The End Of The Loudness Wars

YouTube Loudness Normalisation

At WR Audio we have been advocating dynamic music mastering since the beginning. Imagine our joy to see one of the biggest streaming services adopt a loudness normalisation level and bring an end to the era of overly loud masters!

Since the early 1990’s, loudness levels in music mastering have been pushed further and further in what are known as the ‘loudness wars’.

When you sacrifice dynamics for loudness you can lose the quality and nuances of the recording and performance.

In recent times more music is consumed online – using services such as YouTube and Spotify – than via any other medium. If you like to listen to music through the above services (or others), you may have noticed that you’re changing the volume less between songs. What has now become all but standard (on YouTube in particular) is being hailed as the final declaration of peace in the aforementioned loudness war. All audio now uploaded to YouTube is normalised (to -13lufs, perhaps still a little loud) and much of it’s old content is becoming retrospectively processed. Apple stream at a normalised level of -16lufs which allows dynamic range to shine through against the loudest of masters.

Rather than peak volume, loudness represents the total ‘energy’ in a track as defined in recommendation R128 published by the European Broadcasting Union (2011).

Streaming services have set their own normalisation levels for audio based on this recommendation (without adding any extra compression!). Now most music on any individual service is heard at the same loudness, making it possible for more dynamic masters to flourish and be heard next to the most over-compressed tracks out there. Desire for loud masters is quickly diminishing with quality and dynamic range returning as the deal-breakers.