ITunes, Youtube, Spotify, Amazon and co. - This is how your song should be!

Specifications of the streaming services

Loudness for uploading to Youtube, Itunes, Spotify, Amazon and co.

(Stand 04 / 2022)

When uploading songs for the respective streaming services, there are a few things to consider in terms of audio specifications and loudness. You can find the following topics in our info tutorial.

  • History of Loudness Limiting
  • Loudness and specifications for the streaming portals
  • What is LUfs and how is it measured here
  • Ways to increase the loudness
  • Why some songs sound “louder” than other songs
  • Changes to loudness normalization at Spotify (from the end of January 2021)
  • Dolby Atmos on Itunes (05/2021)
  • Apple is moving to LUFS

Streaming services overview

History of Loudness Limiting on Streaming Portals - Loudness War

With "loudness was“This is the name given to the increasing tendency in the music industry to produce music at gradually higher levels of loudness in order to produce a sound that stands out from that of other artists. At first, a so-called "loudness" broke out between VHF radio stations" out. A means of competing for ratings from listeners for each broadcaster. Soon after, record labels started adjusting the loudness of both their LP and their CD productions to increase. The main reason for this arms race lies in the (subjective) Advantages of the louder variant. Because there is a Subjectively better hearing impressionwhich can be traced back to the way the human ear perceives sound pressure at different levels.

In humans, the ability to react to different frequencies depends, among other things, on the sound pressure level; consequently, the more the sound pressure level is increased, the greater the number of perceptible high and low frequency tones. (Wikipedia)

The “loudness war” takes place almost everywhere, regardless of whether it's the DJ who doesn't want his track to get lost in the DJ mix or take the pressure off the dance floor. The rapper who doesn't want his opponent to be louder than him. There was also a loudness war with television, perhaps one or the other can still remember the times when you always had to turn the sound down during commercial breaks because the advertising was many times louder than the TV program, now just happens completely seldom right? That was in 2012 with the current TV program "harmonized". The same goes for the loudness of public and private television stations. That worked well, except for a few "glitches", but it's different in the music industry. Here, I have the feeling, the loudness has reached a whole new level. Now it's a cold loudness war. Attempts at regulation are ignored and the (perhaps unintentional?) Tricks of the labels and engineers to outsmart the algorithms of the respective portals and still publish louder music than others are even more amusing.

After YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and other streaming services announced a few years ago that they wanted to "harmonize" music as well (they call it loudness normalization), the music suddenly got louder. Even music that has already been normalized by the portals still sounds louder than another track at the same volume as ours, for example online mixing and / or Online mastering has gone through.

Volume wins every contest except the audiophile contest unless anyone cares how it sounds, of course.

-Richard Dodd (Recording / Mastering Engineer)

Loudness and your specifications for streaming services

Different providers, different policies. To make things a little easier for you, you will find a clear table with the upload specifications for the respective providers here. Status (May 2021).

Please don't nail these values ​​to stone! It may well be that a song needs a higher loudness (e.g. electro) in order to sound powerful at all. Furthermore, the portals experiment with their algorithm from time to time.

PortalItunesAmazon MusicSpotifyYoutubeSoundcloud
Loudness (LUfs)-14 airs*-14 LUfs-14 LUfs-14 LUfs-9 LUfs
Headroom True Peak-1dbTP-1dbTP

-1dbTP –

-2dbTP

-1dbTP-1dbTP
Bit depth16/24 (HD, Mfit)16/2416/241616/24
SizeWave, AAC, aiffMp3, m4a, wma, wav, ogg, flac, aiffWav, Flacwav,wav
Sample rate (khz)44,1 or higher44,1 or higher44,1 or higher44,1 / 48 / 88,2 / 9644,1 or higher

We have made all information available in a PDF that can be downloaded free of charge.

*Apple is moving to -14 LUFS

Specifications streaming services PDF download

STILL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PERFECT SOUND WITH STREAMING PROVIDERS?

We would be happy to advise you on the ideal sound for the streaming services, so that your song is delivered in the best possible quality!

You can reach us by phone from Monday to Friday from 09 a.m. to 20 p.m.

What does LUfs mean and what is measured here?

In the EBU document (R128), the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) has included the LU (Loudness Unit) measurement method for the objective measurement of a subjective variable. LU shows the difference between level reductions and level increases. The absolute measured value is therefore LUfs (Loudness Unit Full Scale). So the absolute loudness in full control. Here 1LU is to be evaluated as 1db and according to the EBU document R128 -1 dbTP (decibel True Peak) is recommended.

The LU measurement provides 3 measurement times. These are:

Momentary loudness: Here the last 400ms is used as the basis for calculation.

Short term loudness: Here the last 3 seconds are used for the calculation.

Integrated loudness: Here, the entire playback period is measured.

