The Top Free VST Limiter Plug-Ins
By Andrew Gray
Slowly raise the volume of the duplicated or bus track until you notice it and then pull it back down for a subtle enhancement. Combined with an equalization boost between 3 and 5 kHz this technique can make vocals and bass exciting too. Below are some of the best free VST limiters.
According to signaldust 4L2 is “The plugin with a too long name, the low latency look-ahead limiter is a limiter that takes slightly non-traditional approach in the whole affair. Rather than rely on long look-ahead times, 4L tries to minimize distortion by combining smooth release with a somewhat clever attack curve to keep the signal relatively clean even when forced to gain-ride.Transparent? Not really, but that never was a design goal.”
Classic Master Limiter
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. This classic master limiter comes with the Kjaerhus Audio Classic Series of VST plugins, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. It is a fully-featured limiter, including, “Loudness maximizing, brick wall limiting, automatic makeup gain, VU meter, presets, low CPU usage, sampling rates up to 192kHz and full VST automation.”
Here is another limiter that is included in a package of free VST plugins called the FREE87 Series from eaReckon. You’ll need to register a free account to download them, but it’s a minor inconvenience for some great plugins. According to rekkerd.org, “With its new algorithm and a new ‘Slow’ (release) option, FR-LIMIT should be now distortion safe while keeping its sound properties and its brickwall specification.”
A simple GMax free VST maximizing limiter. “Maximize audio volume without clipping. Set gain, ceiling and release time. Use the reduction meter to help determine the optimum settings.”
Click the download link below. Look at this VST plugin’s author. How could this not be the most transparent limiter available? All joking aside Bill Wall knows what he’s doing and this really is the easiest limiter to use.
Limiter No6 is another great plugin from vladg/sound. The Molot Compressor from the same author has been mentioned previously on this site. According to its author, this limiter offer “5 modules: RMS compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter, as well as high-quality signal processing to use for mastering purposes, brickwall and soft limiting with different timing settings, M/S and multiband modes, optional 4x oversampling, true inter-sample peaks (ISP) limiting, analog-style indication, and 2 different GUIs.”
This limiter is just one of many amazing dynamic VST plugins by Christian-W. Budde. According to him this is “a peak stop look ahead limiter” and “features a smooth attack and an adjustable release curve.” Be sure to check out the rest of his plugins.
“LoudMax is a Look-Ahead Brickwall Loudness Maximizer Plugin with a clean transparent sound. It is designed to retain the original character of the music as much as possible even at high compression levels.” It’s clean, easy-to-use, low on computer resources and the sound is transparent.
Another great plugin from MeldaProductions, this limiter comes with the MFreeEffectsBundle. “MLimiter performs smooth saturation in a definitive tube-like way improving the clarity of the resulting sound. Its excellent sound quality makes it flexible enough to double as a distortion module for guitars and other instruments.”
The Modern Limiter is part of the modern series by Antress and features “link/split modes switch, input control (0 to 20 dB), release control (30 to 2000 ms), limit range control (0 to 96 dB), and an output control (0 to -20 dB).”
Sir Elliot Master Limiter Series IV
Yes, this is an awesome mastering limiter, but check out the other three limiters that are available too! They all color the sound in interesting ways so you’ll have to experiment.
TLs Pocket Limiter
Features include “transparent brickwall limiting with 0 db stop, variable knee from 0% to 100% to keep limiting distortion at a minimum, IQ mode to get a more intelligent release from the knee with program emphasis, low latency for live performance use (40 samples at 44.1khz = ca 1ms latency), stereo link to preserve stereo field, and sample rates of 44.1khz – 192khz.”
If you know anything about Waves Plugins, this is the free VST to get. “W1 Limiter is a clone of Waves L1, with identical output, as well as an approximation of Waves L2.”
There are plenty of other free VST limiters available, but the limiters listed here are some of the best. Try them out to see how they affect your own mixes. Some mixing engineers suggest applying a mastering limiter on the whole track at the end of a mix to see how your mix might sound when a mastering engineer gets his or her hands on it. It can’t hurt.