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Loudness Meters
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jemusic
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Loudness Meters

I have been getting into these recently in a big way and they are very interesting. Firstly start by reading a great article in Feb issue of Sound on Sound. The article is titled 'The Loudness War. Won?'

Very good artcile indeed. It is an important time to be aware of metering and LU metering in particular. K system metering goes a long way towards loudness metering. There is a very strong relationship between K system metering and loudness meters. In many cases it is as simple as selecting the chosen K system reference level and of course the closest level to that is K -20. I have found that if you get a mix just peaking 0 dB VU at a K-20 ref level then when you do the LU measurement it is often 1 to 2 dB below the K ref level putting most K -20 mixes at -22LUFS levels. With -23 LUFS being the standard this fits in very well.

The Loudness meter is also interesting from the point of view of the time taken to do the measurement and the fact that LUFS levels vary as the music progresses. A piece of music may have an overall loudness level over the course of the track of say -23 LUFS. But the exciting thing that loudness measurements offer is that the music can go loud and very loud as well for short bursts here and there and the overall loudness level won't be effected too much. Tansients can be consistently high over the whole track and still have an average loudness target level. What the article is saying too is use the headroom creatively!!!

Loudness meters are expensive VST's usually but the good news is that Orban have very kindly provided a free one and it is very good indeed. Certainly an excellent way to get into Loudness metering for no cost.

http://www.orban.com/meter/

A couple of extra things too.

Some test tones for setting up Loudness meters are here:

Prism Sound/Qualis Audio Loudness Meter Test Files:

http://resources.prismsound.com/tm/Loudness_Meter_Test_Signals.zip

OR

http://www.qualisaudio.com/documents/TechNote-2-WaveFiles-5-12-2011.zip

Two great articles on Loudness metering:

Qualis Audio Loudness Documents:

http://www.qualisaudio.com/documents/TechNote-1-5-31-2011.pdf

http://www.qualisaudio.com/documents/TechNote-2-5-31-2011.pdf

The Tech Note 2 article describes the test signals in detail and how to use them etc...

Another general fantastic article on Loudness metering from the Music Loudness Alliance

http://www.music-loudness.com/index.php/white-papers
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dr4kan
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very useful post! thanks.
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devonmyles
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Thanks for this - Some reading material for later today.


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Wilkesin
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Here is another good loudness meter (actually all their plugins are pretty good):
http://www.toneboosters.com/tb-ebuloudness/
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jemusic
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I have done some more research into things. I have also asked some questions to Ian Shepherd who is the mastering guru. Read some very good info about him and his mastering concepts here:

http://productionadvice.co.uk/loudness-war-secret/

Something I recommend you do and others too is to join this organisation:

http://www.dynamicrange.de/

For a $30 donation and it is well worth it in my opinion you become an active member and you will entitled to download a free TT Dynamic Range meter. There is also tons of info about mastering and mixing there especially relating to keeping mixes alive and dynamic and not too loud.

Now I have quite a few measurement systems in place. Firstly K system metering and now I have added LUFS metering into my arsenal. But interestingly the Dynamic Range meter is actually something you still need and is not covered by the Orban LUFS meter. (It may be in other LUFS meters though) BTW I really like the Orban meter and I can highly recommend it. It tells you heaps about your mix. The LRA reading on the Orban meter is not the same as dynamic range BTW. It is a measure of loudness variations. Still handy to know but not a dynamic range reading though.

Now your premastered mix will have a high reading for dynamic range. Mastered mixes however will be quite different. Ian says that 6 is terrible, 8 is pretty boderline but values higher than 8 are best eg 9 or 10 for example. So what I am saying above in my previous post is it is OK to make a mix louder than your premastered mix for sure. The mastering engineer if he knows what he is doing should be able to advise on these things regarding a mix:

What sort of average rms levels the mix is going to reach. (expressed as a dB figure) For example I work with K system metering and I premaster to K-14 dB. So that means my premastered mix is just hitting -14 dB rms most of the time. After mastering it might be -10 instead. Note I have been going for -7 average for clients that insist on very loud masters and now I am going to STOP IT!)

