Limiters are limitedheh in a mix situation because a lot of that king work can be taken care of by Automation without the obvious artifacts a limiter can impose on a sound ! A gentle limiter might come in hand on inconsistent snr hits, kicks , bass just to even them out a bit(if needed) , or a vocal in a song that jumps around a bit but doesn't really need too because the song itself doesn't require much dynamics , like anything it is a tool that you call when you need it , and is specific to a task , but not a tool that i think you can say 'When i start a mix i always have limiters on X,Y and Z ' , at least in my approach to limiting .
Maybe like 5% as some kind of problem solver, like if the snare drum has too much swing in it's dynamic range & I want to pull it back a bit more then regular compression is allowing or to put an absolute ceiling on other some poorly recorded source...
But that's more like applying a band-aid to a gaping wound...
la-2a in limit mode for acoustic guitars, bass, vocals, kick... gorgeous.
i love a little bit of extremely fast analog limiting on the drum buss, neves if ya got 'em, distressors if ya don't. not even enough to move the meters, but the tippy top of the transients are still getting shaved, very subtle but markedly different, makes for a very consistent feel and adds a lot of character and energy.
and it goes without saying, there is copious tape limiting on most of my tracks, and a smidgen on the mix as well.
i can understand how for lots of guys and lots of styles, limiting is unnecessary in a mix. for me, and the sounds i gravitate towards, i find it invaluable. in particular, hiphop loves limiting on the drums.
Lately I've been using plugin limiters on Bkg Vox for a more consistent level underneath the lead. This is more for subtle bkg vox. Sometimes on a parallel bass track. Once or twice on lead vox that I wanted to dirty up, I hit the limiter hard and put it in the mix.
i'm with ya, jay... that when someone says "limiter" i first think of L1, L2, T.C electronic boxes, etc. etc. but if you think about what's going on at ratios like 20:1... for the output signal to go up by one dB, the input has to go up by 20 dB. 3dB of output change has to have had 30dB of input change--more than a third the entire dynamic range of tape (just for example). i think 20:1 is certainly putting the smack on whatever you run through it., i.e. "limiting".
in my classes @ school (for what they were worth), the textbook definition of where "compressing" turns into "limiting" is 10:1. i have no idea what they base that on, other than some guy's opinion 30 years ago.
fwiw, when i use 1176's (rarely), they're on 4:1. and that's a *really* high ratio for me. i'm one of those "really small ratio, really low threshold" kinda guys. last night the renncomp on the lead vocal had a ratio of 1.75:1 or so. with a really low threshold--low enough that it was still doing between 3-5 dB of compression. to my ears, the compression sounds more natural that way, you don't hear the knee of the comp.