Let’s talk about the best limiter guitar effect pedals available in 2023.
I’m sure you have heard that term used quite a lot, especially when mixing or mastering. A limiter is an essential tool for every sound engineer for its effect on the overall sound. It is basically a compressor, but it’s used somehow differently.
This kind of compressor limits your high signals and pushes up your low signals to even them out. You might have visually seen its effect on an output signal as well: without a limiter, you can see that a signal keeps fluttering up and down a lot; with a limiter, however, you will see a steady signal that barely moves at all.
But sound engineers are not the sole beneficiaries of the limiter. Musicians can also benefit a lot from having a limiter in their signal chain, especially if they play heavily distorted guitars. For instance, the palm-muted sound of a distorted guitar tends to have a massive bottom end that pierces the roof with volume – imagine what that would do to your ears.
That’s not it though. In comparison to palm mutes, open chords sound relatively low. And that’s where the limiter comes in. Adding a limiter after distortion will flatten your signal (not your EQ). It will bring down those high-volume low ends of the palm mute and bring up the open chords, making them even in volume.
A limiter can be very useful with clean tones as well. The signal in clean tones varies a lot from low to high as it doesn’t have any sort of saturation or compression by nature (as opposed to that of distorted tones).
So adding a limiter after a clean tone will push up its overall volume, especially the lower frequencies, as it brings up the lower parts in the signal and even it out. Now that you have a background on what a limiter does let’s dive into the Best Limiter Guitar Effect Pedals as of 2023.
Best Limiter Guitar Effect Pedals 2023 Available (on Any Budget)
1. Behringer COMPRESSOR/LIMITER CL9
The Behringer Compressor/Limiter Cl9 is a pedal you can buy on your way home with the change in your pocket. You won’t be wasting your money though as it does a pretty good job for its price. Its low price comes from mainly two factors: it comes in plastic casing, and it’s made in China.
The Cl9 is fairly small, with dimensions 2.125 x 2.75 x 4.8. It has mono I/O on both sides (input on the right and output on the left), and its power input is on the top side. Its battery compartment is under the hood of the On/Off switch.
It comes with three knobs (Attack Time, Sustain, and Output). And this is it: all you can expect from a pedal in this price range. Needless to say, this pedal is digital and doesn’t feature a true bypass.
Key Features & Specs:
- Attack Time
Attack time controls how fast the compression affects the signal. In other words, it is responsible for trimming the high signals. Turning it left increases the time it takes to act and vice versa. A quick attack will instantly compress your signal at a set threshold, which would be quite applicable with distorted tones, especially palm-muted sounds: those are very quick, so you may not get the desired effect with a low attack time.
Sustain controls the amount of compression applied to your signal. It’s the feature responsible for bringing up your low frequencies to match the high ones. Look at it this way: imagine Attack Time and Sustain as two pieces of bread and your signal as the stuff in between. Turning up the Sustain will compress your sandwich and make it compact. The stuff inside will not get any smaller but will spread and even out. Too much sustain will squeeze the stuff in your sandwich and even squash them. So only adjust it until you’re satisfied with the sound.
Level controls the overall output of the affected signal. Contrary to most compressor pedals (in which compression tends to lower the overall output), limiter compressors tend to raise the overall volume. You can notice that when you set all your knobs to noon and engage the pedal: you will notice that your volume is significantly higher.
- Signal Chain
The Compressor/Limiter Cl6 can have different effects on your sound depending on where you place it in your signal chain. It functions as a limiter and trims your overall sound when put at the end of your chain.
However, if you put it at the beginning of your chain – say as the first pedal in the preamp section – it will boost your signal: with clean tones, it will be a great enhancer; with distorted tones, it will crank up your overall gain and produce a heavier distortion while keeping your sound level.
Character & Sound:
The Behringer Compressor/Limiter Cl6 has a fairly good quality sound for its price. It makes your sound warmer and thicker as well as bigger and louder. You can hear a significant difference in your sound with all the knobs set at noon.
