Loudness Penalty - Well, I would get the red card...
Thanx to Ian Shepherd from Production Advice I have discovered the Loudness Penalty web app. It´s a super-handy tool for all mastering engineers as well as recording musicians.
Check it out here and save it into your no.1 bookmarks.
Well, I master the songs quite loud, so when I run my latest mixes/masters through the Loudness Penalty, I get something like this:
I usually master the songs so they are at least as loud as the client´s reference music.
But sometimes I´m asked to prepare a vinyl master as well. The vinyl master of When Nothing´s Real I have done for the band Magic Dance (NYC / USA) would go through the Loudness Penalty like this:
Which is quite cool. The song´s volume wouldn´t be turned down at all which can be a good thing. Of course, for the vinyl master I have also done some more improvements on the lowEnd etc. But just for the loudness, it sits quite well.
So I have decided.
Until now I was delivering the final master files of an album like this:
wav 16 bit
But since now I will always deliver the package with even higher value for the money:
wav 24bit online (tailored for online streaming services)
wav 16 bit
The online version has optimised loudness for online streaming services such like YouTube, Spotify, iTunes etc.
Iif you would upload the "CD" mix, the streaming service will use its audio quality degradation algorithm and also will turn the overal volume of the song down.
You can do this with no problem.
But there is now another option. You can use the online version which is quite similar to the vinyl master - less limited/squashed dynamics, more natural dynamics which means that online version has lower RMS/LUFS volume. Streaming service algorithm will recognize it "optimal" and will not adjust the overall volume of the online version.
The benefit of using online version is that it CAN sound better than the "CD" version with the volume turned down.
Always, try to upload both versions (for example do it as 2 private YouTube videos), let the streaming service process both versions and then decide which one you like better. This means you do a "split-test" of your song uploaded on the streaming service to get the idea how you music will be heard via the streaming service. Because, it matters! :)
Thanx to this extra value my clients will have the opportunity to use the highest audio quality format with optimised loudness before the music get´s processed by the online streaming service.
The result should be extended dynamics and no loudness changes after the conversion by online streaming services.
Because what sounds better?
The squashed music turned down
music with extended dynamics?
You can choose, I´m ready :)