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.

2 Answers 2


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.

  • Ahhhh I see, so the maximizer/limiter is to be used once I am completely happy with the rest of my mastering... @leftaroundabout Nov 4, 2014 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. Nov 4, 2014 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 Nov 4, 2014 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. Nov 4, 2014 at 16:19
  • Ahhh I see! Would you recommend Izotope Ozone 5's Maximizer tool to do increase loudness at all? @leftaroundabout Nov 4, 2014 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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