Adventures In Audio

Loudness normalization using the Waves WLM Plus loudness meter

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Being able to normalize audio to a given subjective loudness level is an important part of modern technique. This video shows how.

In this tutorial we will normalize an audio clip to a defined LUFS level.

The audio clip could be anything, but we will use a short poem, recorded at Abbey Road Studio 2. Firstly we will hear it and see it in the edit screen and mix screen of the digital audio workstation, which in this case is Pro Tools but the same principles apply in any DAW.

As you can see in the video just below the fader in the mix screen, the peak level is -2.5 dBFS, but this isn't a good measure of how loud the audio sounds subjectively.

For this, we need to measure the level of the signal in LUFS, meaning Loudness Units, relative to Full Scale.

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Zeh Netto Oficial:  The minimum difference I can hear is one dB.

Zeh Netto Oficial:  Awesome video! Thanks! Talking about strange things in technology, you might know the difference between hardware and software. Hardware you kick and software you swear. 🤣 Best!

Chace Bonanno:  I was going in circles with how to achieve my target integrated loudness and true peak. This video finally made it make sense. You first normalize the audio to your desired loudness, then use a true peak limiter without makeup gain.

TB Player:  Great video. Thanks! I recently purchased this plug-in and was looking for a good tutorial on how to use it. My only question is when you did your final measurement, wouldn’t the muted track add to the gain on the master track? Aren’t the original track and bounced track combined?

Benjamin:  Such a great tutorial!

DC:  Spinning like a Leslie speaker is Wordsworth🤣🤣. I found this video coz I needed it, thank you.

El Diablo:  This plug-in doesn't work in Cakewalk 2022.06 build 034

Langsalot:  Wait wait, what are you reading there? That's some beautiful poetic language. Author please! ;) Nice tutorial :)

Audio Masterclass replies to Langsalot: William Wordsworth. DM

Band Recording:  Lovely tutorial! Thank you so much for this video, David. It was a pleasure to watch and I've learned a lot. I will go now over to my studio and try it out. Kind regards!

Dave Knowles - filmmaker:  I have just tried bouncing the tracks in DaVinci Resolve 18 and it works just fine. For a mix you have to bounce a mix onto a new track. You do this in the Fairlight page/timeline then if you add WLM Plus to the mix down and analyse the track with WLM Plus up it will the give the readings.

sbrady:  Nuendo has this built in. I have Cubase 10.....v12 soon. Will this work in Cubase.

Rodrigo Pessoa:  yes I can hear a tenth of a db thank u for asking

Pedro Cruz:  True peak value is not a target value, it’s an alarm and limiter value, that’s why its red alerting you that you’ve reached max value.

Audio Masterclass replies to Pedro Cruz: Your interpretation makes good sense. Waves' manual states "When True Peak loudness exceeds the maximum value, the display appears in red until the peak hold numeric display is reset.", which isn't the same as what actually happens because the display turns red on -1 dBTP exactly. I'd prefer green perhaps so that it acts as an alert but also says that everything is OK, and red when it's actually over, but I'll take your point and consider myself alerted. DM

hellonearth1066:  Great info thanks - I'm coming across a problem though. I'm hitting -23 longterm and -3dBTP peak on WLM when bouncing the final track but when I bring it into Audacity to do the ACX check the peaks hit near 0 and the LUFS is too quiet. Where am I going wrong?

Audio Masterclass replies to hellonearth1066: The WLM should be the last insert in the master. If that doesn't include the level change and limiting in the bounce then I'm puzzled. I would make a test session, as simple as possible, to try and work out what is happening. DM

hellonearth1066 replies to hellonearth1066: @Audio Masterclass Thanks for your reply. WLM Plus isn't printing the limiter on the stereo master when I bounce mix, I have to have it in the track insert for it to print the limiter... The master will read as if everything is printed, but importing it back into PT shows that it's just super loud and not limited...

