Can anyone give me a simple step by step way to use the settings of the audio limiter in the audio suite. here’s the scene: studio roundtable discussion, one or two fairly animated speakers that peg the system. everyone else is fairly well handled. don’t want it to go over -14 on the meter. any help appreciated.
As Grinner says, if you simply want to place the highest peaks at -14dB, use Normalize. However, that will likely not solve your issue, being that some speakers sound louder than others, and the dynamics are therefore too high.
A limiter is basically a very fast compressor, lowering any levels above a certain level.
The controls you will find in dynamic processors like compressor/limiters are threshold (sets the level at which the effect kicks in), a gain level (a comp/limiter will reduce the maximum levels, but you might want to raise the entire end result in order to have less dynamics, but at a higher level), a ratio parameter (determining how much the levels can be adjusted, 2:1 means half as low, 10:1 means 10 times lower, 20:1 means 20 times lower), an attack parameter (how soon after a peak level is detected, should the effect kick in), and a release parameter (determines how soon after a level correction, the effect should raise levels back to normal).
An overall dynamic compressor for spoken word can have a low threshold (-27 dB e.g.) but a lower ratio (2.5:1), a fast attack, and a slower release, plus a bit of gain, so that overall dynamics are reduced: the softer sounds will be lifted and the louder sounds will be a bit lower.
A limiter is basically a compressor with a narrower setting. It usually kicks in much later (-14dB e.g.), with a very high ratio (20:1 or infinity:1), a very fast attack, and a very quick release, and almost no gain. It will try to only affect peaks, and reduce them indiscriminately, without affecting the overall dynamics. True brickwall limiters can be adjusted to completely and utterly kill any levels above a certain level.
However, first of all the AudioSuite limiter is not a true brickwall limiter (like an L1 or L2 Maximizer are, or outboard gear like Jünger d-series), meaning that the limiter will kick in, but it will not guarantee an absolute maximum level.
Secondly, if your program contains large dynamics (soft speaking voices, loud speaking voices), you can more easily reduce dynamics by using the Compressor rather than the limiter. A limiter having to reduce more than a few dB will often sound harsh and ugly. You can use a compressor and have it kick in earlier, but gentler, creating a nicer sound. Best of both worlds is to use a compressor on your sound, ride the levels and apply a (brickwall) limiter for those last few peaks in the sound.
Furthermore, if you are actually limiting your mix at -14dB full scale, you are giving up quite a bit of headroom in the digital domain. If you are going to deliver for broadcast, you would need to know the specs of the broadcaster, but generally, having peaks at around -10dB full scale should be just fine.