Bob Katz says: It's not how loud you make it, it's how you make it loud.
I agree. But in the world of the loudness wars, if there was ever a plug-in to blame (and there isn't but for the sake of making a point) for the sheer dynamic carnage one can have these days and the "how loud can you make it" attitude that is so pervasive then it all must have started with the L1 Ultramaximizer. Why? You ask.
Because like most of Waves' products it's simple to use. It also has virtually no sound and in about two seconds you can pretty cleanly crank the volume of a mix to ridiculous levels. It is probably one of the most dangerous pieces of software to hit the audio production community, ever.
The controls are simple: you have an input attenuator a threshold control an output ceiling slider and a release time fader. That combined with the attenuation meter and an output dithering processor and you're good to go when you want to make it loud. And really that's what the L1 is about. It's so simple, so easy and so addictive to be able to crank the level on anything that it's more of a drug than a plug-in limiter. As loudness maximizer plug-ins go this one is the champ, besides those that do multi-band work. If you need it loud, quickly, simply and without added coloration the L1 has you pretty much covered.
I use the L1 mainly for raising the level of stereo mixdowns so that they can be auditioned without the listener needing to crank the volume on their system too high. I usually don't push things too hard and I'll leave room for them to do some work. With the L1 however you get the option of using just the L1 as a limiter, without the output dithering processor attached. In that form I use the limiter like any limiter and I have to say the great virtue in using the L1 and maybe all Waves plug-ins is the simplicity and power of their controls. You can really do what you need without having to think of how to work the thing too deeply and this appeals to novices because they simply don't know. It appeals to experienced folks because they don't like to have to over think things and they just want the thing to work. With the L1 you get exactly what you need from a limiter and nothing you don't. It's very useful and I do recommend it. But be careful. It's so easy to go overboard with it. If there was anything negative about the L1 that I could honestly say it would be that I don't hear much of a characteristic sound from it and sometimes a person might want more of that extra flavor.
I've been a long time user of Waves L1 until I discovered the Sonnox Oxford Limiter.
The above review pretty much sums it up overall so not much to add, apart from I find the Sonnox Oxford Limiter to overall be of more use to get the best loudness while keeping things clean. I still find the L1 to be handy and do go back to it on certain tracks but it's now currently as a second alternative to the Sonnox Oxford Limiter.
The price of the L1 now is very cheap though, so it offers allot of bang for buck and is much more reachable for those on a very low budget.
I gladly welcomed the news when L1 was announced and ultimately released. There had never been anything quite like it. It delivered as promised. Kudos to the Waves team and their ingenuity. The first thing I noticed about L1 was the transparency and clarity of sound. I was amazed at how well it worked to bring up lower volume tracks without any cumulative compression style artifacts. With a simple click and drag, any track could become as present in the mix as you wanted. My mixes suddenly sounded more open and defined. One of the most wonderfully dramatic experiences I had with it was raising the volume of classical guitar in a mix. It brought out all the real yummy, intimate sounds, adding great clarity and punch to the sound, but without any "squashing" on the top end.
With all the other issues digital was still evolving through at the time, it became a priceless tool to have something so affordable be able to live as software within the session. This was particularly the case for mastering. Too much of anything isn't good, and very quickly as has already been stated, the loudness wars began. What started as a tool that very easily adjusted, controlled and limited dynamic range, was suddenly getting one song heard MUCH louder than another and the rest is history. Anyway, aside from that debacle, it was a great tool giving transparent control that hadn't been available like that before. Noise shaping and dither in L1 sound great! Any of the weaknesses of L1 have progressively been resolved in L2 and then L3.
If you don't have access to L2 or L3, here are a few cautions/limitations of using L1:
Dense, thick texture material (ie: full orchestra and choir, death metal etc), can cause L1 to over load much sooner than expected even though you may only be seeing 3dB of gain reduction. This is especially true if L1 had been used to pump up the volume of any of the tracks during mix. Not a major issue, but be aware that if you are using L1 to reduce dynamic range of classical music or really wanting to squash metal music etc, listen carefully and adjust for overload type artifacts. This issue was almost completely resolved with the addition of Automatic Release Control (ARC) in L2. For mono and stereo single instrument track use or general mastering, it's brilliant. I still reach for L1 occasionally when I'm mixing and an instrument just isn't coming out enough and I don't want to change the nature of it's sound with traditional compression. I could achieve this with L2 or L3, but L1 requires less CPU overhead.
Bottom line, as with any tool designed for shaping or controlling sound, just don't be dumb.
I've been a user of L1 for a while now - and I find it does what I what it to do. I simply use it as a "make things louder" tool. I am not a mastering studio, and most of my mixes get mastered elsewhere, but I like having the L1 to be able to chuck on the master bus, and send the band home with something that sounds at least half-way mastered (to them, at least). For this, it's great.
Simple to use, and it can produce some very nice results, as longs as it's used in moderation (which, I guess, goes for most maximizers/limiters/mastering plugins/etc). Overall a solid, usable plug in.
(I must say that I am now looking at investing in Ozone 5...)
The L1 allows for limiting that has zero overshoot.
This is very hard to do in the analog realm without much.artifact.
But the abuse of hard limiting and volumewars, not so good.
This tool can be used taking only a db or 2 off of transients with low distortion.
Of course on individual tracks it can be used to put a cieling on the channel.
Whats strange about this plug is when you first used it you may have liked the instant gratification, but then you grow up maybe and realize if your taking off more then a few db its likely you are destroying tje depth of your mix, while getting accustomed to the sound (if you mix with it on) and like a junky you need more to feel it so , you turn it up.
Yeah not a good thing after some distance you listen and think "what was I on?"
Now if the l1 was the first theL2
And then sony and elephant etc.
Now there are plenty good digital brick wall limiters,
But when the L1 came out it was a breakthrough.
I cant stand overly limited music and protest by I dont do it.
Getting something loud without ruining it is called mastering
Using an L1 lightly can be fine