Limiter – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Sound Design Glossary Terms

What is a limiter?

A limiter is an audio processing tool used in sound design to prevent the signal from exceeding a certain level, known as the threshold. It is often used in music production, broadcasting, and live sound reinforcement to control the dynamic range of audio signals. Limiters are essential for ensuring that the audio signal does not clip or distort, especially in situations where the signal may reach high levels.

How does a limiter work in sound design?

A limiter works by automatically reducing the gain of the audio signal when it exceeds the set threshold. When the signal reaches the threshold, the limiter begins to attenuate the signal to prevent it from going over the specified level. This process is known as limiting, and it helps to maintain a consistent and controlled sound output.

What are the different types of limiters?

There are several types of limiters used in sound design, each with its own unique characteristics and applications. Some common types of limiters include:
– Peak limiters: These limiters are designed to prevent the signal from exceeding a specific peak level.
– RMS limiters: These limiters are based on the root mean square (RMS) level of the audio signal and are used to control the overall loudness of the signal.
– Multiband limiters: These limiters divide the audio signal into multiple frequency bands and apply limiting independently to each band.
– Look-ahead limiters: These limiters anticipate peaks in the audio signal and apply gain reduction before the peaks occur, helping to prevent clipping.

When should a limiter be used in sound design?

A limiter should be used in sound design whenever there is a risk of the audio signal clipping or distorting. Limiters are commonly used in mastering to ensure that the final mix has a consistent and controlled dynamic range. They are also used in live sound reinforcement to prevent feedback and ensure a clean and clear sound output. Additionally, limiters can be used in recording to protect the audio signal from overloading the recording equipment.

What are the common parameters of a limiter?

Some common parameters of a limiter include:
– Threshold: The level at which the limiter begins to attenuate the signal.
– Ratio: The amount of gain reduction applied to the signal above the threshold.
– Attack time: The time it takes for the limiter to start attenuating the signal after it exceeds the threshold.
– Release time: The time it takes for the limiter to stop attenuating the signal after it falls below the threshold.
– Output gain: The amount of gain applied to the signal after limiting.

How can a limiter affect the overall sound of a mix?

A limiter can have a significant impact on the overall sound of a mix. When used correctly, a limiter can help to control the dynamic range of the audio signal, making it sound more polished and professional. However, if used improperly, a limiter can introduce artifacts such as pumping, distortion, and loss of clarity. It is important to set the parameters of the limiter carefully and use it judiciously to achieve the desired sound without compromising the quality of the audio signal.