YouTube Loudness Standard

What’s the best volume level for music on YouTube?

If you don’t know the answer your music might be affected when it’s presented to your audience. You should know there are mastering standards for variety of digital platforms with all different levels and stuff. This short article will give you the most important details to make sure your music sounds great on YouTube platform.

What is LUFS?

LUFS (Loudness Units before Full Scale) is a synonym for Loudness, K-weighted, relative to Full Scale (LKFS), which is a loudness standard that aims to normalize loudness levels across broadcast mediums. In other words, it’s not a scientific standard in line with ISO 80000-8 and other electrical engineering standards, it’s specifically measuring perceived loudness.

The lower the number the quieter the level: -1 LUFS is louder than -10 LUFS, and -13 LUFS is quieter still.

How this is related to YouTube?

YouTube streams audio at around -14LUFS. If a track has a loudness level of -8 LUFS, YouTube will decrease the volume of that track to -14 LUFS. If a track is -23 LUFS the volume will be increased to -14 LUFS. This is GREAT news. It encourages artists to make their music more dynamic and less compressed. If you’re a producer, songwriter or artist you may have heard of the ‘Loudness War’. The loudness war ideology is ‘the louder your track, the better it will sound to your listeners’. That is no longer necessarily the case.

This means that YouTube has decided that while the “loudness wars” — with everyone trying to master their music at the loudest possible perceived level — may be going on in the audio world, in the video world, they’re going to ensure that the audio in their streams has a controlled maximum level. It also means that with YouTube now being one of the most popular methods of music discovery and listening, significant incentive for the loudness wars may have effectively been removed.

So, why should i care about it?

If you make your productions too quiet or dynamic, you risk unintended peak limiting on digital streaming services like YouTube through loudness normalization. If you make it too loud, you’re risking dynamics for the sake of loudness which inevitably gets turned down anyway. 

If your production is loud anyways (and we don’t mean slammed), you may as well be the one in control of how you want to limit peaks in your project rather than have YouTube automate it. To an extent, there’s enough headroom to have relatively dynamic content on YouTube without the risk of unintended peak limiting.

When music is loudness normalised, “loudness war” mixing and mastering sounds worse – and music with balanced dynamics sounds better.

It’s now irrelevant how high the mastering levels of your music are. Now on YouTube, we have no control about how loud people hear it – just as it’s always been on FM radio. In fact, heavily crushed, distorted “loudness war casualties” will often sound worse than more dynamic releases.