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  • Limiter/Mastering Question – Please advise

    Posted by Jesse Lewis on at 1:52 pm

    Dearest Mix Geniuses!

    I have a question that I’m hoping you all can help me understand more clearly.

    It is my understanding that it is generally good practice to have your mix bus (Master channel) RMS levels hanging out in the vicinity of between -30 and -12 (I’ve been shooting for around -18) with my PEAK levels hitting between -3 and -12. This insures that I don’t clip the master channel and leaves a little headroom for mastering, which I am also doing 😂

    When mastering my tracks I use a limiter at the end of my master bus to increase the overall volume of the track and I’m observing the general norms of loudness and LUFS, etc (I’ve been using Brainworks True Peak Limiter)

    Here is my question – When I use the limiter to increase the overall gain of the track does it change the sound in any way, other than just making things louder IF THERE IS NO GAIN REDUCTION? In other words – If the limiter isn’t applying any compression (no gain reduction) is it coloring or changing my mix other than just making it louder? Wouldn’t this be exactly the same as just using a “Gain utility”??? I know many hardware limiters add saturation and character as a result of the audio running thru it, but I’m specifically wondering about these more “transparent” limiters (brainworks or Fab filter Pro-L for example) or even a “gain utility” (in ableton live)

    I’m assuming that using a limiter in this fashion just makes the track louder, without effecting the tone or feel in anyway, but I’d love to know for sure!?

    Thanks in advance,

    JLew

    Dana Nielsen replied 2 months, 4 weeks ago 6 Members · 17 Replies
  • 17 Replies
  • Dana Nielsen

    Administrator
    at 2:29 am

    Great question (as always), @JLEW! Here’s a video I made in response, which includes some answers to your questions as well as some tips that might be helpful when evaluating the “sound” of limiters like these. Lemme know what ya think! And can’t wait to hear what you’ve been limiting lately!! 💜⚡️

    • Jesse Lewis

      Member
      at 5:40 am

      A response to my question from @dana in my inbox to start the day! This is even better than Christmas morning! Dude – Thank you so much! And being able to watch the video is EXTRA AMAZING as it really helps me with all this stuff to see and hear what you are describing. You fully answered all of my questions and I am feeling so much more confident about this topic now – the only problem is that I think I’m going to have to just bite the bullet and purchase that Fab Filter Limiter haha

      now to watch one more time:)

      Thanks again!

      JLew

      • Jesse Lewis

        Member
        at 7:07 am

        @dana UPDATE: Fab Filter Pro L2 purchased 😂😂😂

        • Dana Nielsen

          Administrator
          at 12:57 pm

          Hahaha – AMAZING!!! You won’t regret it.

          Did u see me on their site? haha. I don’t get any kickback from them and I’ve paid for every single one of their plugins (lest you think my exuberance about their products puts money in my pocket .. it does not. I’m just a fan.)

          Have fun, homey!!

  • David Maroul

    Member
    at 7:31 pm

    For better or worse, I’ve always used the studio as another instrument to be creative with (rather than just capture performance). Actually, I think the reason I ever began recording/ engineering/ mixing etc. ( In 1980 on a Teac A3440 purchased from my Air Force Base Exchange for $799.00 on credit which was a fortune to me at the time as a 1 stripe Airman haha) was the freedom to be more creative as an artist/ producer. In turn, I am all for experimenting, (breaking rules is half the fun for me 😃) and pushing the gear (plug-ins) past their limits… just to see. You never know what amazing tricks you will learn or sounds you might stumble across. Also, some of my greatest recording moments have been accidents. Thanks Dana for this excellent quick review on limiting!

    • David Maroul

      Member
      at 7:38 pm

      Edit… my first reply was meant to be a reply to Dana’s reply 😆 sorry.

    • Dana Nielsen

      Administrator
      at 1:19 am

      I LOVE this, @Dave! Heck yeah, experimentation, finding the limits, pushing the gear, accidentally stumbling onto cool sounds … that’s the best stuff!

      Also … look what sits just on the other side of my room:

      • David Maroul

        Member
        at 10:04 am

        Wish I still had mine! That’s awesome!

        • Dana Nielsen

          Administrator
          at 10:29 am

          Yeah that thing is so cool. I haven’t done any tracking with it, but I’ve used it to create trippy echo and delay with feedback fx, some of which can be heard on the Smashing Pumpkins album I recorded/mixed .. I’ll post an example if I can find it. I’d love to try recording to that machine sometime as a 4-track!

          • David Maroul

            Member
            at 2:00 pm

            Here is some weird synchronicity. I literally have not seen or talked about a Teac A3440 in 20 years. Today this showed up in my social media feed… Welcome to my strange & wonderful world. Cool to be sharing some of it with you here 🙏

            • Dana Nielsen

              Administrator
              at 12:01 am

              I love that! Amazing how those things happen.

              And high paise in the comments from Jamie Lidell on that post. Love Jamie and his podcast – i’ll have to look that one up!

  • Pete Widin

    Member
    at 7:48 am

    Great insights, thanks @dana !

  • Dewey Thomas

    Member
    at 10:19 am

    Great tips Dana! Ive been using this Pro L/L2 for so many years and never knew that. So useful. Besides the pro L2 do you have any other must haves on your master bus during a mix that you like to mix into or do you adjust as you see fit near the end of a mix?

    • Dana Nielsen

      Administrator
      at 11:23 pm

      Deweeeeeey!!! Awe man, what a freakin TREAT seeing your name pop up here in Mix Protege! Love that you’re here man!

      Pro-L2 is literally the only thing I have on my “loud ref” mix print track. In other words, when I send files to mastering I love being able to tell the engineer “here’s the loud mix the band has signed off on, and here’s the same mix with more headroom which you might prefer to work from. The only difference between the two options is a Pro-L2 limiter.” That way they’ll understand that there’s no “mystery sauce” difference between the two, and no need sending them down a rabbit hole trying to reproduce on their end.

      That said, however, my “master fader” (which is in quotes cause it’s actually a stereo aux input which feeds into my 2 print tracks – see my Prep School course for a deep dive on that) sometimes has mystery sauce elements on it. Usually some harmonic saturation things like Waves NLS or Softube Console 1, maybe a touch of finishing EQ with Weiss MP, sometimes a little bx_masterdesk for to adjust stereo width and to mono-ize frequencies below 80Hz if needed … subtle stuff really. I prefer to get as rockin a mix as I can with absolutely NUTHIN’ on the master fader. Then I add a few favs mentioned above to see what helps and what doesn’t. And as I add master inserts (or any insert for that matter) I’m constantly adjusting the output settings to ensure I’m not adding loudness. That way, I can bypass anything in the insert chain and understand what it’s adding (or subtracting) without being fooled by loudness.

      Ok, that was a bit of a ramble-y answer but hope it helped!

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