But ATTENTION! In the currently and short-term loudness the signal is measured in an uncontrolled manner. That means, all acoustic events are measured here. In the integrated loudness any signal that is quieter than -23LUfs is NOT included in the calculation. This is because in the R128 document the Loudness range (a statistical value that describes the dynamics of a section in the audio material) is clearly defined. This means that of the audio material that is measured with integrated loudness, only that signal is used for the measurement which is between 10% and 95% of the measurement.

However, this only applies to the “replay gain algorithm”. In the EBU 128 document, the relative gate for loudness measurement at -10 LU is the currently measured integrated loudness!

In short: If something is quieter than 10% of the signal over the entire length of the material, it will not be taken into account in the measurement, since there is usually noise or other undesirable noises in this area. If something is louder than 95% of the measured signal, this is not included in the calculation. This serves to ensure that individual noises such as explosions or a short loud scream do not influence the average value in order to achieve an even more objective measurement result.

What is dbTP? – What is True Peak?

DbTP stands for Decibels true peak and, like the LU measurement, is recorded in EBU document R128 and reflects the true peak level. In the R128 document the Peak level of -1 dbfs and should not be exceeded.

Intersampel Peaks and True Peak

Intersample peaks are mostly generated when converting analog signals into digital signals. If the original sample information is missing between two amplitude points, one will be found in this "merging of two amplitude points" Interpolation instead of. So if you don't have enough headroom here, level peaks arise over 0 dbfs can go. Most DAWs do not recognize this "overload" caused by the A/D conversion, which can permanently degrade the sound image. So True Peak measures the intensity of the level peaks and gives the exact value in decibels. This can be represented in the value with both negative and positive signs. A positive value, eg +2,4 db true peak, is to be defined as overload.

How do streaming services analyze audio material and how is the output volume determined?

When uploading your songs to Spotify, Itunes and co, a distinction is first made here whether it is an album or a single track. If it is a single title, a special algorithm (e.g. ITU 1770) Your title analyzed and the integrated loudness determined. This value is then saved as metadata for the song. If your song does not meet the desired loudness requirements, the level will either be lowered to the loudness required by the portal or normalized or raised if your song is too quiet. Spotify, for example, then also switches a limiter after which at -1 dbfs all possible level peaks are intercepted, so that no overload can occur here.

Also use the ITU 1770 algorithm Replay Gain (Spotify uses e.g. this program), Winamp or Foobar2000.

The site offers a very good opportunity to check the average loudness of your song Loudness Penalty. This clearly shows how the individual streaming services treat your song and whether it is made louder or quieter.

UPDATE: 20.07.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX - ATTENTION: Spotify no longer uses a limiter in the standard setting!

STREAMING MASTER FOR ALL PLATFORMS

With our analog streaming master we produce your track so that it is competitive on all portals and meets the respective specifications!

Opportunities to increase the loudness of your song

There are several ways to increase the loudness of productions. On the one hand there is the compression of music that we all know and trust. The dynamic range is reduced, thus making the quieter parts louder, which leads to a condensation of the signal. If you add a limiter, which works reasonably well, to the whole thing, you have already achieved an official loudness. But there is still the possibility to work with saturation and to increase the loudness even further. The music industry never sleeps, neither does "audio nerds". Often, "home productions" sound thin and limp, although they are perhaps identical to professional productions - this is partly due to the saturation. For example, tube EQs or tube compressors are used to create harmonic distortions that make the music sound even fuller and stronger. It becomes more present, more “in your face”. I very often get feedback from customers who write that the bass is already powerful and round, the middle is defined, the highs sound silky and clear. Of course, you can drive saturation a lot further by not only saturating the sum, as is usual with mastering, but also by adding up analogously during the mixdown. Groups (Stems) and each group is sent through a channel in the analog totalizer and brought back into the DAW. This is practically the cheaper alternative to the large consoles that you can still see in some recording studios. Here is a small example of the totalizer: Yes, I know it might sound unspectacular to many. It's just a mixdown. But if you listen carefully, you will see that this is where the 10% that distinguish a home production from a professional production are hidden. For "inexperienced ears" these only come after one professional mastering to the fore. In addition, there are other factors such as microphones, amps, the room and the converters that are used during recording. Even the samples you use make up the big picture here. Of course not to be neglected is an experienced engineer who mixes up the end result.

Why is my song quieter than other songs on Youtube, Spotify or Itunes?

The loudness of a song on the respective platforms depends on various factors. Saturation, distribution of frequencies, balance of your Mix, or the arrangement including the instrumentation play a significant role here. As we have already read above, the dynamics over the entire playing time of your title naturally play a decisive role in calculating the average loudness (integrated loudness). But there is also, especially with one Youtube mastering, one or the other trick that the music industry uses to reduce the average loudness and thus achieve a level increase when uploading.

