Old 10-29-2012, 03:59 PM   #1
Lin
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Default Master Limiter Causing Distortion - help?

I'd be really greatful if someone could help me with this

I'm trying to master this track and get it up to commercial levels. However, I've noticed that whenever I turn my master limiter (JS: LOSER/masterLimiter) on and bring the threshold down to anywhere that causes any reduction, I get a clipping/ditortion noise when playing in reaper and after rendering, most noticeable on the vocals and guitar solos (2:10). However, I can't see any clipping on any of my tracks or the master. I'm getting it on my headphones too, so it can't be my monitors.

http://soundcloud.com/linrichardson/...-sky-tech-demo

I've not had this problem on my previous projects. The only changes I've made to my process are to add some makeup gain on the tracks and to switch over to my new USB audio interface. And i don't have this problem if I go back to old projects. It's pretty heavy on the effects (60), but that hasn't been a problem previously either. The guitars especially are compressed to hell, partly in a failed attempt to address this.

I just can't isolate the source of the problem. If someone can get to the bottom of this I promise to offer my first born child to them as a blood sacrifice.

Running Reaper 64, Windows 7, Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6, Guitars are line in from a POD, vocals on samsung usb condenser mic, drums sampled, synth are VSTs. The limiter on the linked track applies max reductions of around -3db.

Other more general production comments also welcome.

Last edited by Lin; 10-29-2012 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 10-29-2012, 04:00 PM   #2
karbomusic
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Well limiting... if pushed is distortion. I'm sure others will have time to chime in and help figure it out.
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Old 10-30-2012, 01:03 AM   #3
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Hard to tell what you are on about listening on my monitoring system.

I take it the noise like chips frying at the beginning is deliberate?

Now please take this in the spirit in which it is offered.

For me, your whole mix needs a rethink.
Guitar is crowding out so much of everything else but also seems to sound flat and thin.
Drums are very muffled.

What you might want to think about is redoing the mix with far less in the way of compression and limiting until you get something that sounds like a "pro" mix but quieter and THEN see about getting it louder if you need to.
I dont hear much in the way of panning of instruments or carving out "holes" with EQ to separate stuff out.

I suspect the distortion you are hearing is a result of you pushing your master bus too hard.
Seeing distortion means you are already too late.
Go LISTEN to every stage in your mix and make sure your gainstaging is correct before even trying to mix into a limiter.

Hope this helps, but bear in mind I am just a bedroom recordist same as everyone else.


P.S. Too little too late sounds just fine on my system, so this looks like it is definitely a problem with the actual trak recording rather than a difference between your monitoring and mine.
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Old 10-30-2012, 01:34 AM   #4
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I hear very short clipping distortion here and there but it is not very noticeable with my headphones. The music is pretty heavily compressed though and that could either be directly causing it or indirectly.


1. Reduce the output level so the final output is much lower. See if it clips. If it does then do the same but disable the compressor. If it doesn't then it is the compressor(but could be due indirectly to some instrument).

2. If it's not the compressor then it is some specific instrument(s).

I'm hearing the distortion on the (sub)kick attacks(it sounds more like digital aliasing than clipping distortion but I'll assume it's clipping distortion right now). It is possible that it(combined with the bass) is causing the compressor to kick in prematurely.

These lower signals generally have a much higher level(most high frequency components "ride" on these lower frequency signals).

Try using a multi-band compressor that lets you compress the lower end separately. What can happen is that the attack of a kick and the attack of some other instrument combined causes a very large transient that get severely limited introducing clipping distortion. Each instrument by themselves are only mildly compressed.

Add a compressor on the kick and bass individually to reduce their transients or lower their level a little and see if it helps. EQ everything below 30-40hz and see if it helps.

You have to realize that the lower frequency components act more like a level shift. Think of a 0.001hz signal. It moves so slow that most of the time it is equivalent to adding dc offset to your signal. This gives you less headroom to work with and will cause your limiters and compressors to kick in sooner than you realize.

You should have a 20hz cut on all instruments. 70hz cut on most higher frequency instruments(vocals, guitar, snare, etc...). Anything that shouldn't be using the low end needs to be cut to prevent adding "noise" in that region. (the values are not absolute and depend on the specific instruments and music)
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Old 11-03-2012, 09:26 AM   #5
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Thanks everyone.

I've been listening to your advice, & returning to my old friend, why-do-your-recordings-sound-like-ass, and have made some changes.

The panning was an easy to do, no brainer: thanks for that.

Stretto: the distortion does indeed continue if you lower the output level of the limiter (if that's what you meant), so by that thinking it is some specific (or combination) of instruments?

I've got high passes on most of my tracks for the low end (though i've added a few more). Currently I am doing this with ReaEQ and setting one of the nodes as a highpass. However, this seems far too gradual and it's difficult to get zero activity at a given frequency without cutting into the sound at another. Is there a better way of doing this more harshly? An equivalent of the LowPass default plugin?

My spectrograph generally peaks at about 70hz and 2800hz (and at more or less equal levels). I am reading you correctly Stretto, if I guess that it is more likely to be the lower one causing problems? , but everything seems to need a bit of that 20000-3500hz range.

