Practical vs. theoretical

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Practical vs. theoretical

When discussing subjects like dynamic range it's easy to get caught up in the numbers.

If we understand that the term dynamic range defines the measured difference between the loudest and the softest possible sound, then we can agree that high resolution digital's 140dB dynamic range is better than vinyl's 70dB, right? 

Even if those numbers weren't on an exponential scale (they are) the higher number is at least twice as dynamically capable as the lower one.

Yet, despite those differences vinyl can often sound more dynamic than digital—a subject we've often touched upon in the past.

The difference is not so much in the possibilities of dynamic range but more so in the practicality of its implementation by the recording/mixing/mastering engineer.

As digital guru Ted Smith is fond of saying, 140dB dynamic range covers a pretty wide gap: from a single air molecule of sound hitting your eardrum to standing next to a jet engine at full throttle. 

Clearly, what matters is the practical application of dynamics which turn out to be more in the 80dB to 85dB range. Playing your system at maximum level in a normal listening environment it's unlikely you're going to hear much of anything that is 80dB below that loudest note (hard to hear those tiny air molecules hitting your eardrums).

So, when we talk of dynamics, blame the recording/mixing/mastering engineer for what your hear.

Not the technology that reproduces it.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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