If you’ve been wondering, “how many LUFS should my master be”, then this article is for you. We will also take a look at the meaning of LUFS and a free LUFS meter you can use in your DAW.
LUFS, which is an acronym for Loudness Units Full Scale, is the industry standard measurement of loudness. Previously, you may have seen RMS (root mean square) used to measure loudness. However, LUFS quickly superseded RMS because it accounts for how humans perceive loudness. The science behind it is quite nifty and worth a read if you are interested in understanding how it is calculated. There are many different pieces that make up LUFS. These include K-weighting, which imitates the sensitivity of the human ear to different frequencies, and also the Fletcher Munson curve. See more about those curves here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-loudness_contour.
LUFS When Mastering Yourself
Regardless of the LUFS level of TV programming, which is usually -23, you will want your mastered track to be loud enough to compete with other library tracks being auditioned. It’s also helpful for TV editors to place a track on the timeline and not have to worry about sudden changes in volume (dynamics). Therefore, a fairly flat dynamic range is desirable for your mastered track. In general, an LUFS of about -8 to -10 is a good target, depending on your genre. Remember that the editor will most likely take your track and just turn it down when using it in their production.
There are some exceptions to this general rule. As an extreme example, if you’re trying to match ‘that dubstep sound’, you may find master readings up to -4 or even an ear splitting -3. So if you want your dubstep track to compete and attract clients, you may need to get closer to this. But as stated above, for typical production music genres, -8 down to -10 LUFS is a good bet.
LUFS When Your Publisher Does The Mastering
For so-called “major” publishers e.g. Warner, you won’t need to master your tracks at all. This is because the publisher will require unmastered files which they master themselves. In this case, the mixing part of mixing and mastering is what you’ll need to focus on, but that’s a topic for another article. You’ll still want to make sure you deliver files that aren’t too quiet. Therefore a good range to aim for is around -16 to -14. This leaves some headroom for the publisher to bring up the level in mastering. At the same time, it doesn’t leave too large of a gap, as it would if your LUFS was -24.
Free LUFS Meter
If you’re looking for a free LUFS meter, we would recommend checking out Youlean Loudness Meter and MLoudnessAnalyzer. Youlean has a free and a paid version, and has a nice clear interface. MLoudnessAnalyzer comes bundled with MeldaProduction’s suite of free tools called MFreeFXBundle. MLoudnessAnalyzer has some pretty advanced features for a free meter but might take a bit more work to get into. Note: if you happen to have Izotope Ozone, you’ll also have access to loudness metering within the plugin.
Remember: loudness and volume are not the same thing, and this is due to human hearing and perception. Also, we perceive louder music as “better”, hence the never ending obsession with loudness. Lastly, part of getting a high LUFS is mixing your track well in the first place. This will allow you to master higher without clipping coming in so quickly.
To join in the discussion on LUFS and loudness in production music, head over to: MLR discussion on loudness