[Desktop][Other] Improve Spotify's volume normalisation

Spotify makes the replay volume of all songs similar. Broadly speaking this is a good idea (Although an "album mode" would be a great enhancement)

 

BUT

 

When Spotify lifts the level of "quieter", more dynamic music, it regulates the louder moments using a limiter, often with very poor quaity results. There are lots of posts here complaining about this problem.

 

I'd like to suggest two improvements to this:

 

1 - Reduce the reference volume level, ie. make everything play at a slightly lower volume.

 

This will reduce the need to add extra limiting, meaning people will hear more dynamic music the way it was intended. 

 

Apple's Sound Check feature already uses a lower reference level of roughly -16 LUFS, for example. The international standard for broadcast is -23 LUFS

 

2 - Instead of limiting, just restrict the volume boost to prevent clipping

 

The limiter is only needed when boosting very dynamic music, to prevent clipping distortion. Instead, Spotify could prevent boosts beyond a point that would cause clipping, meaning the limiter would be unnecessary. This would completely solve the problem. 

 

Some very dynamic music wouldn't be normalised as effectively, but examples in popular genres would be rare, and most people listening to more dynamic genres wouldn't mind - classical is a prime example.

 

 UPDATE

 

I've been asked to join an AES technical group to help develop a white paper on streaming loudness, to provide recommendations for loudness normalisation for streaming providers like Spotify.

 

If any Spotify employees are reading this, please contact me so we can include you in this discussion.

UPDATE #2

The AES guidelines have been published, they recommend a maximum streaming playback level of -16 LUFS:

http://www.aes.org/technical/documents/AESTD1004_1_15_10.pdf

Updated: 2015-07-07

Hey guys, I'm marking this as a 'Good idea' and bringing your feedback to teams internally. If I have an update on this I will post here first, thanks!



Related Ideas

Comments
ilter
Regular

Yes, please.
Musicians and music lovers will enjoy Spotify more if you follow Ian's recommendation.

Thejoshuabreed
Gig Goer
Commercial releases are already limited and crushed more often than not. Why limit even more?!?!?! I agree with iTunes' method; their slightly quieter reference level and an album mode.
piedpiperprod
Regular

Ian is right on. He is the leading proponent of appropriate compression levels and his attitude and comprehensive take on the issues involved are reasonable and spot on.

Norcuevas
Regular

Supporting the Ian´idea. If iTunes works well, why not do the same.

Long live dynamics on music!

Thank you.

bdemaa
Regular

I agree with this. I master music and Spotify is a tool that many artists reference. -11 LUFS is just a little too loud but more importantly the use of additional non-transparent limiting changes the artsist intent IMHO.  Please consider a more reasonable level. I do find that -16LUFS works nicely for a lot of music save for Classical / Orchestral which should probably be flagged for non limiting. 

billvencil
Regular

Agree wholeheartedly! This change will make listening so much better. I notice the compression quite frequently and it's ver annoying. I don't want my Spotify listening experience to sound like the radio - I want it to be as high-quality as possible

MhyphenL
Regular

Yes, 

AND 

Please stop blasting the ads. 

I realize I am using the free version and that I can upgrade to avoid this, but just like television is not supposed to play ads at higher volume, music services should not either--especially when many people listen on headphones and the extra volume is unexpected.

 

 

 

Top Star
Top Star
Status changed to: New Idea
 
8ballboris
Concert VIP

Definitely agree. I don't get why they force such high LUFS values. -23 LUFS is perfect: it virtually eliminates the need of a limiter on even the most dynamic tracks and it keeps more than enough headroom to keep the music high quality. Heck, even with -35 LUFS music still sounds better than when you apply that irritatingly bad limiter to the music. 

For your information, that is the single most important reason for me not to pay for the service. The sound quality is often worse compared to other services like Deezer and even Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Same with the ad volume. I don't mind the ads. I do mind their volume, and they are exactly the reason why I don't use spotify that often, even though all 4 bands I play in are on there. 

abyrd
Music Fan

I was seconds away from canceling my premium membership after noticing that even with high quality streaming enabled, in direct A/B comparison many of my favorite albums sounded very noticeably worse from Spotify than off of CD or FLAC/ALAC. Then I discovered this (hidden) "set the same level for all tracks" option, disabled it, and now everything's fine!

 

Volume normalization is not a bad idea at all, but Spotify appears to be either applying a compressor with a short (intra-track) response time, or normalizing tracks to such a high level that the limiter is constantly kicking in. It really crushes the life out of a lot of good music.

 

I can accept that this "feature" is turned on by default if most of your users want and like it, but A) it doesn't work very well, B) its name is misleading and C) the option to turn it off is hidden away in an "advanced" section, as if it was dangerous to change things like the crossfade time.

 

I am all for an advanced options section, but in that case you should provide real advanced settings like the reference level and the timescale (whole track, whole album, intra-track) at which the normalization is applied. 

 

Consider that if you do this right and publicize it, you will win large numbers of devoted clients who care about dynamics in their music!