There's lots of confusion about loudness and metering it these days. Decibels are bewildering enough, and terms like LUKS, LUFS, LU, LRA and dBTP don't help much. Here is what we need to know.  

What You Need To Know

Why Is ITU-R BS.1770-4 Important? 

Loudness Normalisation Explained

K-Weighting-Filter-Curve
ITU-R-BS.1770-Channel-Processing-and-Summation
Loudness-Integration-and-Gating-Chart

Loudness Normalisation Vs. Peak Normalisation

So What Should We be Measuring & Why?

Target levels for short form content like TV commercials and film trailers under 30 seconds.

LUFS, LUKS & LU’s

Absolute scale in LUFS on the right, and Relative Scale in LU on left, both metering a -23 dBFS stereo 1kHz sinewave. The target loudness is -23 LUFS.
A 0dBFS 1kHz sine tone (mono) will measure -3LUFS (as well as -3dB RMS) .
A -20dbfs 1kHz  sine tone (mono) will measure -23LUFS (as well as -23dB RMS).
-20dBFS_1kHz_-20LUFS_Stereo
Measurements-on-an-EBU-R128-Standard-Loudness-Meter

True Peak—What are standard DAW meters measuring?

Grossly-Simplified-Intersample-Peak

What about RMS?

Conclusion

Shane is an SAE certified audio engineer, sound designer, composer, and audio consultant. Working with Tokyo based media agency Ultrasupernew and creative game agency Playbrain, he creates audio for TV, music and sound for product launch events, and web audio content for major multinational firms such as Red Bull, SuperCell, Heineke... Read More

Discussion

dav
which plug-in is recomended (or easiest fo use) for metering loudness? maybe to name a few
Shane Berry
Hi Dav,

I have tried and used all the meters listed below, in some way, in a real world application/production, and give a brief outline of their strengths and weakness.

Anecdotally, the paid versions are by far easier to use, mostly because they offer the ability to re-size/re-scale the plug-in window, making the GUI easy to read off a second monitor; visibility is a deal breaker.

That said, the "free" options below are more than good enough to get started with measuring and meeting standards.

Free, "Free", registration required, bundled "try and buy strategy", and limited features loudness meters:

HOFA 4U Meter, Fader & MS-Pan (For me, slightly confusing GUI)
MELDA Production MLoudnessAnalyzer (Has to be downloaded with the whole Melda Package, which is not a bad thing.)
TBProAudio, dpMeter II (No reset button as far as I can find, an absolute necessity.)
Toneboosters, TB EBULoudness (saving parameters disabled)

Paid (recommended):

Izotope: Insight

A professional loudness meter with many additional metering features. Intuitive well designed interface, re-sizable/re-scalable, and highly configurable.

The manual is easy to follow, and covers all you would need to know about metering.

Klangfruend: LUFSMeter

My go to meter, highly configurable, re-sizable/re-scalable, accurate, and well supported.

It can be synched across many instances of the plug-in loaded in one project, and has a “level-to-target-loudness” gain function built in that makes loudness normalisation very easy.

It is possible to bounce audio through the plug-in for quicker analysis, meaning one does not have to sit through a full programme of material to get an Integrated loudness measurement.

The meter is marketed as "free" but is severely time limited to the point of being useless for real programme analysis, unless you pay for it.

The price is well worth the upgrade though, best value for money loudness meter on the market right now, and regularly updated to latest specifications.

Honorable mention: Span by Voxengo - NOT a loudness compliant meter but a great level metering plug-in nevertheless, and it is free.

For what it is worth, I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned here.
dav
Thank you very much for your comprehensive answer. I will look into plug-ins mentioned, especially the ones for free. Music in not my professional area, so I am looking into "cheep" equipment:)
qknegra
Hi Shane, thanks for this in-depth tutorial!

So, if I understood right, (I´m using the new Logic Loudness Meter) my master has to display a maximum -23 integrated LUFS in order to be considered TV ready? Maybe it´s because I´m deeply immersed in this loudness war by I find it extremely low...

By the way, what are your thoughts about the new Logic Loudness Meter?

Thanks again!

Marcos
Shane Berry
Hi Marcos,

Yes you are correct, the -23 LUFs target level is compliant with most TV standards around the world (-24 LUFS in some countries for technical reasons I won’t go into), you would still have to check with the channel or platform you plan to edit or mix for to be sure as some smaller stations and agencies might still using older standards in-house.

Yes -23 LUFs is low, and for the moment a target level of -16 LUFS for non TV related audio production seems to be gaining a foothold. -16 LUFs closely relates to the early days of average dynamic range in music produced before the loudness wars kicked in. iTunes averages individual tracks to -16 LUFS with soundcheck and Youtube seems to hover around -14 LUFS for some major content (low count videos are not loudness leveled as far as I can tell).

Regarding Logic meters (as of version 10.2.2): MultiMeter’s LU meter shows two loudness related readouts – LU-I: Integrated, which measures the average level over the course of an entire program, and LU-S: Short-Term, which measures loudness within 3-second periods.

It’s bare minimum for accurate metering, and the numbers are too small for quick reference. It also lacks a Loudness Range Value and a Loudness history graph which greatly aid in assessing where program material might be “going over” target levels.

Also be sure to set the meter to True peak and RMS because it is not default.

Curiously, Logic X RMS readouts are “off” by -3dB and there is no way to offset it that I know of. In Voxengo Span default dBFS meter is also off by -3dB but it is possible to set it to dBFS +3dB to get meter levels that match higher end meters.

