Home recording requires a lot of knowledge of different effects to get the sound that you want on your songs. In particular, you need to know about compression. Compression is an effect that controls the volume of tracks automatically, and various types of compression are used in just about every modern recording that you can get your hands on.
Two major types of compression are limiters and gates. These are often confused for one another, but their names give great clues as to what they can do. Here’s a quick look at the differences between an audio limiter and a noise gate, and how they can be used in your home recordings.
What Is An Audio Limiter?
A limiter does exactly what it sounds like–it limits sound, usually after the sound has passed a fairly high threshold of around 10db or so. Limiters are put on tracks to allow the overall volume of a track to remain fairly high. They can also be used on individual instruments to achieve a more uniform effect. A limiter and a compressor is the same tool, but a compressor’s really only called a limiter when the threshold is high (although the other settings can certainly be changed significantly).
What Is A Noise Gate?
A noise gate is another type of compression, and it basically performs the actions of its namesake. When sound is over a certain volume, the gate doesn’t do anything, but if it’s under a certain level, no sound comes through. Like limiters, gates can be set up in a variety of ways, and they can be specific to certain frequencies. There are many potential uses of gates; they’re often used on vocals, for example, to cut out excess noise or sibilance. They can also be used effectively on guitar, bass, and keyboard amps.
A good home recording studio should have access to both limiters and gates, as well as other types of compression. The good news is that if you have a compression effect in your home recording software, you probably have limiters and gates, too. Play around with them, and take your time learning how compression works. Remember that less compression is usually better, whether you’re using a limiter or a gate, and try to select the right tool for the job.
Ultimately, if you can get a great sound out of your home recordings, it doesn’t matter what you did to get there, but knowing your tools can make this process a lot easier.
Do you have any questions about the difference between an audio limiter and a gate? Post in our comments section below.