Keep a Limiter on your Master

My all time top tip for getting a nice sound from Ableton Live (or any DAW) is to keep your channel faders low and the Master at 0db. I explain my reasoning in an older post from January 2008. You can read it and the great comments by: clicking here. A safety net or let’s say helper in keeping your Master at 0db is a Limiter. Luckily (finally!) they added a native Limiter to Ableton Live 8. I recommend saving your startup Template with the Limiter in place. How much headroom below 0db you should leave is questionable but mostly I just leave it at it’s default setting of -0.30 dB. I’m guessing Ableton set it there for a reason. Of course you can use Limiters to shape and pump your sound and for something like that I turn to other plug-ins like Wavearts FinalPlug ($199) or a hardware unit such as a Universal Audio 1176.

“The Limiter effect is a mastering-quality dynamic range processor that ensures that the output does not exceed a specied level. Limiter is ideal for use in the Master track, to prevent clipping. A limiter is essentially a compressor with an innite ratio. To ensure that your nal output will never clip, place Limiter as the last device in the Master track’s device chain and keep your Master fader below 0 dB.” – Ableton Live 8 User Manual

For more Ableton tips and info: wiretotheear.com/category/ableton-live/

This entry was written by Oliver Chesler, posted on January 21, 2010 at 7:12 am, filed under Ableton Live, plug-ins and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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9 Responses to “Keep a Limiter on your Master”

  1. mr. tunes says:

    the new ableton limiter is convenient, but i find that it sounds horrible. the artifacts show up almost instantly without turning up the gain.

    i recommend voxengo elephant to PC users, not sure if it’s available on mac yet.

    • Interesting. I never really push it as I do keep my channel faders really low. I’m going to do a few sound tests and see if I can hear what the differences are (at least for my own ears).

  2. Document 02 says:

    While working the master limiter should be a simple brickwall limiter (to make sure you don’t go over -0.3dB), not a mastering limiter (which dynamically processes the sound & adds delay, and should be used at the final mastering stage).

    According to my sound engineer, the -0.3dB value was decided a long time ago as cheap low-end D/A converters tended to saturate (sometimes even break) on the analogue side when receiving a numerical 0dB input.

  3. abd says:

    Yeah, there’s a mac version! I use it on master.
    I used Waves L2 when I worked on PC (Maybe it’s not just a limiter :B but it’s the best thing, I even read an article about maximizers and they said that L2 rules. unfortinately I couldn’t find it on Mac)

    Btw, want to ask, what is better Wavearts FinalPlug (u mentioned b4) or Voxengo Elephant? ’cause I’m looking now for good mac limiter)

    • I never tried the Voxengo Elephant. I see it’s about $130 and there is a demo: http://bit.ly/7gFvAe

      • abd says:

        Man, I tried Wavearts FinalPlug. It’s sounds better than Voxengo Elephant). I think. I should make few more tests anyway but all I want 2 say is that Wavearts FinalPlug is really great.
        Btw, I tried Wavearts Multiband Dynamics. And figured out that it’s better than Ableton standard Multiband Dynamics)) I know this is kinda off topic but could you tell few words in future how to use MD.

    • atarix says:

      i use Voxengo plugins since they exist on a mac and on pc. I think their quality compared to UAD2 even. And they are cheap.

  4. MMI says:

    Another good reason to have a limiter somewhere by default is to prevent speaker and or ear destroying accidents when you do something bad, stupid or dangerous with a Max patch.

  5. Matt Azevedo says:

    As a mastering engineer,

    Putting a limiter on your mix buss is nice for catching the occasional “oops”, but if you plan on sending something out for professional mastering please just leave a few dB of headroom. Tracks that come in with limiting are much harder to place together into an album, it’s one of the biggest hassles of my job.

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