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In this first installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows how to improve the sound of a mix with compressors, limiters, gates, de-essers, and other dynamic processors. The course explains the fundamentals of sound waves, and amplitude, explores common compressor controls, and shows how to eliminate unwanted noise using gates and expanders. The course also demonstrates best practices in compression and limiting in a variety of audio applications and covers sculpting the attack and decay of individual notes with transient shapers and applying frequency specific dynamics control with multiband compressors. Exercise files accompany the course and include special Get in the Mix session files.
A limiter is simply a compressor with a ratio of greater than 10 to 1. BY using such a strong ratio, the compressor effectively limits the signal's amplitude to the threshold so that very little, or in some cases nothing, can pass beyond the threshold. When we look at a limiter's transfer curve graph, we find that the knee levels off completely, effectively creating a wall at the threshold. Since compressors and limiters are cut from the same cloth, as far as dynamics processors go, we'll typically use them for all the same reasons we use compressors, that is, to restrict and hone the dynamic range of overly dynamic signals and increase the average level of a signal without increasing peak level or clipping.
Think of limiters as just more aggressive compressors. You'll find that many limiters feature the same threshold attack, release. and gain controls as regular compressors, but often without a ratio control. since this is generally assumed to be very high or near infinite. Limiters are especially useful while mixing because many signals contain great variations between their peak and average level. For example, a signal may contain many very short peaks or high- amplitude transient spikes while the average amplitude level of the signal is much lower.
These peak points in the signal tend to eat up headroom and are hard to fit into a mix, because as we turn up the average levels of a signal up enough to hear it, the peaks tend to stick out or clip in the mixer. Using a limiter helps us control this type of signal, allowing it to both be audible throughout while not jumping out of the mix or clipping the DA converters on a mix buzz on the peaks. Listen as I raise the level of this drumbeat. The peaks of the signal quickly clip the output of my DAW and I begin to hear digital distortion.
(music playing) Using a limiter can help me control these peaks, while still allow me to raise up the level of the track in the mix. In the next movie, we'll discuss the two major types of limiters.
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