What the overall LUFS reading will be. OK the LUFS reading will be close to the rms reading if the music is hitting the rms mark most of the time. But if there are variations in the mix ie it gets quieter here and there then the LUFS reading will end up a little lower. eg for a dynamic mastered -10 rms mix for example the LUFS reading might be -12 or so.

What the dynamic range reading will be.
This is actually the important one. It should be a value somewhat higher than 8 if possible. 10 sounds even better if you can get it. But this is a tradeoff between a very loud rms or LUFS mix and dynamic range.

If your mastering engineer does not understand or can give you this info above then he is not worth using and you should find someone who does know this.

If you suspect a mix is not very dynamic after mastering and sounds squashed (as is with most idiot ME's !!!) you should run the dynamic range test over it and really see what they have done to destroy your mix. I have checked a few mixes that I have mastered reluctantly loud for stupid clients and they fail the DR test rather badly!

The Dynamic Range meter comes in two forms. One is a normal DLL file which gives you live monitoring in the form of a plugin of course. The other is a stand alone app that just loads the track and analyses it. This reading is slightly more accurate apparently. But even so it matches the live plugin usually.

So all I can say is you are fine to take your final mix up in level rms wise but not at the expense of the DR meter showing values of 7 and under. If you can keep that reading at 8 or above then you will be sweet with a loud punchy and transient and dynamic mix. All possible, you just have to balance all those things out.

BTW Steely Dan's 'Everything Must go' has an average rms reading of K-12 (-14 LUFS) but the DR meter also shows a value of 10. No wonder it sounds so bloody fantastic. It is a perfect balance of a loud master but punchy and transient as hell! It kicks ass!

You need all these tools I am talking about to master properly. (that is if you are going to do your own mastering but even if you are not you need to be right onto how any ME engineer has mastered your stuff. Have they done it PROPERLY.) Without them you are shooting in the dark as they say. BTW on Ian's site someone asks the question is K system metering good for nice LUFS levels and great Dynamic Range values and he says YES YES YES!!!! I told you so.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 04/04/2014 23:17:22

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Wilkesin
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Have they updated the DR meter from the one that came out all those years ago? Is it 64-bit compatible now? Is there any difference in the DR Meter loudness range and the Loudness Range meter included in the Tonebooster plugin I mentioned above?

I kind of wonder if most MEs dont really mention this stuff because if everyone's album was truly the same volume all the hokum and ME mythology would just disappear and we would finally be able to compare mastering engineers apples to apples. They are afraid the cloak will get pulled back and people will realize what they really do to the audio isnt magic and the important part is to sequence and create a red book compliant master disc for duplication

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 03/04/2014 05:29:03

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Bub
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jemusic wrote: Re: Crest Factor (RMS to Peak) too wide? 4 minutes ago (permalink)
I have done some more research into things. I have also asked some questions to Ian Shepherd who is the mastering guru.
I see he really likes Melda's plugins for mastering. I do too. You can get a 20% discount if you sign up for his course. It says the course is free, but I haven't signed up to see if there's a catch, and the site is several years old now. It may not apply anymore.
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jemusic
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The Orban Meter also features a loudness range indicator (LRA) But after getting the Dynamic Range meter and doing some tests I found that the LRA measurements on the Orban did not match the Dynamic Range meter readings I got from the TT meter.

From what I can tell LRA is slightly different. Suppose the LUFS reading overall was say -14 LUFS but over the course of the measurment the LUFS reading actually changed over a range from say -19 to -12 in parts. Then the loudness range or LRA would be 7. The LUFS reading changes quite slowly as a track progresses but it could start down low say at -19 and end up for a little while at -12 but the overall LUFS reading will be somewhere in the middle eg -14 or -15. From what I can see the Toneboosters meter is not indicating DR but LRA like the Orban meter.

The Dynamic Range meter seems to operate quicker overall and what it is doing is comparing rms values to peak values all the time but in a faster manner. So the DR result for that track might end up higher then 7 eg 9 or 10 for example.

The DR meter will tell you how transient or dynamic a track is where the LUFS reading will tell you overall how loud the track was. I think they are both important. The idea is to juggle both and still have a reasonable DR reading but also make the track reasonably loud so the overall LUFS reading is higher. I can see LUFS being great for making album tracks nice and consistent level wise and the DR meter great for keeping snap, transients and dynamics in there and preventing tracks from being heavily squashed which many are.

