Was having a convo w/a colleague the other day and it got me thinking…Other than mastering engineers, what do most audio practitioners think about ITU-R BS.1770-4, a.k.a R 128 a.k.a A/85 a.k.a That Loudness Shite ? Do you folks pay attention to Loudness (as defined by and controlled by the above standards)? If so, how often are you still asked to “make it louder” to the detriment of the song or album (even after you tell the client that making it louder will mean it’ll be made quieter or “turned down” by the various playback services)? Gracias!
In my experience most seasoned audio professionals keep doing exactly what they were doing before the whole LUFS frenzy started to spread around the internet, which is: make whatever you’re working on sound great regardless of its loudness.
When it comes to mastering, yes there are still a lot of clients requiring us to make it loud or super loud, even. Personally I take the time to explain the pros and cons of this approach and it often results in a change of mindset and a happy client, but not always. It regularly ends up in something like: “ok, make the digital streaming version dynamic but make the DDP file super loud”.
BTW, A/85 is published by ATSC and is only for television, and only used by a few European countries. The R128 is also primarily aimed at TV and radio but has a supplement that was released in August 2020 aimed at streaming audio specifically.
The document that applies the most to what we are doing here (music production) is the AES TD1004. A major update of this document is in the final stages of being published and should greatly help clear up the BS that has spread around for the last recent years.
If the LUFS is too high, (well into single figures), that gives me a clue that the track is compressed/limited more than it needs to be.
The loudness needs to be in a certain ballpark, otherwise the track could be super-quiet or super-loud without really knowing it. So an LUFS meter is always a good check i avoiding craziness.
There needs to be some sort of relativity to the mainstream loudness of tracks, otherwise the client is (rightly) going to ask questions, especially of the mix is too quiet. Obviousy loudness normalisation is going to take care of that to a degree, but not all tracks are published on the internet.
Songs that are grouped together in an album need to be related loudness wise. An LUFS meter helps a lot with this.
An LUFS check on individual tracks can get your mix where you want it to be very quickly, especially if you are mixing multiple songs for an album. I always use an LUFS meter on bass, kick, snare, lead vocals and guitars.