginellt mer. Istället för de olika paketpriserna har vi nu en kalkylator där du enkelt kan få en fingervisning om vad mastring av ditt projekt kommer att kosta.

Beräkna ditt pris här!

Vi har fortfarande timdebitering vid större projekt, kontakta oss för offert!

Tidal start to use ITU-R BS.1770-4

Great news, Tidal joins the club and start to normalize loudness according to the ITU-R BS.1770-4 standard.

I’m not sure what to think about that every streaming service use different standards, it’s not all bad (I know what I think about Spotify’s approach though; Hey Spotify, skip the extra 3dB that you added to the Replay Gain standard). The different standards keep us mastering engineers awake and maybe we do a better job trying to make it sound as it should on every single media plattform out there. Maybe… Just maybe…!!PDF-E.pdf

SSES vs. Spotify

To be loud ain’t a competitive advantage, it is and has always been a misconception based on ignorance.

Last week got a little bit crazy, a full mastering slot schedule plus the annual audio fair in Sweden (LLB) where I wanted to attend several seminars plus that I was invited by SSES (Swedish Sound Engineers Society) to be part of a panel debate with Spotify about their loudness practice and  target.

, SSES vs. Spotify, Saintpid Mastering

SSES: Uffe Börjesson, Thomas “Plec” Johansson, Johan Eckerblad & Johannes Ahlberg – Spotify: Pär Bohrarper, Jyrki Pulliainen & Simon Hofverberg

The thing with Spotify is that they use ReplayGain, a bit of a DIY loudness normalization… Maybe call it DIY is a bit harsh, it is a proposed standard put together back in 2002 by David Robinson. If you translate ReplayGain to LUFS you end up at about -14LUFS, which isn’t too far away from the AES recommended -16LUFS. So what’s the thing, why stand on a stage and yell at each other?

Let’s make a list:

  • ReplayGain does not take True Peak into account when measure loudness so you could argue that the measures are wrong from begin with.
  • A former employee decided to add about 3dB’s since he felt that iTunes played some tracks at a higher volume, so the current target level is about -11LUFS.
  • To handle the peaks above 0dBFS Spotify added a limiter, but it’s not ISP aware which means that it still might cause distortion in your D/A.
  • AES recommend a True Peak of -1dB, this means that Spotify’s loudness target end up 6dB higher than the AES recommendations and even more if you take ISP/TP into account.
  • ReplayGain doesn’t change the gain in the same way as EBU R128, it’s basically does more conservative changes to loud tracks, i.e. there’s a risk that their practice fuel the loudness war even further.
  • With the current practice; more dynamic mixes such as Jazz and classic recordnings will be boosted and limited by Spotify while loud masters will still be louder. So the practice punish music that are mastered to sound good while music mastered for loudness will be left alone (maybe turned down a dB or two but they will still sound the same).

My conclusion.
Spotify are able, without too much of a hassle, to skip the extra 3dB and reach a target of -14LUFS. That’s the middle way and much will be won If they do just that.
To implement a new loudness measurement practice would cost a fortune and they’re not willing to do that at this point.
I personally would appreciate if the AES recommendations would become law and force all streaming services to change their current practice and adapt an uniform standard that would benefit audio quality both now and in the future, all would benefit from this.

To be loud ain’t a competitive advantage, it is and has always been a misconception based on ignorance.