We're currently living in the age of digital audio, and in-the-box mixing within a digital audio workstation is commonplace. Plugins are, therefore, invaluable assets for the modern audio engineer.
Limiters are also an important tool in the audio engineer's toolbox. With so many limiter plugins on the market, 9 stand out as being top performers.
What is audio limiting? Limiting is a type of hard compression whereby the signal is not allowed above a certain threshold. Rather than attenuating the signal (above the threshold) by a ratio, the limiter will cut off the signal at the threshold. We can think of a limiter as a compressor with an infinite ratio.
The Top 9 Best Limiter Plugins Are:
- FabFilter Pro-L 2
- Waves L3 Multimaximizer
- Softube Weiss MM-1
- Sonnox Oxford Limiter V3
- Nugen ISL 2
- IK Multimedia T-RackS Brickwall Limiter
- Tokyo Dawn Labs Limiter 6 GE
- Brainworx bx_limiter
- Universal Audio Precision Limiter
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person's top 9 to be different from mine, but I hope there would be plenty of overlap.
That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best limiter plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:
- Sonic performance: how does the limiter plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
- Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the limiter plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
- Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the distortion plugin?
- Functionality: how many different functions does it serve, and/or how many parameters are available for the limiter effect?
- Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the limiter plugin, and what are the system requirements?
To learn why they made this list, let's discuss each of the top 9 best limiter plugins in greater detail.
FabFilter Pro-L 2
The FabFilter Pro-L 2 is a feature-rich limiter plugin that outperforms the competition in practically all applications.
FabFilter's Pro-L 2 is a beautifully transparent true peak limiter with extensive loudness metering. For maximum loudness with minimal artifacts and distortion, look no further than the Pro-L 2!
The Pro-L 2 offers precise real-time peak meters (output and gain reduction metering) and loudness metering with support for the EBU R128, ITU-R BS.1770-4 and ATSC A/85 standards.
The user interface features GPU-powered graphics acceleration and offers excellent displays in full-size and compact modes.
Choose from 8 different advanced limiting algorithms to suit your exact needs. Up to 32x linear-phase oversampling and professional dithering (with 3 noise shaping algorithms) are available for the cleanest results possible.
Adjust the lookahead, attack and release settings for the specific signal. Use the plugin on mono and stereo signals or for more advanced surround formats (up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2) with intelligent channel linking.
In typical FabFilter fashion, the Pro-L 2 comes with interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switches, Smart Parameter Interpolation, “Help” documentation with interactive hints, sample-accurate automation, double-click text entry of parameter values and more.
Other noteworthy features of the FabFilter Pro-L 2 include:
- Optional DC offset filter
- External sidechain triggering
- Unity Gain option
- Audition Limiting
- Low CPU usage
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Pro-L 2 user manual.
Waves L3 Multimaximizer
The Waves L3 Multimaximizer is a high-performance multiband limiter plugin designed to excel in the most challenging applications.
This 5-band integrated peak limiter and bit depth re-quantizer is super flexible and allows mastering engineers to control the output fully.
With the per-band gain, priority and release controls (along with Waves' proprietary Automatic Release Control), L3 Multimaximizer users can tweak the settings to get the ultimate limiting for their masters.
Increased Digital Resolution is another proprietary technology, offering superb digital resolution. This limiting plugin is at the top of digital audio quality with double precision bit re-quantization and dither with a 9th-order noise shaping filter. Without getting too far into the jargon, this plugin sounds immaculate.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the L3 Multimaximizer user manual.
Softube Weiss MM-1
The Softube Weiss MM-1 is modelled after the legendary Weiss DS1-MK3 hardware mastering processor.
It contains the same digital technology, making it a remarkable emulation (so much so that it's been fully endorsed by the DS1-MK3 inventor, Daniel Weiss).
The MM-1 Mastering Maximizer is a relatively straightforward plugin, but don't let its simplicity fool you regarding its power. This plugin offers 5 distinct styles of limiting:
Each mode offers simple and intuitive professional-level mastering via the intelligent Amount knob. The Mix knob allows for straightforward parallel processing, making the MM-1 equally at home on a mastering chain, mix bus or individual track channel.
Once the balance is dialled in, users can push the signal through perhaps the most advanced digital limiter algorithm ever to achieve superb loudness without crushing the signal.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Weiss user manual.
Sonnox Oxford Limiter V3
The Sonnox Oxford Limiter V3 is an ITU-R BS.1770-4 standard true peak limiter with unmatched processing and metering accuracy.
Sonnox's superb Oxford Limiter V3 provides maximum loudness, density and presence without masking the clarity and dulling the transients.
It goes beyond conventional brickwall limiters to offer sample-value limiting and musical boosts. Avoid clipping and increase perceived loudness effectively with this awesome-sounding and straightforward plugin.
In addition to the typical peak limiter controls (including variable attack, release and soft-knee parameters), this advanced limiter offers TPDF dither for 24-bit and 16-bit output with 4 types of variable noise shaping.
Engage Auto Comp mode to fix and avoid errors without decreasing loudness.
Make easy changes to the Enhance fader to control overall perceived loudness.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Oxford Limiter user manual.
Nugen ISL 2
The Nugen ISL 2 is a transparent lookahead peak limiter with a straightforward design and superior sonic performance.
The True Peak algorithms of the ISL 2 meet various standards (including ITU-R B.S. 1770 and Apple's ‘afclip').
From transparent limiting to dithering, this plugin does a fantastic job transparently boosting the perceived loudness of the signal while protecting it from digital overloading/clipping.
