Device to limit peaks during recording?

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 12:24 PM

I like to record at a lower than optimal volume and then use the Normalize feature in Vegas to bring everything up, but it only works if the recording volume doesn't have any loud spikes in it. I'm recording in a studio, and my audio is being fed from a mixer's main outs (a microphone (not singing, just talking/teaching) and a guitar) into the camera's XLR inputs. Is there any kind of (simple) device that I can put in the line that will prevent audio from spiking over a certain level so that I can use the Normalize feature as intended?


Former user wrote on 8/13/2018, 1:49 PM

You would want a compressor that allows you to set a maximum level. Your camera may have one built in, some do.

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 2:51 PM

I have a Canon XA10, not sure if I recall reading about a feature like that built in, but I will check. A compressor or a limiter? Seems that both exist. Is there a compressor that you recommend?

rraud wrote on 8/13/2018, 3:16 PM

In a studio, I would use a hardware compressor/limiter using the channel 'insert' on the console (assuming it's a console type mixer) Otherwise you could daisy-chain it to the cams line level input. This would not protect the mixer's preamp though, but console mixers usually have more than enough headroom, There are loads of hardware comp/limiters on eBay and such these days. I always liked the DBX 160 series with the second stage 'Peak stop' (brick wall limiter) for music tracking sessions.

Otherwise, most field production mixers have limiters, I like the Sound Devices MM1, a single channel preamp, almost foolproof, and outputs balanced pro line level.

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 4:06 PM

I'm set with a mixer already, an Allen & Heath ZED10FX which works great. Definitely doesn't have a compressor/limiter built in. Ideally what I need is something simple that would go between the mixer's outs and the camcorder's inputs that limits the volume to avoid volume spikes on the camcorder's audio. Doesn't anyone make a nice and easy one knob device to do just that? :-)

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 4:24 PM

prayers answered? one knob, will it do the job?

Former user wrote on 8/13/2018, 4:29 PM

Here is the manual, not much to it. Note: it does not have XLR in or out, only mini and phono.

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 5:01 PM

Yeah perhaps just recreational it seems.

rraud wrote on 8/13/2018, 5:18 PM

Perhaps a pre-owned DBX 163 (or 163x) "One Knob Squeezer" it unbalanced 1/4" TS in-out, great for channel inserts which your A&H ZED10 has. This is also a favorite comp for bass, if you do music work,

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 5:31 PM

How about DBX 266XS ? Looks like a lot of these DBX units available.. Has more knobs than I care for which means it's probably difficult to operate?? Although knobs are better than buttons, and worse yet, menus!

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 5:41 PM

If I use one of these units, am I correct that I would then not need to use Normalization in Vegas? Another unit:

MikeLV wrote on 8/13/2018, 6:42 PM

Doing some reading on forums and it seems people dont' like the the 266, but like the 166 better. Trying to find out difference between 166 and 166XL

rraud wrote on 8/14/2018, 9:36 AM

The 266XL is a budget remake and does not have the Peak Stop limit. Don't know much about the 166XL. I've used 166s in the studio many times and like it. The original David Blackmer DBX 160 & 165 comp/limiters are legendary and go for big bucks on the vintage gear market. These were before DBX was swallowed up by large corporations like Harman. Waves recently came out with a DBX 160 plug-in. BTW, the160 was popular for drum tracks, it did not have the secondary limiter.

JMacSTL wrote on 8/14/2018, 11:17 AM

If you're bringing the camera's audio into Vegas anyway, do the level control there, not in the camera (most built in AGCs are awful) and don't use a hardware device prior to the camera (once it's squeezed, you cannot un-squeeze (or un compress) it. Record at a lower volume if you're concerned with peaks that may distort. Once in Vegas, apply one or more dynamic limiters or compressors. You can often get better results by using a limiter, then a compressor, in a chain, rather than just one plugin. This way, each one is working a little, and none is working really hard. Then once treated, you can either a) bounce the audio onto a new track, and then normalize it before rendering the video output, or b) add Waves L2 (or similar) (either to this audio track or to the master bus) to set a max output volume (-0.5db, for instance) for maximum volume for your rendered final video.


jmm in STL

jmm in stl

Windows10 with Vegas 11 Pro (most recent build). Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.40GHz 3.90 GHz, 32GB ram, separate audio and video disks. Also Vegas 17 Pro on same system. GPU: NVDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER. Dynamic RAM preview=OFF.

MikeLV wrote on 8/14/2018, 11:31 AM

flyerstl, I'm perfectly happy with how Normalize works in Vegas. The problem with doing that in Vegas is the audio in the camera. Even though I attempt to get consistent recording level throughout the duration of the recording, there's always some spikes. So for example, if I'm trying record at -10, and there's some noise or his voice gets loud at some point, and maybe it goes to -3, when I normalize, I'm only going to gain about 3db on the lower volume parts and it will still be very low because of that loud peak in the recording. It's very annoying. So I thought if there's something I can put before the audio goes into the camera (I'm using a Canon XA10) that would prevent those spikes from happening, then I can normalize successfully in Vegas. Maybe it's not the right way to do it, but I'm not a recording engineer, and I don't like using plugins in Vegas, too many controls and things and i just want to get the projects done for our needs.

rraud wrote on 8/14/2018, 1:35 PM

I doubt if you can totally eliminate normalizing and adjusting the levels in Vegas, but limiting is common to catch unexpected peaks in acquisition stage, I certainly would not recommend much compression though,. Compression, EQ and other leveling are best done in post. Volume envelopes are your friend as well. "Insert> Audio Envelope> Volume" (keyboard shortcut= "V").

