Old 05-21-2019, 09:13 PM   #1
ryannn29
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Default LUFS for mp3s/downloads?

Hey all,
I'm working on mastering my tracks, and I've been learning how to target -9 and around -14 LUFS for CDs and Streaming.

But what about normal mp3 downloads from iTunes and Amazon Mp3? I spent so much time googling and no one article could give a straight answer.

What really surprised me is that I just checked out some tracks I purchased from Amazon Mp3 and some tracks imported from a CD, and both were playing at around -6 LUFS on my Fabfilter Pro-L 2's LUFS meter (and we're hitting around +1db on the master).
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Old 05-21-2019, 09:19 PM   #2
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What really surprised me is that I just checked out some tracks I purchased from Amazon Mp3 and some tracks imported from a CD, and both were playing at around -6 LUFS on my Fabfilter Pro-L 2's LUFS meter (and we're hitting around +1db on the master).
Why is that surprising? You haven't heard of the Loudness War?
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Old 05-21-2019, 10:32 PM   #3
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Oh, I certainly have heard of it, but I also don't know what LUFS normal mp3 downloads would be at.
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:55 AM   #4
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These are some lufs measurements I measured and use for reference. I'm typically at 13.5 lufs for my work as I can hear a difference at 12 with less dynamics happening. What's cool to me is a great sounding song in my book David Lee Roth, Yankee Rose, -14.8

Boston, Rock and Roll Band, -12 to -11 to -9.5
Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat, H Gang -20.5 to -17.6
Richard Marx, Hazard -20 to -14.1 to -12.8
Shania, WIM, You win my love, -14 to -12
Supertramp, Logical Song, -16.5 to -13 to -11
Rush, Moving Pictures,YYZ -19
Rush, La Villa Strangiata, -16
Pink Floyd, Time, -10 .5
Rush, Test for Echo, -9.8, -8.4
Shania, When, -9
Scorpions, Stone in my shoe, -8.2
Pink Floyd, The Wall, Run like Hell, -16.8
David Lee Roth, Ladies Night, -17
David Lee Roth, Tobacco Road, -14
David Lee Roth, Yankee Rose, -14.8
Boz Scaggs, JoJo, -14 to -12.0
Bon Jovi, Living on a Prayer, -8.5
Ac/DC, Back in Black, -11 to -8.5
Ac/DC, Let there be Rock, -12 to -11
Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Space, -12 to -7.5
Dixie Chicks, I Like it, -8
Dixie Chicks, Little Jack Slade, -12 to -11
Aerosmith, Sweet Emotion, -14 to -13
Aerosmith, Jaded, -9
Aerosmith, Love in an Elevator, -8
Aerosmith, Back in the Saddle, -13
Alice Cooper, Poison, -9.5 to -7.2
Spyro Gyra, Special Delivery, -9
Spyro Gyra, De La Luz, -11
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:56 AM   #5
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It's not important for downloads...

LUFS is for broadcast. As long as your songs don't have to fit in a row, it doesn't matter much.

For broadcast, the recommendation is -24 LUFS. For streaming, it has already been upped to -16, or even -14. Seems we can't appeal to common sense...
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:58 AM   #6
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By default the algorithms on their side maintain levels like this:

Apple Music -16LUFS
Youtube -13 LUFS
Spotify - 14 LUFS
Soundcloud -14LUFS
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Old 05-22-2019, 06:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pepe44 View Post
By default the algorithms on their side maintain levels like this:

