Published04.09.2022 Last updated08.12.2022
The average loudness of master records for the music industry in 2022 is around -8 RMS, about -10 LUFS, with the output ceiling around -0,3 dB. However, the loudness targets can vary for different genres. At the same time, each streaming platform treats the uploaded records differently, so keep reading this article to learn more.
What dB should a master be?
This is a tricky question for a mastering engineer because how loud the music is can be measured in dB in many different ways. While mastering, you’ll be paying attention to these measurements in particular: Peak, True Peak, LUFS, dBSPL, and RMS.
The most important loudness evaluation for mastering, which is used by all the platforms, is LUFS. So, to ask how loud should you master your music to, you need to identify what exactly you want to measure.
What is LUFS
LUFS refers to Loudness Units relative to Full Scale. It’s the most popular measure of loudness that uses an advanced algorithm for calculating how loud the music sounds to the listener. There can be short-term LUFS that are calculated for each 2-3 seconds of the music, and integrated LUFS that are calculated for the entire song.
In this article, we are talking about the integrated loudness (integrated LUFS), streaming services use this measure to determine the overall loudness of the songs and to make sure the streaming maintains relatively similar loudness from one song to another.
This way, the platforms ensure great listener experience, so that the listener doesn’t have to change the volume of the playback device all the time. All the music sounds to the listener as if it has the same volume.
How much loudness do you need for mastering?
All songs are different, you may choose the loudness depending on your style and genre. Of course, a loud EDM music and an acoustic ballad will have different loudness. So every type of music has its normal loudness level, but the numbers vary greatly even inside one genre.
We could name here the styles and their approximate loudness, but there will be no point in doing this. Nowadays everyone decides for themselves how loud their release should be.
That’s why you will come across a rock track mastered to integrated LUFS value of -8 or -9, or a pop track, mastered to -7 LUFS, at the same time, some aggressive EDM master may go as loud as -5 LUFS. So, the main idea here is to find approximately the right range for your genre and keep your loudness within those limits.
How loud should my master be in RMS?
RMS measures the average power of the sound throughout the song. It’s an abbreviation of “root mean square,” which is another way to calculate the average value. The more power is needed to reproduce the sound, the louder it seems to our ears, so RMS is a pretty good measurement of the loudness of the music.
You can use RMS meters to monitor your track’s loudness, but mostly for your own work. Because almost all the platforms will look at the LUFS measurement.
Generally speaking, mastering to -9 – -8 RMS will give you an industry-level, pretty loud song.
How many integrated LUFS should I aim for?
Generally, most of the streaming services agree on the streaming level of around -14 LUFS int. However, Apple Music sets this limit a bit lower, at around -16 LUFS int.Some tutorials suggest that your song should match this limit and be at the exact level of the streaming loudness, but that’s not true.
As we see now, most master records are louder than this limit. This happens because the streaming services, like Spotify for example, will normalize the song to -14 LUFS anyways. So the sound will be basically the same if you master the song to -14 LUFS or louder, it will still be streaming with an integrated LUFS value of -14.
So, the answer is, that you can master your music to -14 LUFS or louder, up to -7 LUFS.
It’s not a great idea, though, to master quieter than -14 LUFS. There are several reasons why it’s not good to do so.
Three reasons not to master too quiet:
- First, all platforms turn loud music down to their maximum loudness (usually -14 LUFS). However, not all of them turn the quieter songs up to match the needed level. So, if you upload to YouTube a song that has the level of, for example, -16 LUFS int, it will stay the same, and will not be turned up to match -14 LUFS as other songs.
- The second reason for not mastering quieter than -14 LUFS is that some streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music do turn the volume up for quieter songs. However, during this procedure, they might apply their limiter to cut some of the louder peaks. How your music will sound with this limiting you may not know, and you don’t want to experiment with your music, you want it to stay exactly as you mixed it, right?
