LSP Loudness Compensator plugin series
This plugin applies equal loudness contour corrections to the input signal.
An equal-loudness contour is a measure of sound pressure level (SPL), over the frequency spectrum, for which a listener perceives a constant loudness when presented with pure steady tones. The unit of measurement for loudness levels is the phon and is arrived at by reference to equal-loudness contours. Additionally, the phon unit shows the actual SPL (in decibels) of the pure sine wave at the 1000 Hz frequency. By definition, two sine waves of differing frequencies are said to have equal-loudness level measured in phons if they are perceived as equally loud by the average young person without significant hearing impairment.
The equal loudness contour curves show two aspects of the way sounds are perceived. For one, sounds at different frequencies need to have substantially different SPL levels to sound equally loud so that, for instance, a 30Hz sinewave and hence the 30Hz content of any sound in general needs to be more than 10 db SPL louder than the 1000Hz content to sound equally loud, when the latter is at 100 dB SPL, i.e. at 100 phon.
Apart from that though the curves do not retain their overall shape as the volume changes, so that if you attenuated the 1000 Hz content by 20 dB SPL (ending up at 80 phon), you would need to attenuate the 30 Hz content by only 10 dB SPL to maintain equal loudness. Seen the other way round, if you simply attenuated all content by 20 dB SPL, the 30 Hz content would sound significantly less loud in comparison to the 1000 Hz content than before, i.e. turning a volume knob changes equalization along with volume.
The upshot of this in practice is that if a track was mixed to sound a certain way at, say 83 dB SPL, i.e. with the equipment set up so that it will reproduce a 1000 Hz tone at 83 dB SPL, then it will no longer sound the same when listened to at lower levels, as the bass and treble content will sound less loud than the midrange content. Conversely, if it was mixed at lower levels, but reproduced at higher levels, bass and treble content will be boosted.
Usage of equal-loudness contours solves many mixing problems that every sound engineer meets while working on the track. The main problem is that human ear perceives different frequencies for different volume settings in a different way. In other words, applying changes to the mix on the low volume settings may cause unexpected (sometimes horrible) sounding of the mix at the maximum loudness.
To avoid this, the calibration of the audio system is peformed, so the digital signal with the maximized loudness gives a 83 dB SPL level at the output. The 83 Phon equal loudness curve (can be linerarly approximated from other curves on the figure) is considered having flat frequency response, frequency responses for other SPL levels are computed by subtracting the corresponding equal loudness curve from the 83 phon curve.
This plugin performs such frequency response computations and applies the computed frequency response to the input signal depending on the output volume settings. Additionally it can provide ear protection by applying hard-clipping to the output signal if it exceeds the allowed configurable level.