So I stripped off all the compression and started mixing from scratch. I'm trying to carve out spaces for things (and have moved the twang guitar from out of that zone in the hope that that was the source of the clipping when clashing with the lead guitar), but the clipping remains.

So I felt there was nothing else for it bu to start putting on the compression again in the hope that it would catch some transients, but I still get the clipping. I've tried other speakers and headphones and it still happens.

On all my other electronic tracks I've been able to allow some slight gain reduction from the limiter without any noticeable distortion, and I don't understand why that is not the case here. Consequently, I can't get this track anywhere near commercial loudness levels. Nor do I understand why compression would be "causing" the clipping. Surely the point of compression is to reduce transients and prevent these kind of sharp peaks at any given frequency. If I can compress without destroying the dynamics of the sound, then it should make make the signal more steady, which is what I want, right?

Spent weeks on this now. Really stumped, and desperate for help.
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Old 11-03-2012, 10:38 AM   #6
karbomusic
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Quote:
the distortion does indeed continue if you lower the output level of the limiter (if that's what you meant),
Reducing the output level of the limiter won't reduce distortion caused by the limiting itself (see my earlier reply). If you bypass the limiter and it goes away... Can you tell us exactly by how many dB you are limiting? How much and how often is the "reduction" meter in the limiter engaging? It should typically be grabbing the occasional peak and not always limiting". A limiter is mostly a hard stop on a signal above it's threshold and limiters absolutely cause a distorted sound if you limit too much at all. A limiter can very easiy do the exact same thing to a signal that a distortion pedal does, use it lightly.
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Old 11-03-2012, 10:52 AM   #7
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The JS: LOSER/masterLimiter is quite a dirty limiter as well ... don't forget to try a different one ...
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Old 11-04-2012, 02:11 PM   #8
Lin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
Can you tell us exactly by how many dB you are limiting? How much and how often is the "reduction" meter in the limiter engaging?
Sure thing: it's only applying reduction during those guitar solos, usually less than -1db. These are also the only points at which I hear any audible clipping (though I can get it elsewhere if I lower the threshold).

so it looks like it can't handle any reduction without causing the noise

i feel like i'm missing something her: can anyone explain why feeding more compressed tracks into the limiter would be "causing" the clipping? i thought the point of compression was to reduce transients and prevent signal peaks.

and can anyone recommend any other limiters?
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Old 11-04-2012, 03:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Sure thing: it's only applying reduction during those guitar solos, usually less than -1db. These are also the only points at which I hear any audible clipping (though I can get it elsewhere if I lower the threshold).

so it looks like it can't handle any reduction without causing the noise

i feel like i'm missing something her: can anyone explain why feeding more compressed tracks into the limiter would be "causing" the clipping? i thought the point of compression was to reduce transients and prevent signal peaks.

and can anyone recommend any other limiters?
I would reccomend the Eventhorizon above the one you've been using..also..I would apply it those guitar tracks that are causing the peaks as the last fx...that will help bring up the guitar volume to where you need it.
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Old 11-04-2012, 07:25 PM   #10
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http://xoechz.at/

xz limiter and xz trimiter

both free...

let us know what they do for you, eh?
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Old 11-05-2012, 11:21 AM   #11
ivansc
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It is more a question of gain stages and level going into each stage than anything else.

If your signal is already clipping, compressing or limiting it won't remove the clipping that is already there.

You have to examine each step in your chain and eliminate clipping where it occurs.
THEN you can safely compress or limit.
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Old 11-07-2012, 11:29 AM   #12
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Two things to bear in mind,
-JS plugins are fun, but they are, by design a stripped down, streamlined version of FX designed for use with guitar rigs, where fidelity takes a back seat to efficiency. Some of them work very well, and sound very nice, but some do not. I would recommend using ReaComp with a ratio of 20 before using jsLimit.
The ones I like using are "Classic master Limiter" by Kjaerhus Audio, Barricade by JB Audio and Density MkII by Variety of Sound.
All Free.
-The other thing to remember is that mastering involves a lot more than just limiting to get the mix up to "Pro Levels"
The tools I like for mastering other than the limiters listed above are, Stardust (mastering processor with mutiband comp, phase rotators, exciters etc) by Arguru (includes a limiter stage), ReaXComp, Broadcast (multiband comp) by JB audio, J1000 Alpha (EQ) by Jovan Iljadica, as well as a good suite of meters including TT dynamic range meter and Roger Nichols' inspector. Some tracks require other treatments too, but those are the places I start (not all of them at the same time of course).

Last edited by Schmidty; 11-07-2012 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:38 PM   #13
Marxish
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Was having same problem. thanks for tips
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Old 01-31-2015, 11:07 AM   #14
Dragren
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Default Same problem, no solution...

Hi,
I've had the same problem for as long as I've been producing.
It's plagued about a third of my tracks and i always resort to abandoning the limiter or putting up with the sound when it occurs.

It's happening on the track that i am currently working on.
I have checked the gain stages and it happens no matter which limiter I use. Also if i use a compressor with fast attack times on my master and if i use a limiter on any single instrument in that project file.
Please help, i must've spend weeks on this and am still yet to find a solution.

Thanks,
Dragren

Last edited by Dragren; 02-19-2015 at 04:21 AM.
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