Using The Hard Limiter

In order to maximize volume of a track, I use the hard limiter to remove spikes that otherwise prevent the track from being amplified. Does the hard limiter cause any negative effects to the track other than quieting the occasional loud sound?



I would say yes (if you are applying the limiter to more than the spiked areas) because I dislike severe compression of dynamic range - others may like it. How do the spikes get in the track? Are you recording too close to a microphone or not using a pop filter?


Thanks for replying. The spikes I refer to are things like unusually loud cracks on a snare drum or a harder than normal note on a guitar. I am not sure if the hard limiter reduces the volume evenly or if it chops off the peak in such a way as to make it sound bad. So far, I am not hearing any ill effects.


hard limiting will cause some distortion
on a drum you may not notice it so much
especially if it is kept short in time duration

if the rise time if fast enough
it might put many of the harmonics outside teh audible range
to minimise the problem even more

limiting is just clipping - close enough for govt work anyway
the more you clip the more distortion you get

even compression causes some distortion
but usually not enough to make a difference

and compressing to a 30dB range
makes it a lot easier to hear the low volume parts
over the traffic noise outside , and the refrigerator hum etc.
and keeps the high volume parts from waking the baby –
or making your ears bleed

the question is - is the result better than not doing it ?
you need to listen and decide.

As long as you are only limiting exceptional peaks and not a high percentage of the waveform, the distortion should not be particularly noticeable. It can actually be quite a pleasing effect on snare drums and other indefinite-pitched instruments. The distortion creates odd (as opposed to even) harmonics - odd harmonics are often cited as sounding unmusical, but as the tone of snare drums, cymbals and similar percussive instruments are so rich in inharmonic tones, the effect is less jarring and tends to brighten the sound (as long as you don’t overdo it).

With the Hard Limiter (Ladspa effect), I tend to keep the “residual” level set at around 0.3 as this helps to prevent the effect from being too harsh. The Wet level should normally be set at 1, and the dB limit adjusted to produce the required amount of “soft clipping”.

There’s a bit more help with the “hard limiter” controls on the Wiki.


An alternative to the Hard Limiter is the SC4 limiter effect.


  • RMS/peak = 1
    Attack time = 1.5
    Release time = 10
    Threshold level = whatever works: experiment
    Ratio: 20
    Knee radius: 1
    Makup gain: 0

This will limit the peaks without clipping, but will add its own type of distortion due to the rapid gain changes needed. It also tends to ring a bit. Try generating 1 second of tone at a level of 0.5 then another second of tone at level 1. Select the entire 2 seconds and apply SC4 with a threshold of -6 dB. Look at the point where the limiter kicks in - the transition from the quieter to the louder tone.

– Bill

Thanks for all this info. I am trying the SC4.