Building the future of audio production through engineering, community, & education.
176K+ subscribers

What is a Leveling Amplifier?

A leveling amplifier is a solid piece of masting gear.

In the family of dynamics processors, the leveling amplifier is lesser known middle child between the compressor and limiter. Among many pro studios, however, it’s a considered an excellent tool in mastering arsenal.

Like a compressor or limiter, the role of a leveling amplifier is to reduce the dynamic range of track. In other words, it makes the difference between the loudest part of a track and the quietest smaller. This makes the mix sound richer and makes for more comfortable listening experience.

Leveling Amplifier vs. Compressor

In many ways a leveling amplifier is the predecessor to the compressor, which has led some to say that the two terms are interchangeable. But, as compressors developed over time they allowed for more control over parameters like ratio and threshold. A leveling amplifier still has basically two knobs: gain and peak reduction.

The compressor and limiter reduce dynamic range by tapering off the louder parts of the track that exceed a given loudness threshold. How aggressively, how quickly and for how long that loudness is reduced is determined by the adjusting the ratio, attack and release parameters. When the track doesn’t exceed the dynamic threshold, a compressor or limiter won’t kick in at all.

A leveling amplifier is different in that the ratio, attack and release parameters are internally fixed. They other difference is that it automatically amplifies the signal to make up for what’s lost dynamically in the compression. In this way, it is always leveling the track as opposed to how a compressor/limiter are only processing when the track is louder than the threshold.

Leveling Amplifier Specs

Typically, a leveling amplifier has a fixed ratio of somewhere near 5:1. It falls between the a limiter, which is often around 10:1, and a compressor, which can start around 2:1. A leveling amplifiers’ attack is usually very short (around 10 milliseconds) and the release is nonlinear and relatively longer which effectively keeps it in a state of active processing.

In terms of how leveling amplifiers sound compared to compressors, it’s really a matter of taste. Leveling amplifiers traditionally are used on vocals and acoustic guitars, but many producers will run a stereo bus of the their mix through one to “glue” everything together.

With only two knobs, the appeal of a leveling amplifier is that you can often dial in the sound you want without a ton of tweaking. This means that for mixing and mastering, a leveling amplifier can be a major asset to putting the final touches on your track. If you can afford it, we recommend you pick one up for your studio. It will likely become one of your favorite pieces of gear.

Sage Audio Membership

Make Pro Songs

Welcome to Sage Audio — where we’ve been providing top-tier studio mastering services and audio education for over two decades now. We understand the challenges of achieving that elusive "professional" sound and are committed to helping you attain it in your own mixes and masters.

That’s why we created the Sage Audio Membership™.

Just for signing up, you receive 10 free mastered songs per month with your own dedicated mastering engineer, unlimited mixing feedback, and access to Sage Audio University™ mixing and mastering courses - which include start-to-finish walkthrough sessions for various genres and 35 multitrack sessions for hands-on practice.

This platform is supported by our thriving community and tight-knit network of audio engineers. Every day, we see and hear great wins in the membership from both new and seasoned engineers, noticing a huge improvement in their mixes and masters after joining.

There are 6 unique value-points inside the Sage Audio membership, so let’s go over each one so you can decide if it’s the right fit for you.

1. 10 Free Mastered Songs Per Month

2. Unlimited Mixing Feedback

3. Sage Audio University™ (SAU) — (Mixing and Mastering Education Platform)

4. Sage Audio Community

5. 700+ In-depth Sage Audio Mixing and Mastering Videos

6. 70+ GB of Curated Sage Audio Downloadable Content, Including:

Join the Membership with a 70% Lifetime Discount = $15 /month.

See you inside,
— Sage