In the case of a master for a customer, after the streaming version for YouTube had been produced, he came back to us and described his problem to us. It was important to our client to sound so loud that his title could keep up with the songs of the great Major Labals. After analyzing his song and the pieces from the big major labels, our feeling tended again and again to the distribution of energy within the mix of the piece delivered by the customer. However, we were not able to put a precise figure on this, as we had not given enough thought to the calculation methods used by the individual portals, especially YouTube. This was also our concern, with which we turned to Andreas from Masterlab to create facts here by means of a third opinion.

You can find out exactly which tricks these are and what came out of the conversation in the following recorded live stream from November 05.11.2018th, XNUMX Masterlab Academy. Andreas Balaskas (Masterlab Berlin) and Chris Jones from Peak Studios tell you in NightTalk what the loudness of some productions can be.

Streaming mastering: should I master my song on -14 LUfs or not?

In order to assess the loudness to which you should master your song, the following basic rule applies: Always master your song as loud as you think it is good. However, always compare the song with a reference on a normalized level afterwards.

What does that mean for our production?

After we with the mastering are finished in our desired loudness - let's assume a loudness of eg -9 LUFs here, let's normalize our title to -14 LUFs. We can easily do this by dragging the volume slider in our DAW down on our master until we reach our target value. Now we compare our track with our reference, which should have the same initial loudness, i.e. -14 LUfs. Now we can decide whether our decision to give the track more loudness was correct or not and adjust it if necessary.

Why is a comparison to -14 LUfs necessary?

Very easily. The usual streaming user will initially hear your title at exactly this loudness. Of course, only if he has not activated the automatic "loudness normalization" manually in the settings.

Spotify changes loudness normalization

Mastered for spotify

Spotify will change its algorithm for loudness normalization from the end of January 2021. Spotify writes the following:

We are making four changes:
1. We have migrated all new ReplayGain loudness calculations to ITU 1770. The new calculation is used for values ​​stored in the files and used by current clients.
2. We calculated the loudness and maximum true peak of all catalog tracks using ITU 1770 and stored the values ​​in a database.
3. We switch new clients to use the database values ​​instead of the values ​​encoded in the files.
4. We change new clients so that our Quiet and Normal settings never apply a limiter (they only increase the volume as much as the max TP value allows). This value is usually around -1dbTP
1 and 2 are done, ie all new tracks use -14 LUFS (or -11 or -23) as normalization, also in old clients, on iOS, Android and Desktop.
(The behavior on other clients isn't changed, they still don't normalize the audio.)
3 and 4 will happen fairly soon, but probably not until mid/late January.
Until then, the change will apply to all tracks (not just new ones), and the limiter will no longer be present in the Quiet and Normal settings either. "]. Each track in a playlist now measures at -14 LUFS. Unfortunately, the -1 dBFS limiter is still there and I suspect that more material could now be affected by it, since the replay gain algorithm measured significantly louder values ​​here.

So this means that more songs are now normalized to -14 LUfs as there are still some very loud passages in songs due to replay gain.

Dolby Atmos on Apple Music

Apple announced that Apple Music will deliver audio quality through 3D audio with support for Dolby Atmos. These new functions will be available next month at no additional cost.
"Apple Music is making the greatest advancement in audio quality that has ever been made," said Oliver Schusser, Apple's vice president of Apple Music and Beats.

3D audio with support for Dolby Atmos

3D audio with support for Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos is an immersive audio format that allows artists to mix music so that the sound comes from all directions. In addition, albums that are available in Dolby Atmos are identified with a logo on the detail page.
 

Lossless audio

Apple Music will make its catalog of more than 75 million songs available in lossless audio format. Apple uses ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) to preserve every single bit of the original audio file. To hear lossless audio, activate the function under Settings> Music> Audio quality. Different resolutions for different connections such as mobile, WLAN or for download can be selected. For true audiophiles, Apple Music also offers Hi-Resolution Lossless up to 24 bit and 192 kHz.
 
  • 3D audio with support for Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio will be available at no additional cost.
  • Thousands of titles will be available in 3D audio with Dolby Atmos.
  • Apple Music with more than 75 million songs will be available in Lossless Audio.
For more information and a comprehensive list of all compatible devices, go to apple.com/apple-music.
 

Apple is moving to LUFS

Finally the time has come. Apple is changing its algorithm for loudness calculation (AES TD1008 guideline) to LUFS for the first time

But be careful: Apple is initially only rolling out the new loudness algorithm to the new versions of MacOS and iOS. Older versions are not yet affected by the new benefit.

The same applies here to the Apple Music website. As with other streaming platforms such as Spotify and TIDAL, the original volume is played here.

 

Author: Musa Tuncer, Chris Jones (Peak Studios)

In cooperation with Andreas Balaskas (Masterlab Berlin) and the Masterlab Academy

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Spotify deactivates Limiter:

https://www.peak-studios.de/spotify-deaktiviert-limiter/

48 khz sample rate - why 44,1 khz will soon be out:

https://www.peak-studios.de/48-khz-der-neue-standard/

Streaming mastering from Peak Studios:

https://www.peak-studios.de/mastering/streaming-master/