New DMG Audio Limiter - Limitless!

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Effects discussion
DaveGamble
KVRian
1061 posts since 12 Jul, 2009 from Brighton

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 5:43 am

Hi all,

I've spent a long time thinking about multiband limiters, and why no-one likes them. There are two kinds of multiband limiters: multiband dynamics processors followed by a wideband limiter, and truly multiband limiters. Well... there was really only one truly multiband limiter, but now there's two.

Waves L3 was groundbreaking... or, it should have been, but actually it's just really aggressive. I wanted a technical understanding of why I would consistently prefer L2 to L3.

Sometime around august last year, I had an idea for the design of a multiband limiter - something to basically magic a set of gain-reduction signals into making a limited signal with the friendliest possible gain-reduction curves. I fully destroyed an A4 notepad with scribbling, ending up with a very chunky proof and something I could implement.

Turns out, we don't like L3 because it *solves the wrong problem*. L3 tries to maximise gain at all costs. Don't do that; it makes spikey curves that impart distortion. Turns out (and here I'm somewhat giving the game away to anyone who wants to steal the idea) that the "right" strategy (based on weeks of listening tests) is to make the gain reduction curves as smooth as possible.

If you stop worrying about maximal loudness and instead design for invisibility, then invisibility is what you get. Whilst for the same drive, you get a quieter result, the distortion is dramatically reduced. So you can drive harder and actually end up with a perceptually louder result.

So, we built that and played with it loads and listened and listened and listened (to everything we could find, mastered or not).

Then we found out that release really matters for limiters. I should expand on that. Obviously release is crucial, but there's more than one way to implement a release, and an infinity of ways to implement an autorelease.

So, generally, you get one limiter to sort some peaks, with a fast release time (So you don't get dips in level after transients), and then maybe another one to flatten dynamics a little, and that one needs a slower release.

There are a lot of limiters which have auto-releases which basically adjust the release time depending on whether they think they're seeing transients or dynamics. Aaaaand we listened. And it's a crapshoot. Some material works great with one, some with another, and it's always a bit of a compromise.

So we had this idea we should basically just have two limiters that work together, to distribute the work between them. You get a dynamic limiter with configurable release time, which is in a "sane" range, like a few hundred ms, and a transient limiter with a configurable time which is a couple of ms at most.

End result is, dynamics don't pay for transients, and everything still gets done. All multiband too!

It's been a fun beta, and we're going to release on monday. If all goes well, we'll have a video introduction, and I might even make some videos explaining some concepts myself (though that's guaranteed to be weird).

I'm going to invite some beta testers to pop up to help me explain things.

Dave.

(NB: This is for Mac and PC. iOS is not supported!)
[ DMGAudio ] | [ DMGAudio Blog ] | dave AT dmgaudio DOT com

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djscorb
KVRian
714 posts since 3 May, 2007 from UK

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 7:02 am

I've been using this extensively the past few weeks and it beats my existing favourite of Elephant v4.3 at everything I throw at it! :)

I've written a post at "that other forum" outlining it's main features and what sets it apart so I'll copy it here:

I am using DMG Limitless in a mastering job right now and it really makes a big difference to the perceived depth and openness of the signal compared to my other limiters. It brings the music forward where other processors often tend to push it back and that is the thing I notice most when using it and comparing it to my other maximisers.

I am not a fan of multiband processors and usually would only use perhaps one split band for correctional duties. This thing is insanely good however and it's been a real eye (and ear) opener for me. It is one multiband process that I am happy to let near my audio and that of my clients.

As with all DMG Audio processors, the interface and feature set can be customised to be either simple, fast and unfussy or as deep and complex as you like. When you want to go in deep, the facility is there and you're not left wanting. All done with stunning control and faultless precision.

It has extremely modern and comprehensive loudness metering and visualisation options and more than a few unique tricks and workflow enhancements up it's sleeve.

It can be configured to have up to 6 bands that are fully adjustable in terms of frequency range and the crossover slope can be anything between 6dB and 96dB in increments of 6 dB. Each of the bands has an adjustable release time for the slower limiter under the hood, and the master release on the main part of the GUI scales these up and down in tandem. You can "push or pull" each band pre limiter by -6 to +6dB which gives basic EQ control over a track's spectrum and force more or less limiting in any one range.

It can be configured to be wideband, multiband and everything in between whilst shooting for absolute perceived loudness or robustly maintaining a strong low end weight (perfect for hard hitting Dance music). This weighting function can be fully adjusted to the task at hand or you can pick a preset style of limiting to suit the genre and / or mix you are working on.

It features a truly excellent multimode clipper module that can be engaged before the multi band limiter(s) which includes up to 64x oversampling. It can be used to saturate and / or hard/soft clip the signal and this gives up to 4dB of extra gain for free that is both punchy and transparent.