Audio Masterclass replies to hellonearth1066: I've looked at the ACX info. My guess is where they refer to RMS then it's probably the same as LUFS, just missing a couple of refinements. I'm not finding any reference to dBTP so where they say 'dB' I presume they mean dBFS. So your LUFS should be -23 to -18, and your peaks under -3 dBFS, which they should be if they are already under -3 dBTP. So where things are going wrong is currently a mystery to me. I would say ignore the WLM and follow the guidelines at I would use a mastering limiter to control peaks and possibly a compressor (before the limiter) to bring up the RMS if necessary. I don't see why the WLM shouldn't be able to help, but clearly there's an inconsistency somewhere. There's more to be looked into here and I might consider doing that should there be any further similar comments. DM

Sujit Paulose:  Hi Sir,
Explained very well. But Sir, in that case we need not use compressor on Voice over channel? Just clean the track to avoid pops, inhale/exhale noises, can we do normalizing the track and keep it in the mix? Another doubt is...should we put WLM on the Master channel as a last plug in to check True Peak and check Output ceiling levels?

Sujit Paulose replies to Sujit Paulose: Thank you Sir. As you have mentioned in Video, should we keep a level -23 db in final mix (For a Song) and -14db in Mastering, am I right?

Audio Masterclass replies to Sujit Paulose: Your first question - it depends how much loudness variation you want or can tolerate. If it's just speech, then you might want to keep the natural variation, unless you're trying to create an exciting sound then compression is a useful component of that. If there is a music bed, it is more likely that you will want to reduce the dynamic range of the speech to maintain intelligibility. Regarding WLM, the best place for it is the last plug-in on the master. DM

Roberto Braga:  The Bounce trick worked fine on Cubase 10.5 too. Great!

Alan Scott replies to Roberto Braga: Roberto Braga Many thanks

Roberto Braga replies to Roberto Braga: @Alan Scott you have to export the track as you would normally do. It takes less time than listen to the whole track with the WLM inserted. While exporting, the sistem "plays" the track quickly and sets the lufs as they currently are. You can discard the track exported.Then you set the target, gain, everything.

Alan Scott replies to Roberto Braga: Hi Roberto, my I as you where you found the bounce/trick in Cubase?

Erwin Fonseca:  Any idea how to do the Bounce trick in Ableton Live 10?
Thank you!

Audio Masterclass replies to Erwin Fonseca: I don't have an easy answer for this, but I would have thought that if Ableton can bounce faster than real time then the method should be the same. The idea is to make a temporary bounce (I like to call the file temp.wav or something similar to prevent errors in identification later), then use the settings that WLM comes up with for the real bounce. If Ableton can't bounce faster than real time (I've used this software but I'm not an expert), then the bounce trick will not be available. DM

Mahsher:  Thank You!

FRE:  Great video!! Thank you!! In Logic Pro X worked fine the bounce trick!!! Thank you again!!

Audio Masterclass replies to FRE: Thank you for your input. Good to know it works in Logic. DM

Daniel Diaz:  AFAIK the peak limiter reading is red because you switched on the limiter and it was engaged during playbak, turning red at that precise moment: you set -1 and after playback it is reading -1 , that's ok but your audio went above that and the limiter did its job. If it didn't (your audio peaks at -1.1 or lower) it should look grey.

Daniel Diaz replies to Daniel Diaz: @Audio Masterclass ok, I see that it could be weird for that POV , but I guess is intended by Waves.
The way I use it: i control my output gain form the master bus (the Master volume or the makeup if I'm using a mastering compressor on the master bus) so I turn on the peak limiter on the WLM+ "just in case" as a safety thing. So it is useful to learn if the peak limiter was actually engaged during mastering or if my levels (before WLM) are ok. I don't know why but if I want to use a Limiter to raise volume by 1.5 dB (as you do on the video) I tend to use a dedicated mastering limiter, but perhaps the WLM+ 's as good. Cheers dd (thanks for your very useful video BTW)

Audio Masterclass replies to Daniel Diaz: Hi thank you for your comment. The limiter has to be switched in for the WLM Plus to do this part of its job. If the audio peaks at -1.1 dBTP or lower then the limiter isn't needed and the peak reading remains grey. But normally to achieve -16 dBTP for Apple Music (for example), or certainly -14 dBTP for YouTube then there will have to be some limiting. Why the peak reading turns red at 1.0 dBTP, when that is set as the acceptable maximum, is a mystery, or possibly something Waves didn't fully consider. DM

ojamajo83:  Does the plug-in works in Pro Tools 11?

Audio Masterclass replies to ojamajo83: That's a good question but I don't know the answer for sure. Waves will probably be your best source of reliable information. DM

Laszlo Lugosi:  I don´t understand why Youtube has -8 LUFS loudness on many music videos but i should go for -14 LUFS.

