Dynamic range is a term that gets used often in music production.

It can refer to the performance of an audio system, the amount of headroom in an audio file and more.

But dynamic range is especially important when it comes to mastering.

It’s a key factor for loudness, and how compression and limiting impact your end result.

In this article I’ll explain everything you need to know about dynamic range in mastering.

Let’s get started.

What is dynamic range?

In music production, dynamic range means the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds. It’s measured in decibels, or dB for short.

In a single audio track, dynamic range means the dB difference between the loudest and quietest moment in the audio file.

Recording mediums and audio systems also have a dynamic range. This figure determines the loudest and quietest signals they can properly represent.

You can think of the dynamic range in a system as the space between the noise floor and the clipping point.

When a sound goes below the noise floor you won’t be able to tell the difference between the signal and the system noise of the medium.

When a sound goes above the clipping point the tops of its waveform will get abruptly cut off, causing harshness and distortion.

In a single audio track, dynamic range means the dB difference between the loudest and quietest moment in the audio file.

The dynamic range of a song represents the total distance it spans from loud to quiet.

Dynamics in mastering

In mastering, dynamic range gives you clues about how much compression and limiting has been used.


Here’s the rule of thumb:

Greater dynamic range = less compression, less loudness

Smaller dynamic range = more compressed, closer to the max loudness

That may sound like a dry technical detail, but dynamics have a real impact on your sound.

To understand why, you need to know how dynamic range impacts the two extremes of mastering intensity.

Quiet, dynamic masters

When a sound is more dynamic it means that the peaks and valleys of the wave have more distance between them.

When a sound is more dynamic it means that the peaks and valleys of the wave have more distance between them.

In these cases, loud attacks and transients punch through the mix a lot more.

In a highly dynamic master you’ll hear these transients in lots of detail while the rest of the mix stays level.

You’ll also clearly hear decays, silences, decrescendos and all the drama that goes with them.

To allow this extra range, a dynamic master needs room for hotter transients to extend above the body of the mix.

That means they have to be quieter and less compressed to leave space.

Loud, compressed masters

On the opposite end of the spectrum, loud and aggressive masters catch your attention with sheer level.

Loudness is important for reaching your listeners and this approach to mastering capitalizes on that.

To make it loud, the mastering process reduces the dynamic range so that the whole mix can be pushed closer to the limit without the peaks going over.

The tools used to reduce it are compression and limiting

When done properly, these processes make your track sound weighty and hard hitting.

To make it loud, the mastering process reduces the dynamic range so that the whole mix can be pushed closer to the limit without the peaks going over.


But it’s a delicate balance. The louder you go, the harder it is to make compression sound natural.

When loudness is the goal it’s likely your master will push up against the maximum level possible in an audio file.

That means nearly all of the excess dynamic range will be squeezed out into raw level.

The most difficult job in mastering is to get there without destroying your mix.

Loudness and Synapse

Loudness is one of the key areas where the new Synapse engine improves on previous builds of LANDR Mastering.

In the sensitive area around the maximum, many tracks behave in unpredictable ways.

This introduces the possibility of distortion and other unwanted artifacts.

Perception of loudness depends on complex factors rooted in how we hear and experience sound.

Synapse is trained to detect issues like these and account for them—before they cause problems.

On top of that, Synapse now tailors EQ with loudness in mind.

Perception of loudness depends on complex factors rooted in how we hear and experience sound.

Frequency and loudness are connected and they influence each other when it comes to mastering.

Synapse factors it in to give you optimized loudness that works with your track instead of against it.

Good dynamics

Dynamic range may seem like a finer point in music production, but it’s an important factor for your end results.

Mastering is where good dynamics matter the most and dynamic range can help you know how you want your master to sound.

If you’ve made it through this article you’ll have a great start when it comes to dynamic range in mastering.