Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

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Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:46 pm

Mastering to -12 LUFS seems to have taken the punch and vibe out of some of my mixes, I know about chopping and tailing frequencies take back headroom in the mix. - but to me things seems to have gone too far the other way. Is anyone out there keeping their mojo without whacking the limiter? To my ears 95% of what I like is back by about -8, but this means my mixes will get turned down by the online audio streamers.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by TEEF » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:13 pm

Don't whack a limiter. Compress in stages. If the dynamic content is very different from band to band, you may want to dress it with a multiband before your 1st bout of compression so the compressor doesn't approach the compression strangely. Think an overly dynamic low end of a mix causing the compressor to pump.

Whats your signal chain for mastering?
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:59 pm

TEEF wrote:Don't whack a limiter. Compress in stages. If the dynamic content is very different from band to band, you may want to dress it with a multiband before your 1st bout of compression so the compressor doesn't approach the compression strangely. Think an overly dynamic low end of a mix causing the compressor to pump.

Whats your signal chain for mastering?
Thanks for the reply, I usually have a multiband on the mix-bus lightly kissing the mix during mixing and exporting.

In my mastering chain I usually end up using a transparent compressor followed by a Fairchild 670 or vintage warmer 2 (again just lightly kissing the peaks) and then tape compression finally the limiters (yes two!) I usually limit in two stages (slower than faster) so neither limiter is doing all the heavy lifting, Izotope's Vintage limiter followed by the standard iZotope one is another favourite chain of mine. My mastering chain has a lot of options but the above is usually what I end up with 90% of the time. So if you add it all up I've got at least 6 layers of compression!
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by alexis » Sun Feb 12, 2017 10:55 pm

PeppaPig wrote:Mastering to -12 LUFS seems to have taken the punch and vibe out of some of my mixes, I know about chopping and tailing frequencies take back headroom in the mix. - but to me things seems to have gone too far the other way. Is anyone out there keeping their mojo without whacking the limiter? To my ears 95% of what I like is back by about -8, but this means my mixes will get turned down by the online audio streamers.
Why -12 dBFS? I thought most streaming services were -13 to -15 LUFS ...? (http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/end-loudness-war ; http://productionadvice.co.uk/youtube-loudness/ )

Also, if mastering to high levels doesn't work well for you, why are you *mourning* the end of the loudness wars ... aren't they the cause of your misery?
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:24 pm

alexis wrote: Why -12 dBFS? I thought most streaming services were -13 to -15 LUFS ...? (http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/end-loudness-war ; http://productionadvice.co.uk/youtube-loudness/ )

Also, if mastering to high levels doesn't work well for you, why are you *mourning* the end of the loudness wars ... aren't they the cause of your misery?

If you look at my mastering monitoring in the screenshot, the default patch I have loaded is actually -16LKFS. If mixing for CD I usually go a bit hotter, this is my point at -12LKFS I just don't like the sound and volume compared to when I mastered hotter during the loudness wars, typically a pop or rock track of mine would average around -5LKFS - and that's with the track cut at -0.4db to give lossy encoders an easier time, but at this level, online streamers would massively pull the volume down. So I'm trying to do the right thing and master at -12LKFS or quieter - I just don't like the results sonically - I'm wondering if other people are having similar issues.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by alexis » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:29 pm

PeppaPig wrote:...

If you look at my mastering monitoring in the screenshot, the default patch I have loaded is actually -16LKFS. If mixing for CD I usually go a bit hotter, this is my point at -12LKFS I just don't like the sound and volume compared to when I mastered hotter during the loudness wars, typically a pop or rock track of mine would average around -5LKFS - and that's with the track cut at -0.4db to give lossy encoders an easier time, but at this level, online streamers would massively pull the volume down. So I'm trying to do the right thing and master at -12LKFS or quieter - I just don't like the results sonically - I'm wondering if other people are having similar issues.

I see, thanks for clarifying!
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-Get variable-tempo audio to follow a grid here,
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by TEEF » Mon Feb 13, 2017 1:45 am

PeppaPig wrote:
TEEF wrote:Don't whack a limiter. Compress in stages. If the dynamic content is very different from band to band, you may want to dress it with a multiband before your 1st bout of compression so the compressor doesn't approach the compression strangely. Think an overly dynamic low end of a mix causing the compressor to pump.

Whats your signal chain for mastering?
Thanks for the reply, I usually have a multiband on the mix-bus lightly kissing the mix during mixing and exporting.