Apple Music -16LUFS
Youtube -13 LUFS
Spotify - 14 LUFS
Soundcloud -14LUFS
I recently uploaded to SoundCloud at -14, and it was so much quieter than other tracks on SC, I was amazed. There's 'integrated LUFS', 'momentary LUFS' (???). I couldn't get my levels in SC to an acceptable volume W/o Loudmaxing the crap out of it. I'm doing something wrong.
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Old 05-22-2019, 06:12 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by ReaperMadness View Post
I recently uploaded to SoundCloud at -14, and it was so much quieter than other tracks on SC, I was amazed. There's 'integrated LUFS', 'momentary LUFS' (???). I couldn't get my levels in SC to an acceptable volume W/o Loudmaxing the crap out of it. I'm doing something wrong.
I did the same and experienced the same! I have a lot to learn about mastering but still, this seemed quite basic.
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Old 05-22-2019, 06:20 AM   #9
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I did the same and experienced the same! I have a lot to learn about mastering but still, this seemed quite basic.
14 lufs is a great level for good music. When you get in the 12 range you can hear dynamics being lost, when you get to 10-8 range things are getting crushed. I'm staying with between 13 and 14 lufs and I give zero shits if it's quieter than the next guy.

Always go with your ears and what ........

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Old 05-22-2019, 08:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
It's not important for downloads...

LUFS is for broadcast. As long as your songs don't have to fit in a row, it doesn't matter much.

For broadcast, the recommendation is -24 LUFS. For streaming, it has already been upped to -16, or even -14. Seems we can't appeal to common sense...
That's what I was thinking--that it must just be for streaming since I couldn't find articles referencing LUFS for local mp3s/downloads. Thanks for confirming.


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Originally Posted by pepe44 View Post
By default the algorithms on their side maintain levels like this:

Apple Music -16LUFS
Youtube -13 LUFS
Spotify - 14 LUFS
Soundcloud -14LUFS
Yeah, I saw this; one thing important that I learned is that Apple Music references their streaming, not their downloads.
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Old 05-22-2019, 10:46 AM   #11
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Even the Apple Music stream is not normalized unless users turn ON Sound Check in their iTunes preferences.

This is opposite of Spotify which has normalization on by default, and TIDAL strangely has it on by default in the mobile app, but there isn't even an option in the desktop app.

Generally speaking, the website versions of these services do not normalize.

It's a huge mess.

Just do what's best for the music and let what happens out in the wild happen.
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Old 05-22-2019, 10:50 AM   #12
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Also, SoundCloud doesn't normalize, but they do reduce the sound quality when streaming to 64kbps Opus, with is why when people upload mp3s to SoundCloud (which they do), they sound awful. A 24-bit WAV can be tolerable after the SoundCloud conversion.

Downloads are the original resolution.

It's not surprising that a song with an integrated loudness of -14LUFS would sound quiet on SoundCloud compared to most other music on there.
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Old 05-23-2019, 02:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
For streaming, it has already been upped to -16, or even -14. Seems we can't appeal to common sense...
hm, this is the opposite I think... it used to be unlimited, so people would use a standard, loud LUFS such as the one used for CDs... -9 or -10 and now they try to limit the loudness war.

-24 dB is really quiet... try listening to a -24db LUFS file on headphones on normal, standard equipement, I mean, with no dedicated headphone amplifier... or even simply in your car... You'll need to boost the volume soooo much...
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Old 05-23-2019, 02:53 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coachz View Post
14 lufs is a great level for good music.
Totally agree!

Quote:
I give zero shits if it's quieter than the next guy.
I tried to be like you... but it did not last long... when your tracks is on display on a page and the end user quickly browse thru the tracks, and yours is so weak... they immediately jump to the next one.

So ok, the music might be better... but it won't be listened to... this is why I went back to -10... I am still way way way quieter than the competition, but I feel comfortable at this level.

I was shocked to see that here for instance => Premiumbeat the demo tracks I downloaded (rock style) were around -7.5 !
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:48 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by winbe View Post
Totally agree!


I tried to be like you... but it did not last long... when your tracks is on display on a page and the end user quickly browse thru the tracks, and yours is so weak... they immediately jump to the next one.

So ok, the music might be better... but it won't be listened to... this is why I went back to -10... I am still way way way quieter than the competition, but I feel comfortable at this level.