The Attack Time knob’s range is quite limited that you can barely hear a difference between zero and max. The Sustain knob, on the other hand, has a wide range from no compression to extreme signal boost.
What’s good about the Behringer Compressor/Limiter Cl6 is that it’s cheap, and it gets the job done. It’s also very simple to adjust, and it won’t ruin your tone. Although it doesn’t have a true bypass, it doesn’t affect your dry signal much.
And however it’s digital, you don’t hear the processing sound you usually get with cheap pedals. It is good for live performance, not so much for studio recording.
The bad side to the Cl6 is that it’s fragile due to its plastic casing, so it’s hardly reliable. It can easily break inside your bag if put with other heavy objects. Moreover, it has a short life span, but you can’t expect longevity from such a budget pedal.
Another con is its On/Off switch. With a plastic On/Off hood, it will gradually become harder to press, and, over time, it won’t properly engage (or disengage) when pressed, in which case you will need to press it quite hard in order to get it to work.
You should buy this pedal if you’re a beginner guitarist who’s looking to explore different kinds of effects or simply if you’re broke and want something to get you going.
2. TC Electronic FORCEFIELD COMPRESSOR Classic Compressor/Limiter
You could say that the tc electronic Forcefield Compressor is the high-quality version of the Behringer Compressor/Limiter Cl6. It’s built with sturdier material, rendering it roadworthy, and it has high-quality components. It’s also made in Denmark, which inspires confidence in the product.
The Forcefield Compressor comes in a metal chassis, and it’s considerably large with the dimensions 13.2 x 7.2 x 5.7 mm. It features an all-analog circuitry which gives the clearest of sounds and a true bypass to preserve your tone.
It has mono I/O placed on the top of the pedal with the power input in between. It comes with three knobs (Sustain, Attack, and Level), which makes it pretty easy to adjust and control, and it can run on a power plug or a battery.
Key Features & Specs:
Just like the Behringer Cl6 pedal, the sustain on the Forcefield Compressor controls the amount of compression applied to your signal. Turning it left gives you a subtle amount of compression while turning it right boosts your overall signal and makes it compact with all the frequencies leveled.
The attack also functions the same way on the Forcefield Compressor: it controls the time it takes for the compression to affect your signal. Turning it left gives you a slow attack with a percussive sound: if you let a chord ring, you can actually hear the sound turning from normal to compressed. On the other hand, turning the attack knob right gives you a quick attack and a sudden compression that is great for quick strumming and palm mutes.
The level controls the overall output of the affected signal. If you turn it all the way left, you will get no signal at all, and if you turn it all the way right, your volume will peak. Don’t forget that this type of compressor already boosts the volume, so keeping it at a medium level will better serve you.
- Pedalboard placement
The Forcefield Compressor will be a great addition to your pedalboard for several reasons. Its analog circuit gives you a pure tone that goes well with other effects. Its true bypass preserves your signal, so you won’t have any signal loss when your pedal is disengaged. Last but not least, having the I/O on the top enables the pedal to take a smaller space on the pedalboard despite its large size as you can just stick multiple pedals together side by side.
Character & Sound:
The tc electronic Forcefield Compressor sounds pretty good because of its natural vintage sound. It boosts up your signal and overall volume without any negative effects on your tone. Even with extreme compression, you still get a great sound.
It works well with other pedals, and you can use it in variable ways to get your desired output. The attack on this pedal has a wide range from slow and smooth to punchy and tight.
The tc electronic Forcefield Compressor is a great choice for anyone. It works great in studio recordings and live performances, and you might even want to leave it on throughout your entire performance. It’s also reliable and durable thanks to its strong build and its high-end components. It’s also simple and easy to tweak.
With the sound quality you get from the Forcefield Compressor, I have to say that it could really use a stereo I/O. It’s an important feature for any high-end pedal that enables you to better control your signal chain. However, I guess it would cost a lot more if it had a stereo I/O.
If you’re looking for a pedal that will make your instrument stand out in the mix or improve your overall sound and tone, the tc electronic Forcefield compressor is the right pedal for you.
