If you mastered a song before or at least planned to do it, you might have heard about LUFS.
Today, I want to make clear what it is, how it works, and most importantly how to use it properly.
This topic also includes the industry's "loudness wars". This is not just a topic in the music industry where everyone wants to stand out by a louder master. It's also a topic in the TV industry where TV spots sometimes are crazy loud in comparison to the show before.
Table of Contents:
LUFS can help to solve these problems!
What is LUFS?
LUFS stands for Loudness Unit Full Scale.
Why is this important for us?
Most streaming services normalize your music. Spotify does that around -14LUFS. The loudness war made mastering engineers process tracks louder and louder until some tracks nowadays are mastered around -5LUFS.
All in all, it doesn't matter too much how loud a track is as long it's not clipping or overprocessed.
Another thing to mention is that Spotify recommends at least 1dB of headroom and if you go loud, you should master at a -2dB true peak.
Most pop music nowadays is mastered around -9LUFS.
It doesn't matter which streaming service you prefer but nearly all of them have a LUFS that they are normalizing your track to before it gets released. That's important. Imagine you're listening to music and you need to change the volume after every track because the loudness is different. LUFS normalization solves that problem.
Here is a LUFS list of different streaming services:
What does that mean for you?
Overall, you can't change this and you don't have to think about it too much. You don't have to export a new master for each platform.
You should aim between -14LUFS and -9LUFS and then you're good to go. In EDM, most tracks are mastered at around -7LUFS.
How does LUFS normalization affect your music?
Here is what spotify says about it:
Positive or negative gain compensation gets applied to a track while it’s playing.
Negative gain is applied to louder masters so the loudness level is -14 dB LUFS. This lowers the volume in comparison to the master - no additional distortion occurs.
Positive gain is applied to softer masters so the loudness level is -14 dB LUFS. We consider the headroom of the track, and leave 1 dB headroom for lossy encodings to preserve audio quality.
Example: If a track loudness level is -20 dB LUFS, and its True Peak maximum is -5 dB FS, we only lift the track up to -16 dB LUFS.
As I said before, it doesn't matter too much how loud you master.
As always, make sure you do what sounds the best to you.
Three rules I can give:
Make your music sound as great as possible!
Don't overprocess things!
Don't make it too quiet!
How to detect LUFS?
There are a lot of different VSTs to detect LUFS.
I can personally recommend the free VST called Youlean Loudness Meter. There is a pro mode but for just measuring LUFS the free version is absolutely enough.
As you can see in the screenshot there are different "types" of LUFS.
Short Term LUFS
If you want to learn more about a specific section, we use Short Term LUFS. Short-term LUFS give you the loudness over the last three seconds.
Integrated LUFS brings an overview of the loudness from the whole audio.
LU dynamic Range
LU Dynamic Range will tell you the difference between the quietest and loudest peaks over the whole audio.
The true peak will give you the absolute peak from the audio.
Now you know everything about LUFS!
All in all, make sure your music sounds great independent of the volume level or audio system, and don't worry too much about LUFS!
I personally aim between -14LUFS and -9LUFS.
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