Today’s article will discuss multiband limiters, the differences from multiband compressors, how they work, and our top 5 picks for multiband limiter plugins in 2021.
What Is multiband Limiter & How Does It Work?
A multi-band limiter is a signal processor used for mastering that divides the frequency spectrum into independent bands. You will be able to split your spectrum by staging a crossover between the bands. This plugin is used to get a smoother limitation and avoid distortion or saturation when limiting.
The difference between a standard limiter and a multiband limiter is that the second allows you to limit each frequency range separately. In contrast, the former will limit the whole signal equally.
In a multiband limiter, you will find the same parameters as a regular version: threshold, out ceiling, attack, release. The main difference is that you will have to stage a crossover to split the frequency spectrum and limit the EQ bands individually. Once divided, you will get dedicated limiting settings for each band. Using these kinds of limiters will give you more control over your tracks and provide a cleaner result.
But, how do you use a multiband limiter? Once you’ve placed the plugin in your track, you will have to split the spectrum with a crossover. Some limiters will have a fixed amount of bands, while others will give you the freedom to decide how many frequency ranges you want to have. Each track has different needs; however, we advise you to set a minimum of three frequency ranges, lows, mids, and highs. After staging the crossovers, you will have to set the threshold, attack, and release time for each band to apply the desired limitation. Lastly, don’t forget to set the out ceiling at -0.3 dBfs or less so that your track doesn’t clip.
Multiband Limiter Vs. Multiband Compressor
The main difference between a multiband compressor and a multiband limiter is that a compressor will reduce the amount of signal exceeding the threshold. In contrast, the limiter will not let any signal trespass it.
In a more practical sense, we use a multiband compressor to reduce the dynamic range, whereas you will usually use a limiter to increase loudness. In a more practical sense, we use a multiband compressor to reduce the dynamic range, whereas you will usually use a limiter to increase loudness. A limiter will not include a ratio knob or slider because the bands have a fixed ratio of inf:1 which means that it will compress every signal above the threshold by an infinite decibel.
Top 5 Limiter Plugins 2021
1. T-Racks Quad Lim By IK Multimedia Review
IK Multimedia offers a multiband limiter with a transparent sound and mid/side functionalities.
The T-Raks Quad Lim is a multi-band limiter developed by IK multimedia. It comes with a transparent style of limitation and up to four adjustable bands that can be limited separately. Each band has a threshold, attack, release, and gain knob that you can tweak individually or together if you press the “link bands” button.
This limiter is part of the T-racks Quad family that features four multiband plugins: A limiter, a compressor, a stereo enhancer, and a de-esser.
- Brickwall button
Quad Limiter features a brick wall button that will ensure no signal goes above zero dBfs no matter how loud it is. This functionality is handy, especially when you are mastering, because any peaks above zero dB will translate as distorted sound.
- Adjustable slope
This plugin will allow you to create up to four independent bands and adjust the crossover slope that divides them. You can modify the slope between 6, 12, 18, and 24 DB/oct depending on how smooth you want the division of the spectrum to be. A higher slope will cut the frequencies harshly, whereas a lower value will create a flatter division, and the limiter will act more musically.
Quad Lim comes with individual gain reduction meters for each band created and a global stereo meter for the total output signal. The meters are very reliable and will display the information in real-time.
- Mid/side limiting
This multiband limiter will allow you to process the signal in stereo or mid/side mode. If you select the latter, you will have the possibility to apply different limiting values for the mono and side channels. Mid/side limiting can be helpful if you want to apply a lighter limitation to the central channel but compresses the sides’ signal.
A great feature of this plugin is the possibility to monitor in solo or bypass each band. If you select one band and press the solo button, you will listen exclusively to the chosen band and monitor the amount of limitation you are applying. In a multiband limiter, where different limitation is happening simultaneously, soloing each band can be a gamechanger. Additionally, you can bypass the effect over each band to A/B without turning on and off the plugin.
T-racks Quad Lim is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9.5 or later. It comes in Standalone, VST2, VST3, AAX Native, and AU for 64 bits.
Quad Lim is a versatile and powerful plugin that will give you complete control over your limitation stage. It offers a very detailed and precise interface that will be friendly for both experienced and inexperienced users. This plugin can be a great introduction to multiband limitation because it provides you the essential parameters for limiting and meters that you can monitor for all individual bands. So, if you are looking for a transparent, powerful, yet easy-to-understand limiter, this should be your first option.
2. MeldaProduction MLimiterMB Review
A very versatile and complete multiband limiter designed for both beginners and experts.
MLimiterMB is a multiband mastering limiter developed by Melda Productions. It features a modern circuit that will make your tracks sound louder with minimal distortion. This limiter will provide you with loud masters, balance your frequency spectrum, and add character.
In this plugin, you will find a very versatile and complete limiter. There are lots of parameters that can be modified manually or automatically. With its dual interface and different processing modes, you will get an outstanding song without being a professional.
