Normalize vrs. Comp/Limiter

Need to understand the use


I would like to anderstand what is exactly the difference between the way the Normalize function is working and the way a Compressor/Limiter unit is working.
It looks like they both enables boosting low level of track and ciling the picks. So… what’s really the difference in their operation and in the way they are used.


Normalizing adjusts the overall level of a wave file in such a way that the loudest bits do not distort or clip, but the relative level differences are kept intact - i.e. if the loudest level peaks at -0.5 dB when turned up 6 dB, everything will be turned up 6 dB including the softest bits.

Compression evens out the differences between the soft and the loud bits in the wave file by making the loud bits quieter, i.e. altering the dynamics of the wave file. Application of compression to a track is something of an art in itself because of the many different ways a sound can start and die out. Unwanted effects like pumping etc. may occur if the compressor is not properly set up.

Limiting is another way of altering the dynamics of a wave file. It works by leaving everything in the wave file up to a certain level untouched without exceeding it.

Read more in this article…

regards, Nils

Right, Nils.

Normally, you don’t use “Normalize”. It’s a tool to correct a specific problem that can happen but is usually best to avoid in the first place (recording a track with too low a level, mixing down with the master volume at too low a level, etc.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with Normalize, but there’s usually something wrong earlier in the chain if you need it.

We use compression on almost every mix – it is indeed a “normal” tool. We use compression to alter the dynamics of a track so that it sounds smoother and more even. This does help avoid clipping, but it’s not the principal reason, which is to make the track sound better in the mix.

We also use “master compression” or better yet, “multiband compression” during “mastering” to increase the overall volume of a track without causing clipping. For more about compression and mastering geared for a newbie, see my articles: Compression Basics and Mastering 101.

Ideally, read my articles first to get the big picture, and then pay close attention to the excellent article written by Jezar (Nil’s link above). I should post a link to that from my page, it’s really one of the best practical bits on how to set up a compressor, from someone who really knows what he’s talking about.

I like your tips section Jeff - not seen them before!

Good call my man…


Thanks, DSP. Wunnathesedays, I gotta clean that stuff up!

Many thanks to you all.
You’ve been all very helpfull.