3. BOSS LMB-3
Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without a Boss pedal. The LMB-3 Bass Limiter/Enhance gives you full control over your bass sound. It enhances your tone by boosting the lower frequencies while limiting the higher, pointy ones, to even things out and give you a stronger, punchier tone.
The LMB-3 is a typical Boss pedal that comes in a sturdy metal case and has the dimensions 70x125x55 mm. It features four knobs (Level, Enhance, Ratio, and Threshold) that allow you to tweak your effect precisely how you want it.
It has mono I/O (input on the right and output on the left) and a power input on the top of the pedal as well as a battery compartment under the hood. It runs on a 9V DC power plug/9v battery and withdraws around 17 mA. It’s not mentioned what circuitry this pedal has, which makes it digital, and it doesn’t have a true bypass.
Key Features & Specs:
- Full control over the dynamic range
The Threshold and the Ratio knobs allow you to control your sound dynamics. The threshold determines when the compression engages while the ratio sets the amount of compression applied to your signal. Setting them at low levels, the compression will require a high volume to engage, and you will get minimal compression in your sound, which can be used to trim the high peaks in your signal without affecting your dynamics. From here, you can adjust the amount of compression you need using both knobs.
- Tone Enhancer
Compression limits your high frequencies and boosts the low frequencies by nature, making your sound thick and warm. If you wish to add more edge to your tone, use the Enhance knob. The Enhance knob controls the presence in your affected sound, which ranges from the low mids to the highs – minimal at the low mids and maximal at the highs. Turning up the Enhance knob will boost your high frequencies, add brightness to your tone, and make your sound bigger.
- Sturdiness and Reliability
The LMB-3 Bass Limiter/Enhancer is a quite strong pedal thanks to its metal casing. When you buy it, you know you won’t be having to replace it anytime soon. It will serve you well on the road too. Its high-quality components render it dependable and roadworthy.
- The Boss five-year warranty
If its reliability features aren’t enough to win your trust, this will. Boss gives you a five-year warranty on the LMB-3 pedal against any factory defects that might show up throughout the period of the warranty. The long period of the warranty should give you the idea that this pedal is durable and that Boss has confidence in its products – and so should you. I wouldn’t go about throwing it against the wall and see if it breaks, though.
Character & Sound:
The Boss LMB-3 sounds really good straight out of the box. Just by setting the controls at noon, you get a significant difference in your sound: it becomes louder, bigger, and fuller. This also means that the knobs have a wide range of control over your sound, which enables you to perfectly adjust your tone the way you want.
Just don’t turn everything to max in order to avoid unneeded compression that would lose all the dynamics in your sound.
The Boss LMB-3 is a great bass compressor. It is user-friendly and will give you the sound that you need. Although it’s a digital pedal, its sound is fairly natural and pure.
You can use it in a variety of ways to either limit your bass tones to a smaller range or to push your sound forward and make it stand out in the mix.
It is pedalboard-friendly as well due to its small size, so it will serve you well in live situations.
The first obvious downside to the Boss LMB-3 is its digital circuitry. Although the LMB-3 is not an expensive pedal, it’s not cheap either. Moreover, some cheaper pedals have analog circuits. So you would expect a pedal in this price ranger to have an analog circuit.
The second downside is related to the first, which is that the LMB-3 doesn’t have a true bypass. A true bypass is important to preserve your signal throughout your signal chain. A pedal without a true bypass will weaken your signal when it’s disengaged. So you might have to keep it engaged all the time.
The third and last downside to the Boss LMB-3 is the lack of Attack and Release knobs. Compression constantly engages and disengages as you play. How fast this process happens and dissolves is controlled by Attack and Release.
Attack controls how quickly compression starts while Release controls how long it takes for the signal to resolve back to normal. Without those knobs, the attack and release in the LMB-3 are automatically set, which means you don’t get to control them yourself and will have to work around with the Ratio and Threshold knobs to get the desired effect.