Most compressors basically have the same setting parameters; Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release and Make-up gain (output). Many have an auto (attack, release) option, but that's best for music content, as is the soft-knee option if available. When is a compressor limiting or a limiter compressing? Limiting is usually defined by having a high gain reduction ratio, 10:1 or more. For dialog, a fast attack (under 10ms) with a 250-500ms release. Unfortunately 'one-size-fits-all,' does not apply, especially the 'threshold' parameter.

MikeLV wrote on 8/14/2018, 2:50 PM

I don't know why so many people are against normalizing in Vegas. I think it greatly improves the sound. So yes, what you're saying about just limiting to catch the peaks. That goes back to my first post in this thread, since I just need the limiting, i.e. a single feature, I thought there might be a simple device that does just that.

MikeLV wrote on 8/15/2018, 10:12 AM

I came up with another idea, don't know if it will work. Since there's so many of these VST plugins, could I use a VST limiter first in the chain to catch the audio peaks, and then a VST Normalizer to do the normalizing instead of the switch in Vegas? Would that work?

jrb101 wrote on 8/15/2018, 10:46 AM

I came up with another idea, don't know if it will work. Since there's so many of these VST plugins, could I use a VST limiter first in the chain to catch the audio peaks, and then a VST Normalizer to do the normalizing instead of the switch in Vegas? Would that work?

That would work, except you don't need a "normalizer" really... If you import your lower volume audio (to allow for the volume spikes/expanded dynamic range), then put a VST limiter on the track, followed by an EQ and potentially a compressor you could achieve a "normalisation" without using the normalize switch.

Compressors and limiters often have a "make-up gain" option to compensate for the reduction in overall volume they induce, and if you ran your audio through a -1dB "hard limiting" limiter, it would "crush" the peaks and "make up" the overall track peak volume to -1dB, which is essentially normalised :-). That said, you may not want to hard limit as it can reduce natural dynamics beyond a reasonable level. @rraud's explanation above about compressor/limiter settings is a really good place to start, and yeah - you only want to EQ and compress in post (which is what I'm suggesting) as you should always start with the least "effected" signal so you can change your mind at a later date if it doesn't sound good! 

Hope this info helps?

Jon Baker - Experienced in music creation, still a newbie at the video game 😉

(YouTube and Instagram - "Jon's Musical Musings")

PC: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G Desktop w/16GB DDR4 and Radeon RX570 (4GB) , ~5TB of storage across various HDDs, Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 audio interface, Mackie CR5BT studio monitors, 24" 1080p monitor (not anything special!)

For capture: Olympus PEN E-PL6 camera (1080p30) with external mic input adaptor and Olympus ME51S electret lavalier and Takstar SGC-598 shotgun mic and a Samsung Galaxy S10e (4K30 or 4K60) with Filmic Pro or stock video apps and external mic adaptor.

MikeLV wrote on 8/15/2018, 10:57 AM

Soooooooooo confusing. I watched a lot of tutorial videos on compressor/limiters and they don't make sense at all to me. Is there any easy to use VST plugin that will solve my problem without a lot of aggravation and hair loss?

john_dennis wrote on 8/15/2018, 1:03 PM

"I doubt if you can totally eliminate normalizing and adjusting the levels in Vegas, but limiting is common to catch unexpected peaks in acquisition stage, I certainly would not recommend much compression though,. Compression, EQ and other leveling are best done in post."

My previous camera had a compressor built-in (which I despised). That was one of the reasons that I chose to replace it. My current camera does not. I find myself recording "flat", giving myself enough headroom that I've seen almost no clips in raw media. I do the leveling with audio envelopes on the Vegas timeline and in Sound Forge. Most often at the end of the process I....

... wait for it...

... wait for it... 

add a 2:1 compressor before the final render.


I've been shooting mostly sports so, from a signal to noise standpoint, most of what I shoot is noise.

I don't have to deal with 15 open mics and people dropping them or bumping them.

I've probably listened to more AM radio than most people on the planet.

MikeLV wrote on 8/15/2018, 5:06 PM

Well it's not clipping I'm worried about, it's just exceptionally louder spikes in the audio that will cause problems with normalization. That's all I want to prevent. No matter how vigilant I am on the levels during recording, something always happens. I can't believe there's not a simple device or plugin I can use to prevent this from happening. Maybe the better solution is to just try to record as loud as possible without clipping and not normalize.

MikeLV wrote on 8/15/2018, 6:13 PM Would this unit do the job I need? Looks easy enough to use! Oh crap, but that's only a single channel.

MikeLV wrote on 8/15/2018, 6:18 PM

Is it possible to only use the limiter feature of the DBX unit to achieve my original goal? And not have to mess with all the other stuff on it?

john_dennis wrote on 8/16/2018, 12:54 AM

Since you don't have a problem with clipping, have you considered using a Soft Limiter to attenuate just the unwanted peaks?

Sorry for not including audio. I captured on another machine via RDP.