As mastering is one of the things I do regularly on a pro basis I still feel there is a little bit of art involved for sure. Yes it is all about what you say, sequencing tracks, cleaning up starts, tidying up endings, even doing some repair work along the way perhaps preparing them for pressing etc but it is also about the overall EQ choices that you can do on a track. Subtle EQ can make a track leap out and sound way better than what it was originally. Low mids or that 200 to 300 Hz area can build up and start to sound a little thick down there and subtle use of EQ can just clear it all away. Bottom end often has to cleaned up and brought into line. Also that slight overall compression takes a little skill in setting up so it just reigns in silly peaks and just puts this lovely professional smooth leveling type of sheen over a great mix. You have to be subtle with the compressor as well. It can easily ruin a track too.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 03/04/2014 06:18:29

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Wilkesin
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So I think it is becoming a little irresponsible of Ian and the whole "Dynamic Range Day" collective to continue pushing that DR meter. There doesnt seem to be any transparency behind how it calculates that number and I dont think the plugin has been updated since those days back when they were trying to get everyone to buy into their club and be able to put a "DR number" logo on their album.

On the other hand, further reading into the EBU thing and I see that the LRA or loudness range has a defined algorithm and though the EBU has not specified strict numbers that must be adhered to suggestions from working mixers who do broadcast are pretty easy to find on the web. This is the number that is going to be used on all your professional metering plugs (Orban, Toneboosters, Waves) going forward because it has a transparent standard behind it.

LRa:
5-8 (squished rock music - *my assumption*)
8-15 TV range (8 on the squished side, 15 more the median)
16-20 (Classical music and very dynamic movies)
25 (this number is mentioned in the EBU document as probably more range than we will ever need)
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jemusic
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There is a pretty detailed description of how the Lousdness Meter works on the Pleasurize Music site but I think you might have to be a member in order to get it.

I have attached it here FYI.

I still don't think it is quite the same as LRA measurments though. I think LRA is over a longer time frame whereas the DR meter seems to working quicker and more instantaneously all the time.

I am of the opinion the more measuring tools the better and it is possible to work with several. I start with rms metering during the production itself with K System metering all the way through. (Which Ian Shepherd promotes as a very very good idea and well on the way to nice dynamic mixes) Then in mastering I add in the LUFS and DR measurments. They all tell you a lot.



Measuring DR ENv3.pdf
 Description Loudness Meter Info [Disk] Download
 Filesize 20 Kbytes
 Downloaded:  670 time(s)

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 04/04/2014 23:08:09

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bredo
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I am using this: http://www.tcelectronic.com/lm2-plug-in/

I addition the DR meter is very useful, in its own way
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Wilkesin
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I guess my griping has paid off. Ian has a new plugin:
http://productionadvice.co.uk/perception/

Overpriced for a smart meter/grain trim tool IMO especially since this is an introductory price, but still it's a good thought.
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jemusic
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I think it is a good idea. It may be a little pricey though. With some snazzy signal routing it is possible to create a signal chain and setup that is very similar and for no cost.

I have been using a digital mixer as part of my setup and when mastering the digital mixer comes into its own. I have special routing patches that allow me to compare the premastered file very easily to the mastered file. All level matched. You don't have to use your ears either to match or balance those levels. A VU meter does a mighty fine job.

What his plug in is doing is creating this mastering FX in or out and maintaing level. He has also got a TT meter installed in the front end and at the end of the mastering chain as well. Something you can also easily do now. What is good is his plugin is measuring loudeness units which is even better. The free Orban meter I have mentioned here earlier can also show loudness units. Multiple instances of it can be used. One at the start and the other at the end. It is only a matter of being able to route signals to it on more than one stereo buss. I can do it through PatchMix software which runs in conjunction with my EMU audio PCI card. Patchmix is quite incredible and sets up very interesting routing options. I use it all the time.

RME has a similar setup with its software too. I don't think I would ever invest in an audio card that did not have this software to set it all up and allow the user to setup different input and output scenarios. Handy having some DSP processing too right at the soundcard level. Studio One also sees that DSP as plugins which you can insert as normal over tracks and buses etc..

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