Mixbus’ export page allows for easy customization of loudness targets that help you meet the loudness standards of the medium you will eventually end up in, whether it be a Redbook CD, Streaming, or other client specifications.
The Normalization Process
The normalization process will apply a single “gain” value to the whole resulting export file, so that the loudest part of the file reaches the desired target peak or loudness value.
Traditionally, the most common usage of this feature is to set the peak to 0dBFS. That means the loudest sample of the resulting file will reach exactly 0dBFS.
However, a single “peak” digital sample has very little to do with the perceived loudness of the file. For example you can have a single loud peak in a 10-minute file, and the normalization function will decrease the level of the file so the peak fits in without clipping. This is pedantically useful in many cases, but not really important step for a deliverable mix.
Normalizing to LUFS is a better solution, because it is a much better indication of “perceived loudness”. You can have a very peaky file that still sounds quiet; whereas LUFS takes the “average” level into account. If we normalize a file to -9 LUFS, we know that we have a very loud mix indeed!
But: there is a limit with LUFS normalization: if Mixbus increases the loudness too much, it will push your “peaks” into clipping. (side note: if the LUFS normalization would result in a signal above your peak target, then Mixbus normalizes to the peak, not LUFS … this is why your resulting file is not reaching the LUFS you want)
The important point is: normalization only provides clean gain (either increasing or decreasing the volume for the entire file). It does not change the peak-to-average ratio of your song.
Said another way: normalization has no effect on the sound or quality of your mix, or its perceived loudness. That’s up to you. Normalization can only adjust the final measurements to prevent exceeding your maximums.
(another side note: Mixbus’ K-14 meter is an instantaneous RMS meter, not LUFS; but if you mix to the RMS level it should get you in the ballpark of desired LUFS)
This is highly subjective and can change with the industry, but as it stands now, there are a few practices most mixing engineers follow and we make that easy to adhere to in Mixbus!
You should first develop your mix so that the master bus’s “K-14” meter is reaching near the ‘0’ meter during the loudest part of your mix. This will help ensure that your average-to-peak ratio is high enough to meet your medium/broadcaster’s expectations.
Reaching the ‘0’ mark on the “K-14” meter means that your mix is something near -14LUFS; and so when you run it through the normalization during export, Mixbus can then reduce it to meet your deliverable needs.