compression vs. limiting

Rorymonster

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I thought I was getting the hang of compression, when to use it and when not to, and to some extent how, but I then stumbled upon limiting. I've asked a few people and looked it up in a couple of books but haven't yet found the true difference. The best explanation I've had yet is that one makes quiet bits of a wave louder, and one makes loud parts of a track quieter... :huh:
In the topic on over-compression and hurting ears etc., the two are almost used synonymously.

I guess my real question is one of application. When might one use a limiter? On the master? Is it dangerous to over use it? SHould I leave this to a professional mastering service?

All help appreciated, cheers. :Grin:
 

your mum

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A limiter is a compressor that uses an infinite ratio (i.e. 30:1 and above). You can get limiters with different topology and sound, but they are usually VCA (solid state) since transistors yeild the fastest attack coefficients that are so necessary to catch lighting fast transients.
You should use a limiter on the master to control really loud peaks that go through the roof, but you can use a limiter on individual channels that have the odd, really loud transient that for a split second takes up all of the headroom on that perticular channel.
It is off course easy to overuse a limiter on the master. That is why you should compress individual parts right, mix the tune right and then you'll get a nice loud mix without having to push the limiter a lot and get the artifacts that come with it.
If you are signed on a label, they'll take care of the mastering for you.
No serious label will ever ask their artists to master their own tunes at their (home) studios.

Peace out.
 

soliptic

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Rorymonster said:
The best explanation I've had yet is that one makes quiet bits of a wave louder, and one makes loud parts of a track quieter... :huh:
they both make loud bits quieter (and hence, given some make-up gain or normalisation, the quiet bits louder)

the difference , like your mum rightly said, is only that limiting is compression with an infinite ratio. normally the output volume is relational to the input volume (hence 'ratio') - so if you put it 3 you get 1, put it 6, you get 2, put in 9 you get 3, etc.

with a limiter if you put it 3 you get 1, put in 6 you get 1, put in 9 you get 1, etc... (obviously its not always quite like that in reality but thats the concept)

perhaps you are thinking of the difference between compression and expansion. compression makes the loud bits quieter & quiet bits louder; expansion is compression with a negative ratio, so it makes the loud bits louder and the quiet bits quieter :Grin:
 

Pricey

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Cool, I'm gonna feed an old 'HardHouse Classics' CD thru Logic's limiter and see if it gives me something listenable :o

Seriously tho, useful info - it's all slowly soaking in :Smile3:
 

norty303

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compression makes the loud bits quieter & quiet bits louder
Compression and limiting 'allow' you to make the quiet bits louder by squashing the peaks that use up the headroom. This allows you use use higher gain on the track. It doesn't, by itself, have any effect on any sounds that are below the threshold frequency.

Over compressing/limiting can sound crap and, along with distortion, is one of the things that causes premature failure of PA drivers (square waves not nice curvy ones)
 

Rorymonster

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Cheerss guys, I wasn't confused so much as mislead with my original definition. Sorted now though.
 

evilwill

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hmm, so do you reckon using limiting on drums instead of compression is going to fook things up? i've got a nice vst multiband limiter i've been using on perscussion in a few tracks. i don't *think* it sounds bad, but is the conventional wisdom that compressing in a similar way would sound better?
 

soliptic

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well, there's compression, there's limiting, and there's look-ahead limiting

then there's single-band and multiband

all six are different kettles of fish and there isnt any simple answer to which to use for what.

offhand, i'd say multiband limiting was total overkill for a percussion track, but hey.... if you dont think it sounds bad... :Wink3:
 

your mum

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evilwill said:
hmm, so do you reckon using limiting on drums instead of compression is going to fook things up? i've got a nice vst multiband limiter i've been using on perscussion in a few tracks. i don't *think* it sounds bad, but is the conventional wisdom that compressing in a similar way would sound better?
If the drum sounds are uncompressed I mostly use the highest compression slope on the Joemeek SC2.2 that introduces some artificial pumping and set the threshold high. Its sort of limiting in theory, but sounds different. The transient is under control but still retains the sparkle, and the body of the snare comes up with a rich harmonic content that makes it sound phat.
Then some buss compression on the drums with a softer ratio and a gentler attack/release co-efficient to smooth the level differences between the drum parts out.
I am into breakbeat and the drums are right up there in the mix, completely in your face, but I've worked on drums in a similar manner for trance tunes and just pulled them back in the mix.
If the drum sounds are compressed (usually the case if I sample from vinyl) I use the compressors to restore some of the transients' content that the mastering has squeezed out.

Peace out.
 
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