You can lock the input gain, threshold and ceiling controls to facilitate the auditioning of presets and there are preconfigured "Styles" that can be selected for a fast and unfussy workflow. These styles can also be copied to the advanced manual settings for fine tuning if desired.

There is a switchable and configurable high pass filter that acts as a DC blocker and will go as gentle as 6dB/oct @ 1hz right up to and including 48db/oct as high as 50hz. For a well mixed track that needs only an HPF and loudness maximisation, you can master using this plugin alone.

It has an ISP (inter sample peak) mode that kills overshoots and does so with barely perceivable differences to the limiting action which is highly unusual and a huge bonus. There's some pretty serious maths behind both the ISP protection and the multiband GR distribution and this is what makes Limitless so effective.

The GUI is configurable and freely resizable and the major controls are touch screen friendly. The Gain Reduction meter has a variable and automatically adjusting range which is great for smashing a signal or delicately shaving off a quarter of a dB.

The plugin also features an excellent dither that was developed after listening tests with Bob Katz and can be switched in and faded between TPDF and perceptual loudness noise shaping and beyond.

It's been a pleasure to be a part of the development process with this plugin and for me it has all but replaced my other maximisers. I simply can't find material where my current go to of Elephant beats it!

Cheers

Scorb
I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored...

Gamma-UT
KVRAF
5748 posts since 8 Jun, 2009

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 7:35 am

L3-16 isn't that bad - it just needs a little tenderness.

But for that reason, I'll watch this one with interest.

My only concern is that Multiband + Limiter + DMG = Large Rabbit Hole. "So which of these modes do I engage right now?"

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djscorb
KVRian
714 posts since 3 May, 2007 from UK

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:01 am

As with all recent DMG plugins, Dave and Krz have attempted to make it as simple as possible UNLESS you want to go deeper. Everything is tool tipped which is something Compassion and Equilibrium lacked.

The manual is both concise and enlightening as to the problem that Limitless seeks to solve, and how to go about using it to your advantage for different use cases. I proof read it last night and it took a lot less time to get through than I was expecting for such a powerful and feature rich plugin. In fact, I would recommend anybody reads Dave's manuals as I have learned more about eq and compression through DMG documentation than KVR and Gearslutz combined.

I think people get curious about the hidden advanced modes and dive in without reading the manual and then complain that it's too complex.

When you jump into a car, most of the time you just want access to steering, acceleration and the brakes. Some people might want to tinker under the hood and change the gear ratios, change the spark plugs etc and that's fine too. For most of us, we shouldn't feel much need to go tinkering unless we really understand what we're doing!

Limitless CAN be deep and complex, if you WANT it to, but if the testers do their job well (and we're working on it!), the presets and styles should take care of all the complexity for you.

I love Elephant but it too is pretty complex under the hood and in the advanced setup windows. For many people though, they find that loading up the Master Punch 3dB preset and adjusting threshold is all they need to do.

Hopefully the same will apply to Limitless.

For those of us who like to dig deeper though, the facility is there and leaves no stone unturned. I doubt I will use Elephant, KClip, Barricade or Sonnox much in the future to be perfectly honest :)

To be perfectly clear, I haven't used the new Ozone 7 , AOM Invisible Limiter, IK Stealth Limiter or FF Pro-L, but other testers that do use these regularly are equally as enthusiastic about Limitless as I am :)

Cheers

Scorb
I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored...

Gamma-UT
KVRAF
5748 posts since 8 Jun, 2009

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:29 am

I wasn't complaining. Honest.

Compassion would probably have benefited from a wider range of presets that were done URS StripPro-style (e.g. Stress20 - I think we all know what that one means, nudge, nudge). Realistically, I've stopped trying to emulate stuff with Compassion and really spent more time around the controls using some of the gear-matching presets I've done.

Equilibrium was trickier because it really shines when you start to dig into the advanced controls (once you've started to work out how the more advanced quality settings work with different material).

pheeleep
KVRAF
2831 posts since 11 Jun, 2003

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:43 am

"Well... there was really only one truly multiband limiter, but now there's two."

Isn't this one as well? MeldaProduction MMultiBandLimiter?

https://www.meldaproduction.com/plugins ... andLimiter
Play it by ear

Gamma-UT
KVRAF
5748 posts since 8 Jun, 2009

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:52 am

pheeleep wrote:"Well... there was really only one truly multiband limiter, but now there's two."

Isn't this one as well? MeldaProduction MMultiBandLimiter?

https://www.meldaproduction.com/plugins ... andLimiter
There is, but it works somewhat differently to the multiband versions of L3 unless you do something arcane with the wiring in MXXX. L3 has this idea of priority allocation between the different frequency bands that's very difficult to replicate using a standard multiband compressor design.

