Get The Most From Your Master - Vol 3 Pt II: ‘Peak Control (How Do I Know What Will Cause Distortion In Mastering?)’
Agreed. This is when you’d reach for some sort of dynamic control. Let me break down the various methods:
• Hard Digital Clipping: Brute force attempt at removing a sharp transient peak off a sound. Good for percussion. Might add distortion to some things. Sony Inflator is an example of this in plugin form but it has a sound to it…harsh. EQ can reverse it somewhat but…
• Soft Clipping: Softer version of hard clipping. More analog-ish.
• Limiting: Think soft clipping but even softer. If you use something like FabFilter Pro-L with a long attack…that’s clipping. if you speed up the attack, that’s limiting. Limiting still can introduce distortion but it’s trying not to. For this application you want it to get in and out quickly and not affect anything but the transient peak. So, fast attack and fast release.
• Compression: Compression is the gentlest approach but probably not a solution at all. Limiting is compression at a very high ratio, compression has variable lower ratios. If you use this to tame a peak, it will affect the rest of the sound as well. Obviously a very usable tool but not the best one for transparently removing a peak most of the time.
My personal favorite has always been driving stems into analog gear for saturation but that’s not really an option for most people…or is it?
-Mike Bell @ Darkart Mastering