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  1. #1

    Dynamic Range, Compression, and Normalization

    I am sure some of the more experienced among you understand the differences, and if you see any information in the following that needs clarification or correction by all means please clarify/correct away. My hope is that I can explain these elements in a way that even the less experienced person can understand.

    Dynamic Range – Dynamic range is the difference between the loudest undistorted level and softest level. These levels are measured in Decibels or dB. Why is dynamic range important? Well, it emphasizes the emotions in the music. A dynamic mix is more musical than a non-dynamic mix, and also more interesting to your ears. This topic is the source of the “Loudness Wars”, as much of the music produced today has little to none in terms of dynamic range.

    Compression – Compression is basically attenuating (reducing) the Dynamic Range of a wave. The loud parts get softer thereby making the softer parts louder, relatively speaking. This is why it is important to understand the functionality of the Threshold and Ratio. These controls allow the engineer to minimize the impact on the dynamic range. The threshold sets a point at which the wave file will be effected, all data below that point will be untouched. The ratio is how much the selected data (through the threshold setting) will be affected.
    There are several other factors as to how compression can be manipulated. Learn about the uses of Attack, Release, the differences between soft and hard knees, and make-up gain can change the way you employ compression in your mix.
    There are also different uses, or different ways to use compression. A few to look up are: Upward Compression, Downward Compression, and Side-Chaining.

    Limiting – There technically is no difference in compression and limiting, they are one in the same. The difference is the settings. Limiters are basically a compressor with a very high ratio that usually starts at 10:1. There are three different “styles” of limiting: Hard Limiting, which uses very fast attack/release settings; Soft Limiting, which uses slower (relatively speaking) attack/release settings; and “Brick Wall Limiting”, which uses a much higher ratio (20:1 – Infinity:1).
    Limiting can be thought of as setting a dB limit to your music.
    (I have seen a lot of churches use another type of limiter that I like to call, “Redneck Limiting”. This type of limiting makes use of a small screw that is placed ever so lovingly into the fader section of a board.)

    Normalization – Normalization is completely different than compression. Normalization increases the entire wave file in volume. You determine what the loudest level is you want (dB), and the entire wave will increase by the same amount so that the loudest part of the wave reaches the specified level.
    For more information and myths about normalization, see 10 Myths About Normalization - Hometracked

    I hope this post has or will help someone gain a better understanding of these terms and applications.


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  3. Re: Dynamic Range, Compression, and Normalization

    great post! Thanks for the info

  4. #3

    Re: Dynamic Range, Compression, and Normalization

    Originally Posted by Tony Ramone
    great post! Thanks for the info
    I have done my good deed for the year.


  5. #4

    Re: Dynamic Range, Compression, and Normalization

    what a great post, thankssssssssssssss

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