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Spotify and the END of The Loudness War

Spotify and the END of The Loudness War

If you are passionate about music production, sound design, sound engineering, you think you’ve met at least with the expression of the Loudness War.

If there is anyone on this planet who is active in the field of audio production and has never heard of the “loudness war“, here is a short report of the previous battle scenario:

The term “Loudness War” is understood to mean the excessive compression and limitation of music (usually during mastering), in order to achieve maximum loudness in order to be able to stand out on the radio, on phonograms or in streaming services – simply to be louder, than other productions.

In a very simplified way, the mastering is used to compress signal peaks and raise the quieter “valleys” between them. As a result, the music sticks almost to the 0 dB mark over the entire duration.

Loudness War Example

Spotify has reduced their loudness normalization playback target level from approximately -11 LUFS down to approximately -14, broadly in line with YouTube and TIDAL.

To see this exactly, I recommend you to use Dynameter, a recently released audio plugin that is specially designed to displays the PSR measurement in real-time.

What is PSR? Is the difference between the peak level and the loudness.

Dynameter Metering Plugin VST by MeterPlugs

Buy VST Plugins

Spotify evaluates the built-in loudness of tracks, writes them into the metadata, and the player takes care of them when the “same volume” function is activated (factory setting). Say: Very strongly compressed (loud) tracks are played more quietly, very dynamic (quiet) pieces louder.

What does that mean for us producers and sound engineers? Quite simply, instead of focusing on the final decibels of loudness from the material, using multiband compressors and precision EQs to eliminate any unnecessary frequency to create the maximum space for the musical content We finally concentrate on the sound and dynamics of a production.

This, of course, does not release us from delivering proper mixes and masters. On the one hand, it is still necessary to make full use of the entire available dynamic range.

Is this the end of The Loudness War?

We can not yet say this, but it is certainly an important step in bringing some benefits to producers and listeners alike:

  • Improve the audience experience.
  • Provide reasonable consistency within a specific online stream for its different programs.
  • Provide a consistent real-time production target for stream loudness.
  • Obtain a loudness that is well-suited for mobile listening.
  • Prevent excessive peak limiting or other processing from degrading perceived audio quality.
  • Avoid a loudness war among streamers.

Spotify took an important step in aligning online streaming services to the same parameters of dynamics. A good thing for both producers, artists and the listeners.