In my mastering chain I usually end up using a transparent compressor followed by a Fairchild 670 or vintage warmer 2 (again just lightly kissing the peaks) and then tape compression finally the limiters (yes two!) I usually limit in two stages (slower than faster) so neither limiter is doing all the heavy lifting, Izotope's Vintage limiter followed by the standard iZotope one is another favourite chain of mine. My mastering chain has a lot of options but the above is usually what I end up with 90% of the time. So if you add it all up I've got at least 6 layers of compression!
Not sure what to say.... It seems like a lot of processing to me. FWIW, I usually only have this chain in the box:
Precision Multiband-> MSED ->33609-> MSED ->Precision eq -> ST Tool -> sonnox limiter. Externally mastering the limiter stays and the msed plugs too, 2 comps (1 tube, 1 vca) and eqs are outboard equipment. I usually M-S master

Really simple. My rig is fairly rich as far as sonics go during recording. HiQ preamps and mics, tuned rooms... so I don't feel I need tape emulation kinda things. That's me.. back to you.

Kissing doesn't tell me a whole lot. For instance if a band centered at 300hz is kissing a multi and it has 15db of dynamic range and you have a centered at 2kHz kissing 20db of dynamic range, the overall result will be the same dynamic range difference between bands of processing.

Anyway, the only thing I can say is if the depth of your processing for lower D.R. imparts a grit or pump... (you have to identify EXACTLY what it is), you will have to see how you can create it. Some compressors as they process transient material add a subtle distortion to those peaks creating sonic excitement. Hit them harder, they give you more excitement.

I don't know if that was helpful at all. Hard to advise without hearing the tune and looking at some scopes.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:47 am

Obviously I don't use all the plugins in that session - they are just options I can use. :D
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by TEEF » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:10 am

Yeah, I know! :lol: it's funny. Tonight I was mixing a piece and I crushed the Precision limiter and totally get what you're talking about. This made me think to tell you to try parallel compression. You can crush it to Smithereens and Blend it in to get that punch
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by Raphie » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:36 am

To much processing, can't sound anything else than like mushy peas.
You must reach your loudness target BEFORE hitting your limiter.
Your "chain" "barely kissing" already shaves shaves of -6 to -8dB stacked.
This has NOTHING to do with mastering.
Target loudness by itself can NEVER be a goal, it depends on the mix. Also having 5 to 6 plugins on your masterbus and calling it a "mastering chain" is NONSENSE, that's not what mastering is about.
Would recommend to educate yourself on the purpose and principles of mastering. Katz is a good primer.
And why you would like to "master" (read squash) beyond streaming target normalization is a mystery to me.
There IS no loudness war, only in your head.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by greggybud » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:03 pm

Raphie wrote:To much processing, can't sound anything else than like mushy peas.
You must reach your loudness target BEFORE hitting your limiter.
Excellent advice!

Mastering in general has changed so much that when referring to "mastering" in forums it means something very different. Everyone has the great tools. Unfortunately, experience with the tools and how to implement them, when to implement them, and on what type of audio to manifest a desired audio objective is severely lacking. Apologies sounding so pious. ME's know their tools and when to use which tool for a desired outcome.

With the exception of EDM, (most of what I did was pop and pop rock) I'm not convinced multi-band is all that useful. It can be, but IMO there are too many wrong avenues unless you have experience in a good room listening for adverse effects of multiband.

Obtaining majority of volume before limiting is going to pay off dividends. That is how to keep the mojo. That seems to be contrary to most home mastering I read about. With home mastering and lots of marketing, it's all about chains, buying the latest limiter, and how hard you can hit that limiter with the least amount of bad artifacts to make it sound like Brian Gardner. Brian, and most ME's I know of, don't do it that way.

Having a "mastering chain" IMO is silly unless you have an input labeled "I take anything" and an output that says "mastered better than Gateway." It completely depends on the content, genre, and how the pre-master sounds and what it needs. Sure there are some basic concepts, but a pre-set chain, even when disengaged, seems dangerous because you continually re-arrange processing that is dependent on the objectives which are always different.

Get the desired volume before mastering. Get it in the mix. Get it by knowing composition, and how instruments work together. That is where the mojo is at. My admiration of commercial mix engineers completely over-shadows the best ME's.

Most commercial pre-master pop tracks arrived (and I think still arrive these days) relatively loud. (There are a lot of variables, but -12dbRMS to -10dbRMS would be a general guess.) What the ME does to a great mix is enhancing per the clients objectives. Making it slightly louder via EQ, M/S, parallel or SERIES compression, and proper gain staging which adds cohesive sound to an album.

