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Topic: OT: Best headroom before brickwall limiting?

  1. #1

    Question OT: Best headroom before brickwall limiting?

    As many of you do, I often use a brickwall limiter as the last step in the processing of my final mix. I was wondering how the signal level of the mix before the limiter affects the quality of the limiting.

    How much headroom do you leave in your mix (peak-wise)? Do you also take RMS into account? I usually don't let my peaks go over -3 dBFS, but then again somtimes a piece only has 3 peaks that go up to say -0.3 dBFS while the rest of it is relatively soft and I don't like to lower the master fader by 3 dBs.

    So are there some guidelines here? What does e.g. Waves' L3 like best at input? Does a brickwall limiter prefer a lot of headroom?


  2. #2

    Re: OT: Best headroom before brickwall limiting?

    you'll get a lot of differing answers to this.
    it DOES really depend on the internal dynamics of the piece.
    in your example three? peaks are much louder than the rest.
    i would try to knock those peaks down before mixing out the track.
    midi velocity, automation, etc can tame these peaks without needing comp/lim. some of these might change the sound of the peaks, though.
    listen to the song without a limiter on the master, and bring the control room up to where the soft parts are nice to hear. then back off the peaks so they don't blow your speaker/ears up.
    level on the master? at 24bit, i generally peak at ~ -5.5db.
    sometimes even lower.........
    BUT, it's also important to find the average RMS level from the song, and this could being much lower, depending..........
    iow, dynamic range.
    i never, for the most part, comp/lim, eq the master buss.
    that i leave for mastering.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    May 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA 15206 USA

    Re: OT: Best headroom before brickwall limiting?

    I understand what you're saying about the 3 peaks.
    Almost all of my orchestral work has the same type of dynamics I suspect.

    What I do is just mix the hottest peak to -.01 dB and then work with the global dynamics of the whole piece using an envelope on a master bus.

    I can then get those 2 3 or 4 hot spots to hit -.01 ( or a bit less for the secondary ones ) and still maintain the overall dynamics of the whole composition.
    Sometimes when a quiet part is a bit too quiet I'll nudge it up a bit with the envelope, but I do try to maintain the long term dynamics of the piece, since I really don't care about the volume wars.
    I don't use compression to mange the peaks. I do it in the mix with the master bus volume envelope.

    On the final mastering to CD stage I'll set a brick wall at -.01db, just to be sure, but it's never anything that is audible since the song is already mixed to not go over -.01.

    If it's not going to CD then when I dither to 16bit I'll set the brick wall there also, to -.01, but once again, it's inaudible. It's just to make sure no fast transients get through.

  4. #4

    Re: OT: Best headroom before brickwall limiting?

    Thanks for your input, guys.

    David, why do you peak at -5.5 instead of say, -0.5. I know it's not a big deal at 24 bit, but what are the advantages to this extra headroom? A brickwall limiter will take the volume up to -0 or -0.1 again at the mastering stage.. (or is this headroom for other mastering processing such as EQ, multiband-comp, etc?)

  5. #5

    Re: OT: Best headroom before brickwall limiting?

    your peaking way to hot something like -12 would be as hot as I ever peak, then if you have to master your own mix which you shouldnt do you have plenty of head room. A lot of people here will probably disagree. Actually you should go to a forum with mastering engineers on it. John Shipp really got me started to lowering my volume. You may be cutting to how -15 at the most -12 should be where you are cutting John Shipp is at http://studioforums.com he is considered one of the best and great at answering questions

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