7 Favourite Limiter Plugins (+ Suggestions) — Professional Audio Information

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In 1935, engineer Al Twone designed an audio processing unit that mixed a compressor that featured an computerized achieve management with a peak limiter. He dubbed his creation PROGAR, or Program Guardian. Whereas it took over a decade to patent, Twone finally bought it the Langevin Firm who then produced and bought the models. Quite a few different firms together with Common Audio, Basic Electrical and CBS Audimax designed and bought peak limiters, which went on to grow to be one of the vital essential kinds of audio processors.

Limiters can be utilized for quite a lot of duties, and their major characteristic is that they forestall an audio sign from passing above a decided ceiling. “Brickwall” limiters work by incorporating extremely excessive ratios — basically permitting the person to set the ceiling to one thing like -0.3 dBFS, after which “push in” to that ceiling by decreasing the edge. This follow, together with different kinds of processing together with liberal functions of additive equalization, saturation and clipping led to the loudness warfare, which, regardless of the incorporation of loudness normalization into streaming providers, rages on. Whereas mastering engineers use quite a lot of means to measure their work, Loudness Items Full Scale (LUFS) is a crucial metric that averages the extent of a bit of music throughout its period. So long as musicians create music, they’ll need their very own to be heard over the competitors, and limiting is likely one of the only instruments for getting music as much as aggressive ranges.

At the moment, there are a myriad of inexpensive, great-sounding software program limiters. Right here’s what I search for in a limiter plug-in:

Clear Sound High quality

Particularly as you push program materials into competitively loud territory (assume something previous -10 LUFS), limiters are likely to have an effect on transients, they begin to degrade the integrity of the combo, they usually even introduce noticeable distortion when overused.

True Peak Detection

Sure meters have been designed to point out peaks inside the digital area, however didn’t account for inter-sample peaks that would happen as soon as digital audio is transformed to analog. Extra fashionable limiter plugins have true peak operation so you understand that your last output will likely be free of those pesky peaks.


For a extra thorough breakdown on dithering, take a look at this glorious article. However to be transient, undesirable distortion and artifacts will be launched when changing a file with a better decision to a decrease one (assume 24 to 16-bit decision). Dithering, which is a type of low-level noise, will be added to a digital audio file because it’s rendered to a decrease bit depth to masks these artifacts.

Just like true peak capabilities, many fashionable limiter plugins characteristic dithering choices. It’s not a deal-breaker if its lacking, as there are standalone dithering instruments, but it surely definitely doesn’t harm to have this convenient and essential course of discovered inside the limiter itself.

Visible Suggestions

Whereas nothing is extra essential than sonics, metering is an important side of mastering. The very best limiter plugins ship visualizations of how the processor is making use of achieve discount, the momentary & built-in loudness of this system materials as soon as limiting has been utilized and extra.


For more information, take a look at this superior article by Phil Mantione, however basically oversampling is processing audio at a better a number of of the pattern fee than what your DAW is presently working at. Often that is accomplished in an effort to enhance general plugin efficiency and sound high quality. It’s a CPU-intensive course of, however in lots of conditions the outcomes are simple. Loads of lately launched plugin processors are able to oversampling, limiters included.

Now, right here’s a breakdown of a few of my favourite limiter plugins, and the way I take advantage of them when mastering:

The unique Professional-L and its successor helped make me a bettering mastering engineer. FabFilter plugins present unparalleled visible suggestions, and that is particularly essential for the exact work accomplished utilizing a limiter.

Professional-L 2 delivers in spades on this regard. It options true peak stage meters and complete loudness metering with help for the EBU R128, ITU-R BS.1770-4 and ATSC A/85 requirements.

All this is able to be for naught if the factor didn’t sound unbelievable, however luckily Professional-L 2 sounds as gorgeous because it appears to be like. With eight distinctive limiting algorithms, every with their very own function, it’s an extremely versatile audio processor. With multichannel playback  discovering its means onto streaming platforms, the truth that Professional L-2 helps Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 makes it a cutting-edge resolution for last limiting duties.

