6 Things I Wish I Knew About Limiters
And a comprehensive list of the best limiter plugins available today!
A limiter is just a compressor with a really high ratio. But the role of a limiter is slightly different than compression.
There are two basic categories of limiters: transparent and dirty.
Limiters are not just for your master channel. I recommend learning how to use limiters on individual tracks or group busses or auxes early on. Limiters are used by the best producers/mixers on Vocals, Drums, and Guitars.
If you plan on using a limiter on your master buss, mix into it for the whole session. Don't just drop a limiter on your master at the end of the session.
Multiband compressors/limiters are just compressors/limiters that split the signal into different frequency groups so that you can compress/limit a particular frequency range more or less than others. This is useful because it allows you to tame or boost, or add movement to certain frequencies without using eq.
A maximizer and a limiter are basically the same thing, but maximizers have additinal features tailored towards increasing loudness.
Here are some of the best and most powerful and most commonly used Limiter plugins that I've seen the best producers/engineers using (in no particular order):
Absolute workhorse plugin that a lot of producers use on their master chain because it has so many features and sounds great. A lot of people still use older versions. Uses a lot of CPU.
FabFilter Pro L
Really popular limiter that many of the best producers and engineers use. FabFilter plugins are super surgical and require learning how to use everything but it's well worth it.
McDSP ML1000 and ML4000
Comes in two versions as a standard limiter and a multiband. This is a classic transparent style limiter.
BX Limiter True Peak
This is a relatively new limiter by Brainworx that is absolutely killer. It has an XL knob that adds a ton of bass and fatness to your mix.
Sonnox Inflator and Oxford Limiter
I lumped these into one to save space. Many of the best producers and engineers use both of these Sonnox plugins. The inflator is especially popular on vocals. It adds lots of color and volume. I found out about the inflator from the producer Disclosure that uses it on all their vocals.
Waves Renaissance Axx
This had to be posted here because it's a powerhouse color limiter for guitars, but many people use it for vocals. Aggressive, dirty, especially good for rock and rap. A classic!
Waves L1, L2 and L3
I lumped these into one category to save space, but these are essential limiters. The L2 is the essentiall ratchet maximizer that works well for aggressive music like rap.
Softube Weiss MM1
A relatively new mastering maximizer that has a super sleek interface and is being used by some great engineers out there! Super fun to use and sounds great.
DMG Audio Limitless
Found out about this plugin from the GOAT Dave Pensado. Definitely has a learning curve but this is a super powerful limiter. It is relatively new and is next-level.
The Limiter included in your DAW!
Are often super powerful and more than enough to learn how to use limiters and get great mixes with minimal CPU footprint. For me, Ableton's Color Limiter is super useful!