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Q: How should I use an equalizer with a limiter?

Q: "Could you tell me please whether the equalizer should go first, then the limiter. Or should the limiter go first?"


Whether an equalizer should be placed before or after a limiter depends on the purpose you are using the limiter for.

Sometimes a limiter is used as an extreme form of compression, for musical purposes. In this case you can place the EQ either before or after the limiter, depending on what you want to hear. Try it both ways and choose whichever you prefer.

However limiters are more normally used when you don't want the signal to exceed a certain level. This would be the case in mastering, and you would use limiters in live sound and broadcasting too.

In addition to the above, you may also want the signal to come up to a predefined level, not merely not to exceed it. In this case you would set the limiting threshold so that the signal frequently triggers the limiting action.

Since equalization can increase the signal level, then it must come before the limiter. If it comes after the limiter, then the signal may go higher than the level you have set.

You may be using EQ to reduce certain bands of frequencies, in which case the signal level will be lowered. Even so, the equalizer should come before the limiter, otherwise there is little point in the limiter being there in the first place.

So, for musical purposes place the EQ where you like. For signal control purposes, the equalizer should go before the limiter.

By David Mellor Tuesday August 31, 2010
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