The Boss LMB-3 is perfect if you’re a new compressor user and want something simple and user-friendly to give you a good sound while jamming with your band or performing live.
4. Behringer BASS LIMITER/ENHANCER BLE400
Here is another Behringer pedal on our list, the Behringer Bass Limiter/Enhancer BLE400. The BLE400 is especially useful if you play a lot of slapping and popping on your bass as it dims down those high-volume, high-ended slapping and popping sounds while pushing up your lower signals, rendering your tone cleaner and more even. Think of it as a budget alternative to the LMB-3.
The BLE400 is a rather small pedal, with the dimensions 2.76 x 2.13 x 4.84 inches, and it comes in a plastic casing. It features four control knobs (Level, Enhance, Ratio, and Threshold) and mono I/O (input on the right and output on the left) as well as a power input located above the input socket.
This pedal runs on a 9V power plug or a 9V battery, whose compartment is located under the hood. Like all Behringer pedals, which are budget pedals, this pedal is digital and doesn’t have a true bypass.
Key Features & Specs:
- Limiting harsh volume peaks
The BLE400 is great for smoothing out your overall sound by pushing down high peaks and bringing up the lower parts in your signal. This can be done with the Ratio and Threshold knobs, with which you get to control the threshold at which the limiter engages and how much compression is applied.
- Enhancing your tone
Limiting your signal will significantly lower the high end of your tone. To compensate for that, the BLE400 has added a tone enhancer feature to its pedal. You can add more body and brightness to your sound using the Enhance knob, which controls the overall presence. Turning it up will add middle and high frequencies while preserving the overall balance in your tone.
- Intuitive Ratio, and Threshold
Any compressor/limiter pedal uses Attack and Release to control when compression starts and resolves. The BLE400 uses intuitive Ratio and Threshold to control the levels of Attack and Release along with their primary functions. This means that when you turn up the Ratio and Threshold knobs, you get faster Attack and Release besides the higher Ratio and Threshold levels.
- First-class electronic On/Off switch
Though the BLE400 doesn’t have a true bypass, it has another similar feature that preserves your signal integrity in bypass mode: the First-class electronic On/Off switch. It’s simply the true bypass budget electronic counterpart.
Character & Sound:
The Behringer Bass Limiter/Enhancer BLE400 is a quite subtle pedal. With all the knobs set to noon, you get a minimal effect in your signal, which means you need to turn up the dials quite a bit to get to feel a real difference in your sound. The Level knob, which controls the overall volume of the affected signal, has a quite low range that pushes up your volume only a bit.
If you turn up all the knobs to 3 o’clock or higher, you will get a distorted sound due to the high compression caused by the ratio and the threshold, which are also accompanied by fast attack and release.
Moreover, the compression tends to darken the sound a bit and lose much of the high ends, so you might need to dial in more enhance to make up for the lost frequencies.
The most obvious upside to the BLE400 is that you get a fairly good effect pedal within your budget. Also, it is user-friendly and easy to control: its controls don’t have high ranges, so you won’t struggle with its setup, especially if you’re a beginner who’s still exploring with pedals and don’t want to spend a lot.
The first downside to the BLE400 is relative to its upside, which is its poor quality. You can’t expect much from a pedal in this price range. Its plastic casing makes it vulnerable to being easily broken. Secondly, its components are pretty low-end, so the pedal won’t last long.
You can get the BLE400 if you’re low on budget or if you’re in need of something easy with minimal controls and subtle changes to your sound.
Each of the pedals on this list has its own positives and negatives. They fit every user’s different budgets and needs. However, one pedal manages to fulfill all the needs while remaining within budget, and it’s the tc electronic Forcefield Compressor/Limiter.
The Forcefield Compressor has all the qualifications that make it a decent pedal with its built-like-a-tank metal chassis, analog circuitry, and true bypass.
Also, its sound is pure and truly brings your tone to another level. In short, it managed to bring forth all the assets of a high-end pedal and still remained a budget range pedal, even cheaper than the Boss LMB-3.