I recently asked a question regarding increasing the loudness of my mix, and after receiving a lot of helpul tips + knowledge, I am now curious as to wether or not I should be using my Maximizers/Limiters first, and then the rest of the mastering apects on top of it?

Any help or guidance with this is much appreciated, Thankyou.


No, that doesn't make much sense. The point of a maximiser/limiter is to exploit the 0dBFS range as thoroughly as possible, but 0dBFS is only a meaningful range at the very end of the mastering process: it's the highest level that can be expressed by the consumer format you're exporting to. OTOH, digital plugins use floating-point arithmetic internally, which reaches to the absurd level of +1848 dBFS. Of course, that doesn't mean you should drive them so loud – for standard digital EQs it simply doesn't matter, and nonlinear / analogue plugins will sound differently depending on the input level, so you should drive them with a reasonable level that sounds good, likely something around -3 dBFS.

If you use a maximiser as simply an extreme compressor in front of another FX, the result will in general not be "maximised" any more. In particular, applying an EQ to a hard-maximised bass drum hit (the transients of which are effectively clipped by a limiter) will normally increase the level to something like +2 dBFS. So to get the result out for consumer, you will then need another limiter. Which would really harm the signal more than necessesary.

So: put the limiter at the very end of the chain. A reasonable setup might look something like softComp -> EQ -> tapeSaturation -> multibandComp -> maximiser/limiter.

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  • Ahhhh I see, so the maximizer/limiter is to be used once I am completely happy with the rest of my mastering... @leftaroundabout – djmcr Nov 4 '14 at 15:50
  • Once you're completely happy with the rest, precisely. IMO the limiter should not audibly change the signal at all, just safe-guard against digital clipping. – leftaroundabout Nov 4 '14 at 15:58
  • But wouldn't the limiter's role in increasing the loudness natturally affect the signal anyways? Is that not why people master at -6db sometimes? so they can use the mastering to bring it up to 0db? @leftaroundabout – djmcr Nov 4 '14 at 16:05
  • @DannyJones: I've never heard about somebody mastering at -6dB, you probably mean they mix at -6dB. Sure, bringing up the level in mastering is fine and quite necessary to sound decent, but it shouldn't be done with a brickwall limiter IMO – multiple soft compressors and analogue saturation can do almost the same while preserving much more of the dynamic content. Only problem: you will typically end up with a few freak transients above 0 dBFS. If you then use a digital limiter to shave these off, it shouldn't sound notably different at all, but still stay in the permitted range. – leftaroundabout Nov 4 '14 at 16:19
  • Ahhh I see! Would you recommend Izotope Ozone 5's Maximizer tool to do increase loudness at all? @leftaroundabout – djmcr Nov 4 '14 at 16:23

Limiting should not be audible, imo. If you are manipulating something like a multiband limiter ( Like the waves L3 multimaximizer) to get pleasing results. You would get MORE pleasing results isolating the offending channels that make up that band and compressing/ eqing there.

Usually when Mastering, the limiter would be last. Not change the sonic characteristics of the audio, besides a linear gain increase. And most importantly, protect the analog equipment from overloading.

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