I was shocked to see that here for instance => Premiumbeat the demo tracks I downloaded (rock style) were around -7.5 !
David Lee Roth did really well with Yankee Rose at -14 :-)
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Old 05-23-2019, 07:57 AM   #16
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hm, this is the opposite I think... it used to be unlimited, so people would use a standard, loud LUFS such as the one used for CDs... -9 or -10 and now they try to limit the loudness war.
The aim of LUFS is getting the same level on broadcast sources. IE, stopping ads from being obnoxiously loud, leading to accidents when people are listening on their car radio. Or waking up granddad when he's asleep in front of the telly...

Quote:
-24 dB is really quiet... try listening to a -24db LUFS file on headphones on normal, standard equipement, I mean, with no dedicated headphone amplifier... or even simply in your car... You'll need to boost the volume soooo much...
The end user is still in control of the volume knob. I don't have any equipment that doesn't allow enough level to ruin your ears with headphones. Unless you are going deaf, of course.

The aim of LUFS is also to allow for enough dynamics for IE documentaries, with a clearly audible narrator and quiet background music. Watch Youtube and you'll find that one of the results of the loudness war is that a lot of vids have background music that is as loud as, or even considerably louder than the narrator, making them very hard to listen to.

Another consideration when developing LUFS was that a lot of people seem to have radio, or even TV, as a background. They are not paying attention to it, it's just on. And it's louder in general than the people who are really listening or watching. Very annoying for neighbours if there's an obnoxiously loud ad in between civilised programming.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:45 AM   #17
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The aim of LUFS is getting the same level on broadcast sources. IE, stopping ads from being obnoxiously loud, leading to accidents when people are listening on their car radio. Or waking up granddad when he's asleep in front of the telly...
^the original aim was...

Until it was migrated over to music in general FYI to combat loudness war habits or at least create consistency in perceived loudness. IOW, streaming services using LUFs algos for playback don't have anything to do with broadcast at this point. In this respect, it's a good judge of perceived loudness of an entire song where the person mixing/mastering needs to decide which numbers they use and how, aka short term, integrated, momentary and so on.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:49 AM   #18
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when your tracks is on display on a page and the end user quickly browse thru the tracks, and yours is so weak... they immediately jump to the next one.
I don't think that is accurate as I've never found myself skipping good music due to perceived loudness for example but.... what you are doing by chasing ^that dragon is now creating distortion in your music that makes it difficult to listen to for long periods of time (literal fatigue on the ears) vs music without that distortion.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:53 AM   #19
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I have some tracks on Revernation. I asked them awhile back about their levels and I didnt get any response. Would you happen to know what their levels are?


Quote:
Originally Posted by pepe44 View Post
By default the algorithms on their side maintain levels like this:

Apple Music -16LUFS
Youtube -13 LUFS
Spotify - 14 LUFS
Soundcloud -14LUFS
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:13 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
I don't think that is accurate as I've never found myself skipping good music due to perceived loudness for example but.... what you are doing by chasing ^that dragon is now creating distortion in your music that makes it difficult to listen to for long periods of time (literal fatigue on the ears) vs music without that distortion.
exactly. Your music will forever be memorialized with that crushed sound when it could sound so much better and be so much more enjoyable to listen to.

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Old 05-23-2019, 12:07 PM   #21
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exactly. You're music will forever be memorialized with that crushed sound when it could sound so much better and be so much more enjoyable to listen to.
No, but my music is not that crushed... I would not want this!
I am around -11 -10 LUFS, for Hiphop tracks.

Now about skipping tracks, when you have to browse thru hundreds of royalty free tracks to find the one you need, I am pretty sure if one is too quiet to feel its potential, you'll skip to the next one.

Same problem with the nice and long intros... I love long intros, when things build up slowly... but this is just not possible in the royalty free production music world...
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Old 05-23-2019, 03:16 PM   #22
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Spotify don't use LUFS (yet), their measurement is based on ReplayGain (-18), then they add 3.6. So if you are hitting -14 Spotify will turn you down a little.

