The days of cranking it up to 11 on Spotify are over.
Amidst all the hullaballoo about the music streaming giant creating “fake” artists, turning to AI, closing a content deal with Warner Music, and planning for a direct listing on the NY Stock Exchange, Spotify has quietly gone and turned-down the volume at the user-end.
Sometime around the end of May, the volume was reduced on every track in its 30 million-plus library. Spotify apparently called a truce in the “loudness wars.”
According to Motherboard, a cadre of audiophiles tuned in using a software called Dynameter and tested a range of popular playlists across various genres. The result: Spotify is now a quieter place to spend time.
Science has long since made the connection between loud music and hearing loss. According to a World Health Organization issued in 2015, more than one billion teens and young adults are at risk of losing their hearing due to the “unsafe use of personal audio devices” and from hanging out at noisy bars and clubs.
And a separate report published in The Atlantic back in 2011 argued that an iPod’s maximum volume was more than 10 times as loud as the recommended listening setting, based on studies by audiologists.
The new Motherboard article, entitled “Why Spotify Lowered the Volume of Songs and Ended Hegemonic Loudness,” suggests Spotify’s techs paid attention to the European Broadcasting Union’s creation of the EBU-R128 standard called LUFS (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale), a measurement unit of “loudness” and apparently a more sophisticated system than decibels for understanding human perception of volume.
Spotify is said to have reduced its playback loudness reference level from about -11 LUFS to -14, roughly equal with YouTube and TIDAL.
When asked to comment on the LUFS reduction, Spotify said it was “always testing new features to benefit its users. Recent changes in the playback experience are part of the aspects we are evaluating.”
Loudness has been a none-too-subtle weapon for some bands and producers in the past. The producer and engineer Owen Morris claims to have invented “brick-walling” when he mixed Oasis’ debut Definitely Maybe. The result was an album which out-blasted any other on the jukebox and helped Oasis on the way to a supersonic career. On Spotify, Definitely Maybe’s loudness will be kept in check.