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Mastering tip: What are RMS & peak levels?

RMS and Peak level mastering

When mastering a track it’s crucial to understand the difference between RMS and peak levels. Today I’m going to show you what they are and how we can use them.

Back in the day when I was starting out with making music, I faced the problem of my tracks being too quiet. Even though the „peak volume indicator” showed that my track’s highest volume was around 0dB, it was still too quiet when played alongside professional tracks.

Loudness ≠ Peak Volume

What I was trying to get out of my track is loudness. What I was looking at instead was the highest volume peak in my track. The problem was that my drums included a lot of sharp spikes at the beginnings of samples, so the peak volume was high yet the overall loudness of my track was low. The solution turned out to be RMS monitoring.

What’s the difference between Peak & RMS?

The peak level is defined by the highest peaks within the signal independently of the amount of energy they are representing. The RMS level is proportional to the amount of energy over a period of time in the signal. It’s a little bit like calculating the average peak volume and putting it onto a new scale. To get the RMS value out of a waveform a time constant must be implemented.

How to increase the RMS level?

You can increase the RMS levels in your track by decreasing the dynamic range in your track - to make quieter parts louder and louder parts quieter. This can be done through using tools such as a limiter, compressor or by fixing mix issues. You can find more on mastering your own tracks in our new mastering course.


Good luck with your mixing and mastering. See you in the next articles!

k pizza author soundcloud


I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.

Listen: https://souncloud.com/k-pizza


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Keywords: Mastering with Izotope Ozone, LUFS vs dbFS, using Fab-Filter Saturn, Mastering with Fab-Filter only or Mastering with Ableton only, Fletcher-Munson Curve, Mastering Chain Blueprint

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