Sometimes we are approached by an artist or an engineer with an interesting problem how to do something very specific on Mixanalog. This story about Bettermaker Limiter has a very fascinating trial and error process and we thought that you will be interested in it as well.
Thanks to Rolanoid for writing it down!
I am an independent artist releasing dance music under the name Rolanoid. For some time now, I’ve been hearing good things about the Bettermaker Mastering Limiter and was excited to be able to try it out when mix:analog added it to their rack. I only own software limiters so I was interested to see how a good hardware limiter would sound in comparison.
After some time spent familiarizing myself with the unit and also some helpful information and tips from Bojan at Mix Analog’s support, I could soon tell that I preferred the sound of the Bettermaker limiter to my usual software limiters. I also compared the Clippiter feature on 100% to some software clippers and again preferred the Bettermaker.
At first, it looked like the hardware was winning, but things swung in favor of the software counterpart when I wanted to give the master a true peak ceiling of -2db. This is the maximum output level currently recommended by Spotify for masters with a LUFS level louder than -14LU. Go over that level, and a loudness penalty will be incurred and Spotify will turn the track volume down!
Speaking to Bojan, I’ve learned that an analog limiter can have a better sound but software limiters have better output control. Unfortunately, there was no way to measure true peak output from the Bettermaker on the MixAnalog app. As I do not have an external hardware true-peak meter, the only method I could think of at first was trial and error...
The “metering hack”
First, it went like that:
- Set an output level on the Bettermaker limiter and bounce the file
- Import back it into my DAW
- Check the true peak level in Izotope Insight or Waves Loudness Meter
- Adjust and repeat
I kept repeating this process until I got close to the desired -2db true peak. Being analog though, the output levels were not consistent enough for this method to be useful. Plus it also took time bouncing and used up app credits. There has to be a better way.
What I needed was a way to use Insight in real-time while I was adjusting the Bettermaker limiter. This would require routing the audio from MixAnalog into my DAW. In other words, I would need Ableton to receive the audio from my web browser, while also running my Steinberg UR28M USB audio interface.
Despite owning the interface for years, I had never thought to check if the UR28M maybe has a built-in loopback function. As it turns out, it does, and you can access it by just clicking one easy setting! Thanks, YouTube! :)
So the solution:
- Enable loopback in the UR28M DSPMixFX settings
- Any audio playing in a web browser can now be routed into Ableton! Simply select the right input in Ableton (or your DAW of choice).
- Insert a loudness meter on that channel and see the true peak level of the Bettermaker output in real-time!
Now that I had a Bettermaker master with a -2db true-peak, I could finally do the comparison!
When I have introduced such a low output ceiling, the software limiter version was about 2db louder and sounded preferable to me even though it now also had a -2db true peak output level. The Bettermaker had more solidity though and if I had managed to squeeze more level out of it while still retaining the sound, I might as well have gone with it instead.
I’ve also made an attempt at clipping the Burl converter by a dB or two, but I preferred the Clippiter feature on the Bettermaker. It sounded better and was also much easier for me to use.
Sound preferences are of course very subjective and can even change over time, so this is just my own judgment at the time of writing. I’m sure that with more time and experience with the Bettermaker and better familiarity clipping converters it could well become my go-to limiter.
Listen to the audio clips and decide for yourself though. In the end, I used Ozone 9’s limiter for this particular song.
... but I still used the MixAnalog Rack1’s Sontec/GML and Pultec EQ to get some analog goodness on my final master :)
Listen to “Soulfire 2020” by Rolanoid, released on July 17 on Spotify.