In case you didn’t know… there’s a war on. And your tracks could be collateral damage. Yes. It’s war. It’s the loudness war.
If you don’t know about the loudness wars, maybe ask Ian Shepherd. He’s a most excellent and respectable mastering engineer who knows all about it. And he’s also the man behind Dynameter, an incredibly valuable plugin to help you avoid being a casualty and retain dynamics in your music.
Dynameter displays a measurement called PSR – the difference between the peak level and the loudness. Higher PSR readings are typically found with more dynamic recordings, whereas heavily limited or clipped material usually shows lower PSR values. Dynameter measures the PSR in realtime, and also displays a colour-coded history graph, giving you an intuitive snapshot view of the dynamic profile of your music.
So what does it do?
Well… Dynameter is essentially a metering plugin and what it shows you is how dynamic your audio is over time. It doesn’t have any effect on the audio at all but it helps you make good mixing and mastering decisions. Dynamics is defined in this case as the difference between your peak levels and your short term loudness (PSR). So a very dynamic track will have larger differences between the loudest and the quietest parts than a less dynamic track.
I don’t know why that is important…
That’s fair enough. It’s a bit of a thing to get your head around. The main idea is that if a piece of music is more dynamic then it’s more enjoyable to listen to. Unless supersquashed sausages are your kinda thing. In which case, check out the Sausage Fattener instead.
If you prefer to make music that the listener can really enjoy for more than a few seconds without getting a migrane then Dynameter is incredibly useful at helping you see how dynamic your music is. Greater dynamics generally go hand in hand with punchier percussive sounds and more exciting contrasts in your arrangements.
How does it work?
The usual way to use Dynameter is to put it on your master bus after all the audio processing so it can analyse the final output. When you play the music, Dynameter displays the dynamics over time as something that looks a lot like a waveform, but isn’t. The wider parts of the result indicate highly dynamic sections whilst the narrower parts indicate less dynamics. The display is also colour coded from Purple for very dynamic to Red for STOP IT YOU’RE HURTING ME!
You can set your desired minimum PSR or use one of the presets as a guide. You can also choose a target platform such as YouTube or Spotify to test the PLR for. (PLR is the peak to loudness ratio across the entire track and is used by many platforms to decide whether to automatically turn your music up or down. Important stuff to know about!)
As it can often become difficult to be truly subjective when mixing and mastering, Dynameter helps you to instantly see if you’re overdoing the compression and/or limiting. On one occasion I was working on a track for a client and used Dynameter between two versions I sent them. Because it was going into the red I dialled back the compression and limiting just enough to pull it out and when the client heard it they commented that it ‘popped’ and ‘had so much space’ compared to the previous mix.
Now I use it on every track I work on.
And that’s it?
Well if it’s not enough for you to know that this can help you produce the poppinest most dynamic-est mixes you’ve ever produced… well there are more ways you can use it. I asked Ian Sheppherd himself if there were any other tips or tricks to using Dynameter and he had a couple of suggestions:
- Use two instances of Dynameter. One before and one after your mastering chain. This allows you to visualise the effect your mastering process is having on the dynamics of your mix as you adjust it. This is a great way to isolate which process might be sucking the life out of your track.
- Place on separate tracks in your mix to see how dynamic they are individually. If you deal with the dynamics in a piece of music on the level of the individual parts then the results could be superdynamic.
Check out the video below for an intro by the man himself:
So what are you waiting for?
The loudness wars need YOU! Do your part and grab Dynameter now to ensure you’re not one of the bad guys…