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Old 4th October 2018
What Are Your Go-To Combinations Of Clippers Limiters In 2018?

What are your go-to combinations of clipping and limiting plugins? How do you use them? When do you use them? What is the ordering of your chain? What parameter settings do you find to often be the sweet spots? Which plugins are "honorable mentions," for you?

The market is constantly changing and we are always getting new tools, some of which are revolutionary and others of which are hyped up a lot but don't quite live up to the hype. Most of what we find in our google searches is driven by ads, and even the non-ad results are effected by "who does use ads, place them higher in results." Therefore, it is a good idea for the community to share methods and opinions, and to consider others opinions on a normal basis. A lot of engineers follow the philosophy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, those engineers (in my opinion) are the ones who will end up being left behind. Not to diss on you Waves L2 users, but... "ahem, it is 2018... act like it!"

I'll list my usual methods, of which I have found to work (usually for EDM or other electronic & beat driven tracks).

My methods for pushing the loudness wars (and sometimes even for streaming radio masterings) involve combining clippers with limiters.

Clippers that I use are: Kazrog KClip 3, LVC Audio Clipshifter (a bit different, haven't tested it enough yet), and StandardClip by Sir Audio Tools. I am giving some of the airwindows clippers a chance, as well. Also, the clipper within Newfangled Elevate seems to be quite nice... but I don't have enough experience with it yet to comment on the quality or usefulness of it.

My goal for clippers is two things:

1) A clipper that does about 1.5 dB of clipping (as low sa 0.2, but usually 1 dB), and is placed before my first limiter... sometimes its placed after my first limiter. This one is usually a hard clipper. This clipper causes the limiters to function a lot more smoothly. KClip has been my go-to but it drives my CPU so much that I have to render audio with just KClip alone active. This is why I have been giving airwindows clippers a shot.
2) A final clipper, doing usually 0.3 dB of clipping but up to 1, that is placed after my last limiter; but might be followed by a last ozone maximizer with 0 dB threshold and true peak active, just to make sure true peak stays at -0 dBFS. This clipper is do set things just a tad more hot than most things, and to add a little bit of flavor. It is usually a soft clipper, but if it is KClip then hard clipping still sounds better in most instances.

I should note what my limiters usually look like. My first one is an ozone maximizer on IRC IV Modern, with the slowest character I can get, and the highest transient emphasis I can get. This, like the first clipper, basically handles transients in a smooth way and it emphasizes them so that the later stages of limiting/clipping do not destroy the punch as much. This limiter does about 0.3-1 dB of damage, and it usually negates the need for any compression in my mastering chain. At slow settings, the ozone maximizer really pushes a lot of bass through... and its cleaned up with 2nd and 3rd maximizers. I might give PSP Xenon a shot for this stage, as it can shape transients well. Also, Elevate would probably work great but has a huge CPU intensity.

My second limiter has been an Ozone Maximizer on IRC IV Modern, Transient or Classic... with middle character, usually around 4. This one tends to do the highest amount of limiting, in my chain (but sometimes the last limiter, at quick setting, does more). This limiter does no more than 3.37 dB of gain reduction. I am testing out other limiters for this stage, such as Newfangled Elevate, DMG Audio Limitless, Flux Elixer V3, Voxengo Elephant, FabFilter Pro-L, and Slate FG-X. I used Slate in the past and it failed as a true peak limiter, but it does do some nice stuff if I follow it with an Ozone maximizer, voxengo, or fabfilter. It seems like Newfangled Elevate is becoming the go-to for this stage. It seems to have set the bar at new standards, as far as doing a lot while being basically invisible.

My last limiter has been Ozone maximizer, IRC IV (usually modern setting, but sometimes classic works better as *unless I am mistaken* it is broadband), at 1.65 to 0 character (speed). It usually does about the same amount of damage as the second limiter, but sometimes quite a bit less. This, as the previous limiter, does less than 3.37 dB of limiting.
The aforementioned limiters will be tested at this stage as well. My final clipper is placed after this, but sometimes before it (and sometimes this limiter does no limiting, but only sets the true peaks so that a clipper pushing over 0 dB is tamed but still spits out that distorted quality that we sometimes seek).

It is always a battle of CPU vs. quality, and often I end up only using 1 limiter and no clippers. If I use all of the stages listed above, it is to achieve the highest loudness possible; and the methods above are based on what I have found to work with Ozone Maximizers.

I should also mention that Waves L2 was my go-to for years, but is surpassed nowadays.

Lastly, note that I try out quite a few different things, and the list above is in no way the only thing that I do. I always try several things and end up using which ever works best. In the case of mastering for streaming platforms, it is a lot easier to apply very mild limiting and sometimes no clipping is useful. But, when I try to get something to be pushed "as loud as possible," I end up trying a bunch of things until I get the highest amount of loudness with the least amount of audio degradation.