LOUDNESS & ANALYSIS
What is the industry standard for loudness, and how does this effect my tracks, does having a loud track make it better?, these are the main problems I have come accross whilst producing music.
Only recently I have discovered or been bothered to proceed in analysing other tracks and I wish NOW I would of done it earlier.
I will look at some of the features with what these metering and analysis plugins have to offer.
Firstly we will look at why we use LUFS or Loudness Units Relative To Full Scale, we previously used RMS or root mean squared, the RMS tells you the average value of the signal this is unfiltered and is for the full audio scale, whilst the LUFS has a K weighted filter before it analyses the signal, this filter allows for a more accurate reading and is used because it is how we perceive audio, with the filter in place the analysis can make the reading as accurate as possible, it is less sensitive to the low end and more sensitive to the high end (as shown below, the picture below shows the K-Weighted filter applied to the LUFS.).
WHAT MAKES A SONG LOUD?
We wont be going over the loudness war topic here, although with LUFS we can all get our music sounding loud without damaging the audio and in turn put a end to the war on loudness.
If we analyse a successful commercial record we can retrieve vital information from this by using our analysis plugins, we can use the information to our advantage and bring it into our own productions.
Each LUFS analysis plugin will come with its own unique way of showing you the information you require to know vital information about the audio, I will list the main parts below.
LUFS- Short term - This shows the loudness average over a short period of time.
LUFS - Integrated - This shows the loudness average over the whole period, i.e the whole track
LU - Loudness range - This shows the difference in dB over the quitest and loudest part of the audio.
LU - Dynamic Range - Shows the dynamic range of the audio, the equation is LUFS -Short term - True Peak or the difference between these two values.
LU - Peak-Loudness Ratio - Shows the difference between the Integrated loudness and the True Peak MAX.
True Peak Max - this is a true peak value
(TRUE PEAK - The highest point the analog signal reaches is called the true peak while the highest digital sample is called the sample peak. Since a digital signal has to be converted to an analog signal to be heard, the true peak is a much more sensible metric for the peak level of a waveform).
These are the main reading we use to analyse our music more accurately and with this we can upload our music to suit the streaming services that we are aiming to upload too, for example if we want to upload our music to YouTube we first have to find out what LUFS integrated reading YouTube looks for when converting audio, this is around -13lufs and with a true peak max of around -1dB, If our audio is higher than -13lufs and -1dBTP when YouTube come to convert the audio it can add artefacts and even distort it in places where the audio is exceeding these thresholds.
Dynamic Range shows us the levels of compression that are happening within the audio, it is the difference between the short term loudness and true peak.
Analysis of the file shows us all the information we need to help us to match our music to the analysed file. The above file is of Calvin Harris - Giant, This is a very dynamic track which shows us he didn't over compress the track especially during the verse's, a good figure to hit with dynamic range would be around the 7-9 area, during the intro of the track and around the 2 min 40 sec area the dynamic range goes as high as 15, It also shows us the true peak value which is 0.8dBTP and the integrated LUFS of -8.2 which is CD standard loud.
THE METERS I USE
The meters I use are different during what process I am doing, I use a different plugin for my Mixing and a different one for my Mastering this is just my choice and how I like to work.
For mixing I like to use the following
Reference & Levels by Mastering the Mix
These two plugins are vital for me gaining insight into how I want my productions to sound, Reference is used for audio levels in certain bandwidths along with stereo width and Dynamic range in the bandwidths, I use this with importing successful songs which suits my music and what I like to listen too as this will point me in the right direction where I want my music to sound like, I also use Levels to see if my correlation, peak and LUFS levels are in good shape for when I come to export for mastering.
For Mastering I like to use the following:-
Reference, Levels by Mastering the Mix
Youlean Loudness Meter 2 pro - Youlean
Metric AB - Plugin Alliance
Mastering is a different skill all together, I usually send my music off to a mastering engineer for the final push on levels, but if I am feeling confident I tend to not go wrong with the analysis plugins I use. I can easily match levels and gain valuable information from my previously mastered music along with commercials successful tracks and just basically try to use my ears and the plugins to get the audio as close as possible to this.
Overall the meter plugins are telling me the same thing I just like to use them in my own way, like the reference and metric AB have similar features but I like how easy and quick it is to use reference compared to metric AB, they all have there own features, along with helping me learn about the process too it makes my mixing and mastering a whole lot easier.