A limiter is an audio effect that allows the signals below an established level or input power to remain untouched. It does so while weakening the peaks of the stronger audio signals.
A Very Brief History
To begin with, limiters date back to many decades ago, when the first audio processing tool appeared. This audio processing tool, named PROGAR (Program Guardian), merged a piece of audio equipment, an intelligent compressor with automatic gain control, and a peak limiter. After its patent, Langevin bought it—and that is when it became available to the public. Years later, the technology of the peak limiters advanced dramatically, and the new versions used input audio to modulate RF carriers. The audio was fed to the transmitter after demodulation, making it possible to completely wipe out unwanted audio artefacts.
Audio Limiter Today
Nowadays, brickwall limiters are common, as they are based in the digital domain. The brickwall completely blocks anything from passing the set of the threshold. The brickwall limiter is common in music production, as well as in live performances. For instance, when performing live, sound engineers tend to strap a brickwall limiter over the mixes to prevent abrupt spikes. In addition, these limiters are popular in radio broadcasts to guarantee that the sound never exceeds a specific threshold. A digital brickwall limiter uses a look-ahead delay to examine and process peak transients. And it does so with a quick fast and release in regards to a compressor.
Because there is a digital limit, it is essential for the limiter to be present in a digital system to catch the peaks. The perceived loudness of a track comes from a good frequency balance and the adequate use of effective compression. The use of digital limiters depend on the genre to balance the peak material when needed.