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djscorb
KVRian
714 posts since 3 May, 2007 from UK

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:27 am

Gamma-UT wrote:I wasn't complaining. Honest.

Compassion would probably have benefited from a wider range of presets that were done URS StripPro-style (e.g. Stress20 - I think we all know what that one means, nudge, nudge). Realistically, I've stopped trying to emulate stuff with Compassion and really spent more time around the controls using some of the gear-matching presets I've done.

Equilibrium was trickier because it really shines when you start to dig into the advanced controls (once you've started to work out how the more advanced quality settings work with different material).
I agree and there were some great ideas to improve both the mod system and workflow in Compassion that I would like to see addressed down the road.

I personally love Compassion and use it daily. It really helped me understand a lot more about how Compressors tick. I do realise that it's a real beast though and is very daunting for most users. An overhaul for a version 2 would be very welcome. It's still my go to low end and width controller and I've not found anything that competes for those tasks.

Cheers

Scorb
I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored...

ObsoleteAcc99
Banned
22470 posts since 5 Sep, 2001

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:34 am

well Dave, congrats on this.. If it's one think we agree about is that L3 is a travesty.. what's even more scary about that is that the reviews for it are basically all 5 star on waves site (and waves DO post all users' 1 and 2 star etc, reviews.. so the reviews are definitely legit from users, they just have no clue what a good limiter sounds like :hihi:).

There's not one source of music that L3 works well on.. L2, i will hand it to waves, it was amazing for it's time, but now stuff like ozone keeps it's simplicity whilst sounding much much better. L2 is not bad as such, just distorts quite quickly but I know people who still swear by it.

So i for one am rather interested in DMG"s take on a multiband mastering limiter.. Look for a limiter I have to be honest, i have always preferred broadband so far, but that could be because as you say, no one has done it properly yet. This will be very interesting to test especially on hard hitting EDM where the limiting between the bottom end and rest of the mix is always a compromise thus far.

That said i won't be able to afford it due to GBP, but will definitely put it against ozone 7 and other favourites during the trial period :) I look forward to trying it Monday!

Krzysztof Oktalski
KVRist
277 posts since 1 Sep, 2006

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 12:53 pm

Hey Theo,
TheoM wrote:Look for a limiter I have to be honest, i have always preferred broadband so far
We felt the same, but Limitless performs broadband just as well as multi-band, and everything in between. :)

momalle3
KVRist
186 posts since 31 Jul, 2013

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:43 pm

Great news! Looking forward to the release

camsr
KVRAF
7111 posts since 17 Feb, 2005

Post Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:20 pm

DaveGamble wrote:L3 tries to maximise gain at all costs. Don't do that
I feel the same way. There is a limit to how much gain of a complex signal can be modulated before changing the sound itself. These days I am more into the idea of limiters distorting, for both tone and loudness. Even then, a limiter which introduces distortion has it's limits, but the result is usually louder.

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djscorb
KVRian
714 posts since 3 May, 2007 from UK

Post Fri Jan 22, 2016 2:47 am

Yes, sometimes fast time constants or clipping sound punchier and more transparent even though there is distortion added.

The trade off is that softer less full range passages often reveal this crunch, particularly on sine components in the lower mids.

The multiband action and two limiters under the hood combined with the clipper pre limiter give a lot of control to minimise these types of compromises and there's no doubt that it is an impressive solution.

I'm interested to see the reaction and feedback next week :)

Cheers

Scorb
I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored...

camsr
KVRAF
7111 posts since 17 Feb, 2005

Post Fri Jan 22, 2016 2:54 am

djscorb wrote: The trade off is that softer less full range passages often reveal this crunch, particularly on sine components in the lower mids.
It can happen, but the problem is caused by those signals being too high already? So maybe dynamic range compression is needed first.

I can't wait to try Limitless out, either. Sounds pretty advanced :)

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Tp3
KVRAF
2141 posts since 8 Feb, 2007

Post Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:50 am

camsr wrote:
DaveGamble wrote:L3 tries to maximise gain at all costs. Don't do that
I feel the same way. There is a limit to how much gain of a complex signal can be modulated before changing the sound itself. These days I am more into the idea of limiters distorting, for both tone and loudness. Even then, a limiter which introduces distortion has it's limits, but the result is usually louder.
If I recall conversation I had with some developer, ALL modern day (prominent) limiters - distort (according to him).

IMO, limiters by themselves are - well - limited. the solution is "envelope massaging" through stages of saturation/clipping/limiting.
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Amateur technicians are assessed by the tools they possess - and the amount of those tools, with an obvious preference to the latest hyped ones.
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