FWIW, I mix my own stuff to about -16 int, and master it to -12 int, between -9 to -10 max short, and -1 peak (true peak), because it sounds good to me.

Gain duties are shared between a clipper (SIR) and a limiter (Barricade) to avoid overworking the limiter.
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Old 05-23-2019, 04:33 PM   #23
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Old 05-23-2019, 05:08 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
^the original aim was...

Until it was migrated over to music in general FYI to combat loudness war habits or at least create consistency in perceived loudness. IOW, streaming services using LUFs algos for playback don't have anything to do with broadcast at this point. In this respect, it's a good judge of perceived loudness of an entire song where the person mixing/mastering needs to decide which numbers they use and how, aka short term, integrated, momentary and so on.
So you think your music will never be played on radio, or TV? Or you prefer making several versions of your songs? One for Apple music, one for Spotify, one for...

The BBC's compressors have been online for several years as they are leading the way. And yes, these also process all the streaming from the Beeb. But even the Beeb has decided to set them at 18 LUFS for podcasts, in stead of 23. Got to add to the confusion, I guess?

I've got no clue where other European broadcasters stand atm, but most of them are at least planning to do the same. Japan is ready, they might have working systems right now.

The things I make, won't probably be aired. But it seems common sense to adopt a level that would mean you can give them to anyone, for any medium and be done with it.

I see no way of testing how your song would sound if you deviate considerably from advised levels. I do know however, that 14 LUFS will make some content sound different when run through these compressors. And that's not better, in my ears.

For those in doubt and interested, you might want to read the BBC white paper on the subject:

https://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/...les/WHP202.pdf

There's a lot more complexity behind LUFS than you might think...

EBU R128 wasn't migrated to music. In fact, music producers only woke up when the ITU adopted EBU R128 and turned out ITU-R BS.1770. And that was in 2006. Already 13 years ago. The music business was simply very late to the party. In fact, when they were invited, late last century, they couldn't even be bothered to answer the invitation, let alone show up for the party....

Now, don't take this personal, Karbo. It's not aimed at you, or other musicians. It's aimed at the big boys. Those who should be doing their job, at the top of the big content owners. But they're too busy pleasing shareholders and fighting piracy, like Don Quijote de la Mancha...

Besides, it's not only music. Movies have an even bigger problem, but at least the movie people are aware of it, as they have always had the problem. Dolby solved that by providing two output levels: one for old analog TV's and one for modern ones. And lo and behold, Dolby is around 30 LUFS. Very quiet, as movies might just need dynamics.
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Old 05-23-2019, 05:24 PM   #25
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No, but my music is not that crushed... I would not want this!
I am around -11 -10 LUFS, for Hiphop tracks.

Now about skipping tracks, when you have to browse thru hundreds of royalty free tracks to find the one you need, I am pretty sure if one is too quiet to feel its potential, you'll skip to the next one.

Same problem with the nice and long intros... I love long intros, when things build up slowly... but this is just not possible in the royalty free production music world...
Id never skip over Yankee Rose.
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Old 05-23-2019, 05:50 PM   #26
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So you think your music will never be played on radio, or TV? Or you prefer making several versions of your songs? One for Apple music, one for Spotify, one for...
^I've not the slightest idea what you are trying to say there in relation to my comment. I only said LUFs measurements are now used for more than the broadcast field they originated from which they are. You can make it shit-show complicated if you want but it doesn't need to be. Besides, I've already used these measurements to release to appx 40 services worldwide, no problems thus far.

However, someone using it in a professional capacity might want to know what they are doing (for what I use it for, I do) but the requirement of being skilled at what you do was there before LUFs ever existed. For music, this isn't that hard, it really isn't but one does have to know "something" about dynamic range, RMS, Crest Factor, LUFS Integrated, Short Term, Momentary... whathaveyou.

Quote:
Now, don't take this personal, Karbo.
I don't know how I could take it personal since I'm not even sure what you've gone off the deep end about LOL.
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Old 05-23-2019, 06:11 PM   #27
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No wonder so much stuff on Youtube sounds so bad...

I just wish the streaming services would document their processing.
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Old 05-23-2019, 07:57 PM   #28
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The general mastering engineer wisdom around all of these silly formats and moving targets is:
Make ONE digital master that sounds good, is not too smashed for loudness, and use it for everything.
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:02 PM   #29
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^Makes a lot of sense doesn't it. Especially since so many distribution services send it to all the streaming services in one go.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:57 PM   #30
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No wonder so much stuff on Youtube sounds so bad...
Loudness adjustment doesn't damage sound quality, it simply adjusts the volume.

Quote:
I just wish the streaming services would document their processing.
They do use lossy compression* (AAC?) and depending on the uploaded format you can end-up with a lossy-to-lossy conversion. Or if you steal (record) music from YouTube and you make an MP3 or other lossy format, you can end-up with 3 generations of lossy compression!


Of course, YouTube is a "service" and THEY are in control. And their customers (the real customers that pay the bills) are the advertisers, not the users.


You don't have to use YouTube if you don't like it.


Or if you are a content producer and you DO have to be on YouTube, you can also have your own website, etc., so you don't have to completely at their mercy.




* That's file compression, not dynamic compression.
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Old 05-24-2019, 12:01 AM   #31
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Loudness adjustment doesn't damage sound quality, it simply adjusts the volume.
If that's what they do. I have very little understanding of what Youtube does, but I think there's compression involved. And with the BBC system there's definitely compression involved. If you simply amplify quiet tracks, you might get peaks to clip.

Quote:
They do use lossy compression* (AAC?) and depending on the uploaded format you can end-up with a lossy-to-lossy conversion. Or if you steal (record) music from YouTube and you make an MP3 or other lossy format, you can end-up with 3 generations of lossy compression!
Of course, but that has little to do with loudness level an sich...

It is probably part of the bad sound, as are unexperienced recordists, bad mic placement etc.
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Old 05-24-2019, 04:51 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by ChristopherT View Post
The general mastering engineer wisdom around all of these silly formats and moving targets is:
Make ONE digital master that sounds good, is not too smashed for loudness, and use it for everything.
All said
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Old 05-24-2019, 05:31 AM   #33
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The general mastering engineer wisdom around all of these silly formats and moving targets is:
Make ONE digital master that sounds good, is not too smashed for loudness, and use it for everything.
100%

If I make a master that is -14 LUFS and another that is -8 LUFS integrated which is a hypothetical situation that I see suggested or inquired about often, those two masters will sound different.

Not just in loudness obviously, but the processing required to get to -8LUFS integrated will smash the dynamics, transients and percussive elements, and bring up the FX and melodic elements. It adds a certain character to the sound which can be good, or bad.

On the -14LUFS version, the transients and percussive elements will seem very loud and the FX and melodic elements will seem too quiet.

This is why I believe in one digital master that hits a sweet spot that feels good in both normalized, and non-normalized situations.

It can be done. Two loudness versions just leads to confusion and have way too many differences (aside from loudness alone) IMO.

The goal is to not go so loud that after normalization, all the harshness and artifacts from making a super loud master are exposed and the song feels dwarfed, and obvious to not go so quiet that people can't turn it loud enough their device.

In my experience, masters that are too loud are more problematic than the opposite, but artists/bands often have fear of being too quiet and deemed amateur/failure and somehow not "commercially acceptable" or some other non-sense.

The other related aspect is being asked to provide a hot "radio ready master".

The reality is that a more dynamic and conservative master is likely to survive and sound best after all the FM broadcast processing than a mix that is pushed super loud. This is best it's only being destroyed once instead of twice

All stations do their own degree of sonic processing (some more, some less), but the general concept rings true.
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