Don't mix by numbers. Have knowledge of the numbers and how they usually relate to sound, but use your ears. Turn the lights out, and do a lot of A/B's. Having a tool such as smart bypass in Wavelab is beneficial because it removes any volume bias and allows you to focus only on the different A/B processing. It also impresses clients who sit in sessions to demonstrate loudness bias.

Good luck!
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by 1magineer » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:53 pm

Man, I have been out of it for a while... this is a great thread to catch me up... thanks to all who have posted in it...
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:51 am

Raphie wrote:To much processing, can't sound anything else than like mushy peas.
You must reach your loudness target BEFORE hitting your limiter.
Your "chain" "barely kissing" already shaves shaves of -6 to -8dB stacked.
This has NOTHING to do with mastering.
Target loudness by itself can NEVER be a goal, it depends on the mix. Also having 5 to 6 plugins on your masterbus and calling it a "mastering chain" is NONSENSE, that's not what mastering is about.
Would recommend to educate yourself on the purpose and principles of mastering. Katz is a good primer.
And why you would like to "master" (read squash) beyond streaming target normalization is a mystery to me.
There IS no loudness war, only in your head.
I hear what you're saying about loudness before limiter ('scuse the pun) - but - I LIKE the sound of the limiter, that's my point if I reach that loudness without limiting it starts to sound lifeless in comparison. We've had a similar discussion before, you like clean and clinical - and I like hot and dirty! :D
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:02 am

greggybud, my mixes do go loud before mastering, I trim fat from the bottom end and balance elements carefully. The Nugen Send plugin I use (in combo with mastercheck) does the same job as smart bypass. Again, I don't have a set mastering chain in that sense, my mastering template is a palate of options I may try during mastering, it's sort of a virtual patch bay. About not mixing by numbers, the K scale doesn't lie - if your end product is too loud, it will get turned down by spotify, air play etc. this is what I'm trying to achieve, getting the punch I'm used to by hitting my favourite limiter fairly hard whilst trying to keep the automatic volume police happy!
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by greggybud » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:14 am

PeppaPig wrote: I LIKE the sound of the limiter, that's my point if I reach that loudness without limiting it starts to sound lifeless in comparison.
What is the genre of music? Can you post a link?
What limiter are you using to achieve this desired limiting sound thats adding the "punch", and how much GR?
Usually too much limiting is what makes the audio lifeless. For broadcast radio, after an Obran Optimod it often gets even worse, or more quiet. In this case, assuming no expansion anywhere, and this is for streaming not radio, you are saying the opposite?

What were the dB RMS numbers of the track that Spotify rejected or was that -8db RMS as mentioned prior? Did you do error checks prior to submission?

Assuming you submitted a .wav file at 24bit/44.1/ 48/ 82.2 or 96k, you are aware that some headroom is needed or overs can happen when converted from .wav to MP3 correct?

You followed the mastered for i-tunes guidelines? Last I heard, Spotify was the same.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by Raphie » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:21 am

Exactly, a vain attempt to make songs sound like a radio broadcast. :)
Try listening to the CD versions of those tracks and be amazed.

So, if you like how it sounds on the radio, get yourself an Orban
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:23 am

Raphie wrote:Exactly, a vain attempt to make songs sound like a radio broadcast. :)
Try listening to the CD versions of those tracks and be amazed.

So, if you like how it sounds on the radio, get yourself an Orban
My artists usually distribute online, the general consumer does not buy CDs anymore.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:26 am

greggybud wrote:
PeppaPig wrote: I LIKE the sound of the limiter, that's my point if I reach that loudness without limiting it starts to sound lifeless in comparison.
What is the genre of music? Can you post a link?
What limiter are you using to achieve this desired limiting sound thats adding the "punch", and how much GR?
Usually too much limiting is what makes the audio lifeless. For broadcast radio, after an Obran Optimod it often gets even worse, or more quiet. In this case, assuming no expansion anywhere, and this is for streaming not radio, you are saying the opposite?

What were the dB RMS numbers of the track that Spotify rejected or was that -8db RMS as mentioned prior? Did you do error checks prior to submission?

Assuming you submitted a .wav file at 24bit/44.1/ 48/ 82.2 or 96k, you are aware that some headroom is needed or overs can happen when converted from .wav to MP3 correct?

