Limiting Peak Volume without affecting anything else

I’m using Audacity 2.3.2 on MacOS Mojave 10.14.6.

Consider this image:
(I added the red color.) I want everything marked in red to have it’s volume dropped so it’s not in the red, so to speak. I want all the rest of the audio to remain completely untouched (as much as possible, anyway).

And I don’t have to do it using the mouse - I’m OK with entering numbers in a dialog or whatever. In fact, I’d prefer to do it that way, because it’s easier to automate.

What’s the best way to do this? I’ve tried using the Limiter effect, but it seems to me it affects the surrounding audio also, but maybe I’m not using it right? Or maybe it’s my imagination?

Anyway, any help will be appreciated. Thanks!

Soft Limiter can be used to tame peaks without being audible and without affecting the sound on either side.

It can be used inside of a Macro.

I use it to limit voice peaks to -3.5dB. If you use it stronger you may be able to hear it working.

What’s the job?


Thanks for the reply. I have a YouTube channel (The Newbie Woodworker). Normally I only do voiceovers when I’m building something. But yesterday I decided to try recording it “live” in the workshop.

My voice sounds good (as good as can be expected for me, anyway), but any time I set tools down, or a block of wood, etc., I get these huge peaks. I can actually go in and manually drop the volume for the few milliseconds where the sound peaks, and that works fine, but of course it’s a lot of work.

So I was looking for a more automatable method. I automate a ton of my stuff using Keyboard Maestro, so anything that uses dialogs and the like can be easily automated.

By “Soft Limiter”, do you mean Effect->Limiter, or something else?

Thanks again.

By “Soft Limiter”, do you mean Effect->Limiter, or something else?

Yes, that’s one of the limiter’s options.

I set tools down, or a block of wood, etc., I get these huge peaks.

Which microphone are you using? I would try a lavalier (chest) microphone…

…or a headset microphone.

You could Hollywood it up. Do the construction project with a “wild sound” microphone just to get the bumps and scrapes and background. Don’t say anything. Then, while editing in your quiet edit room, put the voice track in as a perfect, clean voice-over.

You might think that would look weird, but I’ve seen that done several times where the talent is doing something that can’t be easily announced and they switch to a perfect quality voice-over.

The last part of the show, the talent faces the camera and does the sign-off on the wild sound, shop microphone. “So that’s how to do a successful cross-cut on a piece of Cherry Veneer. Please like and subscribe to our channel. See you next time.”

Music up, credits.

You can do that at the beginning, too. Shop microphone: “Welcome. Today we’re going to cross-cut Cherry Veneer.” Switch to voice over. “Our veneer sample is a rescue puppy from a credenza found by the side of the road. It was carefully…”

You can use this as an opportunity to edit. Cut out all the fluffs and mistakes. Nobody is interested in watching you change a broken saw blade. For paint drying, you speed up the camera/video.

This is where you tell me you’re not interested in post production at all and want to produce one pass videos. Good luck. Live sound in a wood shop can be an adventure.


The Newbie Woodworker

I think I’m late to the rodeo.

I still think there’s no good way to combine live voice and a table saw or lumber wrangling. Those two microphones in the post are the best I can think of. There are microphones that try to automatically suppress or cancel noises in real time. They tend to sound like cellphones—not theatrical.

From the room echoes, you’re using the microphone on top of the camera, right? From your intro video, you stand up and you’re not wearing any microphones I could see.

There are stand-alone recorders you can put in your pocket, record from a lavalier and combine the two sound tracks later. Does that sound like a good possibility?

You do have a sound job that would make a lot of people run and hide. Also see: President Trump doing a news interview in the engine blast of Marine One.


I think I’m late to the rodeo.

I’m chalking this up to coffee deprivation.


The “Soft Limit” setting in the Limiter effect has an effect on all audio that is “close” to the “Limit to (dB)” level. The closer the audio is to the “limit to” threshold, the stronger the effect is. This is intentional as it smooths the transition between parts that are limited and parts that are not, making the effect sound more natural.

