I’ve been talking about this image for years. Literally, I’d describe it in almost every conversation, interview or lecture when I talked about loudness. And it always got a great reaction.
But it didn’t exist !
Except in my head.
I recently did an interview with Chris Selim over at mixdown.online, and my analogy of the ‘Loudness Cliff’ came up again, with me waving my hands around while describing it as usual.
But this time something was different – because a few days later Kredenz emailed me an idea for the image above, asking “is this the kind of thing you had in mind?”.
And it absolutely was ! So after a few tweaks and additions, here it is – The Loudness Cliff illustration.
Hopefully it speaks for itself, but just in case, the idea is pretty simple:
- We perceive louder sounds better, at least to begin with. So, everyone wants to sound loud – so far so good.
- But achieving loudness can be difficult – sometimes it feels like you’re trying to push a rock up a hill. Everyone else is at the top of their own mountain though, so you want to be, too.
- The trouble is, the closer you get to the top, the harder it gets, and the less improvement in sound you get. And if you go too far – past the danger point – it can actually sound worse.
- And if you push it even further – you’re over the edge and smashed on the rocks.
Instead, you want to look for the ‘loudness sweet spot’ – the perfect balance of loudness and dynamics, where you get all the benefits of cohesion, consistency and translation – without pushing things too far.
The goal is to be loud enough, but not too loud.
So, enough of the analogies – how do you actually find the loudness ‘sweet spot’ ?
My best advice for that is in this post:
And if you want to know whether you’ve got it right or not (for free) try this:
If your music scores between 0 and -2 for YouTube, you’re probably in good shape!
And if not, there’s plenty of free information here on Production Advice to help you – a great place to start is here.
Don’t push your music over the Loudness Cliff – find the loudness Sweet Spot instead !
Thanks again to Kredenz for making my hand-waving idea a reality ! You can check out his site here.