How Much Gain Reduction Should You Use On The Master Limiter?

There is not a single person in the modern world who has not been connected with music in one way or another. It surrounds us everywhere: in shops, on the streets, in transport. However, the process of creating mixing and mastering for music engineers leads them to such a device as a limiter, which forces us to ask one of the main questions: How much has the gain on the main limiter been reduced?

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Mixing and mastering are the two main components of professional record production, so a good job of mixing and mastering is a must when you record an album that you plan to sell. Mastering focuses on the final bringing of the track to a certain level of meaning.

Mixing is working out all the musical tracks so that the song is balanced in its sound. While working, music engineers make adjustments and balance the necessary various processes (for example, compression or alignment) for the overall mix or a separate group of tracks.

A limiter is a special device that equalizes the volume level to a certain limit and prevents unpleasant distortion and clipping. The limiter is also used to control individual signals (for example, bass or drum).

The limiter reduces the gain of the sum of the tracks and does not allow them to rise above 0 dB. This number was obtained during the work of the company «Major Mixing» on devices such as AOM Invisible Limiter. For example, if an engineer uses Plugin Waves L2 Maximizer, then its parameters can change up to -3 dB. 

Each style of music has its own characteristic dynamic range, and, accordingly, typical RMS levels. The sound engineers at «Major Mixing» allow us to make sure of this. Music more “aggressive” in sound, such as rock or electronic music can reach up to -6 dB, while the limitation of jazz will reach -3 dB. Using gain reduction above this indicator will simply be unacceptable due to the distortion of the limiter.

The main job of a music engineer should not always involve tracking gain reduction, how much to track the Rated Maximum Sinusoidal (i.e. RMS). Its parameters are from -14 RMS to -6 RMS, as in principle all music is.

Limiters are of two types: full-band and multi-band. Full-band limiters do not divide the signal into separate ranges for processing, but change the entire frequency spectrum. Such limiters process the mix as a whole, and the changes they make affect all elements of the mix at once.  

Multi-band limiters are more flexible devices that allow you to work with multiple frequency ranges at the user’s choice. Thanks to this approach, the sound engineer can limit only the high frequencies or the middle without affecting the entire mix. 

Mastering is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio material to any medium. At the end of the process, the compositions are assembled in the right order, supplemented with transitions or pauses and compiled into an album. The main goal of mastering is to make the song sound equally good and high-quality when listening through any sound sources.

In addition to all this, one of the tasks of a music engineer will be to compare the finished material with references that are publicly available. Comparing the new material with the publicly available material allows you to make adjustments to the limiter. Cases when the volume limiter exceeds 6 dB, and the sound does not sound loud enough, makes it clear that you need to return to the note and adjust the balances, compensate for the groups.

At this stage, we can summarize that mastering is the final processing of sound under certain standards. The narrower the dynamic range of audio, the higher its RMS level can be without distortion. A track with a higher RMS sounds louder. Mixing and mastering is by and large a creative process.

«Major Mixing» can combine and master a track contrary to all established norms, if the artistic intent requires it. To summarize, we can say that by varying the settings, a music engineer can completely change the sound of the material, which will affect the output quality of the tracks.

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