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.

Playlist:

Album:

Loudness compensation – Said what?!

Many streaming services (most actually) have some kind of loudness compensation. What is that? It’s a little robot with a more or less advanced gain knob who adjust the level between songs so that they hit your ear with about the same pressure/volume. Right now different services use their own system. Spotify, iTunes, Beatport, Youtube… They all have their own little robot. In time there will emerge a standard but until then we’ll just be glad they all chip in to clean up the loudness mess out there.

We have set our own loudness standards here at Saintpid and we ain’t going to deliver anything louder than those. But, we won’t give away our limits, we don’t care much about loudness at all so we just don’t talk about it. Sorry if you think it’s not loud enough… or… Nah, we’re not that sorry, there’s plenty of services for loudness if that’s what you’re after.

Here’s a video that demo the differences between streaming services. Enjoy!

The tiny nuances in mastering

It’s always hard to go into detail about what a mastering engineer does, everyone understand that you try to enhance the audio in different ways but as soon you try to explain how it start to get complicated because every sound is different. Here’s a video that show the enhancement bit where very small changes add up to a huge difference.
What it does not show is how you also adapt the audio so that it will not only translate sound wise but also technically to different media (online, mp3, vinyl, CD, video), we do that in another post.