- And the third reason not to master quieter than the desired level is, that a streaming platform might not bring your song up to -14 LUFS because of its peaks. If your song has a good dynamic range, the platform can turn the volume up only within the True Peak headroom you have provided. Platforms do not compress the music, so, they just might not be able to bring your song up to -14 LUFS integrated loudness.
This means, that if you make a universal master record, which you are going to upload to a bunch of streaming services, you want to make it not quiet, but rather a bit louder than -14 LUFS
How loud should my master be for Streaming Services?
Each service normalizes songs using its own algorithm. Let’s now look at the streaming services one by one.
Spotify is the leader among streaming platforms. The streaming loudness of this service is -14db integrated LUFS. The songs will be normalized to this level, the loud songs will be made quieter, and the quiet songs will be made louder if possible.
If you’d like to learn more, we have a special article devoted to mastering for Spotify: Spotify LUFS and how to master tracks for Spotify, check it out.
This service will normalize your song to around -16dB LUFS, bringing the volume up or down if necessary
This platform normalizes the songs similar to Spotify, bringing the volume up or down to match the loudness around -14 LUFS int.
For music videos, YouTube also has a standard loudness targets of -14 LUFS. That means that the volume of your song will be reduced to match the standard. Unfortunately, if your song is quieter than -14 LUFS, YouTube will not bring the volume up, so keep this in mind.
Sometimes you can notice that artists make different mixes for different platforms. The version they upload on YouTube, for example, is different form the same song on Apple Music. It happens not too often, but sometimes, mostly in rap genre.
How to determine the necessary loudness and dynamic range?
To determine how loud you should be mastering, you need to compare your song with reference tracks from your style and genre and determine the loudness targets.
To download a reference song, just loop back your sound card and record the stream of the song. After that, normalize the reference mix, for example, to around 0.3dB headroom. Now you may measure the loudness of the song, its dynamic range, check all the other characteristics, and compare them to the track you are working on.
When comparing the tracks for the best mastering, make sure they both are normalized to the same headroom.
How many LUFS is too many?
After reaching approximately -7 LUFS the music doesn’t sound louder anymore, it just sounds worse. And the form of the sound wave will become not so much a sine as a square because of the limiters and clippings.This is basically what happens if you are mastering louder than -7dB – -8dB LUFS.
Moreover, if your song is over-compressed and too loud, the streaming platform will normalize your track down and your music may not benefit from it. All the distortion will show, and there will be no dynamics to the song.
Look at this picture, for example, this is a song that is heavily compressed and way too louder than -14 LUFS int.
But the streaming platform will normalize it to -14 LUFS and get this:
At the same time, with the same -14 LUFS, the sound wave of a more dynamic song will look like this:
As you see, its peaks will be louder than those in a heavily compressed song. So, for the listener, it may sound more striking and more attractive.
So, how do I make a perfect song?
The conclusion to remember is, for best mastering, you need to keep the balance. You need to make your song loud (-14 LUFS or more), maintaining a good dynamic range at the same time. Every genre has its peculiarities of course, but you can determine them, analyzing the reference tracks.
Working with mixing and mastering for more than a decade, we have always seen that if a song is professionally-created, well-balanced, and sounds perfect, it will almost always be perfect on streaming platforms as well. So, if you want to sound great on a platform, the most important thing you have to focus on is creating great, professional master records.
Mastering with Major Mixing
At our Major Mixing mixing and mastering studio, our mastering engineers have created thousands of master records for all possible genres. Artists that work with us upload their new songs to all the platforms.
We have had thousands of examples to see how our master records sound on the streaming services, and we learned what is important in mixing and mastering so the song would become a chart-topper material.
If you want to make a great release, we’ll be happy to mix your song professionally and create a perfect master record for you. Just contact us, we’ll be happy to help you boost your career!
