Is the loudness war over?
This past summer I read that the “loudness war is officially over” with Spotify lowering its LUFS target to -14.0 LUFS. (If you’re unfamiliar with LUFS, do a quick Google search, or read this).
Although I don’t think compressed music is the evil plague that many audiophiles scream about, I’m also totally in favor of dynamic music, and at least a loudness standard for streaming services that doesn’t favor any approach. In other words, if you want your song to be flat, that’s cool; if you want your tune to be highly dynamic, that’s also cool. Just implement an automatic adjustment so listeners can choose and enjoy their music based on melody, groove, lyrics, vibe, emotion, etc…. In other words, the good stuff.
Lately however, whilst using Spotify, I’ve been getting the feeling that things still aren’t quite right.
I did a quick measurement of recently released songs and ran them out of Spotify into my DAW, where I used a LUFS measurement plug-in to test their loudness. Here are some of the results:
Skrillex “Would You Ever”: -13.2
Jessie J “Think About That”: -15.6
Shania Twain “We Got Something They Don’t”: -13.8
Post Malone, 21 Savage “rockstar”: -13.3
Cardi B “Bodak Yellow”: -14.7
Marshmellow + Khalid “Silence”: -14.4 [released August 11]
DJ IBG “Blueberry Smoothie”: -15.4 [released around July 5]
DJ IBG “Get Loud”: -13.6
Ok, so these levels are pretty close, and this is much better than, say, Soundcloud’s wild west of dynamic range. But the difference between my track “Blueberry Smoothie” and the brand-new “rockstar” is pretty noticeable (over 2 LUFS difference!!!).
I guess I don’t understand how the “LUFS-adjustment system” Spotify uses has such a large margin of error. What’s the point?
Also, where the hell is -14.0 LUFS???