IMP Homework Episode 4: Dynamic range and the various ways to manipulate it.
Monday, April 1, 2013 at 04:40AM


This is episode four of my series on music production for my Coursera class Introduction to Music Production. I discuss the dynamic range of audio.


To the reviewer

This one was fun. I got to talk more about my podcast, and I was able to focus on how I managed dynamics. I struggled again with time limitations; I had more content than time to cover it, so I limited my discussion to dynamics within my podcast and one creative use of compression in music production. There's so much to explore and so little time.

Key terms

Dynamic range: In a medium (i.e. something that can store or carry an audio signal), the range of amplitude from the noise floor to the maximum level; that is, the full range of representable amplitudes. In a recording, the range of amplitudes from the lowest to the higest sample.

Noise floor: The lowest measurable amplitude in a signal. It defines the lowest detectable sound in an audio signal.

Nominal level: The level a DAW or a system was designed to ideally work with.

Signal-to-noise ratio: The ratio of amplitude of the nominal signal level to the noise floor.

Maximum level: The highest signal amplitude in the system that can be produced without distortion.

Headroom: The distance between the nominal level and the maximum level.

Gain stage: A point in an audio signal path where the gain (level, amplitude) of the signal can be adjusted.


Robinson, George. The Ultimate Guide to Compression, First Edition, January 2013.

Noise floor - Wikipedia
"The noise floor limits the smallest measurement that can be taken with certainty since any measured amplitude can on average be no less than the noise floor."

Nominal level - Wikipedia
"Nominal level is the operating level at which an electronic signal processing device is designed to operate."

Signal-to-noise ratio - Wikipedia

Article originally appeared on Wes Perdue's Journal of Geekery (
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