The “Hard Limit” setting is similar, but has much less effect below the threshold.

The “Hard Clipping” setting has no effect below the threshold, but the transition is so abrupt that it causes very noticeable distortion (it literally cuts off the peaks).

For your application, the “Hard Limit” setting may work best.

A word here. The harder and stiffer the limiting is, the more likely the correction itself is to be audible. Clipping, to use an extreme example, makes up its own harsh and unpleasant sounds not in the original performance. Dropping the cherry veneer on the table may not sound the same with stiffer correction.

It can be a theatrical change.

Listen carefully.


You may have a secondary problem because your shop is not soundproofed. When you drop the cherry veneer on the table, you will get the drop and impact sound, but also the echo of that drop bouncing around the room. The echo is lower volume and may not get soaked up in the limiter.

That can give you a soft impact and loud echoes.

I don’t know how you’re listening to the edit, but good speakers or good headphones are a terrific idea when you start messing with sound theater.

All that and when was your last hearing check? Do you use hearing protection with the table saw? I mean protection for you, not the saw.

Department of Motor Vehicles would not let me use “slate” as a hair color. I did ask.


There’s a word on soundproofing, too. Obsessive Engineer knows that you don’t need to have soundproof panels, burlap and fiberglas®, or egg-crate panels on the walls. Flynwill (an elf on the forum) designed a recording studio in the middle of a warehouse where our company used to be. He didn’t use burlap-covered egg crates, either. He did it by not making the walls parallel.

I think there’s a formula for this, but it looked like a normal room except the square carpets didn’t come out exactly even and the ceiling seemed to be tilted just a bit. The room would not support echoes. At all. I sent many sound shoots through that room between meetings and edit sessions.

Contrast that with an office I used to have. It had surgically parallel walls. I could clap loudly and leave for lunch. When I got back the clap was just then dying out. My office would have made a terrible soundstudio.


Question: What do I need to do to get the forum to send me emails letting me know you guys replied? I missed a whole bunch of stuff just because I was editing videos. :slight_smile:

As for how I do my videos: First, don’t judge by my early videos, please. ;p Typically, I do voiceovers for all my work. In the last, I don’t know, 6 months or so, I’ve started using a teleprompter and talking to the camera at the start of some videos (what’s the term for this type of shot?)

All of that has worked fine, at least for what I’m looking for.

But one comment to whoever asked about if I was interested in post-production or not. Considering that seems to be all I do lately, between editing and voiceovers and the like, I’d say that’s a big YES. My vocals have a huge amount of voice clicks, and believe me, I’ve tried a ton of stuff to eliminate it from happening in the first place. Fortunately, I found an easy workflow that includes some batch processing by RX Editor which does a good enough job with the mouth clicks. I still edit out all the breathing sounds by hand, because I just like the results better. I’ve got some UI automation which makes that go pretty quickly.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve tried a lot of lav mics, but when I tilt my head down, all of them distort too much. I could try a headset mic, though. Anyone got any recommendations? I won’t have my face on screen when using it, so I don’t mind.

Sorry for my scatterbrained response, but this video is kicking my butt, and I need to keep my head down.

At the bottom of the page is a button with a “spanner” icon. Click that, then click “Subscribe to topic”.
Note that you are subscribed when that option is “not” ticked (which seems the wrong way round to me, but we don’t make the forum software).

Thanks. I also had the option to send me emails turned off. But it’s all working now. :smiley:

I have this exact problem but with music. I have songs with only a few high peaks in the entire song. I want to “cut” those peaks to a set threshold without it causing a square tabletop like wave but also without it touching anything below that set threshold. Everything i try affects the entire song in audacity.

That implies that you are setting the limiter threshold too low. Experiment with different setting until you get what you want.

Audacity’s built-in limiter effect doesn’t touch anything where the level is below the threshold. Unless you use make-up gain… Make-up gain amplifies everything after limiting.

And if you run the limiter twice (with no make-up gain) nothing happens the 2nd time.

…And there is a “Hold Time” so the level is reduced for a short period of time after the limiting.