Mastering

Getting your mixes radio-ready...

I master all of my mixes as part of the mixing process, but if you've already mixed your single, EP or album and are looking for that objective ear, let me take care of the finishing touches and get your music sounding as good as it possibly can in preparation for its release.

I provide mastering services for digital streaming/download, CD and Vinyl. Please note that, owing to certain additional technical considerations, I recommend Vinyl mastering be treated as a separate service to Digital mastering. 

 

If you'd like to discuss a mastering project with me, please get in touch via the button below.

The -14 LUFS Myth

If you've followed the LOUDNESS WARS debate recently, you'll probably have come across this magic figure, -14LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale), which is the loudness at which nearly all streaming platforms currently stream music. This has been standardised so that there should never be any sudden jumps in loudness between any consecutive tracks in a playlist, no matter how loudly each one was mastered originally.  

I've encountered clients who are anxious about what the appropriate loudness for their mastered music should be, and one who insisted that I mastered their metal album at -14LUFS. I thought it worth clarifying my viewpoint on this. 

Firstly, let's clarify what loudness really is. 

The loudness at which we listen to music (the volume or level) and the inherent loudness of recorded music are different things. In this case, I am talking about a property of the recorded music which is consistent at no matter what decibel or sound pressure level you listen. Essentially, it's about how dynamic the music is. The more dynamic the track from start to finish, the more negative the LUFS value it will have. Music mastered loud will exhibit little variation in dynamics. Hypothetically, music with ZERO dynamics would have a loudness of 0 LUFS. Arguably, more dynamic music may feel more exciting than 'loud' music when both are listened to at an equal volume.

 

But loudness is not necessarily an undesirable quality. It gives music a certain density and intensity. It also depends, in part, on the genre of music being listened to.

In the last 20 years or so, the average loudness of commercial standard rock and metal music has gravitated towards somewhere between -8 and -6LUFS. This is clearly significantly louder than -14LUFs. There are some notable cases that go up as high as -4LUFS (Metallica's "Death Magnetic" for example). However, arguably at this loudness the squashed dynamics of the music make it borderline unlistenable. The transients become squashed and distorted and if anything, the music may actually lose some of its intended power when listened to at a safe level.   

But -8 to -6LUFS tends to be the sweet spot for finding that optimum balance between sufficient dynamics and loudness. These days, name metal producers such as Jens Bogren are opting for greater dynamics over greater loudness and dropping as low as -10 to -9LUFS (check out the recent Amon Amarth album "The Great Heathen Army" - it definitely does not lose any of its 'heaviness'!). 

Personally, -8LUFS is my preferred sweetspot and I tend to mix and master towards this as an upper value. But some mixes simply work better a bit louder, others require a little more dynamic range. 

Would I master a metal album at -14LUFS? In short, I would advise against it. Metal is meant to have a certain amount of loudness to it. I'd even argue that a metal track with maximum dynamics would sound somewhat strange ;) 

So if you had any confusion about this topic, I hope this makes it clearer. If you're still unsure what it all means, I'll be happy to discuss it with you. Just drop me a mail via the button above!