- 6 bands
This plugin will provide you six independent limiting bands that you can split into frequency, level, panorama, mid/side, transients, tonal/noise, or parallel. Having this amount of bands gives you a lot of flexibility and room for editing and shaping your track as you want. On each band, you will get essential and advanced parameters alongside a saturation module.
Additional to the six bands, you will get an individual meter for each band’s gain reduction, master output, gain, and saturation reduction. These meters are very accurate and will give you all the real-time information you need to monitor your track.
- Dual interface
MLimiterMB provides a dual interface: first, the easy screen will only show you the basic parameters for limiting your song; you will get control over a set of macros predefined by the developers. Additionally, some functions like lookahead will be automatically adjusted. On the other hand, the edit mode will give you full access to the plugin’s parameters. Advanced users can explore the vast amount of options this plugin provides and enjoy its flexibility.
- Up to 8 channels
This plugin allows you to use it in mono, stereo, mid/side, and up to 8 channels for surround processing. If you want to master sound for television, videogames, or movies, having those extra channels will be a game-changer. Keep in mind that you will need dedicated sound systems if you want to use the surround mode.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 and later (32-bit or 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 and newer (64-bit only). You can find it in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX compatible hosts.
If you are looking for a complete and versatile limiter, this is the right option for you. You will get lots of parameters and processing modes in a very intuitive and friendly interface. Also, you can get a quick limit with the easy mode or a very detailed and unique song in the advanced interface. Additionally, this plugin also offers an unlimited sampling rate, which means it can process whatever audio sample you provide.
3. L3 Multimaximizer Review
Everyone knows the quality Waves offers. This time, L3 Multimaximizer will allow you to get louder masters and a final equalization touch.
This multiband limiter developed by Waves is one of the best options you can find on the market to limit your tracks and get the loudest output possible with no distortion. Usually, mastering engineers will use this plugin to limit a master due to the transparency it offers. Additionally, the linear phase eq features a variable slope that will prevent harmonic distortion.
This plugin comes with a master threshold that will limit the whole signal equally. However, each band comes with four parameters to adjust how much limitation you will get per band. In this limiter, the level of the five bands is added and attenuated once it exceeds the threshold value. By default, the L3 will act more aggressively in the bands with the most energy; however, with the priority knob, you can adjust where you want the limiter to attenuate the most.
Each band comes with four parameters. Gain for equalizing and Priority for determining the amount of limitation you want per band. The solo will play only the selected band, and the release will set the time duration when the limiter will allow the audio to recover post-limiting.
- Easy to use and flexible
The L3 Multimazimer comes with a master threshold slider that will limit the sum of the independent bands. You can control the amount of limitation you want per band using the priority slider located next to the band meter. Also, you have an out ceiling fader to set the maximum value in dB the limiter can reach.
This limiter’s transparency will allow you to get very loud masters without saturation. We advise you to find the right balance between the crossovers and the priority slider. If you do this process accurately, your song can gain many decibels without the limited or smashed feel some limiters have.
- Master and Individual ARC
L3 will allow you to fix independent release times for each band or assign a master automatic release control for an intelligent release time based on your track’s peaks and dynamics. Using the master ARC will give you some gluing effect and will compact your instruments.
You can choose between three release modes:
1. Aggressive for a slower release time and a punchy sound
2. Warm for a faster release, tighter bass, and less compressed highs
3. Scaled for a medium release, compressed highs, and slightly limited bass
The link button will coordinate both threshold and out ceiling sliders to hear how much limitation you are applying without the volume increase. Sometimes when we push a limiter or compressor, our tracks can sound boxy and smashed: However, this option will prevent you from destroying the dynamics of your song and help you get a limited sound without sacrificing transients.
- Linear phase EQ
Linear phase crossovers avoid harmonic saturation and make this limiter a very transparent plugin. The slope of these crossovers can be modified, as well as the frequency values. And while the default division can be a great starting point, feel free to adjust the bands to the needs of your song.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 64 bit and Mac OS 10.13.6 or later (Intel only). It comes in Audio Units, VST 3, VST, AAX, and Audiosuite format.
With the L3 Multimazimer, you will be able to get significant boosts in your levels without the overcompressed effect some limiters have. Splitting the limitation into bands will give you more control over your frequencies and a final touch of equalization. If you want a top-quality limiter with no harmonic distortion and a very transparent sound, this is the right option for you.
4. McDSP ML4000 Mastering Limiter Review
This plugin is capable of advanced dynamics processing with a gate, compressor, expander, and multiband limiter with low latency.
Ml4000 is a mastering limiter and dynamics processor designed for music, post-production, and live performances. This plugin features 2 modules: a master limiter and a multiband gate, expander, and compressor. The limiter features a peak detection technology that allows it to be both transparent and aggressive. Similarly, the dynamics module will give you the needed tools to process each band independently.
