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Thread: Mastering Limiters

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    Mastering Limiters

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    What do mastering limiters do to sound other than making it louder?

    e.g. say you have a distorted guitar and run it through a brickwall limiter. IME it makes it more brittle and crunchy compared to the raw mix. I'm just wondering if it's normal the limiter changes the sound, and if so, how it changes sound and what the best practices are. Is there a thread that lists best practices or a book someone can recommend?

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    That's what I hear as well--brittle, "crunchy" if you like but not in a good way. Then again, we are probably only noticing this effect where the limiting was done badly.

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    I literally just posted this which is probably more info than you wanted and likely doesn't answer your actual question.


    Edit - fixed link
    Last edited by ashcat_lt; 04-30-2016 at 14:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
    ... which is probably more info than you wanted and likely doesn't answer your actual question.
    Never let that stop you from posting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
    I literally just posted this which is probably more info than you wanted and likely doesn't answer your actual question.


    Edit - fixed link
    it was interesting to read, but i'm not sure it explains what a limiter actually does to the wave form. is it just cutting off peaks and raising the quiet parts? Does this combination create brittleness somehow? Robus said it's only if limiting is done badly. I just used a preset to see what would happen, and it sounded brittle and crunchy, but how does someone learn how to limit well? Is there a book or article on mastering limiters and how to use them correctly?

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    Maybe it's best to post what I do and see what's wrong, if anything.

    1. usually i record -18dbfs
    2. i'll use minor compression, if any. e.g. distorted guitars i rarely compress. an electric clean guitar i might compress a little so it's like -3db or so. then use makeup gain to get any volume i need.
    3. vocal i'll compress a little like -3db to -5db, than make up gain.
    4. eq everything to sit where it sounds good.
    5. mix it down.
    6. run it through some pluging brickwall limiter.

    What would I do in this process to make it where I don't have to use much limiting to get adequate volume? i like average volume around -19 to -16db, which i guess is low by today's standards but sounds normal to my ear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nola View Post
    it was interesting to read, but i'm not sure it explains what a limiter actually does to the wave form. is it just cutting off peaks and raising the quiet parts?
    No. It's cutting off the peaks. If you/it also adds gain- then you are bringing everything up [not just "the quiet parts"- everything.]
    The more you raise something into a hard limiter (or the limiter does this, or you lower it's threshold down into it to do it) ..the more something like this distorts the program.
    Does this combination create brittleness somehow? Robus said it's only if limiting is done badly. I just used a preset to see what would happen, and it sounded brittle and crunchy, but how does someone learn how to limit well?
    Yes. First of all "something like this".. is anything w/ a very fast attack and release alters waveforms too fast not distorting them.
    2nd- what you're limiting. A distorted guitar is already 'clipped and distorted. All compressing to a large degree and certainly limiting can do [here] is... make it more distorted. Along with bringing up other nasties that used to be down lower in the track. (i.e. if you liked this clipped guitar tone- why would you distort it some more.
    Save the limiter for the short clean spikey things that can stand a bit of clipping w/o Sounding Like Ass [a technical term Do it until they do S.L.A, then back off. That's how far you get to go B4 S.L.A.
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    Really aggressive limiting turns into distortion real fast. Distortion adds harmonics - multiples of the original frequency. Since a lot of the peaks that (should) get clipped at this point are pretty fast transients, they usually already have quite a bit of high frequencies, and then you multiply those frequencies and get even higher frequencies, and those frequencies often end up being higher (in frequency, not necessarily volume) than anything else in the mix. In a very real way, the whole spectrum of the mix gets tilted a bit toward the treble end just because we're adding more crap up there.

    Then too if it's like a kick drum that's pushing it over the threshold, the low frequencies in that sound aren't allowed to be as much louder than everything else, so it's almost like losing some bass at the same time.

    And that's not to mention aliasing which happens when multiplying the original frequency puts it over half the sample frequency and it "reflects" back and ends up not being actually harmonically connected to the original sound anymore. Decent mastering limiters work hard to avoid that, but there's only so much you can do, and some of what you have to do sort of undoes what the limiter is trying to do.

    Anyway, there's like three active threads on how to reduce dynamic range without destroying the mix. Maybe instead of making us type all that stuff again, you could read them?

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    I'm at a loss as to why you would use a hard limiter on a guitar track.
    I've got two sheds, me.

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    One of my buddies sometimes has an unbelievably spiky attack on his vocal. Until recently reading of some using a limiter I never would have considered hard limiting.
    PSP's Xeon worked nicely w/o inflicting any weirdness.
    Thing does have sort of a two-stage attack with a release you can slow down, might be part of it.
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