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compressor vs. limiter

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by ScottyG, Nov 10, 2006.

  1. ScottyG


    Jul 15, 2006
    are they the same, or are they different?
  2. playibanez


    Apr 3, 2006
    i was wondering the same thing...
  3. nad

    nad 60 Cycle Humdinger

    Sep 22, 2005
  4. Different, I believe. A limiter keeps the gain down past a certain level. COmpressors "Squash" the signal so theres not as mmuch of a difference between peeks of one frequency and another.
    Edit: Im not 100% sure about this
  5. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
  6. excane

    excane Inactive

    Aug 23, 2005
    New York, NY
  7. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    A compressor keeps the output volume at a more constant level so louder sounds are softer and softer sounds are louder.

    A limiter makes louder sounds softer but doesnt make softer sounds louder.

    So a compressor will also increase sustain but a limiter wont.

    Hope that be helpin ya matey.........my pirate voice for ya
  8. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Just to be finicky, compressors and limiters are (in most cases) the same basic circuit just at different settings. The only time they are "different things" is when the unit you're looking at doesn't have control over threshold, ratio, and knee. So pedal comps/limiters, for instance, seem to have the differences people described above, but it's only because of which control knobs are provided on the pedal.
  9. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    I did not know that................my comments were in regards to the perceived effects only. Thanks for the clarification Bongo.
  10. 12bass


    Jan 2, 2003
    Victoria, Canada
    Basically a limiter is a compressor with an infinite compression ratio where anything over the threshold is held to a hard limit.
  11. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    This is the way it was explained to me:
    Compression: A ceiling and floor coming together (the squeeze)
    Limiting: A ceiling coming down to meet the floor (the squash)

    Made sense to me. Don't know if it helped you.
  12. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI

    If you were setting a 'general-purpose', fully-adjustable compressor/limiter, you'd at-least have to use a (somewhat) HIGH ratio, a HIGH threshold, and a FAST attack to call it a 'limiter'. It's really one of those cases inwhich "a limiter is always a compressor, but a compressor isn't neccesarily a limiter".

    Now generally-speaking, from a BASS-compression point-of-view - "compression" would reasonably be like maybe 2: or 4: or 6:1 ratio (6:1 is pushing pretty close to 'limiting', if the attack time is quick), and you'd set it so you're getting some-amount of gain reduction if you're playing 'harder than medium force', and look for somewhere between 6dB and.. well - 20dB (if you're a squish-freak like me) of gain reduction, for example.

    Attack and release settings are more difficult to understand and explain... You kind-of have to hear it. I always run a LONG attack (full-CW) on my CS-3 - but I'm rather LOOKING for a certain 'side-effect' from doing that - it's part of 'my sound'..

    The CS-3, for instance: it has a fixed (non-adjustable) ratio that is very high (like a limiter), AND it offers quite a fast attack time (Attack control full-CCW) - just like a limiter. But the thing-is: if you set it up to work as strictly a 'peak limiter' (high ratio, fast attack, high threshold), you'd have to run the Sustain control very low (because the CS-3 has a fixed, low threshold... uh - more-like a compressor...)



    (edit) Now that I think about it: That might be a reasonble reason why the CS-3 is called a "compressor Sustainer" - the 'sustainer'-part is sort-of technically refering to that high-high RATIO.
  13. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    A compressor blood brother! Why is this stuff so damn fascinating?

    One minor point, I also associate limiting with a hard knee, and very few pedal comps offer a knee control. I would describe the fixed knee of the CS3 as "medium" (sorry for the technical term there ;) ), which gives it some versatility in use for compression or limiting.

    Say Joe, do you use a stock CS3 or a modded one?
  14. Actually it is simpler than what you guys are saying.

    From an engineering standpoint, compression describes using ratios from 1:1 to about 1:10 / 1:12, depending on who you ask. Limiting describes using ratios from 1:10 / 1:12 up through infinity.

    That's it. Everything else is the same, really.
  15. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Well, I totally disagree. :) But one way or another, the whole point is that you can get both "compressing" or "limiting" qualities from a wide variety of compression-type devices just depending on how you set them.

    [Edit:] The reason I disagree is that a high ratio with a very slow attack makes for a poor limiter. Also, specific types of limiting are often specified/needed that require control of the other aspects, so while "limiting" by itself can be simplified as a high ratio, practical application requires a little more.
  16. If that works for you, then that's cool, but it suggests something that is technically inaccurate.

    It's a common misconception that compressors automatically boost gain as well as attenuating it. This is simply not true. Compressors only act automatically to attenuate gain.

    Limiters = compressors with very high ratios.

    How the attack and decay settings are adjusted will make a greater effect on the perceived lack (or otherwise) of sustain and other audible effects.
  17. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Fascinating it is (I was an audio tech for many years before I got serious about playing the Bass).

    Oh yeah: good point on the knee-thing. I don't think hard knee is required to fit the defination of 'limiter', but I agree that you'd generally want a hard knee for that. In my audio work, I usually only like to use soft knee for female vocals.

    I bought my CS-3 used, but I assume it's stock. I really like the CS-3. I've read about some of the mods available, and it sounds interesting, but I'm afraid it would make it sound too "GOOD", and take-away that nearly-out-of-control, boiling, roiling sound I like so much! I do percieve a tad of low-low-end cut; I wouldn't mind getting a mod for extended low-bass response.

  18. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yup. Correct.

    I just love the clear, technical minds here in this place.

  19. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    That's not really true, depending on how you have your compressor set up. Damn near every compressor I've used has a control to boost the gain after the compression in order to compensate for the lost volume.

    When people use the term "makes the loud parts quiet and the quiet parts loud" they're (usually) unwittingly referring to the fact that the compressor's gain stage raises the signal after it brings down the peaks.
  20. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI

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