How To Use Compression And Limiting In Mastering Without Compromising Dynamics

Compression And Limiting

The best thing about using Mastering.com for mastering your music is that you don’t have to learn the ins and outs of audio science––you just need to know what sounds good and let us take care of the process. That said, if your ultimate goal is a career in the music industry, being conversant in the basics of sound engineering can be beneficial. Here’s a quick primer on how to use compression and limiting in mastering.

What Is Compression?

When you compress audio, you decrease the signal’s dynamic range. This can change the vibe of a song, boost the rhythm, raise the level of the signal, or just make an inconsistent song sound smoother. When the verse and the chorus of a song don’t blend together seamlessly, compression adds coherence. Compression softens the loudest parts of a mix––because this reduces the dynamic range, it needs to be used carefully.

What Is Limiting?

In contrast to mastering compression, limiting makes your track louder. It’s the very last step of mastering. We want to boost the volume as much as it can go without adding distortion or clipping. Compression may not be done on every song that is mastered, but limiting usually is. 

Tips for Using Compression and Limiting

Here are our expert suggestions on how to use an audio compressor and limiting without affecting your track’s overall dynamics.

Use a Mastering Limiter Plugin

When you’re bringing up the level of your audio, your peaks can begin to clip. Use a mastering limiter plugin to catch these peaks automatically. Of course, when you use these plugins, you also run the risk of making your song sound too compressed or limited. Choosing a professional sound engineer, like those at Mastering.com, rather than DIYing it, is a good choice if you’re having difficulty getting it right.

Don’t Overdo It

Sometimes, compression is applied to a track while it is being mixed. In these cases, you may not even need to add more compression during the mastering stage. If your track sounds good as-is, don’t feel like you have to use mastering compression. 

Watch the Volume

Or, rather, listen to the volume. When we limit a track, we’re trying to make it as loud as possible while still sounding good––but that doesn’t mean the loudest track is the best track. Sometimes an overly loud track only succeeds at dulling the senses, killing any nuance and interest. If you’re not sure, step away from what you’re doing and come back to it with a fresh set of ears.

Try Multiband Compression

Traditional mastering works by compressing the entire track as if it’s one single sound. With multiband compression, several different bands are created from the single audio track and you can work with each one individually. This allows for a more subtle compression effect, letting you compress some bands while leaving others alone.

…Or just let us do it for you!

Does all this sound like Greek to you? Let us handle your mastering. Try Mastering.com’s online music mastering service right now—learn more about it here.

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