Mastering Tip

Maintain down shift when you deliver up the achieve to concurrently deliver down the output stage of Professional-L 2. Degree matching helps to keep away from being tricked by the “louder is best” fallacy and listen to what’s really taking place to your sign when limiting, particularly when limiting in an aggressive vogue.

FabFilter PRO-L-2

The vary of plugins from Steven Massey are typically (and sadly) slept on. I take advantage of the DRT Drum Alternative Device on nearly each combine, TapeHead was one of many first plausible tape saturators and the THC Distortion Pedal remains to be certainly one of my go-to options for growling bass. For sure, I like to recommend these lesser identified plugins each probability I get. The L2007 Mastering Limiter sounds unbelievable and I’ve been utilizing it for over a decade now. There are controls for threshold and output, a mode selector (choices are loud, mellow, clean and vibrant), in addition to a launch time selector with regular, quick, medium and sluggish as choices.

Mastering Tip

Because of the lack of visible suggestions and dither, I typically don’t deploy the L2007 as the ultimate limiter when mastering. However I’m a proponent of utilizing limiters in collection for better sonic transparency, so I’ll typically use an occasion of the Massey limiter adopted by one thing just like the Professional-L 2 which tells me what I must learn about LUFS when it’s time for last prints.

Massey L2007

Sonnox and their line of child blue Oxford processors see common use in my studio throughout manufacturing, mixing and mastering. Whereas lots of the Oxford merchandise don’t have all the bells and whistles discovered on extra fashionable plugins, they sound pristine, are straightforward to make use of and truly home some sneaky good options that I discover myself lacking when utilizing competing software program. The Limiter V3 sports activities three sections:

  1. The enter part has controls for threshold and enter achieve.
  2. The pre-process part has controls for assault, launch, gentle knee and an auto-gain button.
  3. The output part has sliders for improve (curve) and output trim.

Additionally discovered close to the output are a number of buttons devoted to controlling the limiter’s true peak capabilities, in addition to choices for dithering.

Mastering Tip

If you happen to’re hoping so as to add presence, influence and a little bit of low finish emphasis to your program materials, the improve (curve) slider is sort of a cheat code. Some enhancers are likely to sound harsh and smear the stereo picture, however the improve perform on the Oxford Limiter V3 stays musical — even when pushed to the intense.

Sonnox Oxford Limiter

Working intently with a number of the world’s prime mastering engineers, Brainworx spent two years growing bx_limiter True Peak. Throughout this time, they thought-about the sonic implications of true peak prevention, which has all the time been extra of a preventative measure that customers complained contributed to adverse sonic artifacts.

Mastering Tip

Along with pristine limiting capabilities, bx_limiter True Peak sports activities a handful of sonic sweetening controls that assist engineers obtain the absolute best grasp. Stop excessive high and low frequencies from making the limiter work too onerous by utilizing the onboard low and high-pass filters. Moreover, the distinctive basis management is a tone shaping device that will increase or decreases the muse of the sign earlier than hitting the limiter stage. It may be used to subtly and musically focus in on the  the low finish of your materials earlier than any limiting is utilized.

Brainworx bx_limiter_True_Peak

Discovered inside the game-changing plugin suite that revolutionized mastering within the field are the Maximizer and Classic Limiter modules. When mixed with the opposite Ozone processors together with the Equalizer, Imager and Spectral Shaper, these instruments can generate clear, dynamic and competitively loud outcomes. Each the Maximizer and Classic Limiter have true peak limiting choices to make sure the prevention of digital overs.

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On the coronary heart of the Maximizer is iZotope’s clever launch management (IRC) which has a number of modes that reply in a different way to program materials. It’s advisable to experiment with the varied modes to search out the one that’s completely suited to your music. The Maximizer additionally options ceiling and threshold sliders which will be linked to forestall being fooled by the perceived enhance in quantity that happens when decreasing the edge. There’s additionally a personality slider that alters how rapidly the Maximizer responds, in addition to a stereo independence part with transient and maintain controls that may be tweaked to finest serve the stereo picture of the supply materials.