You followed the mastered for i-tunes guidelines? Last I heard, Spotify was the same.
My favourite mastering limiter is Ozone's. The material doesn't sound terrible online just doesn't have the punch I'm used to when mastering to CD.
Cubase Pro 10.00.40, 9.5, Pro9.0.20. WaveLab 9 EL. UA Apollo Quad FW, UA PCI Octo, UA Satelite Quad, Adam T5V, Golden Audio pre73 DLX, Behringer ADA8200, Joe Meek AC3, Intel i7 6850x@4.2Ghz (6C/12T), Asus x99 Deluxe II, AMD 6450 HD, Windows 10 Pro, Samsung 860 and 850 SSDs, 64Gb RAM - Melodyne Studio, Komplete ultimate 11, Halion 6, GA,GA2,GA3,GA4 (+sp), OZ6, OZ7, OZ8 adv, Neutron Adv, BFD3, SoundToys rack, Panorama P1, M-Audio Oxygen, Yamaha YPP55 - outboard: PRO VLAII, Digitech Time machine RDS4000, 1950s Ferrograph Series 5, Mics: AKG C1000S, Rode NT2A and M5 pair, SE2200A, SE X1R, Fame-VT67 (cheap valve U67 clone), Heil PR20&PR22, Behringer Mic2200 used for reamping with a bit of nastiness!

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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:32 am

PS regarding the "mushy peas" comment I meant to comment on, plugins only impart as much colour as you demand, if you chained a 1000 vst (non character) passive EQs flat, the signal coming out the other end would be identical to the one going in. Try that with a thousand of the best, cleanest, most expensive analogue EQs in the world with solid gold interconnects, if you had any usable signal left at the end of the chain I'd be amazed. Chain length is irrelevant in the digital world, obviously what you do in that chain does matter though.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by Raphie » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:48 am

Please post some material for context, since your clients release digitally,the spotify or itunes link will do, pretty they don't mind public links.
This thread is nothing without context.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by 1magineer » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:18 pm

This is true, and if you start overusing some of the advanced character type plugins that include crosstalk and noise settings (like those from UAD, Waves, or Harrison Mixbus—the Waves Non-Linear Summer comes to mind), or use the two or three or ten together with even moderate harmonics/distortion dialed in and then a maximizer at the end of the chain, well...


PeppaPig wrote:PS regarding the "mushy peas" comment I meant to comment on, plugins only impart as much colour as you demand, if you chained a 1000 vst (non character) passive EQs flat, the signal coming out the other end would be identical to the one going in. Try that with a thousand of the best, cleanest, most expensive analogue EQs in the world with solid gold interconnects, if you had any usable signal left at the end of the chain I'd be amazed. Chain length is irrelevant in the digital world, obviously what you do in that chain does matter though.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by greggybud » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:59 pm

PeppaPig wrote: My favourite mastering limiter is Ozone's. The material doesn't sound terrible online just doesn't have the punch I'm used to when mastering to CD.
Okay your initial post suggested you are mastering for streaming not a CD.

Those are two different objectives.

Again, I'm assuming you completed all analysis and error checks, such as what is in Wavelab, have read and followed the mastering for i-tunes guidelines? You left enough room when converting .wav to MP3?

Without knowing the numbers as guidelines, what your feeding the Ozone, and a copy of the rejection it's difficult to guess the issue. But your premise that a limiter, even when utilizing it to add color and in your case "punch," is opposite of the resulting characteristics of limiters in general.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by MattiasNYC » Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:09 am

PeppaPig wrote:Mastering to -12 LUFS seems to have taken the punch and vibe out of some of my mixes, I know about chopping and tailing frequencies take back headroom in the mix. - but to me things seems to have gone too far the other way. Is anyone out there keeping their mojo without whacking the limiter? To my ears 95% of what I like is back by about -8, but this means my mixes will get turned down by the online audio streamers.
I don't understand this. The "loudness war" had to do with mixing mastering to the point of having an extremely limited dynamic range. "LUFS" actually does not refer to dynamic range, but perceived loudness relative to full scale digital.

So you can take a mix that is as "loud" as you want it, and if it measures -4 LUFS (for example) you can simply pull down the absolute level in a DAW by 8dB, and you end up with -12 LUFS. If you then turn up your volume knob on your stereo you end up right where you started. Same loudness, same limited dynamic range.

If you think about the moving image instead you can have a commercial meant for the internet and smartphones, squashed to hell and back, and lower its level so that it plays back at the same loudness level as a feature length film mixed in a Dolby certified mix stage. The latter, if it's a romantic comedy perhaps, could end up somewhere around -30 LUFS (or LKFS, for those in the US), and just lowering your commercial can hit the exact same number. But they sound nothing alike. One has a huge dynamic range, the other a very small one.

