We all know L1+ anniversary edition and L2 limiters have a massive fanbase, and many people still use and swear by them to this day. But what about L3-16?
I came upon a discussion of L3-16 on another forum and only a small number of people realized what an incredibly powerful tool it is… Because the naysayers were using it wrong!
They naysayers tried to use L3-16 the way they would L1 or L2. They threw it on the master bus and pulled the threshold way down… And they didn’t like what they got. But (IMHO) this isn’t the best way to use L3-16!
The MAGIC of L3-16 is that it applies limiting to specific frequencies. Sure, we all understand that… But if someone digs pulls the threshold down the way they would in L1 or L2, it’s going to have a flattening effect to the tonal balance. That’s what the naysayers didn’t realize. They were using L3-16 wrong.
If you’re trying to squash a mix then yeah, use L1 or L2 because it’s going to preserve your tonal balance.
The MAGIC of L3-16 happens when you use it before another compressor, or another limiter. Instead of digging in deep, just pull down the threshold until it’s triggered occasionally – not constantly. Maybe you see gain reduction 1 to 2 times per second, or so… And set it so most of the time, when it kicks in its only doing 1-3db of gain reduction per band, tops.
If you set it up this way you’ll notice occasionally it does a lot more than just 2-3db of gain reduction. And that’s fine! It’s taming really big peaks and it’s doing it in a per-band frequency specific way… This way whatever compressor or limiter than comes after doesn’t “over-respond” to the peak.
Here’s the important part:
What this means is — if you use Waves L3-16 before a compressor or another limiter, it does the heavy lifting. It trims the peaks you might not notice otherwise, and it allows the subsequent compressor or limiter to work more efficiently, transparently, and accurately because L3-16 is taming the really big peaks before they ever hit the subsequent compressor. See?
This is an enormous discovery, and it makes L3-16 useful to many people who didn’t understand its value.
What makes it special is its ability to apply limiting per-band instead of the entire spectrum. So it works best with a higher threshold to just catch the peaks BEFORE going into another compressor or another limiter.
So next time you use a compressor or L1/L2, try using L3-16 BEFORE going into those other limiters. Set it so it’s just triggered occasionally – not constantly. You’ll find it allows your compressor or second limiter to work more smoothly!