Audio Masterclass replies to Laszlo Lugosi: @Laszlo Lugosi You can find an email address at the Audio Masterclass website. I'll look out for your message. DM

Laszlo Lugosi replies to Laszlo Lugosi: @Audio Masterclass I rechecked my claim and i looked at my projects where i put the reference tracks in. I made screenshots with the WLM-Plus and also i can provide links to the songs (i doubt you will like the songs). DM in form of an E-mail? Thank you for taking a look into it.

Audio Masterclass replies to Laszlo Lugosi: What I've found is that anything up to -14 LUFS is OK. Anything louder will get turned down. If you know of a video that plays at -8 LUFS I'd be interested to hear it. DM

Everton Trindade Risso:  how to use WLM in live? on recorded tracks is just to put on the master, but live? how to use this on a Facebook live for example?

Everton Trindade Risso replies to Everton Trindade Risso: @Audio Masterclass for WLM to work on REAPER you have to press the "play" button on it because as there will be no tracks on REAPER it will not work if you do not press.

Everton Trindade Risso replies to Everton Trindade Risso: @Audio Masterclass I found a way to use it. Just send the audio to a DAW (I use REAPER). put WLM as the last of your plugins, then just send the audio to OBS using the ReaStream plugin.

Audio Masterclass replies to Everton Trindade Risso: For live broadcast or streaming, you could set the target LUFS and true peak maximum, engage the limiter, then keep your eyes on the short-term LUFS figure. How you get that into Facebook Live would be an interesting question. Let me know when you find out. DM

Shubham Lad:  Nice

LH Ng:  Very helpful video quick tutorial, David. Thank you. If I use the different presets available and manually set my target LUFS to -16 and TP at -1.0, will there be a "difference" in the final audio? I am using Cubase Ai10 and trying to find "bounce" equivalent . haaa Tks

LH Ng replies to LH Ng: @Audio Masterclass Thanks David, :-)

Audio Masterclass replies to LH Ng: Any limiting of the master will change the sound. I see three options - 1. Prioritise loudness because everyone else is trying to be loud and you need to be competitive. 2. Prioritise your music and go easy on the loudness. 3. Work in a genre where the sound of limiting is considered a good thing. There isn't one right solution here but the key is to give your listeners what they want. 'What they want' is something we, as creators, have to work out. DM

Trakman:  what does the interleaved check box do?

Audio Masterclass replies to Trakman: If you mean in the Bounce panel, it allows you to select the file format - mono, separate files for left and right, or stereo. 'Interleaved' here means a normal stereo file.

Dharmender Kumar:  Hi, i've a question about live streaming. what's the right way to mesure a live feed ?

Audio Masterclass replies to Dharmender Kumar: The WLM Plus can monitor short term loudness level so if you know the required LUFS then you can set that as the target. You'll see a green tick in the short term window when the level is good. You can also use the true peak limiter to set the maximum output level. The other informal method is to compare your streams by ear with other streams on similar topics. If your loudness is similar, then your listeners will be OK with that. It is important to be loud enough, and not too loud that the streaming service applies too much limiting, but other than that your audience cares most about your content.

Eytan Krief:  Very helpful. Thank you!

Audio Masterclass replies to Eytan Krief: You're welcome.

Scott Cornish:  Very helpful video. Thanks!

naseem rashid:  I did same steps in my project but my colleague use to say me that you are doing wrong way.I was doing in correct way thanks you sir for this wonderful video tutorial.

Audio Masterclass replies to naseem rashid: You're welcome. DM

Impulsive Wandering:  How come when I open the plugin, my master gain goes insanely high? I can't figure out how to use this thing, it's making my music sound horrible.

Audio Masterclass replies to Impulsive Wandering: @Impulsive Wandering Thank you for that. It's a useful tip for anyone in the same position. DM

Impulsive Wandering replies to Impulsive Wandering: @Audio Masterclass Just called them. I didn't realize there are multiple versions downloaded at once and FL Studio users must load & use the plugin that says "WLM Plus Stereo" as oppose to the one I was trying to use called "WLM Plus 5.0".

Audio Masterclass replies to Impulsive Wandering: That seems unusual behaviour. You best source of help will be Waves' support. I've used their support in the past and they were helpful and quick. DM

Wildspring:  This is great. Thank you!