To have true insight into your loudness levels I would suggest looking into getting an actual loudness meter from the list I provided in my reply to Dav’s comment above yours.
qknegra
Thanks a lot Shane, for your valid advise! I´ll try those metering plugins.

Best,
qknegra
Hi Shane, thanks for this in-depth tutorial!

So, if I understood right, (I´m using the new Logic Loudness Meter) my master has to display a maximum -23 integrated LUFS in order to be considered TV ready? Maybe it´s because I´m deeply immersed in this loudness war by I find it extremely low...

By the way, what are your thoughts about the new Logic Loudness Meter?

Thanks again!

Marcos
Keithwm
Great article and who would have thought setting levels could become so complicated! There is a new free meter called Youlearn loudness meter and it seems pretty good . However I am very confused about the LUFS scale and levels.

I have just loaded some brand new MP3 tracks from Amazon's autorip and all of the albums I have tried are giving an integrated LUFS of around -10, which seems to be much higher than suggested. The tracks sound great, no pumping or distortion!

But if I master some of my own songs to -14 lufs they sound really quiet - compared to new releases.

To me it seems the LUFS guidelines are trying to lump all music together regardless of whether its a full band playing rock (which is what I do) or a solo singer and surely that isn't right: it also completely ignores that fact that some music just sounds better when pushed a bit!

So: how do you create a punchy in your face mix while adhering to the guidelines?
Shane Berry
> Great article and who would have thought setting levels could become so complicated!

Thanks Keithwm, thankfully it is not all that complicated once you get the hang of it.

>There is a new free meter called Youlearn loudness meter and it seems pretty good .

Yes, the Youlean Loudness Meter is fantastic. I highly recommend it.

>However I am very confused about the LUFS scale and levels.

We need a support group, Loudness Anonymous or something. :)

>I have just loaded some brand new MP3 tracks from Amazon's autorip and all of the albums I have tried are giving an integrated LUFS of around -10, which seems to be much higher than suggested. The tracks sound great, no pumping or distortion!

This will happen a lot over the next few years. There's an enormous momentum behind the old school loudness paradigm, and even to this day many big artists and record labels are pushing for CD releases at so-called competitive loudness levels. There are tons of songs made to these pre loudness normalisation standards. As a good example one of my favourite artists, Andy Shauf, a gentle canadian singer songwriter, has a sterling album called The Magician, and it is a whopping -11 LUFS in some places, sounds fantastic though, but I am convinced it would work just as well at -16 LUFS.


>But if I master some of my own songs to -14 lufs they sound really quiet - compared to new releases.

This is now a game of short term versus long term gains. Look at it like this. ALL music that is going to be streamed will be loudness normalised at some point, invariably turned DOWN to a target level, most probably -16 to - 14 LUFS.

It is demonstrable that a loud hyper-compressed track turned down sounds weak and flat when loudness normalised next to a dynamic well mixed track – regardless of genre.

You can go louder and ”win” now, but you’ll “lose” later. Or you can “lose” for a short time now, mix to the new loudness paradigm, and then when everyone else is turned down, you are already at the finish line sipping cocktails.


>To me it seems the LUFS guidelines are trying to lump all music together regardless of whether its a full band playing rock (which is what I do) or a solo singer and surely that isn't right: it also completely ignores that fact that some music just sounds better when pushed a bit!

Remember the guidelines for -14 LUFS (et al) are “no louder than” targets, so if you are like me putting out self produced EPs of a few tracks at a time, then loudness normalising them to a fixed target makes sense (I use -16 LUFS personally), but if you are doing an album you may want to vary average loudness for artistic purposes and then have your “hit” or “single” be the “loudest” of that album (no more than -14 LUFS). i.e., not every song you do HAS to be -14 LUFS, but none should be louder – unless you want to be turned down anyway.

All that matters is that IF you do “compete” short term for loudness, then you and your “competition” will both be turned down and both flatten out later.

>So: how do you create a punchy in your face mix while adhering to the guidelines?

That, my friend, is the million dollar question!

I will close by pointing out that punchiness is about dynamics and not loudness in and of itself, so concentrating on dynamics and movement in the mix goes a long way.

Just for an experiment, try completely ignoring whether your track is loud enough. For a few days ditch any meters and just work with your music, no loudness targets, no LUFS, no RMS, just you, the mix and what you are trying to express, get back into the emotion of the songs , the original idea – make it work regardless of loudness, and see what happens.
Keithwm
Thanks for the quick reply, this is still going to take some getting used to! One thing I find hard to understand, if the LUFS level is lower (and in old school talk a lower rms) won't peaks be to loud? At a slight tangent to this, trying an LUFS meter led me to a shocking discovery about my daw.

I use Cakewalk Sonar and Tracktion. I inserted the Youlearn LUFS meter in my master fx slot and it read the levels. Then I adjusted the master and it still read the same levels, and then it hit me. On Sonar and Tracktion the FX slots on the master are pre fader. It actually means regardless of what you put in the FX (and I was inserting a maximizer with a -.1DB protection) the actual export of my recordings was set by the master and not the maximizer.

I wonder how many people this would catch out?

I can get around the meeting reading issue in Sonar using a post fader send bus, but that doesn't stop the master sending a level louder than my maximizer - I can just see it now!

Chris
a cheap one : https://www.hornetplugins.com/plugins/hornet-lu-meter/

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