Question about dynamic range

pcstudios

New member
I haven't been mastering very long, and I kind of borrowed this mixer setup in Pro Tools from a youtube video. But I may have some things out of order, IDK.

My main question involves the dynamic range which I can't get above 2 for long term. I have no compressors or limiter on the master, nor on the mix bus inside the mix itself. I only use light compression on individual tracks in the mix. Acoustic music is supposed to be the most dynamic of many genres, so why can't I get the dynamic range higher? I've taken out all the things that would restrict the dynamic range, except a hair of saturation to tame the high frequencies.

Although, it sounds ok to my ears, and maybe I shouldn't be worrying about it all.

In my mastering chain I have the AbbeyRoad Mastering plugin (inside the Abbey Road plugin is a compressor/limiter I am not using), some saturation, an aural exciter and dither.

So this is a print screen of me recording the master showing the loudness meter set at 11 LUFS.

Also the audio file of the song, Jayden's Reel.

master.jpg

View attachment Jayden's Reel master_print-St.mp3
 
Hi.
You want the dynamic range to be greater? It's usually the opposite.
Dynamic range is really just the difference between the quietest and loudest points in a recorded audio clip,
so constant heavy guitar rhythm probably has very low dynamic range whereas a solo snare drum recording would have a very high dynamic range.

Likewise, some song with a very quiet intro building to an all-in loud chorus would have a high dynamic range.
Usually people want to decrease dynamic range for competitive overall volume, so they can stand up beside squeezed commercial mixes,
so compressors and limiters are used on individual tracks, and on the master, to tame down peaks and keep the average level louder.
Conversely quiet sections like an intimate intro may be increased in volume using automation...
They're bringing the lows up and the highs down.

If you want to increase dynamic range you want to do the opposite but, as with most things, it's going to be better to do it at the mix stage rather than the master stage.

Have I misunderstood? Tell us more. :)
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
The idea is not to have more dynamic range, it is to record the performance with all the dynamic range of the performance. Once you have done that, as long as you don't do anything change the dynamic range, job done.

You are capturing a performance, not a specification.
 

pcstudios

New member
Thank you for the answers. And that's why I post my questions here, because I know nothing LOL. I didn't know it's good to have a low dynamic range. I understand that, I just thought in my genre of bluegrass maybe things were different because bluegrassers are purists. They like to get it sounding as pure to the source as possible, and when you're in the crowd listening to a jam or a show, the dynamics are "tall".

Thanks for your insights, it's good to know these things.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
We're not saying music has to have a high or low dynamic range, just one appropriate to the genre. That music clip is busy and full, with loads of people playing their parts full on - so there is NO light and shade, therefore no range. If you had music where bits were really thinned out and other bits heavy and busy, you'd have more range. It sounds perfectly OK to me - the focus instruments are perhaps a bit high in the mix for me, but that's just how I would mix it.

Just a thought, but what does it sound like with all those processing instances switched out? I'd dump the dither, and lose the saturation without even hearing them. This sort of music tends to be not the best to appreciate what they do!
 

Massive Master

www.massivemastering.com
You are capturing a performance, not a specification.
As far as specifications are concerned in this context, I think that most would argue that a 2dB apparent dynamic range and a long-term -11LUFS is rather "squashed" for bluegrass. But as Jay mentioned, you're not looking for a specification. Personally, I'd argue to turn all that stuff off and just do what best serves the mix.

I have a lot of meters here - I use them to check that the system is calibrated and then I shut them off or ignore them. THAT SAID -- Yes, occasionally I have to turn on the LUFS meter due to specific requests for specific - uh - specifications. A lot of artists and labels are asking for certain numbers for certain streaming services or what not (typically, -14LUFS for the average rock/pop stuff). Luckily for me, as I capture at the volume I tend to feel best serves the material in the first place, about 90%+ of the time, that material is captured right around that level anyway. So "huzzah" to the streaming services that are actually doing more to squelch the 'volume war' than pretty much every other attempt combined.
 

snow lizard

Dedicated Slacker
If it sounds okay to your ears that's the main thing. There aren't any rules for what the dynamic range should be.

The screenshot of the WLM plug shows the true peak limiter is on and registering -4.1 dB gain reduction. The Master 1 meter shows clipping. I'm curious about the -11 LUFS target. If the track were sent to various streaming services they might want to process it further to reduce the LUFS to -14 or lower. If you were to turn the mix down 3 dB the dynamic range might increase and you wouldn't be hitting the limiter as hard.