So, the answer is, that you can master your music to -14 LUFS or louder, up to -7 LUFS. It's not a great idea, though, to master quieter than -14 LUFS. There are several reasons why it's not good to do so.What is a good dB for mix and master? ›
Most mastering engineers recommend having the loudest part of a mix at –5 dB from absolute '0' dBFS. This means you should have the loudest section of the mix 5 dB lower before the peak level of '0'. It is recommended to not go over '0' dBFS on the master fader or individual tracks in the mix.How loud should main melody be in mix? ›
The ideal listening range for most home studios is around 73-76dB SPL. But mixers have no control over how loud people listen to music. Only how loud each element is in the track. That's why it's crucial to make sure that your mix is balanced and each instrument is at the proper level relative to the other channels.How loud should my volume be when mixing? ›
what volume should you mix at? To hear the most accurate representation of your music, you should mix at 85db to 90db while EQing and critical listening. The rest of the time you should mix at a volume level that allows for a conversation without raising your voice.What is the standard mastering loudness? ›
The best mastering level for streaming is an integrated -14 LUFS, as it best fits the loudness normalization settings of the majority of streaming services. Although other measurements like the true peak value and other metrics need to be considered, -14 LUFS is the best mastering level when considering loudness.Will mastering make my mix louder? ›
That pro volume level is a basic expectation in modern music, so it can be pretty discouraging when your own mixes don't measure up. If you've ever wondered how to make music louder once you're done mixing, the answer is usually found in the mastering process.What dB should I bounce for mastering? ›
Setting the correct level for a bounce is usually part of the mastering process though, so if you're bouncing out to send off to someone with magical ears (and a treated studio), you'll want your master track's metering bouncing around at the ‑12 to ‑18 dB level to give the mastering process some headroom.How are professional mixes so loud? ›
Compression is essentially how you get a mix to sound loud, but you have to be careful in how you apply it. The energy in the track comes from the individual elements, and the compression applied on those elements.Should you mix at low volume? ›
Mixing at low volumes is a common practice used by professional engineers everywhere. This technique is one of the most crucial ways your mixing can improve right away! You'll hear volume imbalances a lot better. At lower volumes you'll be able to hear if some instruments are too loud & what's sticking out too much.Should the vocals be louder than the mix? ›
Your vocals should sound louder than the beat between -10dB and -15dB. A reliable method would be to set your lead vocal track to -12dB, then push back your instrumental tracks accordingly.
While 85dB is the mixing level suggested for larger pro control rooms, when I talked with Grammy-nominated Capitol Studios staff engineer, Steve Genewick, he mentioned that when mixing in a smaller room, stay closer to 75dB.How do I know if my volume is too loud? ›
- You find yourself speaking loudly or shouting so people an arm's length away can hear you. ...
- The noise hurts your ears.
- Your ears buzz or ring during the noise or after the noise goes away.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). A whisper is about 30 dB, normal conversation is about 60 dB, and a motorcycle engine running is about 95 dB. Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.What is the best true peak for mastering? ›
If mastering for TV or broadcast, you'll want to hit no more than -14LUFS for fear of distortion at the broadcast end. It's also probably wise to aim for an output RMS/True Peak of -1.0db since you're not aiming for the loudest sound, but the clearest.What is the best threshold for mastering? ›
You'll want to aim for a fairly high threshold level. You should be getting 2 to 3 dB of gain reduction at the most in order to avoid obliterating your mix. Start with a low ratio around 1.25:1 or 1.5:1. Again, subtle changes on the master fader are essential.Is LUFS too loud for mastering? ›
He finds that avoiding anything over −9 LUFS sounds best. But tons of pop songs are mastered as loud as −5 LUFS or higher. The point is, the number doesn't matter that much. You should mostly be focusing on making the song sound great.Can mastering ruin a mix? ›
Mastering is the final and arguably most critical stage of music production. It's also one of the most misunderstood. Great mastering can take your mix to a whole new level with brighter highs, deeper lows, and punchier dynamics. But bad mastering can ruin a great song.Why does my master sound worse than my mix? ›
Your master will most likely be a lot louder than your mix. The human ear perceives the frequency spectrum differently depending on how loud the sound is.How do you tell if your song is mastered properly? ›
- You Can Hear Each Instrument Clearly.
- You Can Understand Every Word of the Lyrics.
- The Mix Is Glued Together.