Unlike traditional limiters, Nugen Audio's ISL 3 provides a TPlim control, which automatically adjusts the transfer curve parameters for minimally invasive brick-wall limiting protection.
Whether we're keeping broadcast levels safe or mastering the next big musical hit, this plugin is ready for the job. The ISL 2 even offers Surround compatibility up to 7.1.2.
Low-frequency content is managed easily with auto-release monitors, ensuring low-end transients don't cause overt pumping in the signal.
IK Multimedia T-RackS Brickwall Limiter
The IK Multimedia T-RackS Brickwall Limiter is a top-notch multi-algorithm limiting processor.
IK's T-RackS Brickwall Limiter is an outstanding, user-friendly mastering limiter. Getting professional results is made as easy as setting the Output Ceiling and raising the input until the desired loudness is achieved.
The sonic possibility of this easy-to-use limiter really makes the plugin shine. Choose between 9 different algorithms or “Styles” to get the best limiting for your specific applications. From super clean to warm and saturated, the T-RackS Brickwall Limiter can do it all.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Brickwall Limiter specs at IK Multimedia.
Tokyo Dawn Labs Limiter 6 GE
I almost left this “limiter” off the list. However, since the multi-module plugin is so focused on providing flexible limiting, I decided to add it after all.
Set the 6 modules of the Tokyo Dawn Labs Limiter 6 GE in any order to achieve a wide range of results, spanning from subtle loudness control to brickwall limiting to creative mix bus compression. These 6 modules include:
- Dynamics Compressor
- High-Frequency Limiter
- Peak Limiter
- Output Protection Limiter
- True Peak and EBU Loudness Meter
Each of the modules works together to provide an incredibly flexible and versatile mastering tool. Looking at the plugin as a whole, it's certainly deserving of a spot on the best limiter plugins list.
Dial in each module to the needs of the project and enjoy maximized loudness with superior musical fidelity, punch, and excitement.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Limiter 6 GE user manual.
The Brainworx bx_limiter is a finely crafted limiter algorithm designed for master chains, mix buses, and individual tracks alike. From super-transparent master limiting to beautiful saturation/compression, you can depend on this plugin across multiple instances in your DAW.
Brainworx developed this superb plugin for use on multiple mix buses to glue the mix together before the master channel. Multi-stage parallel and series compressions will help increase the overall loudness of a mix, and multi-stage limiting will do so, perhaps even more efficiently.
The bx_limiter is extremely CPU-friendly to facilitate the use of multiple instances. The accurate limiting can be used on mono, stereo and multi-channel/Surround signals.
Powerful features of the bx_limiter include a Channel Link knob, which seamlessly blends between unlinked and linked peak detection and a Mix control for parallel processing.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the bx_brainworx user manual.
Universal Audio Precision Limiter
The Universal Audio Precision Limiter is a premium performance brickwall limiter from none other than UAD.
This single-band brickwall limiter is designed for colourless, transparent mastering. It features superb lookahead control to ensure no peak exceeds the set output limit, making it perfect as a protection tool and a loudness maximizer.
The Precision Limiter works its magic with any upsampling or filters. If it has to compress the audio, it does so with precision and clarity. If not, then the audio is passed completely unaffected.
The character can be altered slightly with the Contour Mode, which adjusts the attack, shape, and character of a limiting process. However, in terms of timbre, this limiter is about as clean as they come.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the UAD Plug-Ins Manual.
Former Top Limiter Plugin Picks
Here are plugins that used to be on this list and the reasons they are no longer. Currently, there is only one plugin on this list.
iZotope Ozone 9 Maximizer (Discontinued/Upgraded)
The iZotope Ozone 9 Maximizer (discontinued/upgraded to version 11) was an industry-leading mastering suite containing all the necessary components of a high-end professional mastering chain. Ozone 9's Maximizer module was highly regarded as one of the best mastering limiters on the market. It was featured in this article from 2021 (original publishing year) to 2022.
The Ozone 9 Maximizer features multiple modes of iZotope's transparent limiting algorithm, the Intelligent Release Control, notably the IRC IV modes and IRC Low Latency mode. The IRC IV algorithm offers Transient and Modern modes for more aggressive or transparent limiting, respectively.
All algorithms sound incredible, and it's just a matter of experimenting and learning which is the best for your applications.
This module is relatively straightforward to use and makes transparent limiting easy. Quick adjustments will make huge results in overall loudness without sacrificing detail.
The Threshold Learn mode engages automatic threshold adjustment based on a user-defined LUFS target. Threshold and Ceiling Link allows for easy setup by maintaining the perceived output level as the threshold is changed. Independent stereo detection of the signal yields greater control of the stereo image.
Choosing the best audio plugins for your DAW can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Audio Plugins Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next audio plugin purchases.
Other Top Audio Plugin Articles
Here are additional My New Microphone articles regarding the best audio plugins by type:
• Top 11 Best Distortion Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Saturation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 8 Best Graphic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Linear Phase EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Parametric EQ Emulation Plugins For DAWs
• Top 8 Best Passive EQ Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Digital Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best FET Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Optical Compressor Emulation Plugins
• Top 10 Best Multiband Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Variable-Mu Compressor Emulation Plugins
• Top 11 Best VCA Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Channel Strip Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Chorus Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Flanger Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Phaser Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Tremolo Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Delay Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Tape Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 12 Best Reverb Plugins (Spring, Plate, Algorithmic, Convolution)
• Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Guitar Amp Simulator Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 7 Best Noise Reduction Plugins For Your DAW