What is a limiter?
A limiter is a dynamic processor engineered to decrease the dynamic range of an audio signal by taming the peaks exceeding a given threshold or ceiling.
These plug-ins are all available for free. However, this doesn’t make them not worthy of your attention.
LoudMax by Thomas Mundt
LoudMax is a Look-Ahead Brickwall Loudness Maximizer with a clean transparent sound. It is designed to retain the original character of the music as much as possible even at high compression levels.
It features four controls: Threshold, Output, Link, and ISP.
Basically, everything you’ll need most of the time, all in a compact GUI.
Barricade Pro is a multi-factor limiter.
Operating in 4 domains simultaneously:
- Waveform limiting
- Envelope limiting
- Loudness limiting
- Correlation limiting
Unfortunately, it’s only available at 32bit and only for Windows.
Vladg sound limiter N6
This bomb is packing a lot of stuff in it. It comes with 5 modules: RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter.
The GUI isn’t one of the most appealing, but the sound compensates for it.
Now it’s available for free since it isn’t supported anymore for updates.
It might not work with newer systems, but it’s still worth a try!
The simple GUI is a trademark of Kilohearts! The individual Input Gain and Threshold knobs make it a tool that can either work on the master as a loudness tool, but also on busses and individual tracks as a peak chiseling tool!
Sonic Anomaly Unlimited
Unlimited is a loudness maximizer and limiter for stereo and 5.1 surround material.
It also offers an ITU-R BS.1770 compliant loudness meter in addition to RMS output meters.
Unlimited aims to have balanced characteristics: avoiding audible distortion typical to hard limiting and clipping to the extent it is feasible, yet still not sounding compressed or vigorless.
Among all the free limiters available, it is the one with the steepest learning curve, but the amount of features provided is incredible.
Unfortunately, it’s available only for Windows.
ClipShifter is a wave-shaping audio plugin that functions like a clipping-style limiter. It provides enough user controls to be useful in all mixing stages: from distorting basses and drums, to maximizing mix buses and warming-up overall mixes. The sonic characteristics of the clipping distortion can be altered from hard, brickwall-style clipping, to softer saturation with compression.
Our suggestion is to use it in conjunction with other clean-sounding limiters for better control over your mixes and masters.
These plug-ins are all for sale. We can say that they’re all worth more than what they cost. If you want to commit to some expenses without breaking the bank, this is the place to start.
Korneff Audio Talkback Limiter
The Talkback Limiter is an aggressive, in-your-face limiter. First utilized in a vintage British recording console, the Talkback Limiter was THE sound of drums throughout the 80’s and is still a major component on records today.
Talkback Limiter has expanded functionality to make it more versatile than the original, and useful on more than just drums.
Universal Audio Precision Limiter
The Precision Limiter plug-in is a colorless, transparent mastering limiter. No upsampling is used, nor does the Precision Limiter pass audio through any filters.
The audio remains untouched unless the compressor is working, in which case, only gain is affected.
Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Limiter 6 GE
TDR Limiter 6 GE is a modern dynamics compression and limiting toolkit featuring six specialized modules that can be arranged in variable order. Together, they cover a remarkable range of applications from delicate loudness control, to brutal “brick-walling” and creative mix bus crunching.
The modules are:
- Dynamics Compressor
- High-Frequency Limiter
- Peak Limiter
- Output Protection Limiter
- True Peak and EBU Loudness Meter
Get it at Plugin Boutique
IK Multimedia T-Racks Brickwall Limiter
Its transparency and ease of use make it a very fast way of achieving finished, master quality tracks that stand out with all the level and boldness demanded by modern digital audio. It comes with different algorithms, making it a versatile tool.
- The “Clean” settings are designed to have the most invisible result on the program material, so that distortion will be minimal.
- The advanced settings introduce a mix of very smooth saturation and limiting resulting in slightly more punch and color compared to the clean setting.
- The Sat settings use various forms of saturation as limiting for increased color.
Combining technologies from Waves’ acclaimed L2 Ultramaximizer™, C1 Parametric Compander, Renaissance Vox, and Renaissance Compressor, MaxxVolume is ideal for mixing and mastering as well as broadcast and post-production, perfect for voiceovers, vocals, and instrumental tracks.
Waves L3 Multimaximizer
We’re skipping L1 and L2 versions as we’ve already picked MaxxVolume as Waves’ single-band limiter.
L3, instead, is the world’s first auto-summing multiband limiter for all-in-one mastering.
It features a linear phase EQ to keep the low end and the high end as they were meant in the mixdown.
These are the elite of the digital realm. They require some commitment to your wallet, but the number of features and the quality of performance they offer is among the very best you can find around nowadays. The sonic character is the main thing you should consider when pulling the trigger on the buy button.
All these tools will make your mix sound the way you want. They don’t have the magic of doing the job for you, but they will definitely help shape the tone in the best way possible.
IK Multimedia T-Racks Stealth Limiter
T-RackS Stealth Limiter provides an impressive increase in loudness without the discernable effects of compression. T-RackS Stealth Limiter’s algorithm tracks the level and keeps it under control while simultaneously preserving the perceived sense of dynamics.
This limiter sounds incredibly good on tracks with heavy-hitting low end, allowing to keep the kick drum as round as it sounds in a mix yet punchier.
iZotope Ozone 9 Maximizer
This maximizer is absolutely great in both the mixing and mastering stages.
The GUI is intuitive and minimal, with a really cool waveform visualizer that shows both the input and output signal along with the gain reduction applied.
It’s plenty of cool features often missing in other alternatives, such as the Stereo Independence split between the Transients and the Sustain, plus the Transient Emphasis control which allows recovering the sense of punch lost during limiting.
The 5 algorithms make it one of the most versatile plugins sound-wise.
The only con we can point out is that attack and release are simultaneously controlled by the Character slider, but that can also be seen as a way to simplify an aspect that’s often easy to mess up with.
Get it at Plugin Boutique
Sonnox Oxford Limiter V3
The simplicity of the GUI helps with keeping the CPU usage at minimum.
Its sound can be considered rather transparent than aggressive, and it gives its best on busses instead of individual tracks, especially when turning on the “Enhance” feature can turn this limiter into a more colored unit.
Fabfilter Pro-L2 is among the best limiters around right now. The GUI is splendidly big and minimal yet delivers all the info you need.
With highly advanced algorithms, linear-phase oversampling, professional dithering, noise shaping, and intelligent channel linking, FabFilter Pro-L 2 is the complete solution for every mixing and mastering job.
The attack setting allows the user to dial more or less clipping, making the sound more colored or rounder.
The solo feature allows hearing how much signal is being tamed.
Get it at Plugin Boutique
A.O.M. Invisible Limiter G2
This limiter is a nice choice if you want to add a cool timbre to your input source.
Among the most notable feature, you can:
- switch to mid-side processing
- enable a unity gain monitor
- enable a high-pass filter
- switch among different limiting algorithm
- Eventide Elevate
- Slate Digital FG-X Mastering Processor
- Nugen ISL 2
- Brainworx bx_limiter
- Boz Digital Labs Big Clipper
- Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe
- Softube Weiss MM-1
- Softube Weiss Compressor/Limiter
- PSP Xenon