A semimodular “compression and limiting toolkit”, TDR’s latest admirably affordable plugin, Limiter 6 Gentleman’s Edition (VST/AU/ AAX), is a ground-up remake of its Limiter No. 6 (still available for free).
It comprises four dynamics processors, arranged in series, followed by an Output module and a metering section. Each processor is effectively a plugin in its own right. Indeed, it would be great if they were included as separate plugins, too, but, we can’t expect everything at this price.
Four in one
The four processing modules are Compressor, High Frequency Limiter, Clipper and Peak Limiter, arranged in that order by default, surprisingly - the clipper should be post-limiter, surely. No matter, though, as rearranging the rack is as simple as dragging the handles at the bottom of each module, or clicking the flanking arrow buttons to shuttle them left and right.
Of course, you probably won’t need all four most of the time, and to that end, not only can each one be bypassed by clicking its title button, but all of them, as well as the Meters module, can be removed from the rack entirely by deactivating them in the Modules panel.
Common to all four processors are input gain knobs (Drive), gain reduction meters with visible scale ‘zoomable’ from 0-2dB to 0-24dB, Stereo mode buttons (see boxout), Threshold knobs and two-mode Dry Mix/Amount controls for parallel processing by mixing or crossfading the dry signal with the wet.
More than the sum
Compressor applies gain reduction up to a Ratio of 10:1, with an Attack range of 1-500ms (adjustable in 0.1ms increments up to 10ms), and Release from 50ms to 2s.
The knee is adaptive, sharpening as the Ratio increases, and three operational modes each yield their own particular response style: Alpha is ‘standard’; Sigma is less transparent, more characterful and more aggressive; and Leveler only applies gain reduction when the signal goes beyond the limits of a dynamic ‘dead zone’ - like the hysteresis setting on a gate - for a slow, languid action.
As is the case with every processor, Compressor has no make-up gain control, the idea being to bring the level up using the Gain knob on the next module in the chain.
Stereo on steroids
Expanding on Limiter 6 GE’s default linked Stereo setting (Mono is also available as a global option, and the Compressor and Peak Limiter can each be L/R-unlinked), the four modules can be individually switched to TDR’s rather clever Stereo + Wide mode. This is essentially a mid/side signal routing, but presented as Stereo/Stereo width. When it’s active on a processor, that module’s Drive and Threshold (or Range, for the High Frequency Limiter) knobs each divide into separate controls (text fields, awkwardly) for the full Stereo and sides (Width) signals.
With standard M/S processing, the mid and sides signals need to be balanced to establish the desired width. With Limiter 6 GE, adjusting the sides has no effect on the mids, as the ‘mids’ are in fact the whole signal, not just the stereo sum. So, rather than have to manipulate two knobs in tandem to get the image where you want it, you turn the Stereo knob to change the gain and the Width knob to change the width - far more intuitive than regular M/S once you get your head around it.
The metering in Stereo + Wide mode switches from the combined stereo or separate left and right channel levels to showing the Stereo and Width channels in two shades of blue.
High Frequency Limiter applies shelving EQ and gain reduction only to the portion of the signal above a specified frequency (1500Hz-18kHz), either absolutely or by an amount dependent on the balance of high frequencies and overall signal, up to a maximum of 18dB. For taming hi-hats, cymbals, sibilance and other high-frequency intrusions, it’s something of a miracle worker.
Peak Limiter offers a choice of brickwall and non-brickwall modes, and three Lookahead settings (expressed as 1x, 2x and 3x, rather than in milliseconds, unusually) for balancing between transient fidelity and artifact reduction.
Switching the Multiband setting on activates three dynamically modulated frequency-specific limiters (with crossovers at 160Hz and 6kHz) for remarkable transparency and “true brickwall behaviour” in Brickwall mode. The Focus knob tilts the transient response of the threshold adjustment algorithm towards mid or high/low frequencies.
While Multiband mode is extremely impressive on frequency-rich material, the embiggening effect of the wideband mode on individual mix channels and busses is equally compelling.
The fastest of the four modules, Clipper is in fact two clippers running in parallel - one wideband, the other a three-band brickwall, crossfaded with the Separation knob. It boasts three distinct modes: Brickwall, Open and LF Clip, each balancing the band response in a particular direction.
The first is self-explanatory, the second ups the detection circuit’s
sensitivity to high frequencies for more even clipping overall, and LF Clip targets low-frequency overs. While the Clipper sounds every bit as good as its siblings generally, the Open mode is its best feature, enhancing the low-frequency tolerance and flexibility of the module considerably.
The Output module is a final protection limiter, operating in True Peak or dBFS (PCM) mode (the latter being the only point in the whole plugin at which intersample peaks are ignored, it should be pointed out), with a ceiling range of -6 to 6dB, and an input Drive control.
There’s also an Auto Pad button, enabling gain compensated bypass for equal-level comparison of processed and unprocessed signals; and the Delta button, which solos the gain reduced portion of the signal, so you can hear exactly what your compression and limiting are doing to the sound in isolation.
Finally, Meters brings together peak (True Peak, True Peak Max, dBFS and dBFS Max) and loudness (LU/LUFS and LU/LUFS Max) metering, the second featuring Momentary, Short Term and Integrated RMS measurement settings.
Limiter 6 GE is a magnificent mixing and mastering tool that any desktop producer should aim to get in their plugins folder. From gentle corrective transient control and peak levelling to supremely transparent loudness maximising and creative, edgy piledriving, there’s seemingly nothing it can’t do.
The only potential snag is the learning curve that inevitably comes with this sort of thing: you really need to know what you’re doing with it if you’re to avoid doing more harm to your signals than good - and the manual’s decidedly skimpy in places.
That Tokyo Dawn isn’t charging €200 for Limiter 6 GE is as much a credit to it as it is a gentle indictment on the plugin industry at large. When effects of this quality comes along at this kind of price, it’s hard to justify ever paying more for bigger-name equivalents.
Delivering versatile, powerful, surgical dynamics shaping via an innovative, beautifully presented package, this is a must-have.