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Author Topic: Master Limiter Basics - louder, cleaner mixes  (Read 3883 times)

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Offline Glenn

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Master Limiter Basics - louder, cleaner mixes
« on: April 22, 2011, 10:30:04 PM »
A common but very good question I'm asked about from time to time, is - how to get a louder mix without it sounding distorted? And 'what is a limiter and how should I use it?"

There's lots of great info out there, and I'll put my 2 cents in ... and invite others to jump in and add to this thread too.  :)    Talk about your favourite Limiters and how you use them.
I reference this little gem, the Classic Master Limiter by Kjaerhus Audio - a simple, no nonsense piece of gear (Vst) that just sounds goood, and it's at our favourite price point...  You can get it free download :

- A starting point and basic explanation ....
When you bring up a wave in Wavosaur or Audacity or any DAW/ editor, you will notice the size of the wave form. If you scroll mouse over a section of the wave you can then go to 'amplify' and see what the exact level DBFS is. (decibel full scale)

Let's say the wave form is -2.5 ... meaning, it has 2.5 dB's of headroom before 'clipping'. Now, let's say you want to raise that wave form level so that it reads -1dB .... you could simply amplify the wave form so that it comes up to the -1dB level.

Playing the wave back, you'll hear that it is now 'louder' .... and doesn't go over the -1dB level.

Now let's take the exact same wave form that reads at -2.5 dB. Bring the wave up in the editor or DAW mixer, setting the fader channel to '0',  .. and set the 'Master Fader" at  -1dB ..... now insert the Classic Master Limiter in the last slot in the Master Output section, and set it to "CD Master" setting... you do NOT need to touch the level or 'gain' knob on the master limiter. Leave it as is for now. Now send the mix out through the master limiter...import the wave to waveosaur or audacity, and look at the level of the wave... IT WILL BE EXACTLY -1dB DBFS on peaks (or lower, if the signal wasn't hot enough)..... if it doesn't reach -1dB, then it just shows you the original signal can be hotter going through the mixer. If you add a compressor to the tracks vst slot, it will bring up the level of the signal, .... then send that mix out through the limiter - same settings, and you'll see that the signal is up, hotter, but NOT going over -1dB... because you LIMITED the signal to not go beyond that point...... simple!!! and basic!!!  If you don't SEE the red led lights come on in the limiter, then your signal can be 'hotter'... If you turn up the mixers channel fader the signal will come up, and feed the limiter more gain,... this should cause the red led light to come on on the limiter, in which case, it indicates the limiter is in fact 'limiting' or holding back x dB's. Once you've got the levels up to where the limiter led is showing, render the mix and export it.

Now play the 2 exported waves after one another and compare the TWO mixes... the one that was adjusted by 'amplify' will be -1 dB but not sound any where near as loud as the one that was mixed with the limiter setting. The one with the limiter will also show -1dB, but it will sound much louder as the RMS has been increased.

I hope this helps.
I invite others to chime in on the convo... there's a lot that could be discussed here.
Glenn  :)

« Last Edit: April 22, 2011, 10:52:06 PM by Glenn »
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Offline guitar45

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Re: Master Limiter Basics - louder, cleaner mixes
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2013, 08:36:10 PM »
this explains a lot for me, why some songs I hear are really loud but sound gritty, and others sound loud but clean.

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Offline Old Goat

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Re: Master Limiter Basics - louder, cleaner mixes
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 09:57:29 AM »
The limiter really shouldn't make a difference in clean or gritty, unless you have a crappy limiter. The freeware one Glenn mentions is nice.

As a folkie, I seldom use a limiter anymore. I normalize to RMS levels in Sound Forge.
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