Audio Masterclass replies to Wildspring: You're welcome. I'm planning a followup that demonstrates why you should run the WLM twice. DM

Luis Alfonso Ch. Abbadie:  Awesome video, thank you very much.

Audio Masterclass replies to Luis Alfonso Ch. Abbadie: You're welcome.

91yoda:  I have been using the WLM plus meter, my question is how significant are a few 'overs' if the meter still gives an average longterm of -14 at the end of the track? Will this affect how Spotify compresses the track? should I go back and tame the 'overs' before I upload? And should I be set to "Dial" mode for a podcast? Thanks

Audio Masterclass replies to 91yoda: From our reading of the manual, 'overs' are sections of the audio that are louder than the 'short max' setting that the user makes. This does not affect the audio but informs the user of an unusually loud section of the track. But if things sound the way you want them to, then everything is OK.

Regarding DIAL for your podcast, if the whole programme is speech with no other audio and no sections that - for whatever reason - are intended to be very low in level, then you shouldn't see any difference between the three methods. If you do include music, we would be inclined to use EBU or LM1 to measure the whole programme.

Regarding Spotify, going forward then ITU 1770 is the standard to work to, which is available in the WLM. If your work sounds good and measures correctly, then it should be OK for Spotify.

Having said all of this, the real loudness experts are those who work in broadcast and handle loudness day-to-day so if anyone with such experience would like to add a reply, please do.

High Quality:  I Also like my Master in the right 👍🏽

Ken McCormack:  Nice little tutorial - those are bugs in the software code rather than quirks :). Is that a Cumbrian accent? Keep up the good work!

Audio Masterclass replies to Ken McCormack: North East actually, but it's a long time since I lived there. There is a fine difference between quirks, where software works as the developer intended it but it doesn't work the way a real-world user might expect it to, and bugs which are clearly errors. I've a feeling that in this case (resetting the meter) the developer would say, "What? That's the way it's supposed to work." which makes it a quirk. Personally I think that if I press a button I should get the result I want immediately. Or is that just my quirk? DM

ludovic girardin:  Hi, i've a question about live streaming. what's the right way to mesure a live feed ?

Audio Masterclass replies to ludovic girardin: We're not sure what you mean. Do you mean measure the level of a song streaming from Spotify for instance?

EgoShredder:  The Loudness War is over? If only! We still have to suffer people producing Hip Hop and (c)Rap and various Club Muzak at EXTREME VOLUME, BASS AND PUMPING COMPRESSION.

EgoShredder replies to EgoShredder: @Audio Masterclass True, I have seen some green shoots of recovery in other genres in recent years.

Audio Masterclass replies to EgoShredder: I agree, I was being a little over-optimistic in my comment. But I think it's reasonable to say that things are a lot better than they were. More progress will be welcome. DM

oechols:  Learned a lot and can't help but wish this was done with a fully recorded and mix music file. Still enjoyed it and understand the principle though.

Ghost666:  Works just fine in Reaper

Audio Masterclass replies to Ghost666: Thank you for the info. We appreciate your input.

Matt Coen:  I use the bounce technique regularly in Logic Pro

Håkan Söder replies to Matt Coen: @Audio Masterclass I was really hopeful about the bouncing technique. Unfortunatly it wasn't doing very well in Vegas pro 14. Only the momentary levels showed respons.

Audio Masterclass replies to Matt Coen: Thank you for the info - good to know it works in Logic. If users of any other DAWs find that the bounce technique works (or doesn't work), we would love to know that too.

nichttuntun:  I really liked your kind of teaching. But due to the amount of Waves plugins you are using, don't want to support your channel further more. Cheers

DjSuperK replies to nichttuntun: @nichttuntun huh? Whatever dude! If the damn thing works I will use it regardless of the brand. Shit Ill buy a vst from the dollars store if they sold them! Lol as long as they get the job done why be so negative!!

nichttuntun replies to nichttuntun: @frank wyatt
Some are okay some are great. This is more concentrated towards Waves and their business model. I don't want to go into detail.

frank wyatt replies to nichttuntun: and the problem with waves plug ins is?

nichttuntun replies to nichttuntun: @Audio Masterclass That´s a fine thing :) Keep up the great work. Cheers

Audio Masterclass replies to nichttuntun: Just to be clear, we don't receive any payment from Waves or any software developer to feature their products. We may accept NFR licences or educational discounts but Waves has never offered and we haven't asked.

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Sunday December 8, 2019

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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