Production Tip 3 – How to properly use a Limiter on the mastering chain

I have used quite a few limiter plugins, and there are many great options out there to choose from. Nowadays I’m using the Fabfilter Pro L2. It’s has a loudness meter and all the features I need including dithering, oversampling and much more controls. 

Oversampling is used to reduce inter-sample peaks and true peak overshoot. In most cases, I choose 4x oversampling in combination with a lookahead time of around 0.60 ms. 

I normally mix my tracks peaking at -6db. I always add the limiter in the last position of mastering chain.

Then I start off, slowly increasing the input gain till I reach the target level. You would usually need about 2db to 6db of gain reduction to achieve this. 

I always set the output ceiling to -0.2 !

In the limiter I always use a moderately fast attack (around 60.0ms) so the signal doesn’t loose any impact. Attack time controls how much of the incoming transients go through to the clipper/saturator. An increase in attack time will allow more to pass through. Setting the attack too low results in a waveshaper effect which itself causes distortions. 

There is no absolute rule for the release setting, but be careful cause with too fast release it will cause audible distortion. On the other hand if set too slow will tend to sound duller and less exciting. Trust your ears and find the right balance between. 

I set the threshold to a very low setting, normally around -0.5.

Remember that pushing a limiter too hard will eventually destroy your signal/track. 

The goal should be to minimize distortion and make the output as clean and transparent as possible but at the same time loud. 

Always remember that mastering is not the only responsible for loudness, the most correct way to achieve loudness is in the mixdown.

Each track needs a unique approach. With time you will have more knowledge and know what to do in every situation… Remember to have fun, there is nothing better than doing what we love. 

I could go further, but these are my main tips for limiting in a mastering situation. Hope it helps, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Peace, 

Louie Cut

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