One of the problems you might get with increased dynamic range is if you're listening in a noisy enviornment like a car or something, low level stuff could get masked out by background noise. A gentle and transparent compressor on the mix buss might help, which can also save the peak limiter a bit of work. The peak limiter is handy as a safety net if you're not trying to "loudenate" the master. Also, there might be some streaming services that will slap their own peak limiter on if there are true peaks exceeding -1.

Listening to the track, there are a lot of instruments playing together adding density. Nothing wrong with that if it's what you want, but that can also contribute to the low range number. You can still hear transients and such from individual instruments.
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
That 2 is not really “dynamic range” so much as the “range of dynamics”, which they don’t explain well in the manual, but it’s something like the range of values that the short term loudness covers. Like the difference between the lowest short term loudness and the highest over the course of the program. A band like Nirvana or the Pixies - known for that “quiet verse/loud chorus” thing would probably have large values here. Other bands who pretty much just play full out the whole time will probably have smaller values, and that’s fine if that’s what you’re shooting for. Ultimately, the way to change that value by much is going to be in the arrangement.
 

pcstudios

New member
I think for a lot of us starting out in mastering, the main thing we don't want is to get the result normalized so that the sonic quality loses its punch. Some normalization is expected, but not to the song's detriment. I think this is why I look at numbers at all to shoot for. For the most part, I'm happy with the sound. But if iTunes decides to normalize it which they probably would, I want to be happy with the result and not be like, man I should have done that differently!

Thanks again for the help guys..
 

snow lizard

Dedicated Slacker
Different streaming platforms will want to see different numbers for LUFS and max. true peaks. Knowing that, you can give them what they're looking for so they don't need to turn it down or process it. To take it a step further, there will be different codecs used for lossy compression. If you're mastering for Apple, it really helps to have the AAC codec they're going to use. Different platforms might want to have true peaks anywhere from -.1 to -2. The lower peak numbers are to prevent aliasing and bad artifacts when it goes through the codec.
 

pcstudios

New member
Yes, I think I understand now. There is a dynamic range (usually 7 to 9) and there is a loudness range (around 1 or 2). Then there is a dynamic ratio. It's making sense now....
 
The idea is not to have more dynamic range, it is to record the performance with all the dynamic range of the performance. Once you have done that, as long as you don't do anything change the dynamic range, job done.

You are capturing a performance, not a specification.

Absolutely. Wish I'd said that!
 
I didn't know it's good to have a low dynamic range. I understand that, I just thought in my genre of bluegrass maybe things were different because bluegrassers are purists.

PLEASE, PLEASE. I hate saying this, but the poster who said a lack of dynamic range is "good" is wrong. It's neither good nor bad. And I say that with the greatest respect to Steen.
Dynamic range IS - potentially - a stylistic choice while mixing and mastering, but normally it is good to have some dynamic range, and in the genre of your song, it is most common (not better or worse) to have a wide dynamic range.

During the "loudness wars, when loudness mattered above all else, the dynamic range didn't matter to many who were worried about their music being more noticeable through volume. Compressors, brick wall limiting played a huge part in creating loud mixes which looked in the waveform like a solid brick with very few peaks and troughs.

Those "wars" continue, but there is now an acknowledgement that dynamic range adds life and texture to music and there is a strong movement away from brick shaped wavforms.

PLEASE, go for what you want, what you want things to sound like, what your genre demands, NOT by reading meters and deciding upon specifications alone.

PS. Steen. No disrespect meant at all.
 
Last edited:
PLEASE, PLEASE. I hate saying this, but the poster who said a lack of dynamic range is "good" is wrong. It's neither good nor bad. And I say that with the greatest respect to Steen.

That's not what I said. Maybe the wording wasn't clear - Clarification to follow.
 
Last edited:
I didn't know it's good to have a low dynamic range. I understand that, I just thought in my genre of bluegrass maybe things were different because bluegrassers are purists.

Yep, don't confuse popular with good.
There's a hell of a lot of music that benefits greatly from capturing the performance as it was.
Orchestral, choral, quite often acoustic ensembles.

The desire to squash the crap out of everything was originally a competitive thing - An attempt to make your song sound louder than the previous one on radio,
but now it's just become what (a lot of) people do and I think most here would would agree that commercial music has suffered overall as a result.

It's just not all that common for people to ask how to increase dynamic range of a mix : That's all I meant.
Usually that's in the performance and you're either happy with it or, for whatever reason, you want to reduce it.

If you want greater dynamic range in your mixes the real solution is to play with greater dynamic range - Make your softs softer and your louds louder,
then avoid anything that undoes that - limiting, heavy compression for the sake of it, volume automation for balance, etc.
 
Top