For a extra colourful strategy to last limiting duties there’s the Classic Limiter module. It’s modeled after the traditional Fairchild 670 limiter, identified for its wealthy, clean compression. Just like the Maximizer, you’ve acquired linkable ceiling and threshold sliders, in addition to analog, tube and fashionable modes. Every of those will impart a barely totally different taste of harmonic content material and compression onto the fabric. Moreover, the achieve discount hint meter’s scrolling waveform show offers helpful visible suggestions in real-time.

Mastering Suggestions 

As I discussed earlier than, generally I’ll use a number of limiters, every doing slight achieve discount, in lieu of a singular plugin tasked with dealing with extra. If accomplished correctly, the outcomes will be extra clear, with extra impactful transients. Attempt utilizing each the Maximizer and Classic Limiter in whichever order finest serves the music.

Moreover, Ozone is thought for its helpful Grasp Assistant characteristic, which analyzes your observe and makes strategies for processing based mostly on a complicated algorithm. Whereas I do often use this characteristic if solely to see what it suggests, I’ve developed the behavior of turning my displays means down because the assistant will generally deliver the edge means down, leading to a brief (however drastic) enhance in quantity.


Containing 26 filter bands based mostly on the behaviors of the human ear, Elevate merely  does issues that no different limiter can. Utilizing synthetic intelligence, the adaptive limiter analyzes incoming info for every of the 26 bands and alters the achieve, pace and transients for every in actual time. All that is accomplished in an effort to maximise the loudness of the ultimate output, whereas sustaining the dynamics and tonality of program materials.

After preliminary limiting, the sign is fed to a transient emphasis module, which might improve the punch and prominence of transients at every of these 26 bands. That is unbelievable for locating precisely the place the kick, snare and different percussive sources are sitting on the frequency spectrum and boosting their energy accordingly.

Lastly, the clipper part permits for — you guessed it — clipping transients with out diminishing the tonal qualities of this system materials. If desired, customers can make use of the drive management on the clipper so as to add harmonic content material and aggression to the observe.

Mastering Tip 

High quality metering is important when mastering, and the number of meters discovered inside Elevate are all the time helpful, and at instances they’re mind-blowingly fascinating. Along with the usual vertical enter/output with peak/rms meters, Elevate offers 3 meters that assist visualize precisely what the plugin is doing: a further enter/output meter that exhibits a readout over time, a achieve discount meter that exhibits how a lot GR is being utilized throughout the numerous bands and lastly a filter financial institution meter that exhibits vertical enter/output/achieve discount ranges per band. It’s quite a bit to absorb, however can actually make it easier to perceive how limiting is utilized to your music extra intimately.

Newfangled Audio Elevate

First debuting in 1994 and immediately beloved for its wealthy, heat, tubey traits, the {hardware} Variable Mu from Manley Labs has grow to be a favourite of blending and mastering engineers alike.

The Variable Mu is a bit not like a lot of the different limiters on this listing: I wouldn’t contemplating it to be a finalizing limiter as a result of its lack of exact metering, and its tone is much less clear than could also be desired for last limiting duties — but it surely’s vibrant timbre makes it an ideal alternative for the combo bus or as a compressor earlier within the mastering chain.

One of many favourite options of this plugin is the high-pass sidechain choice, which prevents an overabundance of low frequencies from hitting the compressor, leading to a smoother, extra clear compression impact. Labelled HP SC, I make use of this characteristic at any time when utilizing the Variable Mu on sources with quite a lot of low finish power.

Combine/Grasp Tip

The Variable Mu can also be not like the opposite compressor/limiters right here as a result of I’ll apply it to particular person tracks with regularity. From bass, to acoustic guitar, to vocals, the Variable Mu excels at at any single supply that may profit from a contact of added heat and definition. The combo knob is beneficial for after I dial in additional aggressive compression settings, however wish to cut back the quantity of the general impact.

manley variable mu compressor:limiter


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