The multiband dynamics processor includes a 4 band gate, expander, and compressor that can be used independently or linked together. Additionally, each band features independent knobs, faders, and meters. The frequencies are divided with 24dB/oct crossovers that avoid harmonic distortion and leaked signals into the adjacent bands.
This plugin was mainly designed for mastering; you will find knobs for threshold, out ceiling, release, and knee. It works like a standard multiband limiter; the only difference is that each band features a compressor, gate, and expander as well.
- Low latency
ML4000 features a low latency technology that makes it ideal for live performances. Its technology allows you to monitor your instruments with almost zero latency. This feature is vital for live performance or tracking.
- Informative GUI
This plugin’s GUI provides a lot of information about what’s going on in real-time. Its design recalls an analog console with individual channels and processors for each one of them. Each band will provide you threshold, attack, release, ratio, output meters, and knee curve. This kind of design will give you complete control over the parameters and individual bands. However, when you open this plugin in your DAW, it will occupy a rather big part of your screen.
- Dynamics processor.
You will find a gate, expander, and compressor to process your dynamics and shape your transients on each band before limiting. As a result, you may get a cleaner and smoother sounding track. In addition, the gate will help you eliminate background noises or leaked signals from other instruments; this is a handy tool, especially for live performance or mixing.
- Peak detection
The brick wall limiter features multiple peak detection stages to capture the transients effectively without destroying the dynamics of your track. Depending on the knee value you choose, you can get a more transparent or aggressive sound; this limiter leaves a lot of room for creativity and customization.
Ml4000 is available for macOS 10.10 or higher and Windows 7 or later for 64 bits only. It comes in AAX, Audio Units, Audio Suite, and VST3.
This plugin will be ideal for users wanting to get a multiband compressor and limiter together. Its parameters will allow you to get either a transparent or driven sound. This plugin can be an excellent alternative for both mastering and mixing. Also, if you want a solution for live performances, this is the best option on our list due to its low latency technology.
5. Classic Multiband Limiter By IK Multimedia Review
This plugin is an analog multiband limiter designed by IK Multimedia.
T-racks Classic Multiband Limiter is a peak limiter designed by IK multimedia as mastering and mixing solutions with analog sound. This limiter will make your master or mix louder by reducing harsh peaks and evening out dynamic variations. It features three independent bands with controls for level and threshold on each of them.
This plugin emulates a vintage analog limiter. Therefore, using it will add a lot of character and richness to your signal. That said, it might not be the best option for mastering where you would usually go for a transparent limiter. However, using it on individual tracks, buses or groups can be a better alternative due to the coloration and harmonic distortion it provides.
- 3 bands
This plugin comes with three independent limiting bands (low, mid, and high). You can adjust the amount of signal going into these bands with the input drive knob. Similarly, the threshold and level knobs control the limiting and gain, respectively. Finally, you can adjust the width of the bands with two crossover knobs.
- Analog sound
This plugin emulates a vintage multiband limiter. Hence, it will generate harmonic distortion and character to the sound. This feature makes it an excellent alternative for instrumental mixes where you want to add some texture and harmonic distortion to your tracks.
- Easy to use
This plugin’s interface makes it very easy to use and provides a great workflow. You will get an input drive for the overall signal, release time for recovery, output for out-ceiling, and a meter to display gain reduction. Additionally, each band comes with only 2 parameters that you can quickly adjust to limit them separately. If you want an easy solution with analog sound, Classic Multiband Limiter is your go-to.
Classic Multiband Limiter can handle sample rates up to 192 kHz; this makes it an excellent option for working with high-quality audio files. Also, its digital processors will not distort or compress the signal.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or later and Windows 7 or later 64 bits. It comes in Audio Units, Vst; VST3, and AAX formats.
Classic Multiband Limiter is a unique-sounding plugin that will perform great, especially in mixes. Its circuits will add lots of character and harmonic distortion to the tracks. Additionally, its three bands are more than enough for a mixing environment. It supports sample rates up to 192 kHz and features a low latency compensation technology.
Multiband limiting is a mixing and mastering technique that can be very useful for having a clear and transparent track. After reviewing our top 5 multiband limiter plugins, we can advise you to go for the Waves L3 Multimaximizer if you want a transparent limiting in the mastering. MLimiterMb can be a great alternative if versatility and ease of use are what you’re looking for. Its dual interface makes it an excellent tool for both beginners and experts.
Don’t hesitate to go after the Classic Multiband Limiter by IK Multimedia if you want a mixing tool with character and analog sound. Finally, if you want an all-in-one limiter and compressor with lots of parameters and an informative GUI, Ml4000 will suit you best.
Rafael Medina is a Music producer, mixing engineer, and bassist. He plays the bass with his band Outburst and produces local artists in his home studio. Rafael is currently graduating with a Music degree at Algoma University.