What is Dynamic Range?
Dynamic range measures the difference in volume between the softest and loudest portions of a track or album. It is most useful when comparing different releases of the same material.
Since the early 90s, many recordings have been increasingly "louder". Since it's impossible for a CD to turn up your stereo, they increase the volume using techniques like dynamic range compression. For more information on the "Loudness War", see here.
Dynamic Range measurements provide insight as to what may have been done to a recording, particularly in cases where there are multiple releases to chose from, like this:
In this case, it's clear that while both are versions of the same material, the CD-quality release has been processed in a way that reduced its Dynamic Range when compared to the HDTracks version.
It's important to remember that Dynamic Range is just one piece of information.
Music with a lot of dynamic range isn't necessarily better than music with less. Orchestral performances will nearly always have a much wider dynamic range than Heavy Metal, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the recordings are any better or worse.
Where can I see Dynamic Range in Roon?
Dynamic Range is displayed in a few places:
On the Album Details Screen
In the "Other Versions of this Album" popup
In the track browser when the "Dynamic Range" column is enabled
In the "File Info" popup
How is Dynamic Range computed?
As with Volume Leveling
Roon's dynamic range calculation is done based on R128 standards. In technical terms, Roon's "Dynamic Range" is the same as R128's "Loudness Range". That there are older methods of computing Dynamic range out there--most commonly by measuring the "Crest Factor".
Crest Factor measurements reflect the difference between the average volume and the peak volume--so they are easily swayed by periods of silence or near-silence (which distorts the average), and by short-duration peaks--which may not represent the volume of the loudest parts of the track accurately.
The R128 method is more resilient. It begins by computing the statistical distribution of loudness values present at different points in the track, ignoring periods of silence. The computed dynamic range represents the difference between the 10th percentile and the 95th percentile of that distribution. In other words, the "top" of the range is the volume level that 95% of the track sits below, and the "bottom" is the volume level that 10% of the track sits above.
Though both methods portray roughly the same information, Crest Factor values aren't directly comparable to values produced using the R128 method.
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