Many questions arise when it comes to mixing because there is no direct path to achieving a great mix.
The fact is, we all mix differently.
To understand when we should apply a limiter, we must first understand what a limiter is and what it essentially does.
A limiter is similar to a compressor, but it is has a high ratio.
Ratio determines how much compression to apply to a signal that goes over the threshold.
Unlike compression, the goal of limiting is to reduce the peaks and spikes in a vocal/instrument without affecting anything else. Limiters have a threshold of zero dB to avoid clipping, therefore it’s not a good idea to mix with a limiter on. You first have to finish processing all your recordings and then use a limiter.
When should I use a limiter instead of a compressor?
A compressor may be a limiter at times but a limiter will not act as a compressor.
Compression controls the dynamic range by making the quieter parts of an audio signal louder and making the higher peaks softer,
giving the entire audio clip a balanced volume range that won’t have other parts sound quieter or louder.
Limiting on the other hand keeps your entire mix from clipping and going into the red, above 0db.
It does this by; setting a threshold which becomes the limit and any sound that goes above this limit is reduced and kept from clipping.
Limiting will be the final step to make sure you don’t have any sounds in your mix that are clipping.
When should you use a compressor?
A compressor should be to maintain]good dynamic range, either in a vocal or an instrument.
Usually in vocal or instrument recordings, it is very difficult for the performer to keep a consistent level of volume no matter how skilled they are.
Therefore to get a consistent level in terms of volume, using a compressor is the way to achieve this.
Not only that, Compression will also add transients to the vocal and make it sound much more crisp.
Therefore that’s an advantage, and sometimes engineers will use compression to improve how the overall vocal sounds not just in terms of level control.
Do I need a compressor for a home studio?
You don’t really need a hardware compressor for your studio, you’re better off using compression plugins that can be found in most Digital Audio Workstations.
It’s not advisable to record through a hardware compressor because when you do; you cannot remove the compression effect on the vocal, you’d have to re-record.
Therefore get compression plugins for convenient working.
What is a true peak limiter?
A true peak limiter is a limiter that addresses and corrects any inter sample peaks in a mix.
When you use a limiter on a mix, it will address any peaks that are going above the limit which is 0db,
however, inter sample peaks will be as a result of conversion that usually happens when we process audio in Digital Audio Workstations and convert it to analog audio.
Therefore the goal of true peak limiting is to identify these true peaks that stick out and reduce them and seal them under the threshold.
Inter sample peaks will sometimes occur when we convert a session to mp3,
you’ll usually see spikes above the threshold when you use a true peak meter and it’s these spikes that a true peak limiter will tame.
Should I use a compressor on every track?
Compression is suited to work on instruments or vocals with varying dynamic range.
Therefore the answer here is, it depends.
If you notice that the tracks in your mix have inconsistent range then you should definitely apply it.
It may also be a good idea to add a little bit of compression to tracks that you feel will sound better then you run them through a compressor.
For dynamic range purposes you can basically focus your compression on audio that you deem worthy of compression because of its variance in dynamic range.
What is threshold on a limiter?
Compressors also have thresholds, but when it comes to a limiter they work a little differently.
The threshold on a limiter is the ceiling of your entire mix,
which means that the limiter will not allow any sounds to be louder than the threshold that you have set.
Therefore if you set a limiter at -1 threshold then it will not let your mix get any louder than -1.
What is the best limiter plugin?
This plugin will give you exactly what you need in a limiter,
izotope is a complete mastering package,
including modules, vintage effects, and tonal balance plugins.
It may seem like a somewhat pricey deal, but trust me, for what you are getting, it is an absolute bargain.
The vintage limiter that comes in izotope Ozone 9 will care of all your mastering needs.
It is definitely one of the best options out there.
Plus it also has a standalone version just incase you want to use it without having to running it through a Digital Audio Workstation.
PURCHASE IT HERE.
Waves L3 Multimaximizer
When it comes to mastering plugins, very few come close to the L3 Multimaximizer.
It will definitely improve your mastering process by offering you a great limiter that will improve the Sonics of your audio.
One of it’s cool features is the multi band limiting that helps you take care of any build up in the mid range of your vocals,
or any high build up that may come as a result of too much sibilance in the mix.
this limiter will easily let you zero in on the frequency range that you wish to limit.
therefore if you’re looking loud full mix, this is definitely one tool to consider.
You can purchase the entire WAVES bundle HERE.
Fab Filter Pro L
We’ve covered true peak limiting in this post, which is certainly important.
The Fab Filter Pro L is a great true peak limiter essential for any kind of audio processing,
it will allow you to get your mix loud enough whilst you monitor peaks.
With mastering it’s always a good idea to get a sense of how loud your mix is and this plugin offers you the metering feature that will help to basically read out the average loudness of any mix that you have running through it.
It’s always good to have a good limiter plugin that can get the job done,
and its best you use a software limiter like the ones I’ve mentioned above.
A limiter will control peaks in your mix and will ensure that your song doesn’t clip,
therefore it’s not a good idea to mix with the limiter on, you’re better off using the limiter when it’s time to master your track, that way you have much more control and less obstruction.