KNOWING AUDIO LIMITERS.
When producing music, to obtain a quality end product, there are a few things that we need to be aware of. During the Mixing process, there are so many effects and other parameters that can be attributed to a sound. Each one of them can be modified to give us a better sound quality. Today we will talk about the Limiter.
We could talk about Limiters for hours, so i am gonna try to keep it simple and easy to comprehend. If you don’t understand something, leave a comment below and i’ll get back to you as quick as i can.
In this article we will highlight all the features of the Limiter so that once you finish reading the article, you will be able to use it in the right way and exploit it to 100% of its potential.
HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE.
The limiter is a tool very similar to Audio Compressor, but it is not the same. While the compressor gradually reduces audio signal levels once a given Threshold is exceeded, the Limiter instantly stops the audio signal from going over a given Threshold.
In commerce there are many types of Limiters. We can come across Digital and Hardware Limiters. To give you an idea of what they look like and how they work i am gonna show you a few types. It may seems a bit confusing, but don’t worry keep reading and everything will make more sense.
This is a multi tool. It contains the Compressor and Limiter which are actionable only by a switch. Pretty cool! Of course as you can see this is an analogue Limiter and it is advisable for real professional use.
(click HERE to see more info about the Limiter)
Sonnox Oxford Limiter
This is a plug in to use in your DAW, that emulates the Limiters. Each plug in can have different functions that can be modified by the user.
This plug in features Enhance section to increase perceived loudness. Reconstruction meter shows ‘actual’ signal rather than sampled signal. Auto compensate feature corrects recon errors without losing overall programme loudness. Attack, release and variable soft knee controls. Comprehensive dither and noise shaping. Complete with many factory presets
Personally when I produce music and record voices or guitars, I use a gentle limiter. Some Limiters are dedicated to certain different music productions, but they all point to give us the same result. The Limiter is a type of compressor that is widely used to prevent the audio signal from going in the red zone, most known as “clipping or distortion”. Sometimes if we set up an audio compressor in a certain way, it can act as a limiter.
After we covered the main part of a Limiter, and explained what it can do, we can move onto the functionality part of it. We can say that Limiters are one of the most simplest dynamic processors. Thanks to the technology and the creation of DAW‘s, today we can use digital version of Limiters, which thank god are already included in many DAW. Hardware Limiter of course exist, they can work in many different ways, some are more strict then others. For example, old analogue Limiters are much more softer and relaxed, instead modern ones, like the digital versions, once we set the threshold, they will definitely make sure that the audio signal doesn’t get passed.
The main function is of course the Threshold, which represents our “limit”, once it has been set, the audio signal won’t go over it. Second is the ratio, which is normally set in most of Limiters at 20:1 and higher, up to infinity. Some but not all of them, offer as well extra functions to control attack and release. Certain Limiters have also Knee settings. I personally find this function very useful because we are able to decide how soft or hard the Limiter has to start working.
Many people are very confused about Audio Compressor and Limiters. When somebody talks about limiters, the Audio Compressor is something we can’t ignore. They are very similar but have a few different function and settings that makes them “compressor” and “limiter”. Following up i’ll be highlighting the main difference between them.
LIMITERS VS COMPRESSOR
We can start with saying that the first difference is the way they work. While the Audio Compressor starts working gradually to its full potential once the threshold mark gets passed, the Limiter stops the audio signal from going over the Threshold. I know it may doesn’t sound like a big difference but it is actually.
An other difference is the “ratio”. Limiters work on a higher ratio compared to audio Compressor, it generally starts at 20:1 up to infinity:1. Compressors are generally associated to a lower ratio, which reduces and does not kill the dynamic range of the audio signal, once it goes over the threshold mark. Many Compressors offers a built in Limiter. Finally we can say that they are very similar but each one is to be used for different purpose and in different contest.
WHEN USING A LIMITER
When producing music the Limiter can be used for many reason, it all depends from our needs. Following up, i am gonna list a few common cases of situation in which we will need a Limiter.
Prevention from clipping.
When producing and mixing, for each channel we may use many plugins, like compressors, chorus, reverb etc.. All of these plugins will be processing the audio playing in the channel and most likely, they’ll create peaks, and eventually clipping or distortion. A good idea is to insert a Limiter at the end of our channel plug ins list, so that we can set it to prevent any clipping or distortion and try to keep the audio as clear as we can.
An other situation can be using the Limiter as a “peak reduction” tool. For example, imagine to have 4 channel :
#1 channel: Guitar
#2 channel: Drum kit
#3 channel: Vocal
#4 channel: Piano
Normally drums (#2 Channel) are always full of high peak, and a good producer will insert a compressor to bring those high peaks down, but sometimes compressing too much, can change the dynamic of the drums sound. You may think that only by putting down the volume of the main channel output will fix the problem. Yeah it may changes something, but all you are going to get is just a low sounding drum with high peak. An appropriate thing to do in this case is inserting a Limiter. It won’t change much the dynamic of the sound, because it will only reduce high peak and dense up the audio of the channel. The out come will be, a full drum kit sound following a certain threshold which will avoid unwanted high peak sound that may ruin the overall song because going over other channels.
Volume and density in the Mix.
At the end of a project, when listening to the full song, it may sounds like it need a bit of a boost. In this case we can use a Limiter as an effect, nothing wrong with that if you only want to add some more sound and density to it. Inserting a single limiter into the Master output though, can create a bit of a mess, that’s why is advisable to insert a limiter only in certain channel to boost up the overall song. Pay attention, increasing too much volume and density to certain channel can create only more confusion. Small adjustment to the right channels will make a big difference in your mix.
I hope after this article you got to understand how the Limiter works. During your Music Production career you’ll come across different situation and problem to be solved. The limiter plays an important role into the Music Production world
If you are still having trouble to understand the Limiter and its functionality, please leave a comment below. I’ll get right back to you.
For more article, tips and advice to help you became a better producer, Stay tuned.
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