Loudness War on Radio: IBC analysis by David Davies

As Europe converges on new normalisation standards for TV, the focus of anti-loudness activity is beginning to shift towards radio, cinema and streaming services. The extent to which the scope of loudness work has expanded in the last 12 months was made transparent during an EBU organised session held at the IBC during the week.

Two years after the publication of the EBU R128 Loudness Recommendation, which specifies normalisation of broadcast audio at -23 LUFS +/1 LU – ORF and EBU PLOUD Group Chairman Florian Camerer was able to report successful recent implementations on TV services in countries including France, Germany and Austria.

A huge number of broadcasters have made the switch to full loudness normalisation, confirmed Camerer. The loudness train is gaining speed.

But although the merit of the R128 and ITU-R BS1770 standards is now accepted, broadcasters need to be encouraged to address the loudness problem ‘at the beginning of the chain. Better that than to be put into a cage of so many parameters.’

With significant progress having been made in television, there are increased efforts to bring loudness normalisation to other media. NRK Norway Senior Engineer Bjørn Aarseth detailed the successful introduction of -15 LUFS average loudness for DAB radio services in Norway.

The benefits are immediately apparent, he said; and he presented a revealing ‘before and after’ comparison of speech and music radio output.

The prospects for tackling loudness in the music industry have also improved. Pointing to initiatives including Mastered for iTunes, mastering engineer and Black Saloon Studios Founder Mandy Parnell said that with more work being delivered at higher bit-rates, there is scope for greater dynamic range. Even within the last year, there has been an obvious change, so I feel optimistic about the future of digital music.