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Brickwall Limiter Stress Test

Brandon Drury —  February 17, 2014 — 24 Comments
Brickwall Limiter Stress Test

Hypothesis: Brickwall limiters get nasty (bad nasty) when pushed. By REALLY pushing several brickwall limiters, we can get an idea of the nature and intensity of that nastiness.

Hypothesis #2: When a mix is loud-makeable, just about any brickwall limiter will work. When we must push a mix, certainly not all brickwall limiters are created equal and that’s what I’d pay extra for.

Down Side: By pushing a limiter to 200mph, we may not get a clear indication of what we can expect at 60mph. In other words, it’s up to you to decide if what you are hearing actually applies to your normal or even extreme usage.

Upside: At least I’ll know what limiters I DON’T want to deal with when I know I’m gonna have to push a limiter hard.

The Test

I had The Intern make me a compilation of a handful of choruses out of my reference material. I wanted variety.

Using the reference wav file, we simply added 8dB of gain to already mastered stuff.

Crazy? Sure.

Too much? Obviously.

I’ve heard artifacts from pushing a limiter a bit before and I wanted to see if we could induce those. I believe that a limiter than can take this kind of abuse is going to sound more transparent when not abused. That’s up to you, I guess.

To Tweak Or Not To Tweak?


I come from the school that I shouldn’t have to tweak a brickwall limiter. I don’t want to! I’ld rather tweak my mix. It’s very possible that those of you who do enjoy tweaking brickwall limiters may find better sounds by digging into the details. For this experiment it wasn’t practical to play around with settings so we left the default settings as much as possible.

Chip In

If you want to conduct the test yourself, feel free to download the wave file (zipped) here: Brickwall Limiter Original Wave File (It would be awesome if you posted your results, too! I wish I had more limiters in this test, especially the UAD Maximizer.) If some of you think you can better results than the stock settings, I’d love to hear it.

Downloads

There are quite a few files here. Most limiters have multiple modes. We did our best to include all of them. In the case of Slate FG-X, we disabled the 2bus compressor as this was not a test of 2bus compressors. Feel free to redo the tests with Slate’s FG-X compressor enabled, just make sure to extend that luxury to any other Brickwall Limiter you test.

Download the 16-bit, 44.1Khz wav files: Brickwall_Limiter_Test_wavs.zip

MP3 Streaming

Elephant AIGC-1

Elephant AIGC-2

Elephant AIGC-3

Elephant AIGC-4

Elephant Clip

Elephant El Uni

Elephant EL-1

Elephant EL-2

Elephant Inflate

Elephant Max

FG-X Hard

FG-X Smooth

Izotope Hard

Izotope IRC

Izotope IRC II

Izotope IRC III

Limiter_6 Brickwall

Limiter_6 Digital Clip

Limiter_6 ISP_Fast

Limiter_6 ISP_Precise

Results

My opinion? Voxengo Elephant is a TREMENDOUS SOB. After all the hype, the end results aren’t even close.

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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24 responses to Brickwall Limiter Stress Test

  1. Wow, what a great article Brandon! I downloaded the .zip file and level matched each of the wave files in regards to RMS and the results were so clear. I listened critically to each file while also performing a null test by flipping the original .wav out of phase. From I can hear, the Limiter 6 is completely useless and the Izotope is sadly not far behind. The Voxengo Elephant is the clear winner as it’s very musical and has the least amount of artifacts under stress. You can clearly hear the injected saturation from the FG-X and the only file I would say could pass out of those four files would be the FG-X Hard -2dB reduction. Excellent shootout!

  2. One I first came up with the “stress test” idea, I wondered if ANY of these limiters would survive. Whatever Voxengo Elephant is doing, they are doing it VERY VERY well. If I’ve got to drive into a brickwall limiter at 400mph, of these examples, there is no denying that Voxengo wins.

  3. One notable absentee from your test, the Fabfilter Pro L,. really is damned good at what it does..

  4. Could you explicit tremendous sob ? Literaly, in french, it could mean Voxengo is the last to use…

  5. One notable absentee from your test, the Fabfilter Pro L,. really is damned good at what it does..

    If you want to download the original wav file, run it through Fabfilter Pro L at -8dB, make a note of the settings/presets/etc used, and render it 44.1Khz, 16-bit I’d gladly add it. Thanks!

