Maximize loudness with LUFS constraint

A newbie problem.
Let’s say I have the untouchable constraint of -14 LUFS. What is the technique to maximize loudness of a track, while maintaining -14 LUFS?

I say this because on YT there are tracks by various authors at -14 LUFS which however play at a decidedly high volume and very clean, with my headphone volume at 3/4.
On the other hand, one of my tracks, even at -14 LUFS, I have to raise the headphone volume to the maximum, and I would still feel the need to raise it further.
What is the procedure to follow?
I tried using a compressor, but any results I find horrible.
I tried using a limiter, but since the LUFS has to stay at -14, it didn’t help me at all.
Can anyone clarify what to do?
Thank you,

Musical arrangement and compression.

Are you familiar with the tools youtube-dl and the fork yt-dlp? Those allow you to download files from YouTube so you can analyze on your own computer. It might be instructive to analyze the LUFS results on those files yourself, inspect the spectrum, evaluate the arrangement for what gives the impression of loudness. Sometimes viewing the envelope of the waveform (like displayed on Ardour tracks) can give you an idea as well of what is happening in those tracks.

Compressors have interacting controls, you will have to find a combination of threshold, attack, and release settings which work for the particular material you have. Some people find multiband compression useful (which separates the source into multiple frequency bands and compresses each band independently), but I personally do not like the resulting sound of the examples I have heard.

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-14 LUFS is very low. On youtube I stay around -10.5 with -1 TP.
Keep in mind that medium/high frequencies have a greater impact on the LUFS calculation so a track with -10 LUFS could sound weaker then a track with -12 LUFS but with a darker mix.

Youtube requires material to be below -14 LUFS and -1dBTP (Loudness Standards - Full Comparison Table (music, film, podcast)).

The easiest way to accomplish that is to use Ardour’s Export format for this. The signal is normalized to -14 LUFS (just adding/removing gain), and then a limiter shave off excess peaks above -1dBTP (if any).

Session > Export > Export to Audio file, then pick “Youtube and Deezer” (the latter has identical requirements):

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+1 for the approach to normalize loudness on export. I think it’s a great feature. I’ve been using it with the SoundCloud preset (-11 LUFS if memory serves) on my latest project. To me the result sounds like it’s been formally mastered.

I’m not really sure if it is a good idea to upload a normalized file to services, which do normalization anyway, regardless of the file meeting the standards or not.

It might be that possible limiting in the normalization works more transparent in ardour.

You have more control of it when you do it yourself, you never know what processing if any will be used by others, but so long as you meet their needs it will be minimal.


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Yes, doing what you say, I discovered that for example on Spotify, if listened to by a web player, there is no normalization, it is played as it was loaded. So EDM tracks play with an integrated loudness of -8 LUFS (typical value of EDM music, in fact it is still low…)
Then it is obvious that they sound more powerful than my -14 LUFS! :smiley:
[But if you listen to it using an app, then there is normalization].

But what surprised me, doing the analysis, is the peak at 0 dBFS.
I had learned that when exporting it should be set to -1dBFS, as I always do.
What happens if I leave it at 0 dBFS?
[Instead on YouTube I think there is always normalization…]

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