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: http://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=ReplayGain

 

 

 

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