So, I don't understand this concept of mixing to this loudness value when dynamic range really is the issue.

Am I missing something here?
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by PeppaPig » Thu Feb 16, 2017 10:48 am

MattiasNYC wrote:
PeppaPig wrote:Mastering to -12 LUFS seems to have taken the punch and vibe out of some of my mixes, I know about chopping and tailing frequencies take back headroom in the mix. - but to me things seems to have gone too far the other way. Is anyone out there keeping their mojo without whacking the limiter? To my ears 95% of what I like is back by about -8, but this means my mixes will get turned down by the online audio streamers.
I don't understand this. The "loudness war" had to do with mixing mastering to the point of having an extremely limited dynamic range. "LUFS" actually does not refer to dynamic range, but perceived loudness relative to full scale digital.

So you can take a mix that is as "loud" as you want it, and if it measures -4 LUFS (for example) you can simply pull down the absolute level in a DAW by 8dB, and you end up with -12 LUFS. If you then turn up your volume knob on your stereo you end up right where you started. Same loudness, same limited dynamic range.

If you think about the moving image instead you can have a commercial meant for the internet and smartphones, squashed to hell and back, and lower its level so that it plays back at the same loudness level as a feature length film mixed in a Dolby certified mix stage. The latter, if it's a romantic comedy perhaps, could end up somewhere around -30 LUFS (or LKFS, for those in the US), and just lowering your commercial can hit the exact same number. But they sound nothing alike. One has a huge dynamic range, the other a very small one.

So, I don't understand this concept of mixing to this loudness value when dynamic range really is the issue.

Am I missing something here?
Hitting a limiter hard reduces dynamic range and therefore increases perceived loudness. A less dynamic track will read higher on average loudness scales.
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Re: Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Post by matjones » Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:01 am

MattiasNYC wrote:
PeppaPig wrote:Mastering to -12 LUFS seems to have taken the punch and vibe out of some of my mixes, I know about chopping and tailing frequencies take back headroom in the mix. - but to me things seems to have gone too far the other way. Is anyone out there keeping their mojo without whacking the limiter? To my ears 95% of what I like is back by about -8, but this means my mixes will get turned down by the online audio streamers.
I don't understand this. The "loudness war" had to do with mixing mastering to the point of having an extremely limited dynamic range. "LUFS" actually does not refer to dynamic range, but perceived loudness relative to full scale digital.

So you can take a mix that is as "loud" as you want it, and if it measures -4 LUFS (for example) you can simply pull down the absolute level in a DAW by 8dB, and you end up with -12 LUFS. If you then turn up your volume knob on your stereo you end up right where you started. Same loudness, same limited dynamic range.

If you think about the moving image instead you can have a commercial meant for the internet and smartphones, squashed to hell and back, and lower its level so that it plays back at the same loudness level as a feature length film mixed in a Dolby certified mix stage. The latter, if it's a romantic comedy perhaps, could end up somewhere around -30 LUFS (or LKFS, for those in the US), and just lowering your commercial can hit the exact same number. But they sound nothing alike. One has a huge dynamic range, the other a very small one.

So, I don't understand this concept of mixing to this loudness value when dynamic range really is the issue.

Am I missing something here?
Thanks for that, you beat me to it as i was about to post pretty much the same thing as that's the way i understand it too..... From my own 'experiments' i seem to find if i use the 'DR10' principle http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/challenge/ or thereabouts, then dynamics/loudness wise things generally seem to translate pretty well on most platforms. There seems to be a real 'sweet spot' around there too so choruses seem to lift properly and dropping back into a verse things seem to open up really nicely instead of just a constant 'BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE' you get with certain types of rock and EDM in particular.
Maybe i'm just getting/become old, but there are just some things i cannot listen to any more, even on an objective level as i find them fatiguing incredibly quickly.

Back in the day i was a huge Jamiroquai fan, their first album (1993 iirc)has great dynamic range, the opening track peaks around -1.3dbfs and in the choruses RMS hovers around -15 to -12bdfs..... wind forward to 2001s 'a funk odyssey and the CD is dreadful! there are some great tracks on it but i just couldn't get into it when it was released, it was only years later after looking at it on meters that i realised why, the CD is pushed into inter sample clipping and even in the verses RMS level hovers around -5dbfs..... it's just a never ending aural assault!!!! fine for BGM but try and actually LISTEN to it!!!
While i was typing this i listened to the first track all the way through, i had to bail just into the 2nd verse on the 2nd one and i barely have the monitors audible as it's still early here....
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