Doing limiting in multiple processes
In modern music production, we have loudness goals that we need to hit. And to aid in hitting them, we pretty much always use a brickwall limiter at the end of the master bus.
When I was first trying to get songs loud enough for commercial release, I sometimes had real trouble. It often seemed like I couldn’t get the song quite loud enough without pushing the song a little too hard into the limiter, with obvious negative results (aka the mix falling apart).
Getting a much better limiter helped a lot. What also helped was learning how to properly do compression and limiting on my tracks and buses, so that the master bus doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.
But I still encounter situations where I still I wish I could get another dB or two out of the master. This happens both on my own mixes and also when I’m mastering mixes other people have made.
Here’s something that I accidentally invented that can be extremely helpful in those situations: make a second instance of the limiter on the master bus, directly following the first instance, and do half of the limiting in each of the limiters. So for example, if your limiter is doing about 6 dB on peaks, you would set it up so that you have two limiters doing about 3dB of limiting each.
I want to take pains to mention here that This Is Not How You Are Supposed To Do Limiter. Limiter canon is that thou shalt have one limiter on your mix bus, and only ever one limiter, and that’s the single and only right way to do it.
Also, my way works great, and it can sound killer. My experience of it is that not only can it buy you a couple more dB of clean limiting, but also it can enhance the drums and clarify the low end of a mix. I do this sometimes even when I don’t need to, because it has a sound that I like.
There’s no wrong way to use a tool — jamie