Best Mastering LIMITER Plugins (2021) | Ultimate Guide!

 

Nugen ISL2

TRackS 5 Quad Limiter

TC Electronic Brickwall HD

Weiss MM-1 Mastering Maximizer

FabFilter Pro L-2

Sonnox Oxford Limiter

Listed here are some of the best mastering limiters currently available in 2021.  Granted, not all of these plugins, if any, were released this year, but they are still the best you can use.

Here's we'll cover the Best Mastering Limiters in 2021 so far.
Here’s we’ll cover the Best Mastering Limiters in 2021 so far.

With that in mind, let’s look at each plugin, describe their functionality, and listen to examples of each (in the video embedded above) to get a better understanding of them.

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We’ll master it for you and send you a free sample to review.

Nugen ISL2

The Nugen ISL2 has a transparent sound and is simple but effective.
The Nugen ISL2 has a transparent sound and is simple but effective.

The ISL2 is a trusted limiter by a to of engineers. It’s simplistic design but transparent nature make it a great option for quick limiting.

On the left side of the plugin is the input gain, which you can use to drive the signal into the limiter’s ceiling.

This ceiling can be controlled in the window rot the right of the input gain, or by raising and lowering the arrows on the input meter.  Additionally, it helps to note that this ceiling is true peak, meaning you won’t need to worry about inter-sample peaking.

The input and ceiling are at the bottom left of the plugin.
The input and ceiling are at the bottom left of the plugin.

The plugin can also use lookahead to minimize distortion and can range from 1ms to 5 seconds with a program dependent option as well. 

Keep in mind that if you use lookahead, it’s a good idea to use a longer release time – additionally, it’s best to have a release of at least 30ms to avoid distortion to lower frequencies.

The left and right channels can be linked and dithering and noise shaping can be used if needed.

Lastly, you can introduce automatic makeup gain, or listen to the compressed signal by using the Diff. mode.

TRackS 5 Quad Limiter

The Quad Limiter allows for 4 bands of brickwall limiting.
The Quad Limiter allows for 4 bands of brickwall limiting.

The ability to limit individual bands when mastering isn’t too common.  This makes the TR5 Quad Limiter a great and unique mastering limiter.

The plugin allows for up to 4 bands of limiting, each of which can have slopes, their threshold, attack, release, and gain altered.

Notice how it only attenuates the signal at certain bands.
Notice how it only attenuates the signal at certain bands.

Furthermore, you can monitor individual bands, use only 2 or 3 bands, and link the bands.

Also, you can enable mid-side processing to affect your stereo image.

For more limiters, check out this video:

 

TC Electronic Brickwall HD

Brickwall HD allows for loudness-based limiting.
Brickwall HD allows for loudness-based limiting.

Another unique limiter on this list, the Brickwall HD allows users to set the output to a specific loudness.

Whereas most limiters use a gain slider, which this plugin includes as well, the Brickwall HD also utilizes a target loudness system, making it easy to normalize your audio perfectly for Spotify, Apple Music, and other settings.

Notice that the signal can be set to a specific LUFS.
Notice that the signal can be set to a specific LUFS.

All you need to do is select your target loudness, play the track, hit ‘Set Gain’, and then click it again once the limiter is finished reading and analyzing the signal.

Additionally, the plugin offers 4 distinct profiles that can be switched depending on the source material.

Soft clipping and an adaptive release are also available and give the plugin even more versatility.

Weiss MM-1 Mastering Maximizer

Weiss MM-1 both limits and maximizes the signal.
Weiss MM-1 both limits and maximizes the signal.

Unlike the other plugins on this list, the MM-1 Mastering Maximizer not only limits but also maximizes or amplifies quieter aspects of the signal. 

This makes this plugin a great option for bringing detail and some power into a master.

The controls are simple and include 5 different mastering styles.  Each style does as its name suggests, while the de-ess option makes this limiter great for mixes with too much sibilance, or for even processing a vocal track.

The plugin offers 5 different styles.
The plugin offers 5 different styles.

The amount of the maximizer effect can be controlled, as can the wet/dry for the full plugin.  Lastly, the limiter’s gain is altered using a dial on the right. 

The ceiling is automatically generated so there’s no need to set one here.

FabFilter Pro-L2

The Pro-L2 is a popular limiter due to its versatility.
The Pro-L2 is a popular limiter due to its versatility.

The Pro L-2 has become one of the most widely used mastering limiters today, and for good reason.   The plugin is incredibly versatile and offers immense flexibility and quality when processing a signal.

We’ve delved into this plugin in much greater detail before in the video posted below:

 

But let’s cover some of the more important aspects of the plugin here.

First, you can switch the limiting between 8 different styles, each ranging in the amount of distortion and the general shaping of the frequency spectrum and ADSR of the signal.

For example, the dynamic option introduces mild expansion prior to limiting.  And the default Modern option is a fantastic, low distortion option that cleanly limits audio.

You can use lookahead, adjust the attack and release or the overall release time, and alter how the limiting affects the left and right channels, be it independently or collectively.

Oversampling, true peak limiting, and a comprehensive monitoring and metering section is available as well.

Lastly, if needed, the plugin supports dithering and noise shaping, making it capable of mastering for CD.

Sonnox Oxford Limiter

The Oxford Limiters has a specific and recognizable tone and timbre.
The Oxford Limiters has a specific and recognizable tone and timbre.

Like the L2, we’ve covered this limiter before – but it never hurts to look at this plugin again to better understand what makes it such a loved and frequently used limiter.

Unlike some of the other plugins on this list, the Oxford Limiter has a distinct tone.  In other words, the Oxford limiter isn’t clean or transparent, but instead, creates a unique and complex timbre.

This is mainly due to the output section, which includes an Enhance function.  At lower levels, this Imparts pleasant harmonic distortion and causes a general fattening to the signal.

Another unique part of the plugin is how limiting works.  Lowering the threshold and raising the input is the best way to notice a difference when using this plugin.  But it needs to be kept in mind that the threshold for limiting also determines the plugin’s output.

The input can threshold are used to enable limiting.
The input can threshold are used to enable limiting.

So lowering the threshold here definitely has a different effect than lowering a threshold on another limiter plugin.

Prior to limiting, compression begins to take place, and can even have its knee changed to gradually compress the signal prior to a brick wall ceiling. This gives the plugin a more analog style tonality.

Lastly, you can utilize true peak metering and compensation, as well as use dithering if needed.

Conclusion

Each one of these plugins can make a great addition to your plugin library.  Whether you’re working on a mixbus, instrument stem, or full stereo master, at least one of these plugins will suit your needs well.

For the most flexible experience, try the FabFilter Pro-L2.

To get a unique and distinct timbre, use the Sonnox Oxford Limiter.

If you want a clean sound, suitable for film, use the Nugen ISL2.

If you have difficult material that may need further control based on the frequency, use the Quad Limiter.

For a powerful and distinct tone, one that combines maximization with limiting, try the MM-1.

And if you want to set your output to a specific LUFS, download and try the Brickwall HD.

If you have some success with any of these plugins, let us know in the comment section of the video embedded above.

If you’re an artist or engineer, and you have a mix that you need mastered, send it to us here:

We’ll master it for you and send you a free sample to review.


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