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Solving common mix problems with limiters

From: Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing

Video: Solving common mix problems with limiters

Using limiters to squash your entire mix into the loudest song ever created isn't the only way we can put them to work in our mix. We can also use them to better control a signal's peak to average level on an individual track. Let's listen to this example. (music playing) Notice that the signal contains many quick peaks that reach very close to 0 dBFS. Adding any compression without using a near-instant attack would clip the output of the compressor as those quick peaks sneak through the compressor's attack stage.

Solving common mix problems with limiters

Using limiters to squash your entire mix into the loudest song ever created isn't the only way we can put them to work in our mix. We can also use them to better control a signal's peak to average level on an individual track. Let's listen to this example. (music playing) Notice that the signal contains many quick peaks that reach very close to 0 dBFS. Adding any compression without using a near-instant attack would clip the output of the compressor as those quick peaks sneak through the compressor's attack stage.

Watch the compressor's output and listen to the quick transients escape through the compressor's slower 20- millisecond attack stage and clip. (music playing) Likewise, adding any boost via EQ would cause a clip as well. Again, watch the EQ's output meter and listen to the EQ clip as the last bit of headroom is gobbled up with the EQ boost. (music playing) Instead of a regular compressor, by applying a brickwall limiter, we can retain most of the dynamic feel of the signal while keeping those peaks from jumping out too far from the mix.

I'm going to apply waves L1 to tame some of the biggest peaks, linking my threshold and output control, so no makeup gain is applied. Listen as I drag down the threshold and output controls. (music playing) Because the limiter works instantly and recovers nearly as quick, no peaks passed through.

This keeps the single from sounding like it has been compressed and works great as a transparent form of dynamics control. Listen again as I play back this strong pick scrape with and without the limiter. (music playing) By pulling down the threshold and output simultaneously, I'm not using any makeup gain, since my goal is to simply tame those peaks while leaving the rest of the signal unprocessed.

This technique is also great for controlling headroom between plug-ins inside your DAW. While a regular compressor would generally allow a bit of the signal's attack through, a limiter clamps down on those transients that may cause digital clipping within a plug-in. This allows us to regain some headroom below 0 dBFS, so we can apply gain in another way, like if we wanted to boost some frequencies with an EQ. Using limiters on individual tracks and between plug-ins really enables you to control the dynamics of all parts of your signal flow.

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This video is part of

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  1. 4m 56s
    1. Welcome
      1m 49s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      32s
    3. Using the exercise files
      53s
    4. Using the "Get in the Mix" Pro Tools and Logic Pro session files
      1m 42s
  2. 13m 47s
    1. What is amplitude?
      1m 51s
    2. Measuring amplitude
      1m 57s
    3. What is dynamic range?
      4m 8s
    4. What are dynamics processors?
      3m 36s
    5. Hardware and software dynamics processors
      2m 15s
  3. 38m 40s
    1. Introducing compressors
      1m 45s
    2. Understanding threshold
      1m 29s
    3. Utilizing compression ratios
      3m 0s
    4. Understanding makeup gain and gain reduction
      3m 13s
    5. Understanding attack and release
      2m 12s
    6. Applying attack and release
      5m 22s
    7. Demystifying compression controls: soft knee vs. hard knee
      2m 43s
    8. Get in the Mix: Using compression to even out a vocal performance
      4m 55s
    9. Get in the Mix: Using compression to add punch and sustain to drums
      4m 39s
    10. Intelligently using compression presets
      3m 6s
    11. Recording with compression: Why or why not?
      2m 53s
    12. Recording with compression: How to do it
      3m 23s
  4. 18m 50s
    1. Introducing limiters
      1m 59s
    2. Types of limiters
      4m 17s
    3. Get in the Mix: Maximizing mix loudness with brickwall limiters
      5m 58s
    4. Solving common mix problems with limiters
      2m 58s
    5. Using layered dynamics processing
      3m 38s
  5. 26m 49s
    1. Understanding and using de-essers
      3m 46s
    2. Get in the Mix: De-essing a vocal track
      3m 30s
    3. Understanding and using gates
      4m 41s
    4. Understanding and using expanders
      1m 35s
    5. Get in the Mix: Gating a drum track
      3m 18s
    6. Understanding and using multi-band compressors/limiters
      3m 31s
    7. Controlling frequency content with multi-band compressors
      3m 3s
    8. Understanding and using transient shapers
      3m 25s
  6. 36m 38s
    1. Effectively using side-chain inputs
      2m 6s
    2. Using side chains creatively
      5m 4s
    3. Keying gates and compressors (and/or ducking)
      4m 12s
    4. Managing gain staging and headroom and fixing over-compressed tracks
      3m 20s
    5. Compression first or EQ first?
      2m 56s
    6. Understanding mix bus compression
      3m 26s
    7. Get in the Mix: Using mix bus compression
      2m 47s
    8. Get in the Mix: Working with parallel compression
      3m 46s
    9. Working with "modeled" vintage compressor/limiter plug-ins
      5m 57s
    10. Building healthy compression/limiting habits
      3m 4s
  7. 14s
    1. Goodbye
      14s
  8. 5m 51s
    1. A session with Brian Lee White
      5m 51s

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