Mastering - Limiting

As a final cap on a well-structured master chain, a limiter will capture any uncontrolled transients using a hard-clipping circuit. This method of controlling untamed peaks is aggressive not only to transients but also through release artefacts that are introduced when the limiters gain reduction snaps back into position.

The limiter at the end of a master chain should ideally be controlling only the transients of your drums as this will naturally be slightly higher in amplitude compared to the rest of the track, so if your transients are the only thing triggering the gain reduction on a limiter, that’s a good thing.

If two limiters are placed in series, the first one can control the very tops of the uncontrolled transients while the second can more effectively control all transients without any unpleasant release artefacts.

To test the effects of a limiter, increase the gain all the way to the top and make note of the changes over time as you begin backing off on the gain dial. Over-limiting will suck the life out of the brightness of a track and distort low frequencies beyond recognition. This will also cause big swings in presence between loud and quiet sounds seemingly exaggerating their position in extreme ways. Under-limiting will maintain dynamic range and articulation; however, fullness and loudness will lack in comparison to a perfectly limited song.

Set the ceiling on the limiter to -0.3dB, not 0dB exactly. A digital artifact called inter-sample peaking can occur through various methods of processing which causes audio to spike a fraction of a decimal above zero resulting in a digital crash error reading during export. During export, you may use the “normalize” function to reset the volume of the entire audio file to 0dB once rendering is completed.