  6. Could you explicit tremendous sob ? Literaly, in french,

    Well, pardon my French, but “tremendous sob” means that this son of a bitch named Voxengo Elephant kicked the crap out of all current competitors. SMILEY

  7. Try this… I’ve set it to public sharing…. Fabfilter Default mode 4x times oversampling http://www.4shared.com/folder/B2MCJW-5/Brickwall_Limiter_Test.html

  8. Thks a lot Brandon ;-)

  9. Steve, I went to the link. I got hit with viruses galore. I clicked on multiple links and all them wanted me to install an exe file. I never managed to get the file and decided to cut my losses. Is there a way you can share this with a reputable file sharing site (Google Docs, dropbox, etc)? I’d love to include the Fabfilter files in the main article, but I don’t want anyone to get hit like I did. SMILEY

  10. I’ve got the Ozone 4 pack and that mastering limiter doesn’t help me much with getting things super loud. It is better for controlling peaks in my opinion. Same thing goes for my PSP limiter. Voxengo Elephant is the best limiter and will easily get my sounds as low volume or as loud as I want them.

  11. Sorry. I didn’t mean Voxengo Elephant is the best limiter on the market. It’s simply the best limiter I’ve got in my arsenal. And it offers 16 bit dithering if you need that.

  12. Very interesting,
    I would have bet Izotope IRC II would not have failed so noticeably.
    Allthough I’ve never pushed it so hard. Or any other limiter.

    Thumbs Up Brandon

  13. Hi Brandon!
    Good shootout indeed!
    All nice and hunky dory (won’t have time to do it any time soon) but weren’t you a heavy user of the PSPAudioware Xenon limiter not that long ago?… I would like to see that bugger how it stacks against the Elephant…it’s the only big name 2buss limiter i have and used it throughout the SDC with (I would say) good results…
    Do you still have it?

  14. To me the Elephant is a beast, I’ve been using him for years and I think I’ll never change! and its very interesting to hear the other clips and other limiters, I think that FG-X did a good job too the other guys sucked to my ears :p

    <3 Voxengo <3

  15. I havent compared them in my DAW or anything but from listening to the MP3′s FG-X is good adds saturation but isn’t unpleasant. Elephant sounds DAMN transperant. The other two sound way over compressed and definately not a fan which is suprising because everyone seems to love Izotope for mastering in the amateur semi-pro world.

  16. Greetings,

    Are there any Sonnox Limiter users here and if so, how does Elephant compare with it?

    Mauri Berg.

  17. Cool. Are we hearing about 8dB of GR for each of these?

    The pumping in the Ozone clips were surprising. That’s my main maximizer but I never push it that far.

    I did a less stressful test of 10 brickwall limiters on drums bus on my site in 2011. Might be interesting to some folks here.

  18. Yeah, all of these have the main gain knob thing cranked up/down 8dB. Some modes didn’t end up as loud, but that’s another mystery.

    The pumping in the Ozone clips were surprising. That’s my main maximizer but I never push it that far.

    You should push all your mixes to -1dB RMS. SMILIE At least then all these guys stuck in 1997 would be accurate in their assessment of the loudness war.

    I did a less stressful test of 10 brickwall limiters on drums bus on my site in 2011. Might be interesting to some folks here.

    Post us a link! I want to check it out.

  19. I put the link in the website field of the comment form. Link is in the username. Too subtle I guess.

  20. Since I’m on a very tight budget I use mostly free plugs.
    I was very curious as to how some free ones perform. I have recently switched to Melda because I like the option of adding Harmonic Distortion to the master. I’ll never push it this hard so I will probably keep using it.

    I’m not sure if the W1 was set up right as I just reduced the dB to -8 but it didn’t seem to get pushed as hard so I wonder how valid of a comparison it is.

    Here are the 3 I chose to test:
    GClip

    W1

    MLimiter

    I tried to do the null test but I probably did it wrong. All of the settings were default, just open it up and change the gain. I suppose some would perform better if I actually fooled with the settings.

  21. Thanks for this shootout Brandon. One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that just because a limiter craps out at 8db of additional limiting on an already mastered track doesn’t mean that under ‘normal’ conditions (e.g., 6db on an unmastered track) it will sound noticeably worse than any other. For those considering forking out more cash for yet another limiter keep in mind that even if your limiter fell short in this test under normal conditions it might sound perfectly adequate (or even good!). That said, I’m gonna finally download the demo of Elephant and compare it under more normal conditions to my other cadre of limits. I will also upload the same test on the UAD Limiter (not the Maximizer which I don’t own).

  22. One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that just because a limiter craps out at 8db of additional limiting on an already mastered track doesn’t mean that under ‘normal’ conditions (e.g., 6db on an unmastered track) it will sound noticeably worse than any other.

    Yeah, I mentioned that in the article. I have no idea if this test is remotely valid. It was just for fun and it had some interesting results.

    I will also upload the same test on the UAD Limiter (not the Maximizer which I don’t own).

    Great! I’d love to include it in the bunch! Thanks!

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