- There Are No Technical Issues with the Mix.
- It Grows and Changes Over Time.
- It Sounds Good Compared to Other Songs.
- It Sounds Good on Multiple Sound Systems.
This is usually a sign of terrible monitors being used at the mixing stage - great monitors let you hear the whole frequency range of your mix. A simple rule of thumb is to keep instruments of the same frequency apart, like naughty children, so you don't get them clashing and fighting with one another for attention.
Mixing and mastering are difficult because it can take years to train your ears to identify and focus on specific frequency ranges. It takes even longer to recognize how to fix a problem with a frequency, and what actions to take to bring forward or push back a particular element of your mix.Does a good mix need mastering? ›
Is mixing and mastering necessary? Mixing is crucial for the perfect balance of the song's instruments and voices and for placing them in the stereo image. Mastering makes it possible for a song and an album to fit among other songs on streaming platforms.Should I compress my mix before mastering? ›
Handing an overly compressed mix off to your mastering engineer leaves less room for the mastering processing. This often includes some type of additional compression as well as limiting, so squashing the dynamics out of every track should be avoided before mastering.What is the 1db rule in mixing? ›
Rule 9: A 1 dB change in loudness is a just noticeable difference (JND). At mid loudness levels, a 1-dB change in loudness is just noticeable. A 1-dB increase requires a 25% increase in power. At higher loudnesses, changes as small as 1/3 dB may be noticeable.Does mastering make vocals sound better? ›
Mastering a bad mix is the art of compromise. It's a delicate process of balancing unbalanced material. “Can mastering make vocals louder?” Yes, but depending on how the song has been mixed, it may bring up another element with them…Should I mix music in full volume? ›
While it's okay to briefly listen to a mix at a louder level to hear what it sounds like cranked, you need a default volume level to call “home.” Renowned mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge agrees, recommending that you mix at a consistent volume that's quiet enough for comfortable extended listening.What dB should vocals peak at? ›
The dynamic range of an audio track is the range of decibel levels that fall between the distortion ceiling and the noise floor. The dynamic range of a vocal recording should peak at -10dB and be lowest at -24dB (best level is -18dB).What is a reasonable sound level? ›
Sounds at or below 70 dBA are generally considered safe. Any sound at or above 85 dBA is more likely to damage your hearing over time. Researchers have found that people who are exposed over long periods of time to noise levels at 85 dBA or higher are at a much greater risk for hearing loss.Is 50 percent volume too loud? ›
Headphones and earbuds can reach as loud as 100 dB or more, so a safe level is 50 to 60 percent of the maximum volume. This helps protect our hearing and allows us to listen to our favorite music for longer. When using Bluetooth-enabled earbuds, limit the volume using the phone's settings.What happens if your volume is too high? ›
The cochlea has thousands of hairs within it to sense sound. The vibrations move them. Eventually, if the sound is too loud, they lose sensitivity. Loud noises cause the hairs to bend, and lead to hearing loss.
85 – 100 decibels: For example, a hair dryer, blender, power lawn mower, forklift, or subway train. 100 – 120 decibels: For example, a bulldozer, impact wrench, or motorcycle. 120 – 140 decibels: Such as, a rock concert, auto racing, or a hammer pounding a nail.What noise level should you not exceed? ›
General Environmental Noise web page. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that noise exposure levels should not exceed 70 dB over a 24-hour period, and 85 dB over a 1-hour period to avoid hearing impairment.How long can you listen to 90dB? ›
First and foremost, it's best not to make any changes greater than 3dB during a mastering session. Unless you're trying to fix a serious issue with a mix and you don't have access to the mix session for a revision , you should typically stay within the . 25dB to 2dB range for amplification or attenuation.What is the best setting for mastering? ›
Here are some general guidelines if you want to use compression while mastering: Start your ratio at 1.25:1 or 1.5:1. Going past a ratio of more than 2:1 is not recommended. Set your threshold pretty high so that you're getting 2 dB of gain reduction at most.Should you master to 0 dB? ›
Never hit the 0 dBFS mark -there is plenty of opportunities for reaching that level when you initiate the mastering phase (if that is your goal). To play it safe, simply lower the master fader until you have at least 3 dB headroom towards 0 dBFS.Is mastering just loudness? ›
Mastering isn't just making your song louder. Mastering often includes increasing the final volume, but there is far more to mastering than just turning the volume up.What dB does Spotify use? ›
A diagram of data flow in Spotify (Spotify). The Cassandra database, Spotify's storage unit, consists of over 100 Cassandra clusters, each containing a nested storage system within itself.
Background vocals should sit somewhere underneath the leads in terms of volume. There's no one-mix-fits-all dB amount to go by, but you should definitely be thinking in terms of quieter backgrounds and louder leads.How loud should melody be compared to drums? ›
Should my drums be louder than my melody? Yes, in most cases, the drum track exceeds the melody track in terms of loudness. In a typical pop/hip-hop mix, the drums take a more fore-front position as compared to the melody tracks, especially in choruses and drops.
In short: to achieve balance, the melody should always be played louder than the accompaniment. In the majority of piano works, the melody is at the top of the score, while the accompaniment is below it. There can often be many more notes in the accompaniment than in the melody.What is considered a loud mix? ›
Mix loudness varies on a case by case basis, but most mastering engineers recommend around -6dB Peak loudness, with an average of -18 LUFS integrated.What is the best volume level for music? ›
Experts recommend keeping sound levels at somewhere between 60 and 85 decibels to minimize the damage your ears are exposed to. If you are listening to music at around 100 decibels, restrict your usage to within 15 mins. However, these are general guidelines and listening threshold is different for each individual.How do you get perfect vocals in mix? ›
- Choose the best vocal takes. ...
- Remove unwanted noise. ...
- Apply Pitch Correction. ...
- Use EQ to create clarity. ...
- Add saturation. ...
- Use level automation and compression to control vocal dynamics. ...
- Use a de-esser to reduce sibilance. ...
- Add depth and character with vocal effects.
It's a common practice to keep the vocals at a loudness between -12 and -18 dB LUFS, depending on which stage of mixing you're in. You should gain stage vocals at about -18 dB LUFS, but you can have it up to -12 dB LUFS by the end of the session, as vocals are one of the loudest elements in the mix.Why is it so hard to mix vocals? ›
Vocals are tricky. They're often the loudest thing in a mix, which leaves little room for error. And since we're so familiar with the sound of the human voice, we're quick to notice any imperfections.What is the hardest genre of music to play on drums? ›
The hardest style of drumming to learn is jazz, followed closely by metal and latin. This is because jazz has one of the biggest ranges of material to learn to be a proficient drummer in an ensemble.How loud should drum and bass be? ›
Try to have your monitor volume at around 73-76dB for the optimum level for setting the perfect low-end. We hear frequencies differently at various volume levels. We hear less bass when it's quieter, and more bass when it's louder.How many decibels is a loud drummer? ›
Drums can be as loud as between 90 and 130 decibels. Different drums vary quite a bit in how loud they are. Smaller drums would be closer to 90dB, but larger ones, like the tom-toms, can be as loud as 120 decibels.What makes a strong melody? ›
Most good melodies are comprised of stepwise motion (i.e., move by scale steps), with occasional leaps. Melodies that are too leapy are often too difficult to sing. Good writers use melodic leaps as a good way to generate little shots of energy. Most good melodies have a discernible relationship with the bass line.
Kliewer states, "The essential elements of any melody are duration, pitch, and quality (timbre), texture, and loudness. Though the same melody may be recognizable when played with a wide variety of timbres and dynamics, the latter may still be an "element of linear ordering."What are the 4 aspects of a good melody? ›
- 1 — Great melodies often use repeating elements. ...
- 2 — The pitch range of great melodies is often no more than an octave and a half. ...
- 3 — Great melodies often comprise stepwise motion with occasional leaps. ...
- 4 — Great melodies often use a limited number of tones.