Old 05-21-2019, 09:14 PM   #1
metallicaguy1
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Default Question about compression/limiting

Just wondering... if you record a song with the intention of distributing it, of course you'd have to use a limiter, right? But would you compress certain tracks as well, before doing that? Or would the limiter do all of that instead?
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Old 05-21-2019, 09:26 PM   #2
DVDdoug
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Most commercial songs have compression and limiting, often some combination on the individual tracks before mixing as well as on the master.


And, limiting is a kind of (fast) compression. If you buy a hardware compressor it's often sold as a "compressor/limiter.


It all depends on the "sound" you're going for, and "loudness" you want/need. There have been some professional classical & jazz releases with no compression or limiting.
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Old 05-21-2019, 10:15 PM   #3
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The two most important pillars of modern sounding mixes are hard pressed EQs and compressors IMO. EQs keep the spectrum under control, compressors keep the dynamics under control. Limiters are special compressors with a lawnmower nature: anything goes above a level - clipped.

You are supposed to use of all of them with skill both on track / BUS level and on the master BUS if you wish to have a finalised track matching the density, spectrum and volume levels of other commercial records.
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Old 05-22-2019, 10:55 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NecroPolo View Post
The two most important pillars of modern sounding mixes are hard pressed EQs and compressors IMO. EQs keep the spectrum under control, compressors keep the dynamics under control. Limiters are special compressors with a lawnmower nature: anything goes above a level - clipped.

You are supposed to use of all of them with skill both on track / BUS level and on the master BUS if you wish to have a finalised track matching the density, spectrum and volume levels of other commercial records.
Limiters don't clip unless they have the extra feature added. Clippers clip. Although they might introduce distortion and maybe it can be considered cliped ?
A limiter is an automatic volume just like a compressor.
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Old 05-22-2019, 11:21 AM   #5
Jimmy James
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metallicaguy1 View Post
Just wondering... if you record a song with the intention of distributing it, of course you'd have to use a limiter, right? But would you compress certain tracks as well, before doing that? Or would the limiter do all of that instead?
I think what you are really asking about is "Mastering". If you want to distribute music commercially, you are going to want the songs you recorded mastered. And Mastering is going to use a compressor to help glue the song together and maybe add some vibe. And A limiter is going to help increase loudness, because loudness is a thing now.

Jere is a great video on compression and I would subscribe to his channel. He is giving away information that we use to have to earn spending hours a week in our local guitar shops. Until all those went away. Now, folks can learn that same stuff from really smart guys on Youtube. Rick Beato is the man.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oOmX3JHwtE

I would also search: "what is audio mastering". I really think that is what you are looking for
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Old 05-22-2019, 02:22 PM   #6
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You are basically asking about mastering.

Mixes can be compressed during mixdown and/or mastering. Or (more rarely) not at all.

Mix compression is an artistic decision and can be genre dependent as well. Most Rock pop and dance music feature mix compression.

Most mixes are not limited as mixers tend to leave that to the mastering engineer. Limiting has only one purpose: to make the music competitively loud. Loudness is becoming standardized on streaming platforms so its not quite the race to the bottom it once was. Check this site to see where you mixes stand:
https://www.loudnesspenalty.com/
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:05 PM   #7
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You refer to mastering, where the limiter is mostly used in the last stage of bringing your song to a certain level where all of the songs from an album needs to have an even listening experience for the listener.
Nowadays people use to get the levels of their song as loud as possible and/or to get it at the same level of other commercial songs.

Loud is not (always) in the limiter, it is in the (right) use of EQ and compression, and the levels of every individual track in your mix.

So before you touch the limiter, be sure that your levels, EQ and compression are working together and when you turn up, or down, the volume knob of your amp, or monitor, you can still hear everything and it is still a pleasure to listen to
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Old 05-22-2019, 03:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
of course you'd have to use a limiter
I've been thinking about that, and I wouldn't say "of course" and blindly put limiting on your production.




I'd say focus on the sound and make the best sounding mix you can! That may, or may not, include compression and/or limiting on the individual tracks and/or the master.


Then normalize (probably as a separate "mastering" step after rendering).


Then, if it's not loud enough you can start adding compression and limiting. At some point the compression/limiting will change (or damage) the sound and you'll have to decide if the loudness is worth it.


A professional mastering engineer can probably get more loudness with less damage than us amateurs, and the mastering engineer will probably use some EQ to offset some of that damage. But if you do have it mastered by someone else, it's important to communicate what you want... Do you want that modern constantly-loud sound or do you want to keep some (or most) of the dynamic contrast.


Quote:
Limiters don't clip unless they have the extra feature added. Clippers clip.
It depends on how hard you push it. If you push a limiter hard enough the waveform gets squared-off (clipped). 20dB of limiting is indistinguishable from clipping. ...That's for a traditional limiter without look-ahead. A look-ahead limiter can reduce the level without changing the wave shape.
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Old 05-22-2019, 08:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metallicaguy1 View Post
Just wondering... if you record a song with the intention of distributing it, of course you'd have to use a limiter, right? But would you compress certain tracks as well, before doing that? Or would the limiter do all of that instead?
I'd want to have my mix hit -13 LUFS with no limiting and boosting of the final mix. Obviously I'll be needing to use compression on elements of the mix. Especially if this is something rockin'! But I'm of the opinion that you can pump up drums and so forth to hit that level without just crudely smashing the tops down brick-wall style.

Anyway...
At that point my 24 bit master is done.
I'll still usually make the CD version specifically louder. -11 or -10 LUFS. Because the volume wars aren't really over as far as CD listeners are concerned. They might nod their heads at that statement but they still look sad and confused when their CD isn't as loud as the rest of their 1990's CDs.

Oh, and I go for my 5.1 surround mixes hitting around -13 LUFS too.
Things are even more wild wild west in surround land. There are prim and proper level audiophile standards and then there are volume war casualties every bit as bad as the worst CDs/mp3s you've heard. My opinion is surround should go for audiophile exclusively and not volume war. This will only be heard in home theater setups.

You actually might want to hand the 24 bit master to the streaming services nowadays instead of the volume hyped CD master. Streaming services are normalizing to around -12 LUFS these days. That CD version will just get turned down and probably sound smaller and compressed for it. Or... you can experiment... Maybe a hyped master will still retain some bludgeoned girth vs the proper one even though it gets turned down. If you're going for trying to be louder than others.
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Old 05-24-2019, 02:05 AM   #10
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There's nothing wrong with having a compressor in your Master track if it's for character, and not doing the job of the limiter for when you're mastering before release. The mastering limiter is designed to be as characterless as possible, just to get the levels of your whole album consistent and shaving off any stray peaks. MixbusTV did a good video called something like "Loudness is in the mix" which explains it concisely.
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