How to use loudness meter

Hi could someone please give me advice on the correct use of the loudness meter, I watched the official video on you tube I thought I understood it, however I was always told that I should have my mixes to -3db on the Master fader so ther is room for mastering and to avoid true clipping which I did on my last mix but when I switched to the loudness meter it was going off the scale.

I had to drop the Master (stereo out) fader by 11db to get the loudness integrated meter to read 0.5 , is this normal? Or am I meant to keep the Master fader at 0 and drop all the other levels until the loudness meter is reading correct? Has the loudness meter made the Master fader obsolete ?

If I do drop all the other faders will that mean I won’t have to use a compressor as much? Will it give me more dynamic range?

Sorry lots of questions but I hope someone can help.


Hi Capt’n!

Loudness measurement was introduced recently by the EBU, foremost for TV and radio stations to end the “loudness war” and create smoother sound dynamics in the programming (an example: you’re watching a movie on TV, then the commercials cut in and suddenly everything sounds louder, even though, technically, it isn’t)

Steinberg has, to my surprise and delight, jumped on this wagon very early and with very pleasing results (their integrated loudness meter is superb)

The loudness meter works in several different ways, and quite differently as the classic meter.
First, and most importantly, what you’re measuring here is perceived loudness, meaning how loud program material will actually sound to a human ear. That means the reading is dependent not only upon what volume level your mix has (that’s the classic readout you know from previous versions, called “PPM metering”) but also how wide the dynamics of your mix are (lots of compression = louder material) and what frequencies are present in your mix (more stuff in the range between 200 Hz and 8 kHz = louder material)
The loudness meter measures this in LU (loudness units) as opposed to the classic dB reading.

On top, you have the momentary loudness, meaning the loudness of short transients like a crash cymbal etc.
Beneath that is the short-term loudness, which measures the loudness over a somewhat longer time-scale, giving you a better impression of how loud you mix is currently perceived by a listener.
Below that, you have the integrated loudness. This is the loudness of the whole program, from start to stop.
Finally you’ve got true peak (your classic PPM-reading) and, what’s probably most important for music production, your loudness range reading.
This will tell you how dynamic your mix is, so it can tell you a lot about you program material and if it is suitable for the task in hand. For example, if you’re producing the latest smasher club-mix for Chris Brown or whoever, you’ll want this reading in the low one-digit area. If on the other hand you’re producing classical music, this readout can gladly reach values of up to 20 LU (after that, it’ll be a bit hard on the listener though, unless he has a REALLY good HiFi…)

So the main question is: what are you doing? If it’s music, be it classical or hardcore techno, you will still need to deliver a mix that maxes out at -1 to -3 dB on the CLASSIC PPM meter, and then you can use the integrated and loudness range readouts to see if your mix is suitable for your audience.
If on the other hand you’re doing something for a (at least European) TV station, you mix will have to have an integrated loudness reading of -24 to -22 LUFS, ideally exactly -23 LUFS.

There’s a lot more to it, and if you’re interested in further details, here’s the exact specification from the EBU:

Heiner Einbier: Thank you very much clearing this out!

Hi Heiner, thanks for your help, but I am still confused are you saying I either mix to -3db and ignore the loudness meter or should I be trying to balance the loudness meter to be 0 Lu while also having -3db on the master fader ?

If it is the second how is that achieved? As I said in my latest mix I had to drop the master fader by 10db to get the correct reading on the loudness meter, but then the master fader was reading about -13db, if I try to drop all the other faders to keep the master fader higher then many would be barely a centre meter from the bottom of the fader which does not give much room to work with.

I have to say mixing to the loudness meter is a better sounding mix but I just don’t understand the relationship between the master fader output and the loudness meter. HELP!!! :blush:


Don’t forget, you did mention it in your 1st post, your audience includes the mastering lab!

I thought that (i.e. allowance for mastering) was also addressed in the mentioned video - I’ll have to watch it again.

The loudness meter value that equates closely to the master fader output value is the true peak value. Take that as reference to not get over 0.00 or as you´ve done always to not go over -3. And mix as always unless instructed to deliver mixes according to EBU 128 recommendations.

Really, when mixing music you can just ignore the Loudness meter and just work entirly with the Peak meter if you wish.

Yes I’d just go with the peak as you’ve always done, or do it as Thinkingcap says.
Either way, remember loudness is a function of the mastering stage and should not be a goal for mixing.

I was also wondering if it’s desirable to achieve the EBU recommendation of -23 LUFS when mastering music for CD. So I have measured some professional CD’s and, surprisingly, I have found out that even the most dynamical jazz albums from my collection have -10 LUFS, not less. From this I got the feeling that EBU recommendation is too strict for the music production. But, of course, I’m not sure whether my feeling is right or not… :wink:

Is mainly a broadcast specification, if you’re not involved with that, just ignore it, or read up on the requirements.

Correct me if I am wrong but Digital 0dB is the maximum possible volume the system can produce.

All the rest is ‘art’.

And I suppose there will be metalheads in 2015 who will love that ‘classic retro’ sound of digital clipping!

Hey guys,

sorry for my somewhat unclear post… :wink:

As some of you stated, the -23 LUFS limit is for broadcast production. Prior to this, you had to deliver a maximum PPM-level of -9 dBFS for broadcast. That is why the loudness meter will always max out totally in the red when you’re producing music. That’s perfectly OK, just use the PPM meter for music production and the loudness range reading if you want to handle your loudness issues.

By the way - if you’re delivering stuff to a mastering studio, there’s a very good tool hidden in the loudness meter for you too: The true peak reading (second from bottom) is a PPM meter which integrates a lot faster than a standard PPM meter, meaning it will show you EXACTLY when your audio is in danger of clipping after D/A conversion. This means you can deliver higher audio levels to the mastering studio (-1 to -2 dBFS), thus making the most of your available bit rate, without the danger of clipping.

Don’t you mean bit depth? anyway I’d keep it well away from -1/2 dBFS, I know the mastering studio will probably just turn it down anyway if they need to, but somewhere around -6 dBFS would be better IMO!

Is the R-128 Meter/Standard weighted for frequency? ie perceived loudness?

I thought it was only amplitude vs time.

Thanks to all those who wrote, but I have to admit I’m more confused, some say use it, some say don’t :unamused: but I am getting the feeling that it is really a tool for mastering??? Not mixing would that be correct???


It is a tool and as that, it can be used for whatever it is suitable. I can use a hammer to hit a nail or to open a bottle. I just need to know what I’m doing and how to do it. To use it so it is useful to you, you first need to understand how it works and what it does. And if that is what is necessary for what you want to achieve. If you dont know how to use it, dont use it, just as always. Generally saying its only for mastering, not for mixing is not correct IMHO. And yes, you will get different answers on this also.

Yes. Of course I mean bit depth, sorry. And of course you can continue to level out at -6 dBFS, I’m just pointing out that technically, there isn’t any more need to.

Many thanks for this info. :smiley:

Great thread! Just to be sure: the true peak level readings I get from the loudness meter are the same as the Meter peak level I get on the master channel, right? They’re not always excatly the same (sometimes they differ by 0.1), so I guess there are some differences in how they calculate or measure the material.

The music I make end up in online browser games and isn’t mastered as such, nor meant to be heard over a hifi. I’ve always tried to get as close to 0db as possible on the master channel meter and if the loudness meter is the same (but better at measuring???) I guess should use this instead.

So, the short question: Can I use the true peak level on